Fallout: New Vegas
|Game Name:||Fallout: New Vegas|
|Platforms:||Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC|
|Release Date:||October 19, 2010|
|Big Ups:||Huge amounts of character customization, smooth combat, multiple endings, tons of content|
|Big Downs:||Very Buggy, reused and boring graphics, almost no improvement on the game engine, deathclaws are still bastards|
Fallout: New Vegas is the latest iteration of the Fallout franchise from publisher Bethesda. Anyone who has played Fallout 3 will notice immediately that Fallout: New Vegas plays exactly the same as its predecessor. Development studio, Obsidian Entertainment, opted out of changing much of the core gameplay in hopes of riding on the success and positive reception of Fallout 3. However, this isn’t a bad thing at all as the gameplay is just as good as ever.
New Vegas starts off with the same general premise that people have come to expect from the Fallout games. Nuclear war has destroyed the land, towns have been leveled, governments destroyed, and the world is ripe with radiation; however, humanity has endured. The city of Las Vegas was able to avoid being demolished through methods revealed during the game. After all the dust settled in the Mojave Desert, the survivors of the war started to band together. New communities and factions of government developed. Eventually these new factions began to push towards the Mojave, seeking the hydroelectric power from the Hoover Dam. The first of these was the New California Republic (NCR), who attempts to maintain the visions of the United States government from the pre-war era. Then came Legion, a dictatorship led by a man who calls himself Caesar. Legion thrives by pushing into territories and taking them over, forcing survivors into slavery. These two factions clashed at Hoover Dam in a bloody battle that NCR eventually won. As such, citizens of the NCR currently enjoy the luxury of clean water and electricity. However, things are happening in the Mojave, and another battle is creeping over the horizon.
Enter You: your character is a regular Joe or Jane who was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. You start the game as a courier hired by Mojave Express to deliver a package, but that job comes to a disastrous end. You survive and start your journey for revenge. This leads you to crossing paths with the NCR, Legion, and Mr. House (the entity that controls the city of New Vegas). The main storyline is a little weak, but there is still fun to be had during the missions. As is common with the Fallout games, there are a large amount of side quests. Some of these are your standard “Hey! Go grab this item from this place” fetch quests while others are large-scale quests that integrate with the main storyline. There are several quest chains that you’ll run into where you can choose to gain the favor of a small faction and enlist their help later on.
The side quests in New Vegas are where you’ll spend the bulk of your time and time is something you’ll definitely invest in this game. You’re going to drop at least 80 hours if you want to do everything available in this game. That isn’t even taking into account the new ambient challenges added to the game. These challenges involve goals such as “Kill # people with Guns” or “Play # games of Blackjack.” They reward the player with experience, and some will even give special perks. Additionally, there is a lot of exploring to be done in this massive game world and lots of gambling to be done in New Vegas.
The primary RPG elements from Fallout 3 are still in New Vegas. After the initial cutscene, you’ll be met with the standard Bethesda facial reconstruction interface. Then, after a small tutorial on how to move, you’ll get to a machine that allows you to allocate points into your Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck (S.P.E.C.I.A.L) ability scores. These scores will determine what your character is good at and boost certain characteristics. For example, I wanted my character to be a heavy gunner sporting Power Armor and a minigun, so I had fairly high Strength to lug around all that armor and all those guns. Newcomers to the series will probably want to do a little bit of research before creating a character, as there are some perks, guns, and armor that require certain ability scores. After that, you’re ushered into picking two character traits, which will give you a benefit and a penalty. Next you’ll be asked to tag three of thirteen skills; tagging skills will give you an additional fifteen skill points to the primary skills you’ll be using. After creating your character, you’ll be thrown into the Mojave to embark on your adventure. Your character will gain experience and levels and, with every level, you’ll get a number of skill points to allocate to your skills. With every two levels, you’ll get one new perk. There are several different perks, all of which have various effects on your character (such as increased resistance to radiation or improved accuracy in V.A.T.S. with certain guns).
The Karma system is back in Fallout: New Vegas, modified with the addition of a reputation system. I originally thought the Karma system would allow for a bit more ambiguity between what is “good” and “bad,” due to the nature of the many factions pushing for power. However, Karma is awarded and lost when killing members of certain factions (For example, players will lose faction for killing a member of the NCR and gain faction for killing a member of Legion), thus making the whole morality experience a little less ambiguous. The reputation system adds a nice layer to the Karma system, but it generally just involves doing a quest line for a group and making it have a positive outcome with them. It seemed like something that could have been expanded on but was left behind.
The graphics in Fallout: New Vegas aren’t anything to get too hyped up about. The Mojave Desert looks almost exactly like the Capital Wasteland (Fallout 3’s game area) with the exception of some random vegetation that you can pick that doesn’t blend with the landscape very well, they will often appear far too bright in contrast with the landscape. Aside from that, there really isn’t much to speak of. The graphics looked pretty good in 2008, but Obsidian appears to have made little effort to improve them.
The first-person shooter aspect of the game has been improved upon. The game defaults to a new option allowing the player to use “true” iron sights for their weapon, which can be disabled; this lets the player aim down the gun sight much like you would in a Call of Duty game. The Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System (V.A.T.S.) makes its return. This is the gameplay feature that pauses the game and allows the player to aim at certain body parts on NPCs and queue attacks before unleashing the attacks in slow motion. Additionally, there are both bullet and weapon modifications in the game now. Players can attach extended clips or scopes to their weapons, and bullets come in several varieties such as armor piercing and hollow point.
Fallout: New Vegas suffers from a lot of the same engine problems that Fallout 3 did. Little improvement appears to have been made in terms of the engine in general. During my playthrough, the game deleted one save file, crashed a total of ten times (eight before the install, two afterwards), and lost a total of about six hours of gameplay (anyone that follows me on Twitter has no doubt seen me bitch about this during the past week). Awkward bugs are in large supply in the Mojave: spikes of poor frame rate, goofy looking lip-synching, NPCs stuck in walls, and invisible enemies being just a few notable ones. Loading times are horrible, ranging from twenty seconds to a couple of minutes.
Despite the game’s shortcomings, it is still fun. The abundant amount of content to explore is almost a rarity these days. The combat is polished and doesn’t lose its entertainment value. However, the game still has some rather serious and very annoying bugs that just show an overall lack of attention and polish done to the engine (it appears Bethesda didn’t really care to learn from their mistakes). The game is definitely still very enjoyable, but the issues with the engine and some general lack of polish really hold it back from being the phenomenal title it could be.