Fallout: New Vegas Review
Game: Fallout: New Vegas
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Available On: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)
Fallout 3 was one of those titles given a “Game of the Year” edition re-release, but justifably so. Garnering praise to such a high extent that the game was still being talked about over the watercooler in late 2009, (despite being released in 2008) something that is perhaps a rarity nowadays, given how often stellar titles are released.
Fallout: New Vegas aims to build on the success of Fallout 3, but with the longevity of it’s predecessor and the DLC that ensued, is it too soon for people to fall in love with Fallout all over again? Is New Vegas a cash in better served as an expansion or does it earn the right to stand on its own? Read on to find out.
STORY: The game starts with a cut-scene showing you get shot in the head. Seriously! You wake up apparently patched up by the local Doctor after being rescued from a shallow grave by a robot. It turns out you were a courier, simply trying to deliver a platinum chip to its rightful owner. Well, that’s one way to let a courier know you’re not happy with the service! Anyway, at a basic level, the story in New Vegas is all about you searching for the failed assassin and trying to find out what the hell is going on!
As usual though, it’s never that easy and your siding with particular factions, be it Legion (run by Caesar) or the NCR (boring soldiers and suits) determines the fate of New Vegas. Electricity still powers New Vegas and mutation is fairly low in comparison to previous Fallout games, but you’ll still find the usual super-mutants and giant rad-scorpions along the way to your goals.
GRAPHICS: Servicable is the best way to describe Fallout New Vegas. Despite never looking bad, under closer scruity some of the textures look slightly worse for wear and the third person camera makes the game look and feel very strange, though it’s doubtful anyone would choose to play it that way anyway.
The game does have some standout visual moments though, the very first time you open a door and enter the outside world is very impressive, as is the first time you see the neon blur of Vegas. The world is certainly a believable one and the colour that Vegas brings to proceedings is quite a welcome change from the browns and greys of the more rural areas.
Facial animations and faces in general look impressive though, they are a step up from Fallout 3 and the characters are very believable thanks to this. However, the character creator itself (just like in Fallout 3) isn’t very good, though this is a minor issue as even if you choose to play with the 3rd person camera, you hardly ever see yourself, but it doesn’t really leave a great impression as it’s one of the first things you’ll do in the game. The visuals in general suffer from the rapidly dated-looking engine, more on that later.
SOUND: The cast of celebrites involved (Ron Pearlman, Matthew Perry, Danny Trejo, Kris Kristoffersen, Felcia Day) is fairly impressive, but they never overshadow things and it’s a testament to their performances that you probably won’t even recognise some of them. The voice acting is of a very high standard throughout.
Soundtrack wise, you have the traditional “enemy is nearby” music, but otherwise, due to the barren nature (though the area of Mojabi isn’t nearly as derelict as previous Fallout games) there isn’t heavy usage of music. It’s more a case of ambient noises, dust dancing in the breeze or tin cans being knocked over onto the concrete, clinking away as they do so.
GAMEPLAY: As with most of New Vegas, a lot of Fallout 3 has been recycled. You start out with the very basic skills to survive and through story progression and levelling up you become more adept at whatever skill path you have chosen for your character. The pip-boy returns to help you out with your inventory, maps and quest log. Speaking of the quests, there are still times when things aren’t clear. For example, some quests are so small (and insignificant in the grand scheme of things) that they don’t even appear in your pip-boy as a quest, all you are given is the instruction “Help me by going there and doing this!” and if you are unfamilar with the area (the way the game handles way-points still isn’t as clear as it could be sometimes) it’s easy to get sidetracked and eventually lose interest in what you were doing, therefore missing out on some of the smaller quests in the game.
Fan concerns that Obsidian might change or “ruin” the Fallout experience were most definitely misplaced as what has actually happened is that Obsidian have added features to the series that make the game more RPG based. On that note, it’s important to remember that Fallout New Vegas is an RPG and not a first person shooter. As per Fallout 3, if you plan to play this as a first-person shooter and experience the games combat looking down iron sights (another new addition to the series), you will be sorely disappointed. However, it does feel slightly better than in Fallout 3, but not enough to allow people to play it as a straight up shooter.
Whilst everything from Fallout 3 is present and correct here, there are new features and things to do. Fairly early on you’ll be asked if you want to play in “Hardcore Mode” which is a mode designed to test the players skill. Stimpaks no longer heal you instantly, instead giving a gradual heal effect, but worse still they don’t heal cripple limbs! Hardcore is putting it lightly though as this mode also requires you to eat and drink to avoid starvation or dehydration. You are even told to sleep to stave off exhaustion! Even ammo has encumberance (weight) to it in hardcore mode! Needless to say, this might be better suited to a second playthrough or just for the really sadistic out there!
One of the other new features is “Crafting” (a proper RPG trait), which serves as an important gameplay mechanic. Finding certain areas (campfires, workbenches) allow you to mix and match things you find throughout the wastelands into something useful, be it healing powder (you are shown how to do this in one of the very early tutorials), weaponry or even ammunition! You can of course just buy these items from general stores, but the ability to “do it yourself” certainly adds to the experience and perhaps more importantly for the series, means that all the “junk” you find throughout the world can actually be used and serves as an extension to the foundations of Fallout 3, whereby you built weapons over and over, but had a game world full of unusable collectibles.
Due to the crafting element there are now plants scattered around the map as well, which are used to create powder and potions in some kind of twisted radioactive wasteland chemistry! They aren’t particularly hard to find mind you, as they stand out fairly obviously in amongst the rocks and wasteland.
There are also different types of ammo present, which have both a positive (obviously) and a negative. You might find incendiary rounds very useful, but due to the nature of that type of ammo you might find your gun takes longer to reload or even worse, that it breaks quicker!
The changes made to the companion system are also welcome. Once you have recruited people to fight by your side, rather than talking to them when you hit the action button, you will see the “Companion Wheel” which gives you all the options required to utilise them in any way you choose.
Also new to Fallout are the mini-games, reminiscent of the ones found in titles like Red Dead Redemption. Games like Blackjack or Caravans are introduced giving you a distraction from the main game and allowing you to win money and earn achievements or trophies.
Mission wise, there seems slightly more variety to New Vegas than it’s predecessor. You will of course still have to complete fetch quests, but (reasonably) early in the game there is even a quest that requires you to play detective, talking to the townsfolk to solve a “whodunnit” type mission. The revelation that follows is horrifying and New Vegas at times does revel in its darkness, there are some truly nasty things at play in Mojabi.
It’s not all great however, the factions element does tend to fall slightly flat at times. You can equip armour or clothing to infiltrate a gang of enemies, but in itself this throws up some anomolies. For instance, I had really upset the “Legion” faction because I took exception to the barbaric way they savaged a town early on in the game and I had a choice; ignore, spread the word of how fearsome they were or kill the living hell out of them. Choosing the latter was definitely the more difficult option and the upshot was that after killing them, their armour was mine to wear. Skip forward in time a little and I had an assassin run right up to me and tell me (paraphrasing here obviously) that I had upset them and they were going to kill me. The situation was resolved by equipping their armour, right in front of them, whereby they stopped attacking me and ignored me, as though I were one of their own.
Morality is another grey area in New Vegas. A quest might require you to do something that will give you negative Karma, but serves the greater good. Whilst this sounds sensible, it doesn’t really work quite as well in practice and being given negative Karma for looting someone you’ve been instructed to kill feels a bit silly. It’s only a minor niggle in the grand scheme of things though as morality doesn’t really seem to play much of a part in the game most of the time, giving way to the factions instead, which makes you wonder why it wasn’t dropped altogether.
The AI leaves a little to be desired at times as well. The enemy seems to have very few ideas that don’t involve rushing and attacking you. It can be funny at times to be running backwards reloading whilst they run at you swinging or shooting, but it does feel a bit silly and at times you might expect the Benny Hill theme to start playing. Worse still, the difficulty seems rather unbalanced at times and you can expect high difficulty spikes at times that may frustrate you, but you can always drop the overall difficuly level via the options menu if need be.
Where New Vegas really lets itself down though is the presence of bugs and the general age of the game engine. Despite being a new game, it immediately feels dated. You can’t blame Obsidian for this though and the engine is still very good, just showing its age rather heavily at times. Load times range from instant to very long, with no real reason for the differing lengths.
Texture pop-in is also present and you might even encounter crashes or hard locks, requiring you to turn the console off. Seeing an enemy clip halway into a mountain and be immune to bullets until it decides to turn and attack you might be funny a few times, but after a while you find yourself staring at it and realising it’s just not very good.
Whilst these aren’t always deal-breakers they do take you out of the experience and having a game lock-up or crash which results in you losing a hefty amount of playtime is not going to please anyone. It’s hard to say how often these incidents will occur for everyone though, so it’s fair to say that your mileage may vary.
It’s entirely possible that these bugs may have been patched by the time you are reading this as Obsidian have already said they are working on it, but nonetheless they are important to mention. If you are the type to be annoyed by this type of thing, it might be worth considering holding off starting your adventure until the game is patched.
LONGEVITY: Make no mistake about it, Fallout New Vegas is a heavy time investment, released at a time where a lot of major titles are coming out. This is something you will definitely need to consider before starting your adventure.
As with most RPGs, you get back what you put in. Fallout New Vegas will take most people 30 hours or more to finish to a satisfactory degree, but you will amost certainly clear well over that time with all the side-quests, trophies, achievements or in-game collectables. With DLC already announced (currently announced as exclusive to the Xbox 360) you will most certainly get your money’s worth out of New Vegas.
VERDICT: So, it’s not all good then, but neither is it all bad. All of the excellent things from Fallout 3 are present in New Vegas, but most of the bad things have come along for the ride as well. There are definitely enough additions to the title that will warrant sceptical Fallout 3 fans purchase, but there probably isn’t anything here that will change the mind of someone who didn’t like Fallout 3, though I personally found the story more engaging in New Vegas.
Despite a healthy number of bugs and minor irritations, if you let it, Fallout New Vegas will consume you and you will love it dearly. Fallout New Vegas grabs hold of you for an absurd amount of time, like no other game can, and if this is to be the last Fallout game based on this engine, it is a very enjoyable last hurrah indeed!
As a standalone game, New Vegas is a really enjoyable and massive RPG, but if you played Fallout 3 to exhaustion, you might want to think carefully before going back to the Fallout universe.