Fallout: New Vegas
Consoles: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PS3, PC
Release Date: October 19th, 2010
With the release of Fallout 3 less than two years ago, Bethesda is bringing us our Fallout fix once again. From the minds of Obsidian Entertainment we now have in our midst Fallout: New Vegas. There has been much hype over whether or not New Vegas is different enough and has had enough new additions to set it apart from Fallout 3. Well let that entire idea get nuked just like the Capital Wasteland, as New Vegas sets a new standard for the franchise.
Four years after the events of Fallout 3, the story focuses now upon the Mojave Desert, which is now known as the Mojave Wasteland. The shining utopia of New Vegas survived the destruction that wiped out much of the rest of the world. Not only has New Vegas survived, it has thrived with the help of a constant electrical supply from the Hoover Dam. The Dam, still completely functional has survived intact and now is the biggest draw in the Western United States.
Two large factions have their eyes set upon the Hoover Dam and obtaining the power that it provides for them. The NCR, familiar faces known as the New California Republic, and The Legion, a group of slavers bent on taking over anything in their path, have been warring for years over the rights to the Dam. But yet there is the mysterious boss that controls the Vegas Strip that goes under the name Mr. House who holds no affiliation to either side. But beyond these large forces, smaller groups squabble for control, battling with one another for small niches of the wasteland, or even trying to create life from dust.
Rather than the standard vault setting however, the player begins as a simple Courier that is supposed to be delivering a package. Only you are about to be shot in the face. After your subsequent execution and revival you have nothing left but to find the identity of your assassins and why the world they wanted you dead in the first place. Though what begins as a tale of revenge and mystery leads into much more. Soon the player is naught but a small pebble dropped into the New Vegas pond, causing ripples that turn into giant waves that change the face of the entire Mohave Wasteland with their decisions.
Though the player isn’t started from the traditional vault setting, it is almost refreshing to see something entirely different happening to the wanderer this time around. There are so many choices right off of the bat that you can make that already begin to shape the landscape. Free will has always been a main idea inside the Fallout universe but New Vegas takes this freedom and makes it shine.
Nearly every decision you make can have some effect on the main storyline. If you decide to help one faction out rather than the other, you will see the atmosphere change around you as friends become foes and foes fight alongside of you. The replayability reaches an entire new level as far as the factions are concerned. There is no right answer, there is no good answer, there is only your answer. Whatever you decide will change New Vegas and its residents forever.
Using the same engine as both Fallout 3 and Oblivion, one can expect that the graphics are quite similar to these past games. Though that is far from a detriment to the game as the graphics were already very impressive, but do feel slightly dated thanks to this. As you step outside for the very first time, you will already notice the differences between the Mohave Wasteland and the Capital Wasteland.
There are still plenty of areas that the graphics suffer from, such as textures that appear muddled when looked at carefully. On the grand scale however, the wilderness that you explore has been designed with great care. The very first time that the player takes their steps into the Vegas Strip or ventures deep into the mountains they can see the difference avoiding the nuclear apocalypse can make on a place.
The world is vibrant in places; the bright neon lights of the New Vegas Strip are exactly what one would expect for the time period the game mimics. There are even people within the Vegas walls that make themselves out as if they were Elvis Presley themselves, modeling relics they found of the King. Everything around the player makes the experience all the more immersive. Tumbleweeds blow across the open planes, broken water pipes spray water, dust devils twirl around the dried out lakes. Everything all combined truly makes the player feel as if they were in the wastes. You can see the lighted aura of New Vegas nearly anywhere on the wasteland, showing off the power that still runs from the Hoover Dam.
Though while everything may appear beautiful at first glance, underneath of it all you can find a dirty underbelly just as like the city of New Vegas itself. Since Obsidian had to use the same engine as Fallout 3 and Oblivion, issues arise almost immediately from the games beginning. Graphical errors and glitches are more than abundant within the large world of New Vegas.
Quest important enemies can glitch inside of walls or sink into the terrain becoming un-killable and requiring the player to restart from a save point. Clipping issues are a large issue, as in one experience I watched a dancer in the Vegas strip slide across the ground as if on ice, sideways, dancing, until they sunk into the ground as if in quicksand. Clipping also becomes a large issue with followers, as entering a building often places players inside of their companions, seeing the back of their eyeballs or teeth until they move.
Invisible walls also make a comeback with force, as players trying to climb even a small hill can find it impassable as they run into an invisible wall blocking a very low incline. Or falling in-between a few rocks and remaining stuck in midair unable to quick travel away, resulting in having to load a previous save again.
Beyond that fact, some of Obsidian’s work may seem more than a little familiar to fans of Fallout 3. There are areas of the game and buildings within the game that have been transplanted fully into the world of New Vegas. In one instance I entered an abandoned farmhouse only to discover it was an exact replica of the Republic of Dave’s main building, barring story specific items.
Your pip-boy can sometimes be your best friend on the open expanses of the wasteland. The radio stations that used to play through it in Fallout 3 were a constant companion. The radio stations return in New Vegas, by placing a couple of constant radio stations and an occasional one to be stumbled upon. Though the music that is played through them has changed drastically. One station may play country cowboy songs from years gone by, and the other playing Vegas style dancing music. While the drastic change between the two is great for your mood, the amount of songs for each station is almost laughably short. There are instances that songs will be played back to back, or repeated over a very short period of time. “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” can feel like a kick in the head after only a short time.
While the radio stations suffer from repetitiveness, the voice work makes up for it in spades. Wayne Newton fills the shoes of 3 Dog perfectly as the voice of Mr. New Vegas, with other famous voice actors lending their voices. Though enemy dialogue does get recycled more often than not, especially inside of combat, which can become irritating after a short while.
Largely Fallout: New Vegas does not separate itself too far from the Fallout 3 system. V.A.T.S returns, leveling with perks and skills all make a comeback in New Vegas. Nearly everything you do has echoes of what Fallout 3 was. This is of course to be expected thanks to Obsidian using Bethesda’s Gamebryo engine which, as I said before, was also used on both Fallout 3 and Oblivion.
What separates New Vegas from Fallout 3 is what makes it shine. Though many things appear familiar, New Vegas has placed a countless number of additions to the formula which made Fallout 3 popular. One of the largest and best changes is the Faction system. Sure there is still your standard karma meter, rating whether your actions are good, evil, or right in the middle. Now however there are the Factions which each have a different opinion of the player.
These Factions each represent either one of the two large groups, or the many smaller groups that control sections of the wasteland. Actions performed for one group could easily make the other group despise the player quickly. The constant tug and pull of different missions for different factions, resulting in entire groups being decimated makes for countless amounts of replayability. This is simply because there are just so many different ways to approach things, that the player’s decisions truly mean something and also provide immense variety for how you’re character develops.
Stepping outside of the Fallout 3 setting, we return closer to where the first two Fallout games took place. This is evident quickly as many different references to the previous games are easily noticed by those who have played the first game. The Master’s Army of Super Mutants lingers around the wasteland with intelligent Super Mutants that would rather talk than battle. Even a companion can be discovered who quickly reveals that she is in fact the daughter of one of the companions from Fallout 2. Beyond just the references to previous games, players will notice the dark humor that previous games used to have but unfortunately fell flat for Fallout 3.
Companions have also been revamped with the brand new companion wheel. This wheel gives players the ability to quickly give their companions commands in the midst of battle. Sure the wheel has to be activated by talking to the companion, but this is an excellent addition to the otherwise muddled communication that happened in Fallout 3. The companions themselves have more backstory and personality, often giving their opinions of what the player is doing or the situation that they are in. This is further shown by various in-depth quests that companions can trigger and become part of.
Speaking of quests, they are back and in much more abundance than they were in Fallout 3. There are times that the player will literally feel overwhelmed with the amount of quests that they can complete at one time. And even more let down when they see entire quest lines appear as failed because they completed a quest for a rival faction. This adds not only more replayability, but a huge boost to overall game length as the player ventures across the wasteland.
Beyond the new quests, players now have the ability to modify their weaponry. There are various bits of equipment that can be added onto weapons that you find which increase their parameters in different ways. Overall though these modifications pale in comparison to some of the stronger weaponry you find later on, meaning they are good at first but slowly fall by the wayside as bigger and stronger guns are discovered.
Beyond modifying weaponry Obsidian upgraded the way that workbenches work, as well as adding in reload stations and campfires. These all provide a way to craft different items. Players can break down ammo that they don’t need to create stronger or more useful bullets, or recycle old energy cells at the reload stations. This is especially helpful now that there are different kinds of ammo now for weapons, such as armor piercing and overcharge rounds that give players a strategic choice to make before entering a battle.
The campfires are used to create different meals that the player can use to regain HP. There are a large amount of recipes available and though it may seem confusing at first there is really nothing to it. Enough Survival skill and the right ingredients and the player can be eating like a king along the wastes. Sure these things aren’t required to enjoy the game, nor are they necessary even on Hardcore, they are nice touches to the realism of the game. There are even various perks which center on recovering spent ammunition to be remade at a bench.
Player’s trained skills take a larger role in this game due to the fact that the speech challenges for convincing people have received an upgrade. Rather than taking a chance to lie to someone or convince someone with your speech skill, now there will be different options for various abilities the player has. Are you gifted at medicine and trying to convince someone that they need to have surgery? Or great at repairs and show them how to substitute a hard to find part with standard items? Then you are in luck. Also the skill amount required is displayed openly giving players the option to come back later to convince someone after they have leveled up their abilities a bit.
Another nice addition is the inclusion of iron-sights to the game. There is an option to shut this off if you wish, but the iron-sight aiming does provide players with a chance to aim down their sights and pick off enemies outside of V.A.T.S. more effectively. So if you prefer fast action then you can opt to use the iron sights more than V.A.T.S. or mix them up as you wish. Which is required in Hardcore mode because too much reliance on V.A.T.S. can result in death.
I’m sure everyone by now has heard of the new Hardcore mode that is optional within the game. The option is presented clearly to the player and is able to be turned off at any time but from my experiences, it is better to play Hardcore. Playing through Hardcore gave the Wasteland a more realistic feeling. Everything is more immersive, from having to keep yourself hydrated and well fed, to having companions die forever Hardcore mode adds yet another level of enjoyable realism into the game that those who pass on the extra difficulty would be missing out.
One thing that players will not miss out on, will be the bugs. Over my thirty hours of brisk playing to complete the storyline, the game suffered countless amounts of glitches and froze at least four different times; twice during loading screens and twice during normal walking along the wastes. Not only that but the loading times are excessively long, even installed the hard drive. Transitioning back and forth between areas that you just were at happens quickly enough, but there are times that you may as well get a drink while waiting for the game to load.
Beyond freezing and long load times, there are countless other amounts of glitches. Companions will randomly stop out of nowhere and have to be retrieved. Rex in particular has this problem, sitting down in the middle of nowhere and forcing the player to return to him and tell him to wait, and then follow so Rex will stop his glitched actions. Either that or they will suddenly attack people friendly to you, causing chaos and a reload of the game simply because your companions went crazy. Other instances of looping animations, confusing and often downright impossible NPC actions, and game slowdowns and freezes make it so the player should save frequently in the case of a glitch occurring. Though one can expect that these glitches will be taken care of in updates already on the way.
You may have noticed that throughout this review I’ve said how Fallout: New Vegas has had countless numbers of glitches and problems. But you know what? I’m planning to go right back into that world and go through again, experiencing everything the game has to offer. It takes an amazing game to bring players back regardless of how many glitches occur, and that is what Fallout: New Vegas is. With new additions to Fallout 3’s formula, an extensive story with multiple paths to take, and a Hardcore mode to truly immerse yourself in; Fallout New Vegas creates a world of its own, one that you can’t help but explore again and again.
A copy of Fallout: New Vegas was given to us by Bethesda for reviewing purposes. Played through main storyline on Hardcore in 28 hours unlocking 530/1000 achievements. Finished it once and am already starting again for another story.