Fallout: New Vegas
Fallout on the PC holds a special meaning to many gamers. While Fallout 3 was undoubtedly a good game, the drastic change between 2 and 3 was too much for some to bear. And with good reason: the shift from a 2D CRPG to an open-world shooter RPG couldn’t have been made without some dramatic tinkering. The issue many had, however, didn’t even have to do with the gameplay. There was a large contingent of fans who simply felt that Bethesda missed the point. Fallout 3 was full of black-and-white morality plays and maudlin characters, and a world that looked like it had been bombed five minutes beforehand, not two centuries ago.
Enter Obsidian, with a team of writers who worked on Fallout and Fallout 2 back in the day. Fallout: New Vegas is an odd game to review, because it’s neither a sequel or a spinoff. New Vegas essentially transplants a more “authentic” Fallout world into the game framework laid down by Bethesda, and in doing so, manages to change it in some surprising ways. Unfortunately, that means that any game-related problems from Fallout 3 are still in New Vegas. However, any qualms about the story or characters or atmosphere have probably been addressed - and if that’s what matters to you in an RPG, this game might feel radically different than its predecessor.
Instead of starting in a vault, New Vegas sees your character awaking in a doctor’s bed after (somehow) surviving a bullet to the face, the end result of a delivery job gone awry. You pick your stats, perform a few tutorial missions, and then you’re off on your merry way, ready to wander wherever you please and discover Nevada’s secrets.
Oh, except you probably won’t be wandering where you please for a little while. New Vegas is very open ended, but the freedom it gives you is narrative, not exploratory. Venturing into territory unknown in this game is an invitation to an early death. The world itself is still vast, but like older RPGs, the path you take will probably conform more or less to the way the game wants you to go. High-level enemies will make mincemeat of players who think they can go wherever they please, which will thrill people who loathed Oblivion for its level-scaling, but will probably annoy those uninitiated to such mechanics.
Instead, the game presents players with a host of narrative choices. Instead of a pedestrian morality system, New Vegas brings back the classic Fallout faction system, where one’s standing with different groups opens up different missions and stories. While the main quest can be completed in a few hours if the player makes a beeline for the Vegas Strip, there are countless side adventures to be had if they take it slow. This may seem to contradict the linear nature of the game’s level progression; it is incredibly easy to miss out on many of these faction quests thanks to the level of risk that is often involved. New Vegas is high-risk, high-reward in that sense. Going off the beaten path may earn you a swift death, but it can also provide a great deal of extra quests and the like. The side missions are often designed to clash with other factions, making it impossible to complete everything with one character. Each of the groups - the NCR, the Legion, the Omertas, the Boomers, and many others - have their own mission line, and several side missions to boot.
The writing in these missions is fantastic, too. New Vegas is, unfortunately, still populated with Bethesda’s bizarre doll zombies, but after a while, it ceases to matter. There are far more colorful characters to be found here than in Fallout 3, and more often than not, their stories and acting are enough to make you forget how creepy they look. There are more voice actors present than in Fallout 3, too; the issue of repeating voices is far less prevalent here than in other games. Still, it happens - in particular, Liam O’Brien seems to pop up everywhere. It’s hardly a problem, since by and large, the acting here is quite good - but it’s still funny hearing Vincent Law and Illidan Stormrage popping up everywhere. New Vegas is darker than 3, but in a gleeful, manic sort of way. It tackles lots of horrible issues, but it’s never overbearing. There’s even an option to take a trait called “Wild Wasteland” that will add several humorous events to the game.
Still, under the new coat of paint, this is all still very similar to Fallout 3. If the graphics in the previous game bothered you, they will still bother you here. The animation is still stiff and wooden, and the interface is still decidedly console-oriented. V.A.T.S. still plays a large role in the combat, and once again, you cannot continue your character’s progression after the story is over. There’s also the ugly fact that, as of now, this game is buggy as all hell. On the PC, these are all things that can be tweaked with mods, but that doesn’t change the fact that, out of the box, New Vegas will be incredibly familiar.
Fallout: New Vegas is a testament to the fact that the small details are what can really matter in a game. For seasoned Fallout fans, New Vegas will represent a huge step in the right direction. Obsidian’s writers have crafted a game world which is arguably far superior to Bethesda’s; however, for players who aren’t looking for a more authentic Fallout game - or simply don’t care - this game is basically just more of the same. It’s Fallout 3 with a wild west coat of paint to go along with its twisted 1950s aesthetic. That will mean more to some than it will to others, but either way, it’s a great adventure.
Eight out of ten
- Small changes like level scaling and melee specialization add a lot for those who felt scorned by the last game.
- Fantastic script and atmosphere.
- All too familiar.