I’ve always been a follower of the Fallout series. Back when it was all turn-based combat, it was at the forefront of my PC gaming addiction. I even played (and enjoyed) Fallout Tactics. Essentially any game carrying the Fallout title – and having a Power-Armour clad soldier on the front cover – earned my money.
Fallout 3 was one of the stand-out titles of 2008. I invested probably 80-100 hours into that game. Even with it’s occasional technical issues, it was still one of the greatest shooter experiences I’d had to date.
Naturally I was apprehensive about Fallout: New Vegas. Bethesda had handed the reigns back to Obsidian Entertainment, all the good from Fallout 3 had been retained, the promise of ultimate Fallout gaming.
But does it deliver?
It is the year 2281, 4 years after the events of Fallout 3 (now 204 years after the Great War of 2077). We take on the role of “The Courier”. Delivering a package containing an elusive “Platinum poker chip” to New Vegas, we’re ambushed by Benny Gecko and his goons, package stolen, shot in the head and left to rot in the desert.
Thankfully, a robot comes to our rescue and we wake to find ourselves in the little settlement of Goodsprings. Doctor Mitchell revives and patches you up – and you set off to find Benny Gecko, recover the package that got you shot – and ultimately discover why and for what purpose.
Much the same as Fallout 3, New Vegas is a first-person, or third-person sandbox RPG/shooter. This time, the game explores the post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, Nevada and Mojave Desert region, now known as the “Mojave Wasteland”.
Players who got into Fallout 3 will immediately feel at home in the New Vegas world. The Gamebryo engine returns and many (if not most) of the core foundations of Fallout 3 have been carried over. Your menu systems and PiPBoy control is the same. Map and Quest details appear in the same fashion, listing and waypoints operate in the same way.
It doesn’t rely on having known the series though, so even those completely new to the Fallout games will assimilate very quickly.
Many of the weapons from Fallout 3 carry over as well, in addition to some new, seriously devastating New Vegas weapon systems. You now have access to some overpowered energy weapons for example, sucking up to 6 MicroFusion Cells per shot, and a Gauss Rifle capable of knocking even the toughest foes into oblivion.
New to New Vegas are weapon mods. Scattered throughout the world are weapon pieces; scopes, stabilisers, increased muzzle velocity modifiers, increased clip capacities, energy storage boosters. Each weapon has a number of applicable mods, all of which can be applied to your weapon of choice ‘on-the-fly’. Simply clip on a scope and attach a silencer to your .22mm machine gun. It’s all incredibly simple, very effective and definitely enjoyable. There’s more reason to keep hold of weapons and carry them through the game.
The levelling system has undergone an overhaul this time around. Often criticised for being too easy later on, Fallout 3’s level and Perk system has been tweaked somewhat – you can now only pick a new Perk every second level. You still end up pretty powerful, but not truly as invincible as you did previously.
Companions now offer you a specialised perk in addition to a second gun too. At any time, you can have up to two companions follow you around, but at least for my play-through on ‘Hardcore’, I found them completely useless. They die after a few shots – even fully armoured – from the most basic of enemies.
Early in the game though, they provide a practical source of second and third inventories for storage, and as long as you remember to leave them somewhere before a serious battle, the setup works well.
‘Hardcore’ mode is a new and welcome addition to the Fallout world. Combat is substantially more difficult, stimpacks heal over time instead of instantly. Limbs cripple more easily and can’t be healed just by sleeping – you need a Doctor or a Doctor’s Bag. Ammunition now has weight and you can die of dehydration or suffer from starvation, so keeping water and food on hand is paramount. Various states of dehydration and starvation also affect character performance, how much you can carry, walking pace/agility etc..
The problem with Hardcore mode though, is it’s still too easy. Water – even clean water is abundant. Drinking from radiated water sources while dehydrated has very little penalty. With the exception of the final mission, I never ran out of Doctor’s Bags. This is not to say Hardcore mode is ‘bad’ in any way, just that it’s nowhere near as Hardcore as the name makes out. It’s more like a ‘Hinging on realism’ mode.
Quests and the people you encounter throughout New Vegas are as hilarious and enjoyable as ever. You’re asked to do some truly horrendous things and you carry them out with enthusiastic gusto and a macabre sense of humour. Choice is ever pivotal to your path throughout the story. There are four distinct endings and probably countless ways of getting to each.
I found myself making enemies of just about everyone, simply because it was way too much fun.
Unfortunately at about this point in my review, New Vegas decided to corrupt my main game save – and an additional two of my backup saves. Losing me about 6.5 hours, or a weekend’s worth of progress.
Once I’d clawed back to where I was, I then encountered a glitch in a quest which prevented me turning in a required quest item. It’s still stuck in my inventory. Further on, just before the conclusion of the story, I did a quest which ran at about 2fps for the entirety of the set-piece, forcing me to fail it about 10 times. Then when I finally toughed it out, the NPC who I was supposed to return the quest to, refused to acknowledge its completion.
Like I said in my opening, I’ve always been a big Fallout fan. In the past, I’ve been able to forgive minor graphical glitches, falling through the ground, the occasional NPC floating in mid-air, his head stuck in a ceiling. Unfortunately this time around though, I haven’t been able to forgive the game corrupting three of my saves, losing ~6 hours of progress, eternal loading screens, my companions literally disappearing, numerous glitched quests that have ended up with quest items forever stuck in my inventory – and quest failure as I’m unable to turn them in. And the complete system freezes which still plague the series.
This is as broken as Fallout has ever been. Frankly, I felt like I was playing a Beta testing version, not an $89 AUD retail game.
I know many of you will say you haven’t encountered any problems, or only minor problems, forgivable of the Fallout franchise and the Gamebryo engine – but I know many of you will also be reading all of this and feeling my pain.
Graphics & Sound
As with all of the Fallout games, the graphics aren’t the strong suit. You’re playing in a post-apocalyptic world, with charred, barren wastelands as your scenery. It does post-apocalyptic well, but it’s not a title that blows you away graphically.
There is some variation this time around though – one Vault is surrounded by lush genetically modified plants, and New Vegas itself is a shining beacon of civilisation in an otherwise demolished world.
Character models and facial animations (particularly your starting sequence where you engineer your own face) are beginning to look dated.
The game is also marred by occasional ‘pauses’, where you’ll be walking along and the game will freeze for a second or two while it (presumably) loads textures and distant architecture. Frame rates are also less than desirable in some sections. One particular mission I attempted about 15 hours into the game was reduced to a literal slideshow. For the most part though, it is acceptable.
Weapon and attack sounds are much the same as Fallout 3, many of the visual and aural cues have carried over and are identical here. Voice acting has vastly improved though, there’s some big names on board again (Matthew Perry, Wayne Newton, Kris Kristofferson, William Sadler, Danny Trejo to name a few) and Ron Perlman reprises his role as the Narrator.
So in a way, Fallout: New Vegas does deliver. When it’s not completely broken, hanging your PS3, or glitching your quests and corrupting your save games.
When it’s working, it’s fantastic. Unfortunately for me, that was only just enough of the time to allow me to finish my first and only play-through.
I depart from the New Vegas experience immensely disappointed. It’s shelved. Maybe I’ll play it again when it’s successfully patched and working properly. Until then though, I can’t hand down a positive recommendation. Save your money and your frustrations and wait ’till it’s fixed.