Fallout: New Vegas – Lonesome Road
Although the preceding DLC for New Vegas have vastly differed in content and quality, one thread running through them has been a narrative strand with references to Lonesome Road, or more specifically, to the mysterious character known as Uylsess. This fourth and final chapter begins with your character receiving a message from Uylsess, the original Courier Six, who promises to tell you why he passed the platinum chip job over to you, but only if you undertake his bidding and journey to an area known as the Divide.
The DLC doesn’t get off to the most thrilling start – after initially getting a glimpse of some new, perilous-looking terrain, you’re then condemned to negotiate a characterless military silo. This involves trying to unlock doors whilst searching for required items, tasks you’ve already had to do countless times in the main game. Thankfully, this played-out section is spruced up by the introduction of a familiar companion: a clone of the eyebot, ED-E. This improved and upgradable version of the lovable robot comes with many additional benefits such as the ability to repair weapons, unlock doors and computers and also serves as a mobile work and reloading bench. Much like Portal‘s Weighted Companion Cube, ED-E really invokes the phenomenon known as ‘player adoration for cute hunk of metal’, something that’s solidified by his frantic bobbing up and down when happy. The eyebot is also crucial to Lonesome Road’s narrative as not only are expositional audio-logs played through his speakers, Ulysess also uses him as a channel of communication.
Regardless of his significance to New Vegas’ central narrative, Ulysess is quite annoying, speaking, as he does, like a less grammatical Yoda. Even if you systematically go through all of the dialogue options when conversing with him, it can still be slightly unclear as to everything he is attempting to convey. What’s more, aside from your own past actions, much of what he is saying isn’t particularly interesting. Old World Blues’ Think Tank spoke at length, but as least their dialogue was mostly engaging and humorous.
Unlike the open-world map of Old World Blues, Lonesome Road follows a very linear direciton; essentially sending you around a curved-path that’s peppered with locations in close proximity to one another. There is a contrasting mix of under and over-ground locations, but only a couple of them are memorable. The Divide is a harsh place – long since malformed by quakes and storms, the cause of which is revealed in due course. There is opportunity for exploration amongst the numerous ruins and craters, although it’s more arbitrary than fun, with you often looking for required items or undertaking a task required to complete a challenge. One of these challenges is pretty fun, though, requiring you to detonate the many nuclear warheads scattering the land. Using a laser detonator that’s able to activate the nukes, their massive payload will usually smash a path through the terrain or take out a group of enemies if the detonation is well timed.
The inhabitants of this hostile environment are as vicious as you’d expect, including a tough strain of well-armed skinless ghouls called Marked Men, especially deadly deathclaws (two hits and you’re dead even with 400+ HP and a high DT) and a subterranean creatures known as tunnelers. None of these are particularly outstanding, although the Masked Men and tunnelers’ origin stories are quite interesting. New weapons include the red glare rocket-launcher and shoulder-mounted machine gun, both of which are upgradable and are welcomlely OTT in their exaggerated death-dealing abilities. There seems to be some weapon-based references to a trio of classic action games such as Blood (a flare-gun that causes abominations to combust and scurry off), Dead Space (an arc-welder) and Doom (a super-deadly chainsaw). One great new item introduced is the auto-inject stimpak, which will inject itself if your health is reduced to under 50%, leaving you with more time and attention to focus on dispatching your attackers.
Although it lacks the unrelenting difficulty of Dead Money and the inventiveness of Old World Blues, Lonesome Road is still superior to the lacklustre Honest Hearts. The DLC provides a few (depending on your commitment to exploration and challenge-completing) hours of gaming but nothing really significant or memorable happens until the final quest, where you confront Uylsess and learn some truth about your mutual pasts. The result of the inevitable showdown presents you with some hard choices that alter the main game fairly significantly; opening up new locations, characters and having a large impact on your reputation. Viewed and played as a single chapter in the game’s main story-arc, Lonesome Road is fairly enjoyable, but its blandness, lack of more new enemies and uninspiring quests let it down.