Fallout: New Vegas First Look

The series makes its way back to its West Coast roots in Obsidian's upcoming postapocalyptic role-playing game.

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Fallout: New Vegas
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There will definitely be gambling in Fallout: New Vegas. Whether or not the other wonders of Las Vegas--like buffets--will be included remains to be seen, but for now, we were assured that once you make your way to the strip, there will be a variety of ways to give up your hard-earned cash. At the Bethesda Gamers Day held in Las Vegas, Obsidian presented an hour-long demo of its upcoming role-playing game set in the dry and desolate Mojave Wasteland. Several members of the development team came from Black Isle Studios--the creators of Fallout and Fallout 2--so the game's story and setting will likely feel more familiar to those who had played the first two games.

Your character's introduction to the world is not a 16-year process that takes an hour. Unlike Fallout 3 where you start from birth, in Fallout: New Vegas, you begin the game as a courier who gets shot in the head over a package and is left to die in a shallow grave. Lucky for you--or else this would have been a very short game--you're rescued by a robot named Victor and then nursed back to health by Doc Mitchell. The rehabilitation process essentially acts as the character creation setup, where you can customize your looks and tweak them with an age slider. You'll also use a vitomatic vigor tester machine to determine your S.P.E.C.I.A.L stats. In a way that is similar to seeing a therapist, the doc gives you a personality test to determine your skills and define your character. He'll ask you questions like what comes to mind when you hear the word "dog" or "light," and the responses you give can be straightforward or slightly disturbing. For example, a couple of the optional responses for hearing the word "mother" included things like "cookie jar" and "human shield." Next, we were given several statements like "Conflict is not in my nature," and as with a survey, we had to select how much we agreed or disagreed. Our final test was a Rorschach test, where we picked the best answer to represent an ink blot that was displayed. The whole process took no more than five to 10 minutes, so after selecting barter, explosive, and gun skills for the purpose of the demo, the doc handed us a Pip-Boy to manage our status then told us to head toward the saloon.

At any point in the game, you can switch to Hardcore mode, which was added for those who want more of a challenge. In Fallout 3, you would heal instantly by using stimpaks, but with Hardcore mode in New Vegas, healing happens over time, so even if you use a stimpak, you'll have to seek out cover and wait a few seconds to recover. Similar to the radiation meter in the previous game, this time, you have a dehydration meter where you'll need to drink and hydrate, as well as eat certain types of food to offset negative status effects, which can eventually lead to death. Ammo will have weight, so you'll need to manage that accordingly. Project director Josh Sawyer mentioned that this is meant to provide more of a challenge, as well as immerse you into the world of Fallout.

The town we were in was based off the real ghost town of Goodsprings, which is a sleepy, deserted town that doesn't have much going for it other than the local saloon. For those who felt that Capital Wasteland was too bleak, New Vegas is a bit livelier--at least as lively as a barren desert can get. The Mojave Wasteland was spared from being leveled by a nuke, so there's some semblance of life when you walk past the welcoming Joshua trees and rolling tumbleweeds. Our first stop was to meet up with Sunny Smiles, a strong-willed young woman who will teach you the ropes on how to survive in the desert. Those who are familiar with Fallout 3 can easily skip the tutorial section of the game and just take off into the sunset, but for the purposes of the demo, we tagged along to help shoot some geckos that were messing with the town's water supply.

Pick your stats and be on your way. The whole process should only take a few minutes.
Pick your stats and be on your way. The whole process should only take a few minutes.

Using a varmint rifle, we watched several overgrown geckos' heads explode with a few quick shots. There's a kill cam that can be set, which slows down the final shot and makes your kills feel more cinematic, but this can be turned off if you don't like seeing limbs fly in slow motion. Sawyer said that geckos were a favorite from Fallout 2 and that there will be tougher versions to fire at later in the game. The core controls, as well as the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (VATS), remains mostly the same, and we later found out that special skill options have been added for melee attacks. Sawyer explained that there wasn't a lot of development time for New Vegas, and because a lot of people played Fallout 3, the developers didn't want to make any drastic changes--just improvements to the existing controls. He also said that aiming should be more responsive, reactive, and predictable. To discourage players from always aiming for the head, certain weapons will be more effective against limbs. At times, a red shield icon will appear to let you know that you're dealing less damage per shot and that it might be a good idea to switch targets to conserve precious bullets.

Before moseying back to the saloon, we were given a quick tour of the town and passed by an old historic schoolhouse (a dungeon to explore later). We also met up with Victor, which was the TV robot responsible for rescuing us. Instead of a traditional robot face, Victor has a screen that displays the face of Vegas Vic, a cowboy with a cheesy grin and a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. Down the road, we came across some new creatures known as big horners--which are not meant as replacements for Brahmin--that were mutated big-horned sheep. Though they were docile in fenced areas, they can become hostile if found in the wild.

This is when weapon mods come in handy.
This is when weapon mods come in handy.

We then ventured back to the saloon where we came upon a conversation between the town leader, bartender Trudy, and a shady man known as Joe Cobb. In it, Joe was threatening to burn the town down if Trudy didn't give up a trader that Joe was trying to find. Apparently, some guy named Ringo wandered into town and needed a place to hide, but Trudy wasn't expecting anyone to come after him. We found Ringo hiding in the women's bathroom, and at this point, we had several options. We could help Ringo by killing the powder gangers that were after him, kill Ringo ourselves, or we could even help Joe and his men burn the town down--the decisions! Karma is only meant to help you keep track of how good and evil you are in New Vegas. How the characters interact with you in the game is determined by your reputation, and your reputation can be different among the many groups in the game, depending on your actions toward a particular group. It's not about just being good or evil anymore because you can develop many different kinds of relationships in the game. By being nice, you might receive discounts or freebies from the local townspeople, but if you terrorize town or gang members, they could send hit squads after you. In the demo, we decided to help Ringo and fend off the powder gangers, but first, we had to recruit some of the townsfolk to help us out.

People aren't going to help you if they don't have a good reason or if you don't know what you're doing. When skill checks are made in a conversation, a red box will appear around options that won't work because your skill isn't high enough. The number is also displayed in the conversation, so you can see how many more speech points you need to be a little more convincing. Sawyer told us that the developers didn't want it to be a guessing game and that they wanted players to see what options they had without being penalized for asking. This should give people a reason to use a skill magazine, come back at another time, or come back to another play-through to see different outcome.

After convincing enough people to help us and rounding up some dynamite from prospector Pete, the gang members were on their way. One important addition has to do with weapons modifications (and there are twice as many weapons compared to Fallout 3) for guns, explosives, and energy weapons. You can buy the extra parts at stores all over the place and slap them on yourself in your inventory. For the firefight that was about to break out, our character effortlessly added an extended magazine and a short-range scope on a 9mm pistol, with the mods immediately visible upon exiting the menu screen. During the fight, we lobbed a stick of dynamite to cripple several gang members at once and pulled out a 9 iron to melee the ones that got too close. Each melee weapon had its own special move that cost more action points, but by using the skill "fore", our opponent's head went flying into the distance.

You don't want to be in the way of that golf club.
You don't want to be in the way of that golf club.

The size of New Vegas is comparable to that of Fallout 3, but because of its sprawling landscape, we were able to see other towns with large, noticeable landmarks off in the distance. During our stay in Goodsprings, we saw a giant roller coaster in the horizon and decided to head over to it to check it out. Primm is a small town right along the border of California, but the one thing that stood out--other than the burning oil drums and lack of civilians--was this dilapidated roller coaster. Of course, this version was nonfunctional, but that didn't stop us from using it as a vantage point to lob a stream of grenades at the raiders that had taken over the town. As run-down as Goodsprings looked, Primm was utterly deserted because the local residents were holed up in a casino to avoid being killed by powder gangs and raiders. Novak was another sad-looking and depressing place; a place where people made a living salvaging parts from a local rocket base. The only thing festive about this town was Dinky the dinosaur, the town's major landmark and lookout point. We were told that these large landmarks were put in place to make it easier for players to navigate, but they also give each location a unique touch. Each area has its own set of problems that you can either help solve or exacerbate, but the central conflict of the story is primarily between the New California Republic and Caesar's Legion, a slaving organization.

Black Mountain was another region we explored; it was a haven for supermutants and the more intelligent nightkin. Through a radio broadcast, we learned that a mechanic named Raul was being held prisoner by a mutant called Tabitha who runs the place. Our goal was to save Raul, who would be more of a help to us alive that dead, so we armed ourselves with a modified high-speed motor minigun and fired away at the brutes. The area was a series of switchbacks with shortcuts that may or may not have tumbling boulders that will crush you if you're not careful. It was very different from the other places we'd been to, and night had fallen. But what stood out the most was the atmosphere and sound design as we climbed our way up the mountain. Everything felt very still as we hiked along the dusty trail. It was silent except for our footsteps and the strong gusty winds that were being funneled through the hills. Black Mountain is located in the middle of the world of New Vegas, so at the top, we could see the lights from the strip of New Vegas in the distance, as well as Camp McCarran in place of the present-day airport.

An easy, user-friendly way to manage your companion.
An easy, user-friendly way to manage your companion.

When we finally reached the enemy camp, we used our speech skills to trick the supermutants to fight among each other. While the mayhem ensued, we used a grenade machine gun with a high-speed kit to do as much damage as possible. Our next task was to find Raul, who was locked away in a shelter, and after figuring out the password to free him, he joined our group as a companion. A companion wheel was used to manage the weapons and AI, so Raul was given some new armor, as well as a weapon, so that he could be useful in the upcoming fight. He's not much of a melee fighter, and he'll make a snarky remark if you try to arm him with anything other than a gun. At this point, Tabitha had taken notice of all the commotion and was after us as soon as we stepped outside. Tabitha seemed just like any other supermutant, with the exception that she was sporting a blond wig and rocking some heart-rimmed glasses.

The final area we checked out was Helios One, a prewar solar plant that was run by the NCR. We quickly found out that it was just not an energy plant but a research facility for a superlaser known as Archimedes II. After learning this, as well as speaking with a pompous technician known as Fantastic, we headed for the controls and put this death ray to work. Once we got the laser activated, within seconds, the barracks below the tower were completely vaporized--well, at least it worked.

The benefits of solar energy.
The benefits of solar energy.

Our demo ended there, but it's obvious that developers are still keeping several things under wraps so that they can reveal more at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June. It looks like the world of New Vegas will be just as large as Fallout 3 and there will be just as many things to do to keep you busy for hours on end. We look forward to bringing you more information on Fallout: New Vegas as soon as it becomes available, so stay tuned.

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