bulby33's Fallout: New Vegas (Xbox 360) review

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The trek through the Mojave is fun despite its shortcomings.

Even despite all of Fallout: New Vegas’ myriad of bugs, glitches, and game-breaking annoyances, the underlining structure of the game’s entirety still shines through the otherwise unfinished product. This is not only because the general design—previously seen in 2008’s “Fallout 3”—still recaptures your wondering mind through its massive trek of the Mojave Wasteland, but the sheer amount of quests to complete and areas to explore is simply staggering. Fallout: New Vegas definitely fits the bill as being the follow-up to one of the best game’s of 2008, and though it feels like a game from two years ago, there’s enough new content and interesting plot elements to keep you entertained for another 40 to 100 hours. 

It’s a true testament to the game’s addictive qualities when you consider just how badly some of the game’s shortcomings suck away your enjoyment, though. Even in the first couple of minutes you could easily stumble upon many instances of the AI acting up in odd ways, characters clipping through scenery, and other nuisances. But it never ended up hurting the long haul; it just made it a little more difficult to bare. And that’s the crux of New Vegas: it has a ridiculously large amount of bugs and glitches but are just as ridiculously easy to look past. I never once wanted to quit playing, even if I knew that the game would eventually lock up on a load screen. It was a long, decidedly bittersweet ride.

One of the driving factors of Fallout: New Vegas’ addicting infrastructure was the inclusion of a great story. While the principle narrative is ultimately a somewhat generic quest for revenge, I found the overarching mythos of the Mojave complimented the main quest perfectly. You play as an unfortunate Mojave Wastelander—which you create at the start of the story, like Fallout 3—who was on a simple courier mission when is shot dead (well, not really) by a gang of thugs. The reason? Well as it turns out your character possessed a “platinum chip” and someone very important needed it back real bad.

But the story blossoms into a greater conflict of rival factions that wander the Mojave, and mainly becomes more interesting because of it. The main controlling force of the Vegas area is Mr. House and a giant army of robots. House likes to keep the Vegas Strip closed off to random foreigners and only allows certain individuals into the premise. The NCR (or the New California Republic) are the main governing body that try their hardest to keep the wasteland safe. But causing both bodies the most trouble is Caesar's Legion, a group of savage, blood-thirsty killers that crave for death and destruction.

It’s a struggle between these groups that ultimately weaves your decisions throughout the story. There’s many instances of choice, usually resulting in some sort of either-or decision that will change the behavior of the main factions. New Vegas features a reputation system that keeps track of this for you. So say you kill a group of wandering Legion followers, you’re reputation for that faction will decrease while the NCR’s reputation will rise. These choices, however, are the only significant changes to any sort of reputation system in the game. New Vegas still features a karma system that will increase or decrease whether you choose to be naughty or nice, but it never has a noteworthy impact in the game’s world like it did in Fallout 3. This time it feels unnecessary. 

Like Washington D.C. before it, New Vegas’ Mojave Wasteland appears to be a barren pile of rubble with a considerably low amount of interesting locals. But when you actually go out and explore the land there’s a good chance you’ll stumble upon some pretty interesting and worthwhile vistas, including a Ski Resort occupied by Super Mutants, and a Quarry ravaged by crazed Deathclaws. It’s the exploration of the Mojave where New Vegas hits its highest points. The characters you interact with are incredibly interesting—including the main factions—plus most of small settlements are fun to discover. But it’s when you get down to the nitty-gritty where the game seems to almost fall apart limb by limb.

While a Fallout 3 veteran will undoubtedly find the quest system, leveling up, and gunplay to feel primarily identical to the previous Fallout title, New Vegas surprisingly puts it all together in a more broken state. Quests can randomly bug-up and totally break on you. Companions can lose weaponry and armor out of nowhere. The load screens progressively become longer and longer the time you put into the game. It’s great that Obsidian really wanted to recapture that amazing Fallout 3/Oblivion-style of questing, looting, and killing, but it just comes together in a way that seems unfinished.

That’s not to say the game is completely unplayable—it’s just an experience that takes a lot of patience to appreciate. Looking past some of the questionable bugs, glitches, and lock-ups are tolerable when you consider the amazing battle you just survived. Or the crazy loot you found located in a cave in the middle of nowhere. Or the Vault you discovered overgrown by organic vegetation. Or the powerful weapon you looted off a dead body you killed while exploring a factory. Or the terminal you hacked containing some pretty disturbing insight on the Mojave. It’s a rewarding game with lots of reason to keep playing, but you’ll have to jump through a lot of hoops to enjoy.

Fallout: New Vegas, to its credit, does possess a lot of neat features that you never saw in Fallout 3 or Oblivion before it. For example, you can now upgrade your weapons with mods found at shops and deep within the Mojave. You can also activate reloading benches to breakdown and create ammo from spare parts you find whilst exploring. Recipes can be found to cook some pretty useful meals and healing items, like Stimpacks. Some of the annoyances from the past games have been addressed as well. The combat has been tightened to feel more accurate and less random. Guns have an iron sight and enemies can now be protected with armor. VATS is back, too, and feels mostly the same.

Probably the best addition are the Companions, though. These guys—and gals—can be recruited and will fight by your side no matter what the situation. Veronica, for example, is a Brotherhood of Steel member that uses a Power Fist to punch her enemies to death. Other Companions, like Boone, can shoot enemies from a distance. You’ll have to be careful though, these Companions aren’t invisible. If they get to a state of low health, they’ll need medical assistance.

With each Companion comes a pretty useful perk, too. Perks, like Fallout 3, are gained every-other level and can be picked depending on what points you dump into each skill. But the companion perks are unique to each individual character. Veronica, for example, has a portable Reloading Bench while Cass (Sharon Cassidy) gives you immunity to the side-effects of alcohol. You also have the ability to choose between a handful of crazy traits at the beginning of the story. These traits however are different than Perks as they possess side effects in addition to benefits. Even despite the rare amount of random occurrences, I never regret picking the Wild Wastelander trait.

If you were to look at New Vegas as a stand-alone title with no indication of what it is, it’s nearly indistinguishable from Fallout 3. Both games use the same engine, have nearly identical character models, textures, and art assets. Even the minor things like the user-interface are incredibly similar. It’s not to say that New Vegas is a bad looking game, it just looks like a game from two years ago. The engine is, undeniably, starting to show its age.

The overall sound design of New Vegas is incredible. The eerie, ambient melodies are far more impacting than they were in Fallout 3, plus the game features some pretty awesome tracks that bring the insecure mood to new heights. The voice acting is once again outstanding. Sure, the lack of variation can be a little off-putting but the quality of the voice work is so damn good that you won’t even care. It helps that the writing is top notch again, too.

Suggesting Fallout: New Vegas in a general sense is pretty easy; the game features an incredible list of quests, an absorbing world full of interesting characters and fascinating locals, plus features a story which is surprisingly pretty good. The only problem is that it’s a followup to Fallout 3 in nearly every sense. It never strives to do anything completely new or groundbreaking and can’t even keep up with with technology that is already 2+ years old. It’s an incredibly fun game that just needs a little tolerating to enjoy the fullest.

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