Posted on November 16, 2010 by GRIM
Available at Amazon.com
Fallout 3 was a giant, radioactive monster of a game, an awesome game that was SO awesome that we could forgive it many of its flaws and drawbacks simply because the awesomeness factor was so strong that they didn’t matter. We didn’t CARE if the game crashed the console every so often or if you couldn’t get to the boat to Point Lookout because the level wouldn’t load properly, because we wanted to play so very much it gave us boners that could double as battering rams. We forgave it its sins.
Second time around we, or at least I, are not as liable to be so forgiving. Especially if many of the flaws and errors of the game are the same ones that dogged our experience with Fallout 3. We sort of expect them to be fixed or, at least, for the same flaws, errors and bugs not to show up this time around, given that they were patched in Fallout 3 and that this is a ‘whole new game’ which has had more time to finesse the engine and iron out the issues.
Don’t get me wrong, this is still a brilliant game with a huge amount going for it, but ‘however good she looks, someone, somewhere, is tired of her shit.’ Besides the annoying bugs, the source of my frustration can best be summed up by this quote, that came out after Fallout 3 was released…
“Greatest lesson? Don’t let the game end, and don’t have a level cap.”
– Todd Howard, Executive Producer, Fallout 3
How’s that crow taste Todd? (Yeah, Vegas has both).
You are a courier, a member of the Mojave Express courier group. You were assigned to deliver a mysterious platinum poker chip but end up being shanghaied and then shot in the face by ‘Benny’, a big man in one of the Vegas casinos. Recovering from your wounds in a little no-horse town you start to put your life back together and set about finding Benny and the chip and completing your task. Along the way you’ll get mixed up with the slaving hordes of Caeser’s army, the expanding New California Republic, the Mysterious Mr House (Wizard to Vegas’ Oz), the Brotherhood, remnants of the Enclave, The Followers of the Apocalypse and a great many gangs, interests, casinos and individuals.
Where Fallout 3 was more of a straightforward black/white, good/evil choice that was directed towards a singular ending, New Vegas has many different endings and many different ways of completing the game. This is less of a black and white choice and more a choice of faction, of shades of grey and no group comes out entirely smelling of roses – and neither will you.
There’s a lot of call-outs to previous versions of Fallout, which is nice for us e-grognards who have played the games for some time and gives rise to many ‘Aha!’ moments. Many of the side-quests are interesting in and of themselves and provide more insight into the nature of the post-apocalypse wasteland and the developing world. The one problem with this is that the atomic frontier is rapidly becoming civilised and one wonders how much room there’s going to be left in the game world if powers like the New California Republic keep expanding and game continuity is retained.
Gameplay is 90% the same as Fallout 3 with the main differences really only being in character development and levelling and the moral/faction system. This time around when creating your character you get to pick some beginning traits in addition to the ones you develop later on, this is nice as it helps you futher individualise your character and helps you decide if you want to play ‘sensible’ Fallout or ‘Zany, whacked out’ Fallout.
The second part is where problems occur and it’s up for debate whether the greater breadth of choice and alliance pays for the issues that arise from the faction system. For example, even if a faction loathes you, even if you’ve been gunning them down in droves and teabagging their corpses, even if you’ve been raping their mothers while pouring sugar in their gas tank with no moral repercussions, you can’t steal from them or you lose karma. A related issue is that if you’re wearing the armour of an opposing faction when you’re picking up missions, your choices can be narrowed by the armour that you’re wearing, even if nobody of that faction is around to see you.
You level up and, while the cap is 30, there’s still a cap (Oh Todd…), the game also ends, completely ends, when you finish the mainline plot (Oh Todd…) so you best make sure you get all your exploring and sidequests done before you set about ending the game.
One other addition is the ‘hardcore’ play mode which lets you take the whole survival thing full on, needing food, water and rest on a regular basis and with every single item having some weight to it. The reward for this is only a trophy and it is a huge pain in the arse, so if you’re only playing for fun, I wouldn’t bother.
The controls are unchanged from Fallout 3. It’s a first/third person RPG/shooter hybrid with a ‘turn based’ bolt on called the VATS targeting system, which lets you drop out of first-person-shooter mode to pick your shots nicely.
New Vegas lacks some of the atmosphere of Fallout 3 and feels like more of a hodge-podge of elements than that first game did. The desert also feels a lot more monotonous than the ruins of Fallout 3 and makes everything very beige. Plot-wise the conflict between opposing forces and ideologies around Vegas and the Hoover Dam compensates for this a great deal and you do find yourself being drawn into the conflict and making some very difficult decisions about who to back, how, and what you’re willing to do. Only Caeser’s legion is really somewhat two-dimensional as the ‘baddies’, but a game needs some people you can really hate and enjoy gunning down. Their habit of crucifying people lead me to mercy-kill people who had been strung up, which was something spontaneous on my part and that I felt, showed I was being drawn into the game.
Fallout 3 looked very nice but we sort of expect things to improve a bit further in later iterations of a game. Given how the bar has been raised by a lot of other new releases the graphics of New Vegas, while servicable, no longer really impress as they once did.
This is still a good game but lacks the impact and sheer awesomeness of Fallout 3. The shine is really taken off by the bugs in the game which, hopefully, will be ironed out in updates fairly rapidly. It’s also taken off by failing to learn the self-admitted lessons from Fallout 3 as the game retains those issues. This time around I’m just not willing to forgive a sandbox game that ends up being closed, the random hangs and crashes, the bugged quests that I can’t complete or, especially, the fact that the monorail with the bomb – that I disarmed – still blows up, leading to radio clips stating that BOTH outcomes happened. Apparently, not content with cats, Schroedinger experimented with trains in the Fallout universe and they’re now subject to indeterminacy.
On the plus side:
* A whole lot of game going on.
* Excellent political plot.
* Big freedom of action/choice for a CRPG.
On the minus side:
* Bugs, bugs, bugs.
* Nobody listened to Todd.
Review by James “Grim” Desborough