The Fallout series is well known for classic, 2D, post apocalyptic role-playing games. But since the company that made the original games is no more, Bethesda Softworks bought all the rights for Fallout. They resurrected the long dead wasteland with Fallout 3, and brought the series back up-to-date, giving it 3D graphics and First Person Shooter gameplay, while still retaining some of the RPG elements that the series was loved for. Since then, Obsidian Entertainment (a video game developer company formed by the remnants of Fallout 1 & 2's inventors) were given a chance to create another chapter in this fantastic game series - Fallout: New Vegas. While not a direct sequel to Fallout 3, New Vegas takes places only a few years after the events of the previous game. At a first glance, it seems that nothing has changed. The game runs on the same engine as FO3 & looks almost identical. However, if you look closer, you will find Vegas a much deeper, bigger and buggier experience than that of its predecessor - offering a large amount of quests, addictive FPS gameplay with RPG elements and hundreds of armour types, guns, explosives and other weapons to play with.
Fallout: New Vegas brings us back to the desert wasteland setting, similar to that of which Fallout 2 left off at. This might trigger a pleasant feeling of nostalgia for anyone who played the original Fallout games. The Mojave Wasteland seems a bit less dull, and more varied, than the Capital Wasteland we were introduced to in Fallout 3. The open-world map that you can freely roam is of identical size to that of Fallout 3, but there is simply much more marked locations, memorable pavilions and different settlements. This game, due to the setting, also feels a bit like the Old West… but in a future world that was doomed by nuclear warfare, so I guess you could call it a post-apocalyptic western themed game, set in… the New West?
The story is a little bit different to Fallout 3's. You don't start in any Vault this time, but are greeted with an opening cutscene of the courier (the protagonist) getting shot in the face, by a man in a chequered suit, and left for dead in a shallow grave. By (what seems to be at the time) an amazing amount of luck, you are found by a robot and dragged to a doctor who resides in the small town of Goodsprings. This is where you choose your gender and race, as well as the shape and colour of facial features plus hair and/or facial hair options. Nothing has changed here since the previous game, apart from the addition of an age slider and an unusual improvement which somehow makes it easier for the player to create a good-looking character. After that, you must assign your S.P.E.C.I.A.L attributes (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility & Luck). Then you have to tag three skills and choose from up to two starting traits. This process of the character creation is very important because depending on which skills you tag - and how many points you may choose to assign to a specific attribute - will affect how effective you may be at picking locks, persuading other people in the wasteland, using guns & plasma or energy based weapons etc.
Once you are out of Doc Mitchell's house, you are free to explore a large open world area. The story mainly concentrates on finding the man who shot you and, well, let's just say things get really complicated once you get to the Vegas Strip. This part of the wasteland was not directly hit by bombs during the nuclear war of 2077. Everything is still working and casinos are run by families. All of this is guarded by robots and visitors are welcome to waste all of their life's gained money on gambling or prostitutes. Everything is maintained and controlled by a mysterious tyrant known only as "Mr. House". Nobody ever sees him, nobody ever met him and nobody knows who he truly is. Of course, on your way to Vegas, you are welcome to immerse yourself in countless side quests that provide some interesting storytelling.
With New Vegas, the Fallout series takes a step closer towards the 'Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl' gameplay style, which focuses a lot more on survival. This is done by introducing many new gameplay features, such as: crafting ammo, breaking down ammo, converting it, creating edible items from gathered ingredients. Also, there is a completely new hardcore difficulty mode which forces the player to eat, drink & sleep, as well as adding weight to all ammo types in the game world. All of this makes the whole experience feel much more like a post-nuclear wasteland and brings gameplay another step closer to realism and the struggle for survival in a brutal and tough world. Some players may like these features, others won't. However if you don't think you could last more than a minute in hardcore mode, then you will be relieved to hear that it is completely optional and can be turned off at any time. The game itself actually recommends against using it, because it is so ridiculously hard.
Graphics, compared to Fallout 3, are almost the same, with the exception of a few minor improvements like: sharper face textures, a few higher resolution ground textures and more colourful environments. Although there's still a lot of low resolution textures on walls, or door switches and that sort of stuff when looked at from a close distance, I think it is equally as good as FO3 visually - though lack of major technical improvements is disappointing. Still, the change of colour palette, setting and atmosphere is enough to keep things fresh and stop the player from thinking "more of the same", especially if (s)he has played Fallout 3 before.
There is a few new types of mutated fauna and flora, as well as some unique enemy types. Deathclaws are even deadlier this time around, while Bighorners, Nightkin & NightStalkers are only some of the new hostile creatures which can be encountered in the Mojave Wasteland. Add to that all of Fallout 3's arsenal, plus around half as much of completely new guns and other toys to play with and you've got yourself a hell of a lot of weapon and enemy variety. The wasteland feels much more alive and less empty this time, compared to what it was like in Fallout 3. Now imagine you could modify all those beautiful guns; something that was possible in Fallout 3 but only with the usage of user created content mods. Well guess what? You can! But it's all in the core game from the very start this time, no downloads or internet connection required. Laser sights, suppressors, drums, scopes, extended magazines, long barrels, heavy frames - you name it! These upgrades not only allow you to customize your weapon's looks, but also its combat capabilities. It is great to see that game developers are finally inspired to make new content by community modders who share their masterpieces on the internet.
The two major gameplay additions/improvements over Fallout 3 which have not been mentioned yet are: companions (or followers) & the karma/reputation system. In FO3, the player could travel with only one companion at a time. In New Vegas, the player is permitted two followers at a time. But these companions are much more useful than those that were included in Fallout 3, mainly for two reasons. Firstly, the companion wheel. Every time you activate a follower (click 'E' while facing them), a small, round-shaped menu will pop up. There you can tell your companion to switch fighting styles (from ranged to melee and vice versa), use a stimpak, open up their inventory or just simply talk to them. Secondly, each companion has a unique voice actor and personality. The followers of Fallout: New Vegas have much more to say about themselves than those that we met in Fallout 3. Also, various new conversations with them can be triggered by simply making progress in the main quest or visiting a place that has meaning to that specific companion. A companion usually has around one or two side quests associated with their past.
The other addition is the reputation system. The karma system from Fallout 3 returns and it still tracks all of your good & bad deeds. But this time there is also a very advanced reputation system. Each settlement is usually aligned to a faction. The Mojave Wasteland is fought over by two major groups: the New California Republic (run by a man who wants to reintroduce laws, taxes and demands money in exchange of protection) and the Caesar's Legion (a group of brutal slavers, whose goals are good but the means of which they use to accomplish them is questionable… yeaaaah… they have a tendency to crucify people). When you complete side quests for a faction, you gain fame with them. Once you have enough fame, you might earn a new title. Respectively, if you mess around, steal and get caught, injure or murder members of a group, they might become hostile if you gain enough infamy. But no matter whether a faction is hostile, friendly or neutral towards - its members always have an opinion about you. Many people might hear of your good (or bad) deeds and discuss them among themselves. It is really cool to see the wasteland and its inhabitants responding to how you affect the environment.
The shooting in New Vegas has seen a little more improvements too! You can now use Iron Sights on almost every gun you find. This makes aiming much easier and non-V.A.T.S. "one-shot-kills" tend to be more satisfying because they require skill. Speaking of V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System)… it's still here! Just like in Fallout 3, you can stop time, target various parts of your enemy's body and then watch their heads explode in slow-motion. It is still just as fun as before, but once again - lack of new content is a bit disappointing. In addition, a new feature in Vegas that can be pretty cool, but pretty annoying at times, is the kill cam. It makes you feel like a real badass if you get a satisfying kill without using V.A.T.S. but sometimes the kill cam can be triggered too often. Thankfully, this new little feature can be turned off at any time in the options menu.
In the audio department, Fallout: New Vegas delivers. With some very famous people participating in voice acting for major characters and many, slightly more atmospheric soundtracks than that of its predecessor - there is nothing to complain about. Shooting sounds have been improved too and you can now actually tell if somebody is shooting at you from a close or far distance. Various '40s/'50s songs on the radio stations are great to set the mood, with Mr. New Vegas (voiced by none other than Mr. Las Vegas himself) announcing the tracks and spreading the news of the wasteland, you just can't go wrong.
+ A large map to explore with tons of things to do
+ Side quests tend to be very interesting and can end in different ways
+ Large amount of choice
+ Multiple endings that explain the consequences of the player's choices
+ Fallout 3's addictive gameplay formula, but almost perfected
+ New survival based skills
+ Fallout 3's arsenal plus additional weapons
+ Weapon mods allow for additional customization
+ V.A.T.S. is still here, and it is just as fun
+ Companions have interesting personalities
+ Provides a lengthy, singleplayer, story-driven experience
+ Very challenging at first; no matter what difficulty you're playing on
+ Main quest has several "WOW!" moments
+ Reputation/fame/infamy and various factions
+ Great voice acting and improved soundtracks
+ Superiority of the PC version (less bugs & the modding toolset)
+ New hardcore mode provides additional replay value
- Character animation can be stiff at times
- Most of Fallout 3's problems are carried over as well, due to the usage of the same engine
- Nothing new for V.A.T.S.
- May disappoint players who are not looking for something similar to Fallout 3
- Enemies may fall through the ground, but very rarely
- A few graphical hiccups, texture flickering etc. every now and then
- Once you get to Vegas, so many quests are thrown at you that you might feel lost for a little while
- Most of the challenge is lost after finding Advanced Power Armour, unless played on hardcore mode
- Many minor bugs that might get in the way
- Occasional crashes (6 total crashes encountered, during a total of almost 80 hours played)
Fallout: New Vegas succeeds in pretty much almost all areas. Not everybody will like it because it is very similar to Fallout 3. But other than that, it is certainly one of the greatest games this year. It is massive. You can almost never get bored with it. I'm still going to keep playing it until I get all endings and achievements. But unfortunately, like with almost every other game, there's always one area which it fails at. And in New Vegas' case, it is the bugs. Yes, you've heard it all before from the critics, as well as from other gamers and I need not tell you again. You will find a few, major, game-breaking bugs throughout the game but thankfully, these have either been fixed by patches, modders or can be completely avoided. There is also a lot of minor bugs which shouldn't stop you from playing, but can get incredibly annoying and drag the whole experience down a few notches.
Bethesda Softworks built the fundamentals for the continuation of the Fallout series, by releasing Fallout 3. Since then, Obsidian Entertainment built more on top of those fundaments (in Fallout: New Vegas), but that does not necessarily mean that they corrected any mistakes that were previously made. This game may look like Fallout 3.5, but it is much more than that. If you are a true fan of this series - you must buy this game. If you like post-apocalyptic games, you should do so as well. Lastly, if you are interested in large open-world areas that are completely free to explore in video games, then you should get Vegas without any hesitation or delay.
If you are going to buy New Vegas, you will experience another, not easily forgotten trip to the post-nuclear wasteland of Fallout - possibly the best one so far - but just remember to save your game often. Oh, and don't even think about renting this game, there is so much to do here that you will waste a lot of your money. An experience like Fallout: New Vegas, which lasts for so long after it is finished, should be bought and not borrowed.
OVERALL RATING – 8.5/10 (Great)
NEW GS RATING – 8/10