Fallout 3 brought the post-apocalyptic role-playing series back with a bang in 2008 and in doing so marked a fantastic departure from the first two entries in the series. Two years later and ‘’Fallout New Vegas’’ continues what its predecessor started with another gripping adventure through the Mojave Wasteland.
Taking place a few years after Fallout 3, New Vegas revolves around the story of the Courier who is transporting a valuable item to the Vegas Strip when he or she is ambushed and left for dead by a shady group of assailants. After being found and patched up (and character creation of course!), the Courier sets out to find the men who attacked him or her, only to be caught in a complex power struggle for control of the Mojave Wasteland. There are numerous factions all vying for control including the diplomatic and domineering NCR (North Carolina Republic), the cruel and ruthless Caesar’s Legion and the mysterious Mr House, all of whom have a role to play in the battles to come. You’ll still run into a heap of memorable characters that are all well voiced and have their own agendas in the conflict and the Wild West aesthetic sets a more light-hearted tone for the game. As reflected by the numerous story quests throughout FNV the plot is a web of political intrigue and this, combined with player choice as to which faction to support, gives the player a feeling of empowerment that wasn’t seen in Fallout 3. With that said the courier’s quest for vengeance doesn’t have the emotional punch or the dark edge of its predecessor, making it significantly less memorable overall.
Fallout New Vegas will be familiar to anyone who played Fallout 3; after making your character you’re placed into a game world which can be explored at your own pace but in New Vegas this works to the game’s detriment. The game allows you to go anywhere but at the same time, the enemies don’t level along with the player character which can make the game feel like a beginner’s trap quite often early on. For example in the first few story missions the game needs you to follow a safer route to the Vegas Strip but if you don’t follow what it recommends then you’ll likely end up dying repeatedly at the hands of Deathclaws or other creatures that are too strong for your character to handle. Keeping multiple save files helps but New Vegas will undoubtedly be very frustrating for newcomers to begin with. Thankfully once you’ve gotten past the early story quests and powered up your character the game’s depth shows in full bloom. Everything has been upped from Fallout 3 including more quests, more weapons, more customisation, and more things to do. The quests can be particularly clever in that they often intertwine with each other and are tied to the all-new ‘’Factions’’ system; with each faction throughout the wasteland the Courier has a reputation which can be raised by completing errands for them or lowered by killing faction members. Helping out one faction can affect your relationship with another and this has positive and negative effects. Gaining favour with the NCR grants an emergency radio to call for back-up while displeasing Caesar’s Legion will see assassins sent after the player character. In a similar way to Dragon Age and The Walking Dead, it’s a really dynamic feature that takes your actions into account very well. The weapon system has also been overhauled, allowing for weapon mods and different ammo types to be purchased and applied to numerous guns which offer incentive to save up bottle caps for the most expensive implement of death. When not on quests New Vegas offers plenty of things to do; (most likely down to the fact that the Mojave Wasteland wasn’t as badly affected as the Capital by nuclear destruction) several characters and companies have continuous jobs that need doing, there are legendary monsters to hunt and kill and if all else fails you can always break out a deck of caravan cards or try your luck at the casinos on the Vegas Strip. The Ultimate Edition also comes with all the DLC which, like Fallout 3 is varied in terms of quality; ‘’Lonesome Road’’ and ‘’Dead Money’’ aren’t so great while ‘’Old World Blues’’ makes the best impression overall. Fallout New Vegas is a gargantuan piece of software, offering immense replay value with different character builds, quest lines and a new hard-core mode which will push any long-term Fallout fan to the limit.
Like Fallout 3 before it, New Vegas is a role-playing game that can be played from a third or preferably first person perspective that offers a wide range of gameplay choices. The gunplay has been cleaned up slightly with the new-found ability to aim down the sights but it can still be quite fiddly to run and gun; VATS (Vault-Tec-Assisted-Targeting-System) which serves in targeting specific body parts is still the way to go when it comes to engaging enemies who are often very deadly. Giant poisonous insects, advanced robots, hulking mutants and vicious Deathclaws are all out to hunt the Courier at every turn and you’d best be prepared to face every one of them as they relentlessly attack and pursue you. The newest skill to the role-playing roster, survival, can help even these odds a bit; throughout the world are ingredients which can be used to craft healing items, making survival a viable option for wasteland trekkers. The notion of character traits has also been introduced offering a dual sided aspect to the player character; for instance ‘’early bird’’ boosts your stats during the day but decreases them at night. Other skills remain predominantly the same with a few tweaks; repair now offers the ability to recycle and manufacture ammunition, melee weapons and unarmed now offer numerous special attacks and speech offers multiple options which can result in different quest endings. Playing Fallout New Vegas is a familiar experience overall; Fallout 3 players will feel right at home and while New Vegas does bring in some new gameplay features, most of it is the same as before; both satisfying and often very difficult.
The presentation of Fallout New Vegas is again, much like Fallout 3, maintaining the same visual standards. Things haven’t really moved forward too much in the graphics and little about the look of the game has changed outside of the setting. The green hills of Washington are replaced with the sandy orange hills of the Nevada desert with a few visual touches such as grass blowing in the wind. NPCs are a lot less static now, moving around a lot more and interacting with each-other but on the whole the presentation is acceptable but won’t blow anyone away with its visuals. On the other hand the animations are still brilliant, especially the kill shots in VATS, which look as brutal and bloody as ever; Obsidian has also added much more music that plays both in and out of combat, delivering handy sound cues that let the player know which faction they are in the presence of and whether or not they are under attack. Even better, the technical issues and bugs have finally been ironed out for the Ultimate Edition. Outside of some game crashes Fallout New Vegas runs very well and the game is now far less susceptible to broken quests and other glitches, making it the perfect time to pick up and play. Hopefully the next Fallout will ensure a major jump in technical fidelity.
Any concerns I had about Fallout New Vegas being a lacklustre side-note on the way to Fallout 4 have been shelved; this is a well thought out successor to Fallout 3 and despite not being as ground-breaking as that game, New Vegas nonetheless progresses the series forward in deep and meaningful ways.