Article originally posted on This Is My Joystick 22/11/10
Following on from the huge success of Fallout 3, it was hard to know whether it was best to play it safe and keeps things the same, or take a bit of a gamble with something different to keep it fresh. Fallout: New Vegas has actually managed to do a bit of both. Retaining all the charm that made its predecessor such a hit, New Vegas delivers some impressive extras making your journey through the Mojave Desert all the more enjoyable.
I picked up the Collectors Edition which included a set of poker chips from the casinos featured in the game, a graphic novel acting as a sequel to in-game events, a pack of cards from mini-game Caravan, and a ‘making of’ DVD, all packaged very nicely in a collectors box.
Ain’t that a kick in the head?
As the titles suggests, New Vegas is focused around the fully functioning city of New Vegas. Somehow kept safe from nuclear war, the city is in the process of being refurbished and about to be in full working order and completely free of radiation. Instead of starting off as a vault dweller, unaware of what the outside world holds for you after the war, you are thrown head-first into the life of a Mojave Express courier. Unfortunately, you’re a courier with a bit of bad luck as you are apparently carrying something rather valuable that a lot of people want, and will do almost anything to get. After being robbed of the package you were carrying, shot in the head and left for dead, you wake up in the pleasant town of Goodsprings. How on earth someone can manage to survive such a close range shot to the head I don’t know, but someone must have been looking down on you as you are patched up by the resident medic, Doc Mitchell, before you are released back into the land of the living. Oh, that isn’t before you have to create your character and his or her personality though. The processes here will be familiar to previous Fallout players, the discarded G.O.A.T exam taking the form of a verbal personality test, and S.P.E.C.I.A.L attributes are toyed with on the Vitomatic vigour tester as opposed to a baby book.
Once you are given the all clear by the doc then you are very literally thrown out into the world to start your adventure. If you’re a new player then you can accept a quick tutorial from one of the residents of Goodsprings, but otherwise you can go ahead and accept quests straight away and mingle with the town folk.
The main thread of the story focuses around recovering the stolen package and perhaps exacting revenge on those who left you for dead in the middle of the desert. Naturally, in true Fallout style the way you play through the story is entirely up to you. You can take revenge on those who tried to kill you, you can work with them, or you can simply take the kind-hearted approach and allow them forgiveness… nah, there’s no fun in that last option.
A few extra perks allow for a better Fallout experience, especially the ‘Wild Wasteland’ perk available at the beginning. This perk will change some otherwise normal occurrences in the game into something a bit wackier for those who want a bit more of an alternative play through. The Long Haul perk is also a brilliant addition, allowing you to fast travel even when over encumbered. No more hours of wading through the desert to offload that stash of toasters and medical clipboards onto unsuspecting merchants!
Heartaches by the number
New Vegas has really improved the way that separate factions interact with you, but it is not easy to juggle all of them as you get further into the game. There are a plentiful amount of factions for you to befriend or aggravate, but the main groups you will be dealing with throughout the course of the game are The New California Republic, Caesar’s Legion and Mr House. Actions you take with one faction may affect your relationship with another, so it pays to be careful who you hand out your loyalties to, otherwise you will end up pissing more people off than making friends. Cosy up to a rival gang and you will feel the repercussions soon enough as you get shot on sight in new-found enemy territory. Nobody likes a goodie two shoes though, and it is quite fun to play about with the factions a bit just to see what you can really get away with. It is far too easy to get yourself into a bit of a moral pickle sometimes though, so be careful if you want to keep your head.
The companion tool has been greatly improved by introducing the new Companion Wheel. This allows you to directly relay tactics to your followers, telling them to either stay back in a dangerous situation, or keep close when a bit of stealth is required. As always if you are feeling the weight of all that junk you picked up along your travels, then it’s very easy to use your follower as a packing mule by shoving all unwanted weight into their inventory instead. You can even load them up with specific armour and weaponry to ensure they are as useful in a fight as they can be. Another added bonus is being able to have two companions with you at any given time instead of one, and having an extra gun or two will be more helpful than you can imagine at times. Companions will also provide you with specific perks for the duration of their stay, so finding a good balance of useful perks will help in sticky situations. Unfortunately none of these perks are really that great, so it does make you question what the purpose of them is sometimes, but the more the merrier!
As well as earning a new perk every two levels, in-game goals will also award you with extra perks. I was awarded the Bug Killer perk halfway through a mantis killing spree which increases the damage I inflicted upon insect enemies, and my overall damage was boosted with the Lord Death perk, awarded for my joy of slaughtering just about everything I came across. It’s also worth mentioning that Obsidian have also added iron sights to the weapons, which is another welcome addition and improves standard gun-play a lot.
Campsites are a new and interesting addition which allows you to create food and medical supplies at abandoned campfires dotted around the map. What you can make and the quality of these items will depend on how high your ‘Survival’ skill is. Almost anything can be used in the campfires from meat salvaged off dead animals, to picked crops from farms and wild greenery. Specialist recipes can also be borrowed from the culinary masters of New Vegas and utilised along with the right ingredients at these campsites.
Hardcore mode will likely make the most use of the campsites. Having to continually monitor your hydration, sleep and hunger levels is definitely a demanding task, but it does bring a bigger sense of realism to the game. However with the added issue of ammo now having weight to it, this mode could frustrate those with an itchy trigger finger such as myself. Customisation in the form of weapon modifications and a larger amount of options on the workbenches make your play through all the more personalised. Got a load of ammo that you don’t use? Then convert it into something you can use, or at least something a bit more valuable. Tired of having to reload too often? Then simply attach a bigger magazine slot onto your weapon.
Instead of collecting Bobble Heads, you can now collect hidden Snow Globes from landmarks around the Mojave and exchange them for a lovely amount of bottle caps from a certain collector. As with the Bobble Heads these are displayed rather nicely on a trophy stand, allowing you to boast about where your travels have taken you.
Not all is rosy in the Mojave though and as much as I would like to say that the game is perfect and runs smoothly, it really doesn’t. Unless you have been living under a rock you will have heard about the long list of bugs and glitches that New Vegas is infected with. The game will constantly lock up putting you right back to square one if you haven’t saved, occasionally forcing you to go back several hours due to corrupted save files. It is also likely that you will get stuck in the scenery far too often and have to reload, and then you are normally kept waiting from anywhere between ten seconds to several minutes before the game finishes loading the previous save file. These long loading times also apply to small things such as entering a town home to go looting. Waiting for these loading times is a very boring process and really hinders things just as you get going. Not even installing the game on your hard drive will help; it just makes it a bit quieter.
Other equally irritating glitches include V.A.T.S. crashing the entire game and companions even disappearing randomly, forcing you to go and retrieve them from an equally random location. The companion glitch is a real pain as the game still registers your companions as travelling with you, so you cannot recruit anyone else to help you in the meantime should you be too lazy to go and collect them.
If you can look past all the loading times, irritating glitches and make your way into The Strip, then you will have a host of mini-games at your disposal in the local gambling halls. A sure-fire way to develop a severe gambling problem, each casino on The Strip offer games of Blackjack, Roulette and Slots to consume your time and hard earned caps with. It is oddly quite fun to take a break from killing Radscorpions and Ghouls and just sit back and lose yourself in these mini-games.
If casino style games aren’t quite your forte, then why not try your hand at a game of Caravan? Essentially a form of Blackjack with cards, Caravan can be played with various NPCs all across the map for varying stakes and forms of cash.
Was that a flying Gecko… with eight limbs?
The graphics in Fallout New Vegas are no different to what we saw in Fallout 3, but this is not really an issue. There was no need for a major graphical overhaul and the game still retains its charming and rough style to compliment the Desert setting with grainy textures and colours. The Strip at New Vegas is probably the most graphically impressive with stark contrasts of grey, lifeless and run down businesses against the bright, energy filled lights of the bustling casinos.
There are of course some graphical issues here and there, but hopefully these will be fully addressed in the latest patches. I have personally experienced a few that involved deformation of enemies, characters becoming trapped in the scenery and unable to communicate, and also talking to someone through someone else’s face. Not a major issue in my books, but nevertheless something that needs to be sorted out.
Best friend Tabitha says STAY THE HELL AWAY!
With a small selection of radio stations to choose from, there is a nice collection of songs that will create the soundtrack to your playing experience. Galaxy News Radio was a Fallout 3 favourite and Radio New Vegas is the technical successor. There are unfortunately less songs on the airwaves to keep you bopping along, and they can become quite dull and repetitive at times as they don’t have quite the same satirical quality that enhanced the experience of Fallout 3. Mr New Vegas is nowhere near as insane as Three Dog, but there are at least some comical interviews on the airwaves should you decide to tune in for a bit of light-hearted conversation.
The mood of the game doesn’t suffer that much though with or without these songs. With the radio turned off the main soundtrack of New Vegas comes to life, changing with the time of day and even the enemies you’re pouring bullets into to create a uniquely tense and high action atmosphere.
This familiar territory, it almost feels like home
For fans of the series this is a great addition (or revisit) and you will spend a lot of trigger happy hours touring the Mojave looking to help people or make their lives a complete living hell. It will be interesting to see what DLC we are showered with this time and whether or not there will be an increase in the level cap, as many players who have invested a lot of time into New Vegas will already be at the maximum level of 30.
If you were expecting something completely new in New Vegas, then you may perhaps be disappointed as this is more of a huge expansion pack for Fallout 3 with a few welcome extras. They say too much of a good thing is bad for you, but this is certainly not the case here. They also say that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and New Vegas while it may have some seriously aggravating bugs at the moment, is not a completely broken game. Hopefully Bethesda and Obsidian will keep bottle feeding New Vegas some stimpaks across all platforms, and soon enough all those quirky glitches will be laid to rest on the pages of YouTube, free for us to look back on and laugh at.