Fallout: New Vegas Review
I settle down at 7pm to play Fallout: New Vegas for the first time. I’m a bit nervous – it’s been two years since Fallout 3. That was a tremendous game, but have we moved on? Or has the Fallout magic worn off?
Seven hours later I know the answer. My eyes are in screaming agony, but I can’t peel myself away from the screen. I’m exhausted, but I have to finish one last quest. One thing is very clear – the Fallout magic is present and more potent than ever.
Although New Vegas is set a few years after the events of Fallout 3, there’s little narrative connection between the two games. But the central plotline in New Vegas is considerably more interesting than its predecessor’s. The game opens with the player character, a courier, being shot in the face and buried in the middle of the Mojave Desert. After being pulled out by an unnervingly cheerful robot, you immediately set off to find the man responsible.
But you’ll take your time doing so. The Mojave Wasteland, like Fallout 3’s Capital Wasteland before it, is dense with places to go, people to meet and things to do. Getting anywhere can take hours. Not because movement is slow – you can teleport to any visited location. It’s because you’ll be struggling to resist the urge to step away from your path to investigate that unusual building in the distance, or because your compass is showing an undiscovered location nearby. Visiting these locations often results in a new quest or some valuable loot – few games make exploration as exciting and gratifying as Fallout: New Vegas.
The quests in the game are plentiful, ranging from short fetch quests, to multi-part epics. As well as the financial and experience rewards, many reward you with an increase in reputation. The reputation system is one of the biggest changes from Fallout 3. The Mojave is full of different factions, each with their own agenda. Completing tasks for one will likely irritate another – there’s no pleasing everyone.
You can play the field for a while, but eventually you’ll have to pick a side. Will you team up with the NCR, essentially the government of the region, or the depraved and mildly homoerotic Legion? Perhaps you’d prefer to hedge your bets with Mr House, the mysterious figure that lords over the Vegas strip. The choices you make have big implications on the world.
Anyone who’s played Fallout 3 will be able to jump right into New Vegas. The game plays in almost exactly the same way. You build your character by allocating points to certain skills, such as speech, science or guns. I built my character to be a handsome and charismatic intellectual with a silver tongue and a way with the ladies – clearly Fallout is very good at wish-fulfilment.
Combat is still primarily controlled through the V.A.T.S. system. A press of a button pauses the game, allowing the player to select what enemy / enemy body part they wish to attack. It’s a rewarding system, and limbs still fly off enemies with alarming ease.
Despite the familiarity developer Obsidian has added a few new features. For example, a new crafting system lets you create new items from raw materials accumulated throughout the game.
There’s a much greater emphasis on companions. You can be joined in your quest by a range of cool characters, and controlling their behaviour is much easier than before. For example, you can set them to be passive, and not attack enemies until you do, which is a godsend for players who like to take a stealthy approach. Unfortunately, companions aren’t always great at finding their way through the world – on more than one occasion my robotic dog Rex had trouble navigating through a doorway.
There’s also a new ‘hardcore’ mode, with emphasis on the hard. In this mode, the player must contend all kinds of additional challenges. Ammo now has weight, limiting how much can be carried. Thirst and hunger become major concerns, and injuries are harder to heal. The mode gives a great sense of every day in this post-apocalyptic world being a battle for survival. I wouldn’t recommend switching on hardcore mode for the first playthrough, but it’s a neat addition that adds some fun new wrinkles if you want to revisit the game.
Despite its incredible scope, its fascinating world, and its satisfying mechanics, New Vegas does have some serious problems. To call this game buggy would be an understatement. Graphical glitches are common. Sometimes ground textures won’t load in, turning the world into an ugly, blurry mess. The player’s weapons sometimes spasm round the screen. Enemies are constantly falling through the floor or into rocks. It’s important to stress that when we say graphical glitches are common, we mean really common – it’s annoying and ruins much of the sense of immersion.
But a few visual bugs can be overlooked, considering the size of the world, and the freeform nature of the gameplay. But the game has plenty of bugs that simply aren’t forgivable. For example, companion characters will sometimes randomly decide to stop moving. They’ll just stand in one place, and not move until you dismiss them from your company. It’s not uncommon for the player character to get trapped on scenery, forcing a load of a previous save file. The game also locks up from time to time, with the only solution being to reset the console.
It’s a real shame that these bugs are so prevalent, because they do mar what is otherwise an incredible game. But even though they damage the experience, they don’t destroy it. Obsidian has created one of the deepest and most absorbing games since… well, Fallout 3, and it shouldn’t be missed.
- Great sense of freedom
- Satisfying combat and great RPG gameplay
- Another brilliant journey through the wasteland
- Very buggy
- Visuals are all looking fairly dated now
- Poor AI and pathfinding