Fallout New Vegas
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: Western RPG
When Bethesda went and purchased the rights to the Fallout franchise, they decided to set their game in the Washington DC area. They set the game as far away from the franchise’s roots as possible in order to be able to tell their own story. When Fallout 3 proved to be a success, Bethesda decided to release a second game based on the Fallout 3 version of the Gamebryo engine. But since they were busy making another game (Elder Scrolls V pretty please Santa…) they contracted out to the people at Obsidian Entertainment. Obsidian have a lot of former Black Isle staffers who have a very personal history with the original Fallout games, so it would seem to be a natural fit. Let us crack open a Nuka Cola together and see if that natural fit is real or a horrible mutation.
You are a courier in what remains of Nevada, on a job when you are suddenly ambushed and shot in the head. Your ambushers bury you in a shallow grave and go on about their business, believing the story ends right there for you. Instead your body is dug up and brought to a nearby doctor who performs something of a miracle by reviving you and getting you back on your feet. The doctor judges you to be of sound mind and body and shoves you out the door into that brave new world seeking vengeance and that which was stolen from you, and you will find that all roads lead to New Vegas, baby. Along the way you will encounter many different factions, some familiar and some new. Among the familiar factions are the New California Republic, the Brotherhood of Steel, and Super Mutants. New factions include Caesar’s Legion, the Boomers, and all of the various inhabitants of the New Vegas/Hoover Dam area.
Just like in Fallout 3, you also encounter a number of companion characters who are there to help you with enemies and carry your excess luggage. Some of these companions are more entertaining than others. They all have an initial quest which you must complete before they will agree to accompany you in the wasteland, and then there will be a secondary quest which will activate once you achieve certain conditions.
In my review of Fallout 3 for the PS3, I mentioned how everything was in monotone. The computers in game, your Pipboy screen, the on screen interface, everything you touched or saw was in one colour – and the basic colour of choice was green. Here in New Vegas, things have not changed all that much. The computers are still monotone green, as is your Pipboy.
The wasteland looks different now. Funny that, being in a different part of the country and all. But anyway, the Mojave Wasteland is not all that different from the current Mojave. Really bright, really sandy. Really brown. I will say I didn’t find it nearly as annoying in this game as I did in Fallout 3, all the brown. Maybe it’s the neon lights of New Vegas that had something to do with it, or maybe it’s because there were sections of the map that had Grass and water and trees. Yes, I think that’s probably why I didn’t find the brown as annoying. It wasn’t all over the place this time.
The NPC character models have not changed very much at all since Fallout 3. In fact I’d say they stayed exactly the same. You still have your giant ants, giant mutants, glowing ghouls, broken down 1950s communities. Now they are just set in Nevada instead of Maryland and Virginia.
A number of voice actors were reused for multiple characters in this game. All Ghouls sound essentially the same, but that’s part of their charm and I’m not talking about that. No, many of the lesser NPCs will sound very similar to previous NPCs you will have encountered in the game.
The music is once again done in the retro 50s style that Fallout 3 used, and there are again radio stations all over the wasteland for you to tune into. There are only a few songs, perhaps as many as 10, and they are repeated a lot. Whenever you go into a casino, you’ll hear a song. The game could do with a bigger music budget, that’s all I’m saying. There has to be more than one Dean Martin song for sale.
Sound effects are acceptable, there is nothing there that will cause you to scratch your head and wonder what they were thinking. I think perhaps they could have boosted some of the oomph that certain sound effects make, if I were truly being picky. Vault doors for example are these huge metal bank vault doors, yet when you open or close them they sounded like they had almost no weight. It’s not something I’m going to knock points off for, as some sounds are just a matter of taste. Really, how often are you going to open a Vault door in this game…
The gameplay here is almost identical to that found in Fallout 3. You wander around the countryside doing missions for people you encounter, leveling your character up until you are strong enough to compete with the end boss. Along the way you encounter numerous interesting characters and kill them, or rob them, or befriend them. Anything you want, so long as you realize that your actions have consequences, and that doing enough to a faction might cause them to send bounty hunters after you. Your reputation precedes you in this game, which is not always a good thing. To give an example, I was playing the game as a goody goody character, and had basically decided to be the emperor’s hand of the NCR, working behind the scenes, fixing their mistakes and generally making them look like really nice folks. The NCR considered me a hero. I could ask for anything my heart desired, and would usually be able to get it, or at least get it cheap. Then I accidentally burned an NCR soldier to a crisp because he ran in front of me while I was attacking a Legionnaire. His buddy saw me do it and attacked me. My companion chopped him into little pieces with a chainsaw, totally without my involvement. Suddenly my sainted reputation was in tatters. No more would people smile at me when I went onto NCR bases. Gone were the discounts I had become accustomed to because I might use that ammo on the NCR. All because of poor AI.
You interact with your companions by speaking to them, then using a dialogue wheel to determine what you want them to do, or if you actually want to speak to them. You may only have one human companion and one robotic companion at any given time. Fortunately you can send someone away and then go get them again if you want their trusty sniper rifle in battle. Just beware that after a certain point in the game you won’t be able to change your companion, and you might even be stuck with no companion if you don’t think things through.
VATS returns once again in this game, as do the Perks you can assign to your character when you level up. VATS is the ability to stop time and target specific body parts of enemies that you are currently battling. You have a number of action points that can be assigned to shots you fire in VATS, and they recharge over time. You don’t need to enter VATS to shoot, but it’s often more accurate than trying to shoot without it.
New Vegas also has Hardcore mode, which makes the game much more like the original Fallout and Fallout 2. You are forced to monitor your hydration and sleep deprivation levels when in this mode. In addition, if you are crippled you must see a doctor, and Stim packs only work over time, instead of the instant pain relief that comes from using them in non-hardcore mode.
New Vegas is vast. The actual map is actually a little smaller than that of Fallout 3 but there is far more compacted into that space than there was in FO3. It also helps that you walk so slowly. It feels like it takes forever to walk anywhere in this game. You can fast travel to places you have discovered, as in past games from Bethesda, but doing so will limit your ability to gain XP.
Your character has a level 30 cap, meaning you cannot go over that level, and once you complete the main storyline the game ends, meaning Bethesda learned nothing from the reaction to the end of Fallout 3. Or maybe they did, because you don’t die this time. You just wait for the inevitable DLC which is teased during the games ending montage.
There is always some debate in these games about the ability to level up your character to godlike status and dominate the game versus having your enemies level up at the same rate you do, making the game a constant challenge. I feel that if I’m going to sink 40 or more hours into a game I want to feel like I can walk up to most enemies in the game, stare at them evilly, and have them explode. Not all enemies, but most. Well, that’s not exactly how it works in this game. Some characters will become easier to kill the deeper into the game you get. Deathclaws, for example, are a stone cold bitch early in the game, and are only a mild bitch later on in the game after you’ve leveled up. On the other side of the fence you get a constant build up of forces in the game that is somewhat influenced by how you interact with the world. The events in the game are leading up to a battle for control of Hoover Dam. As you do different missions you start to see that the forces guarding NCR camps go from scrubs to Elite forces, and the same holds true for Caesar’s Legion. Even the forces guarding New Vegas get upgraded over time.
Lastly, much of the balance in the game is dictated by how you build your character. If you choose to build your character with lots of focus on bartering and speech, for example, you will usually find it easy to talk your way out of situations rather than having to do a lot of work. Or you can focus on science and make it easy to hack into any computer in the game. You can focus exclusively on weapons and slaughter everything you see. Or you can choose to fight your battles in an unarmed manner, becoming something like Ryu wandering the wasteland searching for your match, kicking everything in the ass that is unfortunate enough to get in your way.
The ability to play the game in Hardcore mode is certainly the biggest stand out for me in terms of this game being original. Having to monitor your water intake and ensure that your character is getting the proper sleep, not to mention being forced to play the game in a manner that is more realistic injury wise is a nice addition. It’s not for me, but I know that there are some out there who long to do the whole Man vs Wild thing, ala Bear Sterns, so maybe this will save some lives. No, not really. Idiots who want to do that aren’t into games. But it’s a nice thought.
So you might feel that based on what I’ve written so far I might be really in love with this game, really into what the developers gave us. And that would probably be true if the game didn’t crash every other hour. I mentioned in the Fallout 3 review how badly that game crashed. My review of that game actually took it out of the running for game of the year. And this one’s even worse! I learned very early on that I was going to have to keep a number of saves going. Every 10 minutes, or every time I killed something I didn’t terribly want to have to kill again, I saved. Every time a plot point was passed, I saved. Every time the game started to stutter so badly I thought it was running on a PS1, I saved because I knew a crash was imminent.
Yet just like its predecessor, I could not stop playing this game even with all of the crashing. I might stop playing it for an hour or two, or perhaps even for the night, but the next day I was right back at it again. Crashes were just something you learned to put up with.
As I mentioned before the developers at Obsidian have a pretty strong connection to the Fallout series. This, and the setting being so close to that of the first two games, has enabled them to include many references to the past. If you have any connection to the original games yourself you might be playing the game for a little while and then twig on to the fact that someone you’ve been traveling with or talking to is a direct descendant or IS a person from one of the first two games, and then you’ll smile to yourself, knowing that they included that little touch for players like you.
I don’t really know who to blame for all of the crashes. Fallout 3 was a buggy piece of software when I encountered it, so it’s really not surprising that a game which uses the same engine on the same hardware would also suffer from numerous bugs. Disappointing, certainly, but not surprising. So the developer can’t really be blamed for that, can they?
But Obsidian themselves are known for shipping unfinished games. Alpha Protocol was their most recent example, but Obsidian has a history that goes all the way back to Knights of the Old Republic 2 for me, a game that was not finished. Then we come to New Vegas. Some of the quests in this game are bugged, meaning you cannot complete them no matter what you do. I cannot tell you how tiresome it is to march across the map fighting mutants and so forth only for there to be no payoff on more than one quest.
Originality: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Good
Final Score: GOOD GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
Fallout on the PS3 never changes. The developers change, but Fallout on the PS3 never changes. Another game which very easily could have been a game of the year candidate, could have earned an Unparalleled score from me, falls on its face at the finish line because of bad coding. After a while you have to ask yourself, is it the publishers who are forcing this developer to ship unfinished games, or is it the developer who just can’t finish what they start? Either way, it’s a disgrace that this game shipped in the condition it did. It deserves better.