Review: Fallout: New Vegas
Smoke rises from burning homes like the fleeing dreams of those who once struggled to make this land their own. Along the sides of this town’s main street stand the posts upon which its residents have been crucified. Not yet dead, but too far gone to save, their moans and cries provide a macabre orchestra for this tragedy. At the end of this gauntlet of sorrow I see its creator. Surrounded by flames, he stands like a demon, grinning proudly at what he has wrought, beckoning me to come closer. A wolf’s skin draped across his head and shoulders, and the red armor of Caesar’s Legion make him a terrible sight to behold. A demonic preacher, I listen to his sermon of treachery, punishment, and the slaughter of innocents. Surrounded by his men, Legionnaires all, he bids me to take in what I see and to spread the tale of what become of those who turn against the Legion. As I stare into the darkness of this hell I know what I must do. Outnumbered and outgunned, I sigh and unholster my .44 magnum. I may die tonight, but first I’ll rid the Mojave wasteland of yet another monster.
Fallout: New Vegas (NV) is a much darker game then its predecessor, and yet the Mojave Desert is far more vibrant and full of life than the DC Wasteland ever was. The real monster here aren’t giant green mutants, zombie-like ghouls, or car sized scorpions (though they do make appearances), but people, normal human beings trying to survive. Though the game bears the Bethesda Logo, this is the kind of game they only wish they could develop. No, Fallout: NV is Obsidian Entertainment’s baby and they should be proud of it as what they’ve created is a sequel worthy of the Fallout series.
The amount of work and dedication to detail that the folks at Obsidian put into Fallout: NV is quite impressive, and it feels as though the developers played through the original Fallout games a few hundred times and took a lot of notes. The Mojave wasteland is filled with references to Fallout 1 and 2 (it’s only been 40 years since the events of Fallout 2). For instance, in the town of Novac, you can meet a nice old lady who’ll be willing to tell you about the time she crashed a Vertibird outside the town of Klamath, and one companion, a lovely gal named Cass, is the daughter of an old bartender from Vault City who wandered off after some tribal years ago. To some fans, Fallout 3 felt a bit like an attempt to reboot the franchise. Fallout: NV though, feels like a return to the setting we originally fell in love with.
Benny, the man who shoot’s you in the head, is played by this guy. I don’t know why, but there’s something embarrassing about being shot by Matthew Perry.
Fallout: NV follows the journey of a courier for Mojave Express who is ambushed by bandits and shot in the head for the package he was trying to deliver. Saved from a shallow desert grave by a cowboy robot named Victor, your search for revenge will lead you to shape the future of the Mojave Wasteland. The thriving city of New Vegas and the lands around it are the prize over which many different groups wage war and the decisions you make in the game decide who’s going to come out on top. Will you side with the New California Republic (NCR), the closest thing to “good guys” in the game, but who are hindered by bureaucracy, pride, and a sense of manifest destiny which leaves them over extended and weak; with Caesar’s Legion, cruel slavers dedicated to dominating the wasteland, but who represent stability and order; or with Mr. House, the eccentric Howard Hughes like mastermind behind the city of New Vegas?
My favorite follower in this game is played by Felicia Day. I’d like to say it’s because they made her an interesting and deep character, but really it’s just because IT’S FELICIA DAY!
As they use the same software, it’s almost impossible to examine Fallout: NV without constantly comparing it to Fallout 3 (so I’ll keep it to a minimum). However I’ve yet to find one that actually ended with “but Fallout 3 did it better”. At almost every pointFallout: NV outshines its predecessor. In your journey you get to see the many faces of the Mojave wasteland. The dull, unbroken rocky hills of DC have been replaced with sandy deserts (complete with sandstorms), rough canyons, and snowy forest covered mountains (ok ok, and the occasional area of barren, rocky hills). Caravans and traders dot the roads and small trading posts litter what remains of great highways. Towns are located at spots that make sense, at road junctions or near resources that allow them to survive, and almost every town has farms of some sort to keep it fed.
In fact, the whole game engine feels as though it’s been tinkered with, much to our benefit. Unarmed combat is now more interesting with the addition of special moves that let you counter an enemy’s punch or knock him to the ground. Weapon sights and scopes are new quite accurate and with some weapons you’re actually better off using them across long distances than switching into VATS. Item crafting has also been upgraded with the addition of 90 or so recipes for food, drugs, ammo, and other assorted bits. Food can be crafted at campfires (but not ovens for some reason), ammo is broken down and manufactured at a reloading bench, and everything else can be built at workbenches.
This proves rather useful as the new Hardcore mode requires characters eat, drink and sleep or risk penalties and even death. Hardcore mode also slows down healing, makes followers killable, and adds weight to ammo, but it really doesn’t take any of these changes far enough to make the game a lot more challenging. Players will rarely be vexed with the problem of having too much in-game money and nothing to spend it on as the list of available weapons and armor is truly massive. Players can also buy rather expensive medical implants to boost their character’s stats (the cheapest will up a single attribute 1 point for only 4,000 caps). There’s also gambling and hookers, which Fallout: NV has in excess.
This nice lady will be more than happy to relieve you of any excess money you may have weighing you down.
With Fallout: NV, sex makes a comeback to the Fallout series (having been completely cut out of Fallout 3) and I’m amazed (sarcasm) that it fails to make the game (to quote Fallout 3 dev Emil Pagliarulo) “goofy, cheesy and set the wrong tone.” Ladies of negotiable affection line the Vegas strip and flaunting themselves to bring in customers. If you decide to do business with one of these gals (there are a few gigolos out there as well), they generally lead you back to their room, say a few suggestive comments and then the screen fades to black (Sex in Fable was actually raunchier, what with NPCs moaning and giggling during the fade out). This brings a new level of reality to the series though, as darker topics like sexual slavery and rape come up in conversations with NPCs. Girls in a brothel outside of Vegas will warn that the prostitutes over at one of the big Casinos are little more than drug addicted slaves, while others whisper tales of how the Legion treats women as little more than cattle. On the lighter side, the “Lady Killer” perk gives access to special lines of dialogue that can open some interesting doors. While an old lady might not take you up on your attempt at seducing her, she might be flattered enough to give you a discount at her store (beware though as she may take you up on it). The alternate perk, “Confirmed Bachelor”, gives access to other more…male oriented dialog options.
Jimmy, do you like movies about gladiators?
Another big improvement is the work done on atmospheric background noises. Fallout: NV is a banquet for your ears. In the deep desert you hear bugs in the grass, pebbles falling down cliffs, and at night you can hear coyotes howling at the moon (which is a bit disconcerting as they’re also monsters you can run across). In New Vegas and the towns around it, you can hear life around you. Casinos are filled with the sounds of laughing, talking and slot machines ringing. In bordellos you can hear distant shouting or moaning, muffled to incomprehension through the walls. In buildings and Vaults you can hear rats scurrying and strange things clicking in air ducts. After a while, I actually turned off the in-game radio so I could experience all there was to hear. The sounds of humanity give life to already heavily populated towns and provide just a little more emphasis to one of the main themes of the game; that this is a world filled with noisy, energetic and incredibly distracting life!
There is a lot to explore in Fallout: NV, and there’s just as much to do. In addition to the main quests, there are 72 or so side quests (compared to 17 in Fallout 3) which not only provide you with something to do, but actually influence the world within the game depending on the choices you make. In Fallout 3 there were a handful of moments where you were given a moral choice, but really only a few of these actually affected the game world, and the big GOOD vs. EVIL one was at the very end. You literally picked an option (save world or destroy it) and then watched the ending video.
However, in Fallout: NV, picking a side is only the first step to completing the main quest. If you choose to side with the NCR, you can follow the long line of quests that lead to its dominance, and the Legion will be little more than your enemies. But if you side with the Legion (the “evil” path), you gain access to parts of the Mojave that would have been normally hostile to you, as well as a long series of Legion specific quests. A big part of this is the return of the faction system (missing from Fallout 3). In addition to your character’s Karma (how good or evil you’ve been), factions (like the NCR or raiders) will treat you differently depending on how you’ve dealt with them in the past. Certain quests and locations are only available to you after you’ve become a trusted ally of certain factions. However, you can’t make everyone happy, and your efforts to side with one group will inevitably lead to you pissing off someone else. If you save a town by killing the raiders, you’ll make enemies of the raiders and you’ll be shot on sight if you enter any of their towns. That means that if you really want to experience everything that Fallout: NV has to offer, you’re going to have to give it more than one play-through.
Yep, the major moral choice of Fallout 3 came down to little more than ‘kill self and save world, kill self and destroy world, or get blond chick to kill herself instead.
For many of the folks in Obsidian Entertainment, Fallout: NV was their opportunity to return to the series they helped create, and you can tell that they put their hearts into it. It’s a magnificently complex western RPG that should appeal to fans of the Fallout series, as well as more recent RPGs like Dragon Age or Mass Effect. If you thought Fallout 3 was far too complex and time consuming, or you just don’t like the whole post-apocalyptic genre, this might not be the game for you. However, if you’re interested in a mature RPG experience and a game that will give you value for your money, then enjoy.
The only real problem with Fallout: NV is that it currently has a lot of bugs, but none of them are game killers (one erased quicksave when the game shut down, but not normal saves) and the worst of the lot either have, or are going to be mended with patches. I heartily recommend buying the PC version as the modding community is vast, and many of the thousands of mods available for Fallout 3 also work for Fallout: NV. The Fallout: NV version of the GECK was released at launch, and the biggest modding site, FalloutNewVegasNexus, already has a few hundred mods up at this time. If you have to choose between PS3 and X-Box 360, it gets a bit tricky. I don’t trust 360’s, what with that whole 30% of units bricking on us thing, but from the looks of it PS3 owners are probably going to get screwed on DLC just like they did with Fallout 3. Either way, for Fallout: New Vegas, my recommendation is to Buy It. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s only 3am and I haven’t finished exploring the New Vegas sewers.
The PC version of Fallout 3 had mods that added minigun equipped motorcycles that you could ride. What did the X-Box 360 version have? Achievements? Muahahahahahahahahahahaha!