Fallout: New Vegas
Typical, you wait years for a Fallout game and all of a sudden two of them comes along. Fallout: New Vegas is the latest installment of the franchise and follows hot on the heels of the 2008 love it or hate it Fallout 3. Much, much more than an expansion yet not really a sequel, New Vegas adds a few interesting elements to the series, most notably some of the team behind the original games. This alone should be reason for longtime fans to rejoice.
Black Isle Studios, the original masterminds behind the Fallout games is sadly no more but out of their ashes rose Obsidian Entertainment. While Bethesda Softworks, who created Fallout 3, did a great job a lot of people thought that they deviated too much from what made the series such a classic. With Obsidian given a shot at working their magic again so many years after the original games hopes were high that the game would blow everyone away. There were however a few things to take into consideration. The game would still be running on Bethesda’s “Gamebryo” engine which was state of the art back when Oblivion debut but is starting to show some serious signs of age and Obsidian has garnered a bit of a reputation for buggy games. Not good when Fallout 3 was already a bit creaky in places. The pressure was on and the question was, can Obsidian recapture the magic?
New Vegas opens with a dramatic cinema of your character getting shot in the head and left for dead. A passing robot digs you up from your shallow grave and leaves you in the care of a nearby doctor. The doctor patches you up and sends you off while your character suffers from the usual case of amnesia mixed with revenge. The good doc kindly gives you a vault suite and P.I.P boy but your character is a lowly courier and not a vault dweller which is the first of many surprises in the game.
Setting foot outside the doctor’s house for the first time and seeing the Mojave desert stretching off into the distance its hard not to get excited about the world of possibilities. New Vegas takes place a few years after the events of Fallout 3 but this is a new location with new stories and characters so no prior knowledge is needed. Fans of Fallout 1 & 2 are in for a treat however as lots of nods and references to those games creep in everywhere. Nothing that will alienate new fans but enough to put a smile on some old timers faces.
Those old enough to remember what Fallout 3 was going to be about before Black Isle went defunct will recall talk of the Hoover Dam being contested by the NCR (North California Republic) & Legion soldiers (slavers & thugs), imitating the Roman empire. Obsidian used this backdrop for the events in New Vegas but, there is of course far more going on behind the scenes. Vegas wasn’t hit as hard by the atomic bombs making it a pretty hospitable place as far as post apocalyptic wastelands go. With fresh water and power from the Hoover dam its actually quite prosperous in certain areas. A welcome return is the faction system which means your actions will have consequences and the speech skill actually plays a vital role in the game. To many people who thought Fallout 3 was dumbed down for the console generation who prefer shooting to talking, New Vegas will be a breath of fresh air.
The gameworld of New Vegas is huge and dotted with areas of interest. From an abandoned gas station to huge, rundown factories and, of course, deserted vaults you’ll never run out of locations to explore. In my first 60 hour play through of the game there were still areas I somehow missed and discovered on my second attempt. Unfortunately most of the game is pretty deserted save for the mutated critters out to make you’re their next meal. The towns of course have their fair share of citizens each with their own problems which they are all too glad to transfer to you, but out in the wastes you’ll be hard pressed to see a friendly face. It makes sense, I guess, but having so many locations without any compelling reason to visit them apart from scavenging feels like a bit of a waste. In typical Fallout fashion the main plot is there when you need it and you are gently prodded in the direction of the Vegas strip but where you go and what you do is entirely up to you. There are so many side quests and extra challenges you can easily play many hours without touching the main plot. Obsidian has injected some trademark dark humour back into the series, which is more than welcome.
Visually New Vegas looks good, but not great. The sweeping vistas still look very impressive, but the characters all look like wooden mannequins cobbled together from the same spare parts and staring at you with the same blank expressions. The game world is vast but some areas definitely received more polish than others. The Vegas Strip is pretty cool with its casinos and neon lights, but at the same time looks a bit small and underwhelming. The same textures as used in Fallout 3 also gives the game a feeling of déjà vu which is a shame. Your already slow walking speed is exasperated by glitching areas where your character or enemies become stuck on the landscape, fall through rocks you are supposed to be able to walk on or can’t climb over an ankle high rocky outcropping and have to walk halfway around the map to get to the other side. There’s still plenty of blood and violence plus the V.A.T.S (vault assisted targeting system) also makes a return. You are no longer invincible while it is activated however. Melee and unarmed combat is actually useful in this game and you can perform special moves with the right equipment.
Companions have been upgraded considerably and are no longer the unmemorable, lumbering burdens they were in Fallout 3. Instead you can quickly and easily control them with the new “companion wheel”. Each also comes with their own perk they grant you while in the active party. You can only have one human (-oid) andone cyborg in your party at a time however. Each companion has their own sidestory for you to follow and complete to make them a bit more memorable and endearing. You’ll still curse at them when the blunder in front of your shots or give away your position when you are trying to hide. They also have this tendency to complain and pass remarks about missions you have completed even if they were not part of it which sounds a bit odd. The voice acting is generally of a high standard with only the occasional dodgy accent that will make you do a double take. Listen out for a famous talent or two as well. The Npc’s are all a bunch of Vegas stereotypes like the Elvis impersonating “kings” and New Vegas “families” with their Mafia personalities.
The radio stations introduce in Fallout 3 makes a return, but sadly it doesn’t have the same impact. There’s some good songs to be sure, but nothing like the stuff in Fallout 3. It could just be my personal taste, of course, but after a few listens the radio dial was set firmly in the “off” position. There’s only so many times one can listen to “spurs that, jingle jangle jingle”. The normal ambient sounds and effects are pretty good and hearing the radio stations on other radios in the game world is atmospheric enough. The Super Mutant owned “Black Mountain” radio station is hilarious however and well worth a listen through.
Obsidian reputation for less than stable games after their release of Alpha Protocol caused concern and with the first version of New Vegas if seemed like everyone’s worst fear were realized. The game crashed left, right and center with a mega patch that solved a lot of issues but not all of them. I still encountered quests that couldn’t be completed due to bugs which is even more annoying when there are Steam achievements tied to them. Towards the end game, I also encountered my fair share of random crashes. Nothing I would consider game breaking however, and nothing that prevented me from jumping straight back into the game after finishing it once.
The same dated game engine that detracts a bit from the experience is also its best feature in many ways. Already a huge assortment of mods has sprung up to address issues with the game or just plain add some wacky new features. I kept my first play through mod free, but really went to town on my second and had a blast.
If you loved the first two games, but despised the third then New Vegas might be the a step in the right direction for you. If Fallout 3 was your first experience with the series, then New Vegas is pretty much more of the same. Some parts better some parts worse, but definitely worth trying out.
*Review Originally Published 14/01/2011
- OS: Windows 7/Vista/XP
- Processor: Dual Core 2.0GHz
- Memory: 2GB RAM
- Hard Disk Space: 10GB free space
- Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 6 series, ATI 1300XT series