Review: Fallout: New Vegas – Ultimate Edition (PC)
by Crystal Steltenpohl on April 10, 2012

Fallout: New Vegas – Ultimate Edition
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: Role-Playing
Release Date: 02/07/2012

I haven’t spent too much time with the Fallout franchise; I’d seen a couple friends play it and they seemed to be pretty interested in it, and it seemed like the kind of franchise I’d enjoy, being as I’m into post-apocalyptic storylines, pulp magazine art, and satirical/dark humor. However, I never had the chance to get any of the games, so when this game came up as a review option, I took the chance, despite having heard mixed reviews about the quality of the game. I figured it would be a simple transition for me gameplay-wise from having played Skyrim and Oblivion previously, and that I’d have an easier time given that it was on PC, which I am most familiar with.

In Fallout: New Vegas, you play as a courier who was tasked with delivering a package (a Platinum Chip) with a lot more importance than was let on. The delivery had turned into something a lot bigger than you expected, and it ends””or rather, begins””with you being shot in the head and dumped into a shallow grave. A robot named Victor finds your body and saves you, taking you to a nearby town doctor. Once you decide what your character will look like and what stats s/he will have, you’re off to find out who shot you and why””that is, if you don’t get distracted by all the other things you can do in this open world experience.

The main storyline is pretty short, so the real draw is the side quests. The plot of the game quickly becomes much bigger than a story of revenge. There is a war going on, and you have to decide whether you’re going to support the New California Republic (NCR), the Legion, or yourself. After the fallout (pun sort of intended), there aren’t many resources yet so the NCR””a government based off the former””and the Legion””a reference to the Romans who enslaved their captives””are fighting for the Hoover Dam, because whoever controls the dam controls the area. Meanwhile, there are other factions that want some kind of control over the area they inhabit, so you’ll get the Brotherhood of Steel, a religious organization that you can recruit as allies, or the Great Khans, a group of raiders. There are other raider gangs, but also merchant companies, town populations, and other random groups that you can either gain favor with or obliterate. I particularly enjoyed destroying the Powder Gangers, since they just came off as a bunch of punks.

There are six DLC packs that come with Ultimate Edition. In Dead Money, the Courier is kidnapped by Father Elijah, an ex-Brotherhood of Steel leader, and has to work with other captives to find the Sierra Madre Casino treasure. Honest Hearts sets the Courier on an expedition where s/he is attacked by tribal raiders and gets involved other conflicts between tribes. In Old World Blues, the Courier gets involved in a science experiment and finds out how some of the creatures that inhabit the Mojave Desert were created. The Lonesome Road focuses on Ulysses, the character who refused to deliver the Platinum Chip at the beginning of the main game. He promises to tell you why he refused to deliver the package that got you a bullet to the head if you go to the Divide for him. Gun Runners’ Arsenal just gives you more weapons and ammunition, and Courier’s Stash gives you four packs of armor and weapons. Each DLC pack other than Courier’s Stash also increases the level cap by five and includes achievements/trophies, terrain, weapons, armor, and more. These are nice additions to the game, but with The Lonesome Road especially, I wondered why they weren’t just included with the game to begin with.

Fallout: New Vegas, for the most part, feels like a post-nuclear Western despite the obvious age of the graphics engine, but because of the engine’s age, some of the texturing looks extremely fake and there are occasional bugs with texture loading. The grimy Mojave Desert makes you feel like you’ve been transported two hundred or so years in the past, yet the weapons and sentient robots shove you towards a futuristic feel as well. If the environment becomes too dreary for your tastes, you can turn on the radio on your Pip-Boy, though after a while the songs start to repeat themselves. I sometimes ended up playing the game with muted music and just had Spotify running in the background. The voice acting and dialogue were decent and it was relatively easy for me to suspend my disbelief and immerse myself with the characters in this post-apocalyptic universe, at least as far as the story and character interaction went. I felt that the dark humor was well-captured and easily understandable.

Leveling up is simple enough. The game uses an acronym, S.P.E.C.I.A.L. (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, Luck), for the stats that you can level up, and perks will come into play accordingly. For example, you can obtain the perk Entomologist, which gives you +50% damage against mutated insects, or Grim Reaper’s Spring, in which a ill in V.A.T.S. restores 20 AP immediately. You can also obtain companion perks like Spotter, where hostile targets are highlighted whenever the player is actively aiming, or challenge/special perks like Power Armor Training which gives you the ability to wear all types of power armor. You can buy implant perks from Doctor Usanagi, or get unique unarmed attacks from talking to specific NPCs or doing quests for them. Lastly, some of the perks come from the DLC available. I like these things in theory, but in practice I felt like my character didn’t really change from level to level. Admittedly, that could have been with the way I leveled my character up, but I expected the system to work a little differently than it did.

The game plays like your typical open-world RPG: wander around, kill things that attack you, accept quests, fetch a few things here and there, and buy and sell weapons, armor, and support items. You gain access to companions every now and then, which, while not the brightest, are useful to have around. You can help people or hurt them, but no matter what you do, someone is going to be angry with your decision, which affects your karma ratings and changes how people interact with you throughout the game. This keeps gameplay interesting for the most part, though I found myself getting bored with the sameness of a lot of the quests. I’m not really a particular fan of fetch quests or monster killing quests, but I’m not really sure what I’d suggest as a replacement for these types of quests. They’re basically expected in games like this.

Essentially, the game is all about choices. You get to decide what kind of person you’re going to be in the game and what you’re going to accomplish. Though this gives the gamer a lot of freedom, there’s also a paradox of choice here: with so much customizability, there’s a kind of choice overload coming into play. Should I help this guy escape or turn him in to the people who want to kill him? Do I want to help the New California Republic or Caesar’s Legion? Do I want this ability, or this other one? For some people, this will be great, because it offers replayability and an understanding of the consequences of each in-game action. For those who voluntarily choose simple choices, this game will be annoying and potentially paralyzing.

I had two main issues with the actual gameplay. Firstly, I wasn’t a terribly big fan of the way the guns handled; the mechanics felt too clunky. You basically needed to use V.A.T.S (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) in order to really get anything done. There’s quite a bit of a learning curve here as well, which will put off anyone who isn’t used to this combat style. The only way I can really describe it is cumbersome. I understand that in real life, weapons move around because we can’t hold a weapon perfectly still, but I feel like other franchises like The Elder Scrolls have handled that better, and it’s awkward compared to most FPS titles. Secondly, the inventory. Why would anyone design an inventory system like this? It’s so incredibly impractical, to the point where I was wondering if maybe Obsidian was laughing in a board room meeting about how much it would irritate players. I felt like there had to have been a better way to make the inventory better organized and easier to navigate.

I also had issues running the game, as it crashed on me several times. The bugs and glitches were annoying, but thankfully those at least didn’t really interfere with my gameplay. It did get annoying when it crashed several times in the span of fifteen minutes for me and when the game would spend eternities on loading screens. In the end, though, I didn’t have near the problems that others had, with some not even being able to load the game on their systems, even after updating drivers and doing the more routine checks. The game’s been patched several times since release, but it’s still buggy to varying degrees, which sadly, is typical of games published under Bethesda.

There’s a potential for replayability for people who like the way the game plays out and can get beyond the glitches and gameplay issues. There is a lot of character and plot customization to be had, and the world is big enough to explore more than once. The DLCs add to the experience by giving the player even more to explore and to add to their personal story, but all in all the game felt a bit lackluster. Nevertheless, if someone wants to explore the game world that badly, there’s a potential for over one hundred hours of gameplay available per run-through.

The Scores:
Story: GOOD
Graphics: DECENT
Sound: DECENT
Control and Gameplay: DECENT
Replayability: MEDIOCRE
Balance: MEDIOCRE
Originality: ENJOYABLE
Addictiveness: MEDIOCRE
Appeal Factor: GOOD
Miscellaneous: GOOD
FINAL SCORE: ABOVE AVERAGE GAME

Short Attention Span Summary

Fallout: New Vegas – Ultimate Edition feels old compared to other games released during this time, but it works for the most part. The story and characters are fine, and the inclusion of the DLC is nice, but I can’t say I was impressed with this particular title. It really just boils down to this: if I were introducing someone to the Fallout universe, this would not be the game that I would choose for him/her to start with. There’s really no other way to explain how I feel about this game. It worked fine, for the most part, but it’s by no means a game I’m going to come back to anytime soon, and if I do come back to it, I’d probably just start over entirely.



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Crystal Steltenpohl

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