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Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout

One more quest. Just keep telling yourself that and it may come true. Much like the experience with Fallout 3, time has a bad habit of slipping away and it suddenly seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Fallout: New Vegas by Obsidian is as addictive and finely-crafted a journey as Bethesda’s tour of the D.C. Wastelands was in 2008. Is it time to bet it all or just cash out?

Cast as an anonymous courier, things start off with the traditional Vegas welcome—shot and left for dead in the Mojave desert, the player is soon nursed back to health with the goal of getting some revenge and recovering a valuable parcel. Which is next to impossible with the vastness of the desert wasteland beckoning to be explored and New Vegas, controlled by the enigmatic Mr. House, smack dab in the middle of the map. Admittedly the main storyline doesn’t have the gravitas to match Fallout 3‘s all-out war for the future of D.C.’s inhabitants, and there’s really no mystery as where the player should go (hint: it’s in the title) as all roads lead to New Vegas.

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Out in the Mojave are numerous factions striving for dominance of both New Vegas and the Hoover Dam, a source of fresh water that’s become highly prized in an irradiated world. These factions play an important role as it is ultimately up to the player whether they want to side with one faction over the other, play them off one another equally or just run everything themselves. As players take on quests for certain factions they build up a rapport—good, bad, or indifferent depending. Cross one group too many times and you’ll be their sworn enemy.

This allows for much greater diversity with how the player tackles the game’s dozens of quests. Unlike Fallout 3 in which there was usually one group versus another (with one obviously good, the other blatantly bad), the multiple factions let players carefully build up reputations, vendettas, and back-stabs to create whatever interesting narrative they please. Players are free to form lifelong bonds or tenuous partnerships with whoever they please, just remember that fulfilling one faction’s wishes may close off the quests of another.

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There’s a variety of new and old perks to choose, some still of questionable value. Even so, there’s something for every type of player out there–whether you prefer talking or talking with your gun. Going for a gunslinging doctor? Maybe a talkative cannibal who enjoys fisticuffs? As a nice addition perks can also be acquired by undertaking little challenges that range from killing insects to fail in using the special dialogue options. You’ll still get most of your perks just from leveling up and putting points in certain stats, but it’s refreshing to take an active role in crafting what your avatar will specialize in.

As a setting, the Mojave is a bit easier to navigate than D.C. Thanks to having no dilapidated subways to navigate, but it’s still populated with opinionated wastelanders who need help with their problems as well as a litany of mutated insects and other assorted freaks to threaten the player. Speaking of enemies, there sure are a lot of them. It’s not uncommon to explore a new location due to wanderlust and find yourself staring down a nest of Deathclaws.

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When faced with opposition, players can shoot in either third or first-person (now with iron sight aiming for accuracy). However, most of the combat will still be done in the V.A.T.S. System developed in Fallout 3 which allows for the specific targeting of limbs with the chances of a hit represented in a percentage based on numerous factors. To add some extra spice to the combat, weapons can now be upgraded with purchased or dubiously-acquired mods that will increase damage or ammo capacity among other things.

Another twist to the formula is that companions can be given orders through the Companion Wheel instead of just talking to them and going from there. It makes managing your companions easier, but it still won’t prevent them from getting in your line of fire or finding new and annoying methods to impede your journey. At the very least they can always carry your stuff.

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There’s a particular reason this latest Fallout isn’t numerated—it can’t qualify as a full sequel, but it would be an oversimplification to say it’s an expansion pack. The setting balances the dark humor of a Mad Max-style future with all the cheesiness of Rat Pack-era Vegas as well, and the dialogue is as well-written (if under-delivered) as one could hope. Fallout: New Vegas makes small, positive tweaks to the gameplay that creates an experience closer to the spirit of the original Fallout titles.

It’s just such a shame that the technical aspects bring down the wonderful, expansive that is Fallout: New Vegas. The engine is looking old, sad as it is to say. Animations look jerky, particularly when NPCs are dancing and the results are…interesting to watch. But the biggest issue lies not with the aging engine, but the sheer number of bugs found within.

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Some bugs will prevent the player from completing a quest despite filling the requirements while others cause NPCs to flee or attack with no logic. Documenting all the bugs in the game would be quite a daunting task, but regardless expect crashes to occur at the very least. Oh, and save often or risk losing several hour’s worth of progress.

Despite the numerous glitches and eerily similar gameplay to its predecessor, Fallout: New Vegas is a quality game through and through with lots of replay value and slight improvements made to the formula. Sadly the game is lacking that one last phase of polish and ultimately it’s rather hard to overlook the technical flaws that hamper the otherwise excellent experience. If you enjoyed Fallout 3 then by all means pack your bags and head to New Vegas.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in March 2010.

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