Fallout New Vegas Review
The wasteland comes to life
By Ben Salter
Fallout New Vegas is a continuation of 2008’s Fallout 3. In terms of narrative, timeline and location, it is completely different, but the core immersive gameplay feels exactly the same. Fallout 3 was renowned for its ability to absorb you for hours on end; New Vegas follows the same formula.
Fallout New Vegas begins with your impending death. As a courier, a bunch of thugs beat you up, steal your packages and put a bullet in your brain. A doctor miraculously brings you back to life and acts as a rather awkward introductory sequence to create your character’s appearance and develop early stats. Once you’re finally out into the wasteland, the story gets off to a painfully slow start. Tracking down your attempted murderers takes an abruptly long time and alone would be a terrible narrative. Thankfully, Fallout New Vegas’s storytelling improves substantially in other situations.
Like its predecessor, New Vegas’s charm lies in the stories within the story. Obsidian has significantly improved character interaction, as to make a more realistic experience. Fallout 3 had a clear distinction between being good and evil. New Vegas blurs the line and understands that even the good guys have to make bad decisions sometimes for the greater good. You’re less restricted to choosing either the moral high or low ground and then sticking with it for 40 hours of gameplay.
The writing and quest design is fantastic. The side missions are more intuitive and the locations are expansive and interesting to explore. The side quest scripts and gameplay writing immediately surpass that of the main story. What the main narrative lacks in a compelling plot, the side quests more than make up for in intrigue. Likewise the dialogue is strong and develops an array of tough, weak, devious, suave and plain weird characters that crave your interaction. There is a good deal of black humour, and desperate characters act in totally irrational and unpredictable manners. Choose your own dialogue games can suffer from walls of boring text, but that’s not the case with Fallout New Vegas. The conversations are genuinely engaging and vary depending on your response.
Déjà vu kicks in early as New Vegas runs on the same engine as Fallout 3; despite its Nevada setting, the underlying visual design is very similar. The V.A.T.S. targeting system is back, while the PIP-boy controls most of the RPG elements. That said, it is the same, yet different. There is no vault to emerge from and while everything takes place on a wasteland, it isn’t barren. There’s life, both good and evil, and the New California Republic brings order to a land on the verge of developing a new society amidst total chaos. That brings Fallout back to its true roots. Whereas the war was still fresh in Fallout 3, New Vegas explores a society beginning to move on and rebuild.
The Mojave Wasteland is a much better post-apocalyptic setting that Fallout 3, in part due to its smaller size. That might sound ludicrous, but there’s just as much, if not more, to do in the slightly smaller area. That brings it to life in a more cluttered setting full of debris and the ruins of a once great land with a handful of semi-functional locations. It feels like an actual world, rather than a series of disjointed settlements. On paper, Fallout 3 might have a larger map, but it was more a series of smaller ones; New Vegas feels like like a true rebuilding wasteland with interrelated towns and settlements. You are never told to go and explore anything, you don’t need to be, it comes naturally. Regardless of home much the player might want to push forward and speed through an objective it’s near impossible to avoid getting side tracked in the wondrous land. Whether you’re in search of supplies, new characters or just want to discover a new part of the eery landscape, Fallout New Vegas will have you charting your own expedition.
Fallout New Vegas is an RPG played as an FPS (or an awkward third person shooter, but who in their right mind plays like that?). You run around the wasteland talking to people, scavenging for valuable items mixed in with a pile of useless crap and engage in combat with anything that might try to kill you - the usual post-apocalyptic type stuff. Combat is almost exactly the same as Fallout 3 - it excels in the same areas, but also has the same weaknesses. The V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting) system is still gruesomely awesome and allows you to target a specific area of your opponent using regenerating action points. Chances of hitting of a body part is dependent on your position and your stats, as is crippling or killing them. This emphasizes that New Vegas is an RPG played as an FPS. Your stats mean everything. Real time combat still suffers from rather clunky controls and doesn’t support the V.A.T.S. system as it should. It’s only useful in the right circumstances; at other times, it can be worse than useless. However, it all comes back to Fallout being an RPG, not an FPS.
It doesn’t matter how skilled you in COD, if your character doesn’t have great gun or combat statistics, running into combat is a terrible option. Like any RPG, it’s important to play to your strengths. Half the time, combat can be avoided if you’re a suave talker. There is no point trying to be a jack of all trades. Fallout is designed to produce a character with strengths and weaknesses; for best results, play to them accordingly. To further reinforce its true genre, Obsidian has introduced crafting. Fallout 3 allowed a small number of weapon combinations, but New Vegas offers the complete package and the true RPG skill. New Vegas may be more civilized than Fallout 3, but it’ll have you in-search of raw materials to cook up on the camp fire for a small increase in health. Not only is it true RPG gameplay, it’s more reminiscent of a wasteland recovering from apocalyptic war.
The health system has been overhauled, as healing is no longer instant. Healing items slowly replenish your health, making their use more tactical. Likewise, crippled limbs need to be healed by a doctor or the doctor’s bag item, a stimpack is now only a quick fix. It adds a new tactical element to the game as health becomes even more important. You have to weigh up drinking out of a mangy toilet and suffering the radiation poising, using a precious item or risking finding refuge with low HP. The perfect RPG gamer situation.
Hardcore mode is a real challenge for Fallout veterans and not for the faint-hearted. You’re offered the chance to activate hardcore mode in the opening tutorial and told that it can be switched on or off at any time. However, you have to elect it then and there and leave it on until the final quest to earn the achievement. As the name implies, it delivers a hardcore survivalist experience. Hardcore mode is all about surviving the terrors of the wasteland, whatever the cost. If you’re not game the first time around, it adds great replay value to an already 50+ hour adventure.
Unfortunately, Fallout New Vegas is running on exactly the same engine as Fallout 3. That would be acceptable, but somehow it has inherited non-existent problems. A recent patch has fixed many of the game crippling glitches, that were unacceptable in the first place, but you still go into Fallout New Vegas expecting it to freeze - hardly the ideal situation. While I only had to reset a handful of times, there were screen-tearing issues and slowdown that tarnished the experience. Characters running into walls and floating mid-air is expected in a game as big as New Vegas, but a patch to fix 200 glitches within the first week is extreme, especially when it doesn’t fix a magnitude of problems that remain. The easiest way around it is to save often, very often, and ignore characters stuck in a building or fly-walking, but it cannot be ignored entirely. Character faces look terribly dates and lack any type of emotion. While the wasteland on the whole is amazing, there are still fairly severe textural issues around the place. Fallout New Vegas is a diamond in the rough. If you can look past most of these technical issues - it’s much easier since the patch - the experience is well worth it.
The Final Verdict
Fallout New Vegas is another sequel that is marginally better than its predecessor, and yet not quite deserving of the same accolades. Fallout 3 revolutionized the series and was a true unique experience. New Vegas expands that with much better writing and improved quests. The Mojave Wasteland is a joy to explore and the improved RPG elements take Fallout closer to its roots. It’s the true re-boot of the Fallout series, but wouldn’t be here without the groundwork of Fallout 3. The aging technology and ridiculous amount of glitches hold it back to an extent; however, the recent patch has fixed most of the pressing issues in what is a highly immersive action RPG.
Fallout New Vegas takes the series back to its true roots.