Giant Bomb Review


Fallout: New Vegas Review

  • X360

Fallout: New Vegas somehow manages to have even more technical problems than Fallout 3 did, but its great characters and setting still shine through.

Veronica wouldn't be too thrilled if you blew up the Brotherhood of Steel's underground base.
Veronica wouldn't be too thrilled if you blew up the Brotherhood of Steel's underground base.
It says a lot about the quality of Fallout: New Vegas' writing that, despite experiencing a list of incredibly annoying bugs that only got worse as I continued playing, I still think you should play it. But when I reflect on the experience, I'll probably think about the times the game locked up on me or broke in a dozen other crazy ways first, before thinking about the great world and the objectives that fill it. If you were able to look past the issues that plagued Fallout 3 and Oblivion before it, New Vegas will eventually show you a real good time.

This edition of Fallout is set in and around the city of New Vegas. It's not quite as torn up as some of the other wastelands you've seen in previous Fallout games, but there's still plenty of scrap and a lot of ill-tempered mutant creatures roaming around the Mojave wastes. At the center of it all is New Vegas, a shining beacon of debauchery that, if it weren't for all the policing robots and rubble surrounding the big gates to the city's main strip, wouldn't feel too different from what 1950s Las Vegas probably felt like. Parts of the city are still obsessed with things like "swinging" and people like Elvis Presley. It's bright. It's gaudy. It's a great place to go if you're wealthy enough to handle the swings while gambling or just need to get out of the desert for a spell. But it's also under the control of an enigmatic man known as Mr. House. I probably don't need to tell you that this name was probably chosen specifically to allow for some uses of the phrase "the House always wins."

But House isn't the only powerful faction in town. The surrounding areas are filled with soldiers from the New California Republic and the huge tribe known as Caesar's Legion. They've been at war for some time, and they're gearing up for another big throw down for control of the Hoover Dam. There are also plenty of smaller factions out there, little tribal gangs, junkies, vault dwellers, and so on. The factions play heavily into the game's new reputation system, which supersedes the still-present-but-often-puzzling karma system.

The interiors can look pretty normal. 
The interiors can look pretty normal. 
So how do you fit into all this? You're just a courier, attempting to bring a platinum poker chip to its rightful destination. For this, you get shot in the head during the game's introduction. You're down, but not out, and your entry into this world puts you on a collision course with the smiling, slick-talking hustler that gunned you down. As you'd expect, it quickly becomes more than just a simple revenge tale, and the fate of New Vegas swings in the balance as you decide which factions to work with and which ones to dispose of.

Along the way, you'll meet a lot of interesting characters. Mr. House, for one, is a great, mysterious presence. Caesar, leader of the Legion, is another--sure, his Legion is a bunch of slave-driving scum, but at least he's a learned man. The NCR is full of bureaucrats and soldiers, and they're probably the closest thing to modern society that you'll see in New Vegas. That also means that they aren't much fun. Deciding which faction to support in their quest to take Vegas is the focal point of the story, and it's the one that has the most impact on how it ends. There are also a lot of side quests, and some of these make for the game's best moments, though others feel a little slapped together. As in Fallout 3, New Vegas' ending is presented as a series of spoken segments that tell you how your action--or inaction--impacted the world around you. So if you don't help the stealth-loving super mutants wean themselves off of stealth addiction, you'll find out exactly what happens just before the credits roll. Though see the bits of the ending flip one way or the other is sort of an anti-climactic experience, it at least tells you more about the state of the world than you'd have if the game ended after seeing its last in-engine moment.

Let's talk about that engine. New Vegas runs on the same basic framework that powered Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and it brings a lot of technical weirdness up from those games. Less than an hour in, I was staring at a guard, pacing back and forth to guard his post... 20 feet off the ground. Enemies clip into the ground with an alarming frequency, often making them impossible to shoot. The game--a retail disc running on a new-model Xbox 360--crashed on me about a dozen times over the 33 hours I spent playing, often taking a significant amount of progress with it. The load times and frame rate seemed to get randomly worse as I continued to play the game, with some simple scene transitions taking 20 seconds or more. The technical hurdles you'll have to make to stay interested in New Vegas are meaner and more frustrating than any Deathclaw or Nightkin you'll face in the game. If you're the type of person who likes to watch for a patch or two before settling into a game, know this now: you probably don't want to play Fallout: New Vegas right away.

Marcus runs Jacobstown and won't just attack you on sight. Crazy, right?
Marcus runs Jacobstown and won't just attack you on sight. Crazy, right?
But if you can accept a partially broken game, Fallout: New Vegas is well-worth the trip. It also streamlines some of the rougher aspects of Fallout 3. Dealing with companions, for example, can be done via a wheel of options that pop up when you approach that companion and hit A. This way, you can access their inventory or tell them to heal up without having to work through a bunch of dialogue options first. Some of the companions are pretty cool, too, such as a cyber-dog that can knock your enemies down or Veronica, a young Brotherhood of Steel scribe that offers up some terrific quips, should you ever stop to talk to her. The game also has "true iron sights," which lets you get an aiming view similar to that of Call of Duty, but the sights on most of the guns aren't very good, which just made me want to turn all that off and go back to a generic zoom view when aiming. 
The iron sights prove once again that Fallout is not, first and foremost, a first-person shooter, and it's as easy as it's ever been to see invisible dice rolls guiding your bullets just as much as any skill you might when holding a gamepad. The game offers weapon mods, such as scopes and silencers, that you can apply, but they're limited to specific weapons. Modern-day Fallout is about scavenging up whatever weapons you can. Unless you want to get married to a weapon and are willing to spend a significant amount of money keeping it in working order, weapon mods are a waste of time. I was too busy picking up new stuff to worry about keeping one or two guns for any real length of time. The game also has a crafting system that lets you cook the animal meat you scavenge, reload bullets, concoct your own stimpacks, and so on. This might come down to how you want to play the game, but I didn't mess around with crafting very often and never ran low on supplies. There are more than enough stimpacks and existing food items out there that you don't need to go and make your own.

Beyond the handful of new features, New Vegas has the Fallout 3 stuff in it. You'll build your character at the beginning using the same type of character creator, and you'll set your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skills. You'll earn perks as you level up and, yes, Bloody Mess is still terrific, as is Mysterious Stranger. There are enough new perks thrown in, however, to keep the game from feeling like it's retreading too much of the same ground. The system works, and it's comforting that this aspect of the game didn't change too much. If you're looking for a more dramatic change, there's a "hardcore" mode you can enable, which takes things like dehydration, hunger, and sleep deprivation into account while also making limbs much more difficult to heal while you're out in the wasteland, forcing more trips to a doctor. As its name states, it's pretty hardcore... I certainly don't want anything to do with it, that's for sure.

Visually, Fallout: New Vegas has some amazing moments, though walking out of the doctor's shack and setting eyes on the world for the first time isn't quite as climactic as exiting the vault for the first time was in Fallout 3. The game handles the transition of time really well. Sunsets and sunrises look outstanding, and the glow you'll see coming from the New Vegas strip from just about anywhere in the world also looks great. Some of this is offset by the game's often-awkward animation. Characters still scurry from place to place at times, giving the appearance that they have to hit their marks before delivering a line of dialogue, which can make the whole thing seem like a bad school play in spots.

 Well that can't be good.
 Well that can't be good.
There's a lot of great voice acting in New Vegas, from the Securitron robots that patrol the strip to the ghouls you find hiding out in a rocket testing facility. You'll hear some great music along the way, too, most of which either fits into the swinging Vegas style or more of a 1930s cowboy theme. As in Fallout 3, the radio stations you can tune in with your wrist-mounted Pip-Boy are great at first, but quickly become too repetitive. Wayne Newton's great as "Mr. Las Vegas" on the radio, but he repeats himself so frequently that it's hard to keep it running while you play. Also, the playlists are short. I feel like I've heard Peggy Lee sing "Johnny Guitar" a thousand times now. With more dialogue and more licensed tracks, the radio option could have been much, much better.

It's not a surprise that Fallout: New Vegas sticks closely to Fallout 3's structure and style. But if it weren't for the game's way-too-long list of technical issues, New Vegas would actually be better than its predecessor. Instead, it's a well-written game with so many issues that some of you might want to take a pass, at least until some of this nonsense gets fixed. Yet, for all its flaws, I'd consider taking a second run through it, if only to see how some of the game's finer points play out with different choices.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
360 CommentsRefresh
Avatar image for jack_daniels
Edited by Jack_Daniels

First...? Awwwwwww... I'll never be first!

Avatar image for ishatawk
Edited by Ishatawk

Yee yee, boy. Four stars is more or less what I was expecting. 
....I still won't buy it.

Avatar image for yahto
Posted by Yahto

 Looks pretty good.

Avatar image for jayross
Posted by Jayross


Avatar image for jonesrm
Posted by jonesrm

Let's hope they discuss this on the podcast for the next 12 months.

Avatar image for jayzz
Posted by Jayzz


Avatar image for matt
Posted by Matt

Can't wait for this game!

Avatar image for comradekhan
Posted by ComradeKhan


Avatar image for schloot
Posted by schloot


Avatar image for demoskinos
Posted by Demoskinos


Avatar image for hockeymask27
Posted by hockeymask27

Man you guys are fast readers

Avatar image for mistasparkle
Posted by MistaSparkle

It's up? No WAY!!!

Avatar image for allaniceman
Posted by AllanIceman

I hope they fix the bugs.

Avatar image for reygitano
Posted by ReyGitano

Even more jank than Fallout 3? COUNT ME IN!

Avatar image for hailinel
Posted by Hailinel

Technical problems?  In an Obsidian game?

Avatar image for rjayb89
Posted by rjayb89

Matthew Perry is practically having sex with this game as we read.

Avatar image for afroman269
Posted by Afroman269

More jank? lol. I had a lot fun with Fallout 3 but that game is still too fresh in my mind, I'll pick up New Vegas when it's cheap.

Avatar image for godlyawesomeguy
Posted by Godlyawesomeguy

Hope they release a patch for the bugs. Fantastic review Jeff.

Avatar image for kyreo
Posted by Kyreo

MORE technical bugs?  Dammit.   Whatever...

Avatar image for infamousbig
Posted by InfamousBIG

4 stars i called it!

Avatar image for numbthumb
Posted by NumbThumb


Avatar image for philsmith007
Posted by philsmith007


Avatar image for brocool
Posted by brocool


Avatar image for jmartnwa
Posted by JMartNWA

I predicted four stars... but wow, the bugs... THAT'S going to get some serious airtime across the universe.  My guess is the reviews will likely be all over it and the fans will be worse.  I can't believe it is that unpolished and needs a patch that severely.  With that said, I look forward to picking it up tomorrow.  This was an excellent review (though I skimmed portions just to make sure nothing was spoiled) and now I feel a lot better about the purchase in terms of the quality of story and what the game will eventually bring.  I wonder how many people will skip it based on all the technical issues.  Thanks for getting this up the second you were allowed to Mr. Gerstmann.

Avatar image for dustpan
Posted by Dustpan
@InfamousBIG said:
" 4 stars i called it! "
*high five*
Avatar image for jorbear
Posted by jorbear

I expected the score, and expected the list of bugs. I sorta expected it considering Obsidian was developing, but I'm glad that they did, as they have some of the best writing and story-telling in the business.

Avatar image for microshock
Posted by Microshock

Fallout without technical issues is like GTA without bugs. Just not as fun.

Avatar image for pj
Posted by PJ

It having more technical problems then Fallout 3 is a surprise to absolutly no one.

Avatar image for weggles
Posted by WEGGLES

It sounds like the technical stuff won't bother me too much. I was able to deal with in in 3. Kind-of a bummer that it has MORE issues though. How is that possible? It's on the same damned engine? :[

Avatar image for meteora
Posted by Meteora

As expected. Though I wasn't expecting the game to be THIS buggy.

Avatar image for bulby33
Posted by Bulby33

Bummed about the myriad of technical issues. Still, a great review again, Jeff.

Avatar image for welly
Posted by welly


Avatar image for jayross
Posted by Jayross

Love me some jank...

Avatar image for kissedtravisc
Posted by Kissedtravisc

Cool, cant wiat to get this game at my local GAME downunder ;) 

Avatar image for foxmulder
Posted by foxmulder

Loved Fallout 3 to death despite its many issues.  Im assured I will love this one too!!! I have over 90 hours of F3......I wonder if this will beat that :P

Avatar image for slightconfuse
Posted by SlightConfuse

i can get past the bugs. this game s going to be awesome

Avatar image for bigchief
Posted by BigChief

Technical issues are not surprising. Nice to hear the rest of the game is so good. I wasn't originally going to pick the game up for a little while, but I might have to reconsider.

Avatar image for projektgill
Posted by ProjektGill

Wow the GB guys are really stepping up their game to get reviews up fast. Hopefully they aren't burning themselves out in the process.

Avatar image for kontrapunkt
Posted by Kontrapunkt

With the caption "Snake Eyes, House Wins!" I went "Oh no!" but looks like it turned out as expected for a fallout game, perhaps I'll play it.

Avatar image for mistermouse
Posted by MisterMouse

yay the first review is up!

Avatar image for patvb
Posted by PatVB

Yeah I think I might wait for a patch before I pick this one up.

Avatar image for drpockets000
Posted by DrPockets000

Solid enough for my money.  I actually only ever experienced one bug with Fallout 3.  ONE.  I always get lucky with bugs, and I expect I will again.

Avatar image for weeber
Edited by weeber

Did you get a chance to play with the Ps3 version at all by chance? 
I remeber with Fallout 3 on Ps3 was almost unplayable until they patched it, was wondering if this was similar.

Avatar image for rockdalf
Posted by Rockdalf

Sounds about right.

Avatar image for superghost

I have always been able to look past the tech glitches in Bethesda's RPG.  Just make sure to save often!
Avatar image for cornman89
Edited by Cornman89

Goddammit, I wish I hadn't overdosed on Fallout already, because this game looks like a lot of fun.

Avatar image for ishayman
Posted by iShayman

Going into New Vegas I am expecting a lot of technical problems. But I think I can deal with them. I'll wait to hear what you guys say about it on the Bombcast before I make a purchase.

Avatar image for wiseblood
Posted by Wiseblood

Even though it's not unlocked yet, Steam just downloaded a patch for it.  Hopefully it fixes some of the issues Jeff experienced.
Avatar image for meatsim
Posted by MeatSim

Shame they can't every fix the annoying technical issues like the lockups. But in Fallout 3 and Oblivion all the bugs didn't stop me from wanting to keep playing.

Avatar image for doctorwelch
Posted by DoctorWelch

So I am guessing this game is just as shitty as Fallout 3 was?