Fallout: New Vegas Review
Fallout: New Vegas offers incredible storytelling and some of the most interesting characters I’ve ever encountered in a game. New Vegas also brings an immense setting you could spend weeks exploring and combat, which has been improved in several meaningful ways, to the table as well. New Vegas would be one of the best games of 2010 if not for the technical issues plaguing it. I really do think you should play this game. I think the adventure you make for yourself in the Mojave Wasteland can be one of the most rewarding game experiences you can have in a modern RPG. You can be the savior of the wastelands, helping all its inhabitants or you can just shoot people in the dick and rob them. Everything you do affects the world around you and can potentially have game-changing consequences. That freedom and the game’s ability to alter the story based on your actions is what makes New Vegas one of my personal favorite games. But you need to know up front, that it’s even buggier and “janky” than either Fallout 3 or Oblivion.If you’re the type of person who can overlook some severe technical issues, the experience the game tries to get across does shine through and was, for me, extremely rewarding. It’s set in the year 2281, four years after the events of Fallout 3, and 204 years after the Great War of 2077. You play a courier, delivering a very valuable item. Before you reach your destination, you are intercepted by three men. You look down at your tied-up hands, dripping sweat into the shallow grave dug in front of you. Then you look at the man speaking to you. He is pointing a gun at your face and rambling on. You know you’re about to die. The gun fires. Roll opening credits.
Thanks to a robot named Victor and Doc Mitchell you survive, get your head patched up and are sent off into the wasteland to track down the man who shot you. As you explore the immense landscape of the Mojave Wasteland you come into contact with several different factions. There’s Mr. House, the ominous, Andrew Ryan-esque, de facto ruler of the New Vegas Strip. The New California Republic, a military group assuming control of the wasteland who currently controls the Hoover Dam and all of the precious power it generates. The Legion, who are Roman-armor wearing, slave-drivers. And a few other groups with lesser influence such as the Great Khans and the Brotherhood of Steel. Your actions toward each of these groups affects your reputation with them. The karma system is still in place, but is independent of your reputation with each group. You use your reputation to help certain groups, allowing you to shape the future of New Vegas and the rest of the Mojave Wasteland. Many times you are not presented with a clear “good or evil” choice. Some of the choices you make are not black and white, but shades of gray. Several times, I had to really think about how I felt, morally, about a particular situation.
As far as playing the game is concerned, if you’ve played Fallout 3, you’ll instantly feel right at home. For better or worse, this game plays almost exactly like Fallout 3. That’s not a bad thing, either. Fallout 3 was a fantastic game. But there are a few great tweaks that deserve mention. First, you can now aim down the sights of your gun, Call of Duty style. I wound up using this a good bit and used the auto-aiming VATS mode only when I became overwhelmed by enemies. This makes the combat way more intense and especially with the Bloody Mess perk, leads to some truly awesome moments.
There is now a new and totally optional “hardcore” mode that does not affect your difficulty setting, in which you must eat, drink water and sleep to survive. Stimpaks heal you slowly and healing your crippled limbs requires a doctor’s bag (a fairly rare item) or a visit to a doctor. Playing with hardcore mode turned on forces you to play the game with an added level of realism. You must form careful strategies before deciding to attack. You need to pay very close attention to your surroundings so you trigger a trap and blow both of your legs off. You can’t just run off on a quest without packing food and water.
In Fallout 3, you could find schematics and build a few weapons. In New Vegas, you can craft almost anything you need using components gathered from the wasteland. You can cook food and make stimpaks and healing powders using a campfire, or you can craft your own ammo, including special types of ammo, at any reloading bench. There are a ton more items to craft, but I didn’t dive too deeply into that since I found pretty much everything I needed from scavenging. It’s still nice that its there.
Another welcome addition is the new companion wheel. You can now make a party of up to two companions, one human and one non-human. You can control said companions’ inventory, tactics and everything else with the companion wheel. Walk up to your companion, press action and you’re good to go. No more digging through dialogue trees to make them do anything useful or act as your mule. Some new perks have also been made available to make your companions even more useful. Each companion has a compelling quest that reveals some interesting back-story and insight into that character. I found these to be some of the best put together side-quests in the game. Your companions gain an additional perk when their quest is complete, making them more effective and potentially, a more battle-worthy ally. I rarely found myself on the losing side of a fight because my companions were incredibly effective at killing dudes for me.
But, let’s get to those technical problems. On three separate occasions the game locked up the Xbox 360 I was playing on. I’m talking about a hard-freeze. A “nothing-responds-need-to-shut-down-my-console” freeze. Luckily, the game is good about auto-saving so I didn’t lose too much progress on those occasions. Even more troubling than that though is the experience I had thirty hours into my first play-through. I was on my way to Mr. House to turn in a quest and I could not use the elevator in the Lucky 38 to get to where I needed to go. The elevator door wouldn’t allow me in and Victor wouldn’t speak to me. I tried to reload an old save and see if that solved the problem. It didn’t. It took me about a day and a half to overcome the denial of the fact that I would need to start the entire game over. But once I started playing again, I got excited about getting to re-spec my character. This time I swore to make my S.P.E.C.I.A.L. just right and put all of my skill points into speech instead of guns. I was actually excited to start again. Don’t get me wrong. You should NEVER have a technical problem that makes you restart the game. But it shows how great the game is that I didn’t just stop playing right then.
On my second play-through, about 15 hours in this time, I lost my super-awesome robot dog companion, Rex. You read that right. There is a bad-ass robot dog in this game. I found and recruited him. We did some quests together and had some great times. But one day I fast-traveled to the Strip and he was gone. I retraced my steps, expecting to see him. No luck. I desperately checked the world map to look for his marker. Nothing. I tried reloading an old save and had found one that still had my beloved Rex. Problem was, I was looking at losing another 6 hours in doing so. This was already my second time playing. I couldn’t accept going back anymore. I still had his perk and the game never told me he died, so I cut my losses, grieved for my lost dog and moved on. Fast forward to the very end of the game. I never did find Rex. I’ve had his perk the whole time, so the game was counting him as an active companion. The narrator is wrapping things up, I’m really digging the conclusion slideshow and then the narrator tells me that Rex died because of me not completing his side-quest. I dropped my controller in disgust. I would’ve gladly completed his quest if he still existed and could be found. But, no, apparently I’m a terrible person.
I’m not breaking any new ground by saying that the engine that ran Oblivion and Fallout 3, that also runs New Vegas, is starting to show its age. Characters’ animations look a bit robotic. Signs and buildings randomly show up (pop-in) as you are walking through the wasteland. Enemies and characters clip into the environment way more than an acceptable amount. And some of the load times for just walking into another area, can take up to 15-20 seconds, with the game installed.
I really enjoyed playing Fallout: New Vegas and I recommend it to anyone who can overlook its technical problems. The fact that Obsidian absolutely nailed it with their storytelling and improved game-play has me very excited about the possibility of a Fallout 4 running in a new engine. The massive size of the Mojave Wasteland and the huge list of interesting side quests can keep you occupied for a long time to come. I’m already 70 hours in and I’m still playing. Here’s hoping for a future with characters as compelling as New Vegas’ who don’t wander off into the wasteland and disappear forever. R.I.P. Rex.