Welcome to the post-apocalyptic era; almost all vegetation has been destroyed, most water has become undrinkable and humanity clings desperately to survive while a host of mutated threats and the seemingly endless, radiated wasteland pick away at any hope remaining. This is the world of Fallout. It’s a world seemingly trapped in time; worn war propaganda is scattered throughout and bottle caps are the only currency that will get you food, water and weapons. This story of civilization’s darkest hour has been depicted through several Fallout games, putting players in control of a single protagonist who wanders the wasteland searching for answers to his/her own conflicts and slowly discovering and revealing the wasteland around them.
The Fallout series has initially been in the hands of Interplay, but it was Fallout 3 that was the first in the series to go in a new, bold direction into a gigantic and fully 3D world in the hands of a new development team, Bethesda Studios. Fans were split, with some outraged that their beloved series had taken such a dramatic change, while others embraced this new style of game; ultimately, it was a huge success. Two years later, Obsidian Entertainment took the helm, creating Fallout: New Vegas. Obsidian, despite being staffed by many developers who worked on the first 2 Fallout games, decided on sticking with Fallout 3′s look and feel while telling a new story taking place in the wasteland of Nevada.
With that being said, I expected many elements to remain unchanged from the previous Fallout 3 when diving into Fallout: NV; and indeed I found myself experiencing a very similar adventure. The graphics, for example, are mostly unchanged; a lot of the music has been brought back to this title; even certain scenarios that occur in the game are starkly familiar. Was I simply just playing an expansion pack that was selling itself as a new game? However, Fallout: NV has proven that sticking with a tried and true formula and tweaking various features can yield excellent results.
Your character at the beginning of the game is simply known as “The Courier”. While delivering a package with a platinum poker chip to New Vegas, The Courier gets attacked and the player finds their character with a bullet in their head and left in a shallow grave. However, a robot finds you and brings you to a nearby town where you are miraculously nursed back to health by the town’s doctor, Doctor Mitchell. This is where Fallout 3′s character customization returns, allowing you pick name, gender, race and other features; you’ll also allocate skill points into various attributes, that will ultimately decide what your character will specialize in for the rest of the game (disappointingly, many of these choices for character features are unchanged from the previous Fallout). After you have been patched up, the game takes off from there, and you are free to begin your quest, following your would-be killer while exploring the vast Mojave Wasteland. Most of this part of the United States hasn’t been affected too badly by the nuclear holocaust, meaning that a lot of the buildings and lights are intact in this game. This also leaves room to run off and gamble and play around in the various casinos scattered throughout the world and especially in New Vegas; however, players will not find New Vegas for a while, granted they are following the story strictly and not wandering freely.
This isn’t to say that wandering around freely is not good; inversely, it is encouraged. I found myself trying to discover new places and diverting from the story a lot. The amount of freedom one has while playing is the beauty of the Fallout series in a whole, but with New Vegas, there is surprisingly much more incentive to explore this time around. With this wasteland being about as large as Fallout 3′s, there are a number of things awaiting intrepid players, including an incredible amount of side quests, familiar enemies such as radscorpions and many new enemies as well. There are a number of ways to deal with these enemies; the game boasts about having nearly double the weapons that the previous Fallout had, including the ability to modify existing weapons. The crafting system is fairly easy, and it offers dozens of creatable items (coinciding, of course, with certain stats); finding many of these items can be difficult, but it makes the experience more rewarding.
Another returning feature is the V.A.T.S (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System), a system that lets you aim for various parts of your enemies’ bodies to cripple or kill more efficiently; however, it has been modified to grant more options based on what you are equipped with as well as the situation the player is currently in. When holding a melee weapon, such as a golf club, you can receive an option to do a special attack that will grant added effects on certain enemies. There are also various melee attacks that can be learned throughout the game if you choose to take the unarmed pugilist route with the character. Finding these techniques came as quite a pleasant surprise to me, and I enjoyed hunting for them and using them in battle. They range from being very useful to get out of a pinch, to just downright hilarious at times. As you level your character (either through quests or through battles) you gain more skill points to put into various attributes such as lock picking or medical which can vastly change the way the game is played depending on what points are put into which skills. There are many cases where one may have to backtrack after gaining levels to open doors and safes that they could previously closed.
The amount of side-quests in this game seems nearly endless, and they make up for the bulk of the game’s length. Many of these also go hand-in-hand with the other new addition to the game, the reputation system. There are many different groups of people that have formed factions throughout the Mojave wastes, and depending on the actions you take, you can either be praised by these groups, or you can be vilified, which once again takes your character around different paths in the game, leading to many different endings depending on the character’s actions. Taking sides with any of the factions has its own list of benefits and disadvantages. Being able to disguise yourself as a member of any of these factions is also another great detail added in this game. Coupled with deciding whether your character is good or evil makes for even more choices for deep character development.
There are truly an incredible amount of distractions in this game, with seemingly new things to see at every turn. However, you may feel that you’re conquering the game’s challenges and quests a little too easily. If you’re like me and demand something a little more hair-raising, Fallout NV also has a new ‘hardcore mode’ which has players keeping track of their hydration, hunger and sleep levels, with many of the game’s environments effecting each of those in various ways. Neglect these needs, and you’ll find your character weakened, and more vulnerable to attacks and eventually dead.
As much as I would love to say this game is perfect, there are also some distractions that are very unwanted. A great deal of them are in the form of unfixed glitches that occur frequently in the game; some of them can even impede the game’s progress. It’s as if the developers inadvertently decided to add another element of danger by leaving players wondering if the game will register that they have completed a quest, or if they will be stuck in a room forever because suddenly the action to open a door has disappeared. Some of the known bugs in this game – random twitching limbs, broken animation, faulty physics, etc. – make a bigger impression than the mutated bugs in the game!
Glaring presence of glitches aside, the offerings that Fallout NV has are none to be ignored; with a 80+ hour game with seemingly endless possibilities and a number of ways to enjoy the game, whether you want to be a saint or a badass of the wastes, a beautiful, yet at times, devastatingly harsh wasteland awaits. Most of the game’s bugs are not dramatic enough that it ruins the overall aesthetic, and with a patch coming out to fix most of the problems, even that (possibly) won’t be an issue anymore. Prepare to be lost for hours in this game, and prepare to not want to stop playing for many days after. 9/10