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Fallout: New Vegas


I'm betting on another 100 hours of gaming
I can't tell you how may hours I logged in on Fallout 3 on the XBox 360 a couple years ago, not to mention playing through the DLC packs that rolled out after launch. I've been excited to get my hands on Fallout: New Vegas since seeing the demoed material at this year's E3, despite the shift in developer to Obsidian. The narrative for Fallout New Vegas takes place a few years after the events in Fallout 3 that occurred in Washington DC. The bombs that dropped all over the United States missed Las Vegas and the majority of its inhabitants didn't become freakish mutants. The city is pretty much intact and is being powered by the Hoover Dam. The story sets the stage for an impending clash of two rival factions, the New California Republic (a group from the West who still believes in the values of democracy) and Caesar's Legion (a faction from the East with a monarch that uses slave labor to rule and conquer territory). It's basically a similar plot to Jeremiah, but in an apocalyptic setting. Your character is a courier that was on a delivery mission before getting shot in the head and left for dead in the Mohave desert. After being patched up, you head out to find out who did that to you and why.

fallout new vegas lucky 38 at night

You can tell the developers wanted you to be at a disadvantage from the start and feel the impeding doom of dying in the desolate, barren wasteland. New to Vegas, the developer included a Hardcore mode for the Fallout 3 veterans. If turned on at the start of the game, your character suffers from hunger, dehydration and lack of sleep. If you don't regularly stop to fuel back up to rest, there will be penalties to your character's ability to run, shoot, etc... You also can't fast travel unless you are up for the journey. It's extremely difficult to balance your actions around missions and monitor your health at the same time, but is ideal for the RPG gurus. It can get really annoying though if you like to get caught up in side missions rather than making sure to drink a bottle of Sunset Sarsaparilla soda or munch on some scorpion meat.

Another new addition to the series is the inclusion of group thinking toward your character; factions. For instance, if you protect a town from a pack of enemies, they are going to love you and offer you benefits in the form of information and loot. Adversely, if the enemies that were attacking the town were part of another faction, they will attack you on sight. You can also disguise yourself as a faction member by stripping a fallen enemy of their clothing. This will allow you to infiltrate groups, but also paints a target on your back for rival factions. Your reputation in factions also determines what quests are going to be available to you. Depending on the way you play, good or evil, you could have two entirely different experiences with the game based solely off the faction quests open to you.

fallout new vegas robots attacking cowboy

Another addition to the game is a much more robust weapon customisation system as well as an ammo building system. You can attach different sights and silencers to your weapons as well as use hollow point, armor piercing and other types of ammo in your weapons. You can also create weapon repair kits at workbenches instead of having to rely on enemies carrying the same weapon as yours. You also have a new ability to create healing items with ingredients found across the wasteland. This is enormously helpful when on an extended trip through the desert and can't find any First Aid boxes to raid.

The core of Fallout 3's gameplay design remains the same in New Vegas. The V.A.T.S. shooting system is the same and allows you to target specific body parts when shooting creatures / humans. The armor / weapon outfitting system is identical via the PipBoy display as well as the leveling system for ranking up your character with SPECIAL points and other traits. Repairing weapons, choosing music stations and targeting areas on the map all still works through the handheld device as well. You can also have an AI partner tag along with you in the desert, two actually (a human or mutant and a robot or dog). The AI still stinks though and they are more likely to be foiled by a rock in their way than help you defeat a swarm of Caesar's troops.

fallout new vegas entrance to the strip

If you want to take a break from the main story and the side missions, you can take up gambling. This is a game set in Las Vegas! On the road, most of the locals play a card game called Caravan. Similar to collecting new cards in Kotor for Pazaak, you will find new cards being sold or hidden all over the wasteland. In Vegas, you can play the typical games (roulette, blackjack, etc...) or sit in front of a slot machine all day. You can also scour the land for collectible snowglobes (no Bobbleheads here) and sell them in Vegas, if you need the caps. There's also plenty of achievements to grab in the PC version as well as the 360 / PS3 versions. Getting banned from all the Strip's casinos is particularly fun.

Graphics

  • I got a chance to test out Fallout New Vegas on multiple platforms, including the Toshiba Qosmio X505 gaming laptop; an 18 inch beast with 1080p resolution, an Intel i7 CPU, 4GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GTX 460M graphics card with 1.5GB of video memory. (This is were I would be doing the Tim Taylor grunt if this were a video review.) In 1080p, the game is absolutely stunning, specifically the facial movement on the character models and the glistening backdrop of Vegas at night. Particle effects are also nifty, especially the dust storms whipping around you and the blood spatter that squirts out of enemies. Depending on your hardware, you will run into framerate issues if you are trying to push out HDR or another graphical tweak. But the good news is that the game can be scaled back significantly for those with older PCs, mostly because the game engine is based off something created for PCs two years ago. While the load times on the console versions are on the long side, the load times on the PC are not with speedy hardware.

fallout new vegas michael dorn super mutant

Audio

  • One of my wish list items for Fallout New Vegas was a broader song-list for the radio station's DJs to play. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. While the 1940s - 1950s song selections from singers like Bing and Etta James are great, they are extremely limited in number and repeat often. Fortunately, the DJs mix it up and you will recognize some familiar voices in there; specifically Wayne Newton (about 1000 times better than having to hear "Heeey, it's Three Dog here!" over and over). The voice acting is really excellent as well, particularly in the latter half of the game when the major characters start to make an appearance. Listen for voices by Machete's Danny Trejo, Matthew Perry (a Fallout 3 junkie), Kris Kristofferson, Michael Dorn, Felicia Day, William Sadler and many others. The conversations can still sound a bit stilted, but that's still due to the conversation choice structure of the game. The sheer amount of voice acting recorded is mind-boggling though. The sound effects are pretty much identical to everything in Fallout 3, from the shriek of screaming ghouls to the sharp crack of a bullet leaving your trusty Cowboy Repeater.

Conclusion

One nice aspect of the PC versus the Xbox 360 and PS3 is that Bethesda can roll out patches via Steam much quicker than the console versions. They have already rolled out two updates, one fixing a variety of bugs right at launch and another today fixing the quicksave issue. (Steam's Cloud based saving system was overwriting your most recent quicksave each time you loaded up the game) Still, the game is based on a two year old graphic's engine that already had it's fair share of buggy issues, so it's not really a surprise that New Vegas is suffering from the same issues.

fallout new vegas approaching strip in jumpsuit

In the end, your enjoyment of Fallout: New Vegas will come down to how much of an exploration junkie you are. If you scoured the edges of Washington in the Fallout 3, you are going to find just as many side quests and hidden gems in and around New Vegas. I went off on an exploration tangent one day this week, completely ignoring the main quest, and spent about five hours simply hunting Deathclaws and searching for that snow lodge filled with super mutants. It's also a game for people who love the intricate details of building a successful character, more so than Fallout 3 due to the inclusion of factions and the ammo / food building systems.

Anyway, if you had a ball with Fallout 3, you are going to love Fallout: New Vegas. The main narrative isn't as strong as Fallout 3 and definitely has slow pacing issues from the start, but the involving side missions will delight you and are really the true meat of the game. There's easily another 100 hours of missions to play through in New Vegas (but remember that completing the main storyline will end the game and force you to reload from a previous save). Pick Fallout New Vegas today if you have any love for action-based role player games or first person shooters.



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