Fallout: New Vegas Review
publisher: Bethesda Softworks
developer: Obsidian Entertainment
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Oct 19, 10
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When Fallout 3 launched two years ago on the PC, the gaming public and press heralded the post apocalyptic RPG an instant classic, with a few reservations. Sure there were a few hold outs who said while they were glad the series had been resurrected; the newest release had lost some of the flavor of the original titles. Most blamed the switching of the gameplay from a 3rd person isometric, turn-based system to a first-person shooter. Others claimed the overall gameplay had been dumbed down to allow for release on consoles. However, Fallout 3 looked great using a modified version of the Oblivion engine and to be sure, it was fun. However, for everything that Fallout 3 had going for it, there was something missing when compared to the original games. Something I could not quite put my finger on. For all the developers got right, at times Fallout 3 felt like it was just Oblivion dressed in a Vault suit.
So when it was announced that Fallout New Vegas (FNV) was being developed for the PC by Obsidian Entertainment I got excited. Mainly because some of the original development team responsible for Fallout 1 and 2 now work for Obsidian. Fallout 1 and 2 are PC gaming classics in their own right so if anyone could restore that missing flavor to the new Fallout series, this would be the group to do it. However, after the initial thrill of the announcement wore off I got a bit concerned. Obsidian has a reputation for constructing detailed and engaging RPG environments, but they often stumble with the technical execution: Case in point, Alpha Protocol released earlier this year to some especially harsh reviews, again, due mainly to its technical execution. So, now that FNV is out, and I have had some time to explore the post apocalyptic desert, the question must be asked: Has Obsidian been able to restore my faith in the Fallout series or did they succumb to their old technical failings? The answer may surprise you.
Fallout New Vegas starts the player out as a courier who is recovering from a gunshot to the head. Left for dead in a shallow grave while on a wasteland delivery, a robot pulled you from the dirt and a kindly doctor has nursed you back to health. With your life saved and your memory gone, the main motivation to send you back into the wasteland is to track down the man who tried to kill you. The New Vegas strip itself was spared from a direct hit when the bombs fell so it, and much or the area surrounding the rebuilt city are radiation free. That does not mean that the rest of the region got off so easily. You will encounter plenty of locations, buildings and abandoned structures that will set your Geiger counting ticking like a stop watch on meth.
Nice hair, Vince.
Just admiring the lovely view.
One of the first things returning Fallout players will notice is that the interface, inventory system and control scheme is the same from Fallout 3. Anyone who has played Oblivion or Fallout 3 will be familiar with the character creation process as you tweak your character's looks and assign points to stats and skills. You will find that much of the core gameplay remains the same from Fallout 3, but Obsidian has made a number of changes that provide a more satisfying RPG experience. It's not until you step outside of your Doctor's home that the first significant change emerges as the player is offered to play in hard core mode.
If you agree to play in this mode your character has to sleep, eat and drink or suffer penalties that increase over time. Combat is more challenging and ammunition you carry adds weight to your inventory. Also, Stimpacks heal you over time, not instantly, making combat more intense. You can turn hard core mode off at any time but once it's off, you can't re-enable it unless you start a new game. Finish the main quest in hard core mode and you get a special achievement. Say what you want about achievements and the people who rabidly collect them, but don't think it's the sole reason for playing on that setting. I have found that playing the game in hard core mode has made exploring the wasteland much more exciting and engaging. If you don't try playing the game at least once in this mode, you are missing out. For me I think this is the only way to explore New Vegas.
One of the first NPC's you encounter will acquaint you with other newly added features like using iron sights on weapons for aiming (not as useful as it sounds) and gathering reagents for crafting food and medicine (kind of a cool feature). Crafting has been expanded as you can now use reloading benches and camp fires along with the original work benches to craft ammunition, weapons, food, medicines, poisons and drinks. While crafting is not for everyone, true RPG nerds will argue that it adds more depth to the overall game and does provide a use for all the junk you find scattered around the wasteland.
As you move out into the town of Sweetwater, other more subtle tweaks to the environment and game play emerge. You will notice the color pallet is much brighter and more varied in New Vegas than it was in Fallout 3. The drab gray and blue palette that seemed to have dominated the greater D.C. metro has been replaced with warmer yellow, orange, red and in some locales, vibrant green. This makes sense since you are spending much more time out of the suburban jungle and are instead in a Wild West desert environment. The brighter colors are a welcome change because as Martha Stewart says, nothing helps to brighten up the apocalyptic wasteland quite like a splash of color.
Tons of good side quests, Hard core mode makes the game much more satisfying, New game play tweaks expand and enhance the RPG experience, The game feels more like a true successor to the original series, high replayability factor;
Frequent crashes, Lots of other little bugs, Areas of the game could have used more time with the QA department, Enemies get embedded in the scenery, Main quest line is largely uninspiring.