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

A messed up experience still worth having

Fallout: New Vegas might be one of the most poorly made games I've played recently. When the game isn't locking up every few hours, the framerate is either dipping to sickening levels in some spots or the game is otherwise breaking in some other amazing way that will either make you cringe or laugh hysterically. Naturally, a game in this state would be very difficult to recommend, but between all the rough spots is a title that is very much a worthy sequel to 2008's Fallout 3. Whether or not you're willing to look past these annoyances is entirely dependent on how much you cared for Bethesda's iteration.

 There are still Super Mutants as well as lots of brown
The Mojave Wasteland is very different from the Capital Wasteland. The geography of the land is much more mountainous and treacherous as a result, but in general you can expect to see lots of browns and grays in most places that you visit. In addition, the culture is vastly different; overalls and hats of the straw and cowboy variety are certainly not rare in this scorching desert which seems to take many cues from the southern lifestyle. Country music and lever-action rifles are all commonplace, as are your typical bands of murderous thugs and raiders as well as the plethora of down-on-their-luck citizens just trying to get by.

It is in this Wasteland that you'll begin your hunt for the man who shot you in the head and stole the item you were carrying across the desert. Unlike Fallout 3, you aren't starting life out in a Vault, so there is no childhood tutorial to go through. Instead, you wake up on a doctor's bed, and after building the framework of your character, you are cast out into the world to find the gentleman who left a hole in your cranium. At first glance, this seems like an altered version of Fallout 3's find-my-daddy story. But in reality, it's much, much bigger. Several factions are fighting for control of New Vegas, and eventually the time will come for you to join with one of them and decide the fate of the Mojave Wasteland. There are four very different ways the story can ultimately play out, and it's thrilling being able to experience the ending from many different perspectives.

Among the new additions is iron sight aiming, which helps tremendously during the real time combat. The ability to add different attachments to your weapons is also really neat, albeit arbitrarily limited because the mods are all specific to certain weapons (a .357 Magnum Scope can only go on a .357 Magnum, and so on). The Reputation system, previously seen in Fallout 2, makes a return and plays a much bigger part than Karma did in Fallout 3. Your actions will influence your reputation for all the major factions and towns in the game. Do good deeds in Novac, for example, and the people will like you better. Kill NCR troopers, and you'll be more likely to come under attack by them in the future. The Reputation system not only influences people's behavior towards you but also the quests that you'll get. Should you become enemies with Caesar's Legion, you're going to have a hell of a time trying to get anything from them besides bullets to the face.

 Many things remain unchanged from Fallout 3
Chances are, most of your time will be spent exploring and taking on side quests, of which there are an exceptional amount. Although some of them can be rather dull (one quest simply required me to fast travel between two locations several times and talk to a few people) there are certainly some real fascinating tasks you can get yourself involved in. From launching ghouls into space to finding a robot that performs questionable sexual favors for people, there is plenty to do in New Vegas. As you might expect, the Strip makes an appearance and plays a big role in the story. It also serves as a safe place to just hang out when you don't feel like risking your life out in the grime of the Wasteland. There are multiple casinos to enter to, each with their own unique theme and interior. You can gamble your money away on casino games like blackjack and roulette here and snag some additional side quests if you wish.

It's just a shame that much of New Vegas is a horrendously-constructed mess. I find myself questioning whether all the repeating bugs and glitches I've experienced came up during testing or if they just couldn't fix them. The biggest problem, by far, is the constant locking up. I've had the game completely freeze five or six times; two of the lockups occurred on two consecutive days. Whenever I see a Radscorpion or Giant Ant, it's usually clipping through the ground and flailing about like a moron. My companions are often incapable of navigating around a group of rocks and must catch up with me later. I once had a quest not register as finished. The majority of the time I enter V.A.T.S., my character simply stands in place and lets the enemies take pot shots at him, never once firing a shot. I've had my arms completely flip out and warp all over the screen while holding different rifles. It's just a crazy, crazy experience from beginning to end that in some ways is totally unpredictable while also being extremely predicatable at the same time. You know that bugs are going to happen. The question is where and when. It shouldn't be like this, but it is. Another issue I had that probably ended up being more annoying than the bugs was the invisible walls. They are everywhere and it's disgusting. The terrain of the Mojave Wasteland is extremely difficult to navigate in some parts because it's so rocky. But there are many spots where the game forces you down a specific path because an invisible wall prevents you from simply climbing over the hills and rocks in your way. It's seriously headache inducing, and I find myself struggling to comprehend why a developer would cover an open-world game with arbitrary barriers.

If you are somehow able to look past these flaws, you will find a game that improves on many of the aspects of Fallout 3. New additions like iron-sight aiming, improved companions, item crafting, and an absolutely enormous amount of weapons make New Vegas a better playing game. It's too bad that for every great thing about New Vegas there's a hideous technical glitch that hampers the experience. If you loved Fallout 3, then by all means dive into this game. Just know what you're getting into.
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