I have been a Fallout fan since the second installment, unfortunately the first Fallout didn’t have the same grab as its sequel for me. I finished the game and felt very proud of myself and then it was tucked away into obscurity since I grew older and moved on to different games and gaming platforms. However, Bethesda Softworks decided that this childhood memory should be brought back and made awesome. Fallout 3 was one of those very few games recently that ensnared me completely for months. I poured an insane amount of hours into that game.
Now enter Fallout: New Vegas.
Like any other fan, I was giddy for another installment that wasn’t Downloadable Content. I waited in anticipation and when I finally got my copy of New Vegas, I ripped apart the annoying shrink-wrap-like packaging and put that sucker into my PlayStation 3–After waiting for the installments, I was ready to play and devastate.
THE MAIN STORY:
Bethesda and Obsidian joined forces for New Vegas, unlike Fallout 3. Obsidian brought back some of the original key-holders to the addictive quality of Fallout. They returned to the Out West setting from 1 and 2, albeit, going more toward Nevada than California. However, the storyline in New Vegas seems to be a regurgitated copy of Fallout 3 in major aspects.
Without giving away too much, let’s just say that if you made it far enough in Fallout 3 to meet President Eden of the Enclave, then you already know the “big” twist of Mr. House in New Vegas. I was a little more than disappointed at this, but, saw it coming a mile away regardless. The rest of the story bumbles along in a passing fashion, while your character becomes essentially embroiled in a war between the New California Republic (NCR) and Caesar’s Legion–Think of them as the new Brotherhood of Steel versus the Enclave. Instead of clean water, however, the two are fighting for control of the Hoover Dam.
As for the other lesser factions, such as the Great Khans or Powder Gangers, they seemed to fit right into the Mojave Wasteland perfectly.
The player has several options for different endings, much like Fallout 3. When you approach the ending of the game, you are forced to choose a side to fight for, whether it is the NCR, Caesar’s Legion, Mr. House or going independent. This type of game-play provides a higher rate of repeat sessions of gaming, which is very welcoming. However, much like with Fallout 3, Obsidian decided that players cannot play the game after beating the main storyline. A huge bummer.
Despite the mishaps in the storyline, the story manages to capture you in, if not to just kill people and blow stuff up.
Inon Zur, the genius behind the ambient music of Fallout 3, returns to New Vegas with another score of music that is melded perfectly with the game. Zur managed to mix together the ambience that he is known for while also implementing musical qualities of the West, as heard in the ‘Main Theme’ at the start menu and throughout the game. Though, Inon Zur also took the same approach as Bethesda to New Vegas and slapped in old music from the third Fallout, which will be familiar to any fan.
As for the multiple radio stations and their music, they are catchy and will probably get stuck in your head. It is an eclectic mix of upbeat country, Rat Pack bebop and jazz and more serious country. The radio host for the New Vegas radio station, Mr. New Vegas, is like a mixture of Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash and certainly doesn’t have the same vigor as Three-Dog–Expect a bit more of a mellower host out of Mr. New Vegas.
The one song that always gets stuck in my head is for sure Big Iron by Marty Robbins.
THE GAME PLAY:
All of the controls from Fallout 3 return to New Vegas, so anyone who played Fallout 3 will feel very comfortable at the beginning of the game. The leveling system, though still the same, was tweaked enough to make it better and a bit more challenging to cheat. Perks are earned every two level-up’s, rather than every single time you level. And most of the Perks have returned with some new faces in the list. Hint: Do choose the ‘Wild Wasteland’ Perk at the beginning of the game, it will make your experience a lot more fun!
Interactivity in the game has improved tenfold. The player has the ability to use campfires scattered across the Mojave Wasteland to “craft” certain items, whether it be a nice, juicy gecko steak or chems for use in battle. There are also reloading stations to craft bullets for your weapons as well as the familiar workbench to make interesting weapons–My favorite continues to be the Shishkabob. My one gripe with the reloading bench, however, is that the workings of it are never clearly explained and choosing the wrong option could have serious repercussions.
Aids, such as food and Stimpaks, have different effects on your health depending on what you ingest. Food takes longer to heal you, while Stimpaks are still instant. There are some new chems to try out as well as aids. In addition to those, there are magazines that the player can read for a temporary boost as well as the integral books read for a permanent upgrade. Remember to differentiate the two before reading them!
Difficulty in the game has since improved. Instead of gradually spawning harder creatures or people, New Vegas starts you off in a hostile environment, where anything and anyone can kill you. Deathclaws are right at the start of the game and very close to where you begin your journey and there is also the very annoying Cazadors, which are nestled all throughout the Wasteland. Obsidian also added the bonus “Hardcore Mode” for people who want to try their hand at real survival in the desert. In Hardcore Mode, everything has weight, you must monitor your hydration, how much sleep you’ve had and other real-life ailments.
Because everything is instantly a challenge, people who are not yet used to Fallout might have a frustrating time adventuring the Mojave Wasteland. Creatures and humans are harder to take down and there are a lot less places to loot in the Mojave than the Capital Wasteland. The worst for me, at the beginning, were eradicating the Nightkin for a mission—those buggers literally come out of nowhere.
THE LITTLE THINGS:
Fallout 3 is notorious for its serious attention to detail and New Vegas is not any different. While exploring the Wastes, the little things are very striking and add an extra layer of eerie, post-apocalyptic survival. To the crashed buses and cars with the signs spelling out doom and gloom, to a boy’s scattered diary pages on a farm detailing the deaths of his parents by his own hands, all of these things pull at you.
Like mentioned before, the Wild Wasteland perk adds a little bit of silly to your experience. Some things include movie and video-game references or flat-out craziness.
THE FINAL SAY:
Fallout, as a whole, is a highly addictive game. It is also something very different from your average RPG and has truly carved out it’s own little niche in the video-game world, starting with the first Fallout. New Vegas is a great introductory piece to the Wild West of the Fallout universe, which I find a lot more interesting than the Washington D.C. they envisioned. Hopefully, they will expand upon the Fallout 2 side of the West in up-coming Downloadable Content, such as returning to places like New Reno, Vault 13 or Arroyo.
There are, however, things that Bethesda and Obsidian need to fix in any up-coming Fallout titles. First and most importantly, the glitches. Fallout: New Vegas is horribly bugged, from frame-rate lags, game freezes, glitches with interactivity and other gremlins, the quality of New Vegas is taken down a notch because of this. My first hour of playing, I endured a game freeze, lag and V.A.T.S. not even working half the time. There are pages of threads dedicated to the glitches in New Vegas on gaming forums for all three platforms, as well.
The second change should be directed to the dialogue and interactivity with characters. It is still very claustrophobic and rigid. Dialogue choices for characters are still quite limited when comparing it to the intuitiveness of a game like Mass Effect. It is still very old-school RPG when it really shouldn’t be.
Finally, the cut-scenes. Though Fallout’s graphics are now impressive enough to not use cut-scenes, the ones used in New Vegas are laughable at best. They reminded me of video-games from the early 2000’s, with disproportioned body parts and cheesy effects. Unfortunately, it took away from the effect that the developers were trying to portray, which is gritty survival.
All in all, however, this game is a must buy for any Fallout or RPG fan. Bugs can be (and will be) fixed with patches and the other short-comings can be easily dismissed for the overall quality of the game. It is still very, very fun to see someone’s head explode after you shoot at it. So, if you have a itch for some post-apocalyptic fun, do give Fallout: New Vegas a try! And, as always, enjoy your stay.
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