reviews\ Oct 18, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Fallout: New Vegas review


Fallout: New Vegas has vault-sized shoes to fill, and a minefield to cross. As fans of Fallout, we crave innovation, and yet, we grab the pitchforks when the status quo is challenged. Having Obsidian Entertainment at the helm hasn’t eased the tension either. They developed Neverwinter Nights 2, but they also created the abysmal mess that is Alpha Protocol. Are you worried yet?

Fallout returns to the post-apocalyptic wastelands of the west with a fresh perspective. You are a courier who has been shot, robbed of your cargo, and left for dead in a shallow grave. You survive and venture out to settle the score, but the world is turning to hell around you. The New California Republic is struggling against the Roman-inspired Caesar’s Legion while the Brotherhood of Steel, Children of the Apocalypse, Boomers, and the numerous families of New Vegas are all looking for their cuts. It’s a Fallout reunion, and you’re smack dab in the middle of it all.

Fallout 3’s Karma is far too limiting for this scenario. In addition to being good, evil, or neutral, New Vegas players build reputations with factions and towns. This can make for some very hairy situations, especially if you’re an enemy of the NCR, which seems to have a foothold in most outposts. The play between reputations and factions leaves the door open for a staggering amount of replay value, if you’re willing to slog through the first half.

The name, New Vegas, is tragically misleading. You won’t likely see the lights of New Vegas’ Strip until nearly halfway through the game, and trudging through the desert wouldn’t be so bad if weren’t so, well, deserted. Curiosity birthed some of Fallout 3’s best quests; Reilly’s Rangers, The Family, The Oasis. Most locations in New Vegas are glorified rest stops with beds and fewer supplies than you used en route, and as for The Strip, it’s more like a claustrophobic ghost town than a massive entertainment district.

Fallout: New Vegas makes a timid first impression, and the visuals help that cause like spit in a handshake. Much of the world is created with assets from Fallout 3, with new textures laid over top. It doesn’t work. Characters look like plastic toys and the new textures appear detached from the old ones. It’s extremely frequent to find textures that don’t match up spatially with the environment. It doesn’t affect the gameplay, but it ruins the fantasy.

The second half of the game stands in complete contradiction, and is why exploring the world and building a reputation is so necessary. Mr. House, the ruler of New Vegas, reveals the importance of the cargo you carried, and the weight of the world pours over you like a tidal wave. You will have the opportunity to make allies, double-cross them, triple-cross them, or manipulate everyone to your ends. The intersecting layers of possibilities are so complex that every twist feels like an organic response to your actions, as opposed to a pre-canned choice.

Obsidian has taken the basic framework of customizing attributes, choosing skills, and applying the unique effects of perks, and made it better. In addition to Speech, other skills, such as Science, Repair, and Explosives can provide special dialogue options. New Perks, such as Cowboy - increased damage from revolvers and lever-action rifles and dynamite – allow for greater weapon specialization than previous installments, which lumped pistols, SMGs, shotguns, and rifles in the same category.

As a gear-junkie, New Vegas is a dream come true. You can find most, if not all, of the old weapons alongside newcomers, including a lever-action shotgun, 9mm SMG, and a grenade machinegun (you read it correctly). Many weapons have mods that can be applied, such as scopes and larger magazines. If crafting is your thing, you can create your own ammunition, food, and chems. Crafting isn’t necessary to survival, but it is a welcome touch for players looking to immerse themselves deeper in the world.

Hardcore mode awaits the truly diehard fans and has me craving a Fallout MMO more than ever. It’s a mode that requires you to eat and sleep Fallout, literally. You must keep yourself hydrated, well-rested, and properly fed at all times, or risk death. If that’s not realistic enough for you, ammunition now counts toward your weight limit and broken bones require proper medical attention.

Despite Obsidian’s fan-service, Fallout: New Vegas is a heaping pile of bugs. Common sights are characters falling through the world, single-digit framerates, frozen enemies, sound effects cutting out, and characters that change voices mid-conversation. I’ve had reputations reversed and weapons disappear from my inventory, only to go back to normal an hour later, and my two companions are currently stuck inside a room in New Vegas. The latter might be for the best anyway, as they kept shooting up the joint.

I have also come across a handful of broken quest-lines that have no requirements for reputations, and all parties involved are still alive. Quite simply, no dialogue options are given to finish the quests. Worse, is the constant freezing. The game has now frozen nine times and turned me into an obsessive saver, since one of these freezes happened during an auto-save and corrupted my data.

Looking purely at the new features of Fallout: New Vegas, I want to entrench myself in the Mojave wasteland and never return. Obsidian Entertainment has bolstered the series with an array of fantastic additions, including crafting and Hardcore mode, but it’s hard to appreciate them in light of incessant bugs and unfulfilling quests. Fallout: New Vegas was a valiant effort, but it’s back to the vaults for me.

[Author's Note: This review is based on the pre-patched PC and PS3 versions of the game. It is worthwhile to note that the Xbox 360 version is significantly more stable and has superior lighting effects and textures. However, other glitches affecting quests, characters, etc. are still present.]

Above Average

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