Set in the arid Mojave Desert. Fallout®: New Vegas™, the latest stand-alone game in the series, achieves remarkable improvements over its predecessor, Fallout® 3. For fans of the series turned off by Obsidian™ Entertainment’s first effort in continuing the beloved post-apocalyptic roleplaying saga, New Vegas™ brings about Western redemption.
When compared to 3, New Vegas™ grants considerably more freedom in travel, weaponry, and approach to the story line. Taking the fabled hero out of a ruined metropolis and ditching them into a desert; New Vegas™ has the feel of a more open sandbox. And by all means, it truly is. Filled with sprawling scenery and topography, the game offers a world of terrain to explore and exploit. Though the world map appears to be the same size as Fallout® 3, there are only a few areas which are impossible to navigate, with a larger emphasis on the wilds of the desert, rather than the sculpted avenues of a cityscape. Littered with staggering hills, dried out washes, towering mesas, and carved out canyons; New Vegas™ imparts on the players a greater sense of adventure than 3.
Obsidian™ also took the time to add onto the arsenal of Fallout® 3 with New Vegas™. Though many weapons have returned (not considering weapons added to 3 through downloadable content), with some receiving slight changes, the new breed offers you more choices by volume. From pistols to rifles, shotguns to grenade launchers, energy weapons galore, and a slew of new melee weapons (including different power fist models); the extra additions boosted the excitement of finding more powerful weapons while fattening your choices granting greater preference. You won’t get tired of using the same weapon for levels upon levels, as there are simply too many to choose from. My favorites thus far have been; the 9mm pistol, Trail Carbine, Marksmen Carbine, RCW Laser Tommygun, the Light Machine Gun, Machete Gladius, Ballistic Fist, and the Chainsaw. Those being said, I found a fitting friend in the 9 Iron golf club as well.
As vast as the Mojave desert is in the real world, the New Vegas™ Mojave slings you through the storyline in a horseshoe. But don’t take that at face value, because it’s a damn big horseshoe. By the time you finally find yourself on the Strip, you may have easily forgotten the purpose that brought you to it’s gates. For this game is loaded with content outside the underlying plot. With Fallout® 3, the storyline trolled you through a select portion of the greater District of Columbia like a fish to bait; though you were free to explore the greater DC area, the path of the storyline never intersected with much of the map. In New Vegas™, you know the whole time where you need to end up, however, what lies between the beginning of your journey in Goodsprings and the end of your journey at the Lucky 38 casino can easily get you maxed level and geared like an army before you step foot on the Strip, not to mention driving you dozens of hours deep into game play.
Though the two titles mirror each other in many ways, certain tweaks and additions set them apart. Some of the perks have been altered (Grimreaper no longer completely fills your action points, but gives about a quarter back), others are brand new (such as Spray and Pray, which reduces your chance to hit a companion while firing down range). The user interface has been expanded to include a companion radial menu, negating the necessity to strike up a conversation when you want to change their behavior. However, New Vegas™ overall has a slight learning curve to adjust to. It feels similar in terms of mechanic but is quite foreign in terms of dynamic.
Left out of Fallout® 3, the faction system of the Fallout® universe gives the player a greater dynamic in terms of roleplaying. For those that blasted through 3 like an RPG first-person shooter, you’re missing out on a delicate flavor of roleplaying games, the role you play within the greater story.
With three factions to align oneself to, and a greater number of tribal factions which you can befriend; the dynamic brought back for New Vegas™ is pivotal to the way you play. The faction system also determines how welcomed you are to certain cities or installations within the Mojave. If you are not liked in a certain town or area, you will find yourself either attacked or ostracized. If you happen to steal from a few runners for the Crimson Caravan, expect to pay more and respected less when you finally happen upon their headquarters by the Strip. However, if you find yourself friendly to and liked within a specific community, they will return the favor, usually in lowered prices on equipment and goods or through side quests.
For the greater factions you have three; the New California Republic, Caesar’s Legion, or the Brotherhood of Steel. Neither of the factions are fond of each other (with the NCR and Legion actually at war with one another), and aligning oneself to an opposing faction or donning their dress can have dire consequences if you happen upon unfavorable foes. However, disguising oneself in NCR armor while a member of Legion, will allow you to walk past or interact with your enemy. Though it can be a bit of a burden, hanging onto enemy armor can save you in a pinch, or put the enemy in a pincer. A number of static and dynamic skirmishes can breakout in the wilds of the Mojave, stumbling upon a group of the Legion engaged with the NCR can pose problems if you herald the NCR flag as well; yet slipping into Legion armor can give you a tactical advantage to snake out a solid shooting position before switching back to your NCR regulars and opening up on the unsuspecting bunch. Also, clothing oneself in a specific faction can give a greater ease of access in regards to travel. If a fast travel location is of an unfavorable faction, put on a suit of their armor before heading out, and simply walk out of the place like a boss.
The tribal factions also offer their own quest lines which in the crescendo of the plot will bring about certain events to work towards or against your designs. Either annihilating or befriending them will lead to casualties in the later storyline, though none of them are pivotal to completing the storyline.
A new feature to the Fallout® series, the addition of an iron sight view to guns has been nothing short of ambrosia. While offering a greater immersion into the first-person aspect of the now three-dimensional RPG, the iron sights allow you to make quick work of dispatches your foes. Though some weapons still have the zoomed into box-hairs, like the fully-automatic grenade launcher, most of the firearms and energy weapons have the sights.
In Fallout® 3, when it came to weapons, you got what you got, and it was only what it was. In New Vegas™, weapon modifications have been added into the mix allowing for improvements to certain weapons. Whether those improvements reduce weight, add a scope, increase ammo capacity, silence the weapon, or recycle spent energy munitions; there are quite a lot of them to choose from and multiple mods for certain weapons. What that offers the player is an increase in the lethality of less powerful weapons, tactical enhancements to certain weapons especially rifles, along with greater versatility in preference. Though anyone would be a fool not to snag an extended magazine for the 9mm pistol, it comes down to preference whether or not to snap a scope on top of it as well. But most of all, the weapon modifications allow for a leveling of the playing field. The sniper rifle is an all around deadlier weapon than the hunting rifle, yet a fully modified hunting rifle can sling more lead down range while sporting comparable lethality.
More isn’t always better, but in terms of consideration, it certainly is. New to Fallout® is the “hardcore” mode, which makes everything from equipment to money and ammunition weigh you down, along with adding hydration to your regimen. For those that have played through 3, you know that ammunition isn’t always easy to come by, especially specific ammo for a specific weapon type. In New Vegas™, the developers must have considered how frustrating it would be to not have a system in place which would allow one to break down ammunition and recycle it into another in this mode; hence the redux. It’s no longer a simple system of building specific weapons derived from schematics. With the Recycling Bench and Campfires you can now break down ammunition into casings, powders, and lead to recycle into the caliber you need while also giving you the ability to concoct “aid” equipment that is either beneficial to you or detrimental to your target.
Environment and Atmosphere
With open air and a wide breadth to travel, the environment of New Vegas™ is stunningly surreal, especially to people like myself who’ve spent their lives traveling through the actual Mojave desert. From the colors in the topography to the flora, the vast expanse of this digital desert is breath-taking. With rugged terrain littering the shattered highways and dusted trails, New Vegas™ imparts upon you the grandeur of the desert panorama. Far from the ground zero of DC, the Mojave of Fallout®: New Vegas™ still wields vitality in the flora and fauna present in the game. You can even pick certain plants which are used in recipes. The particle effects received considerable attention as well, dust devils kick up around the towns of the Mojave condensing into dusty apparitions only to dissipate back to the desert winds, clouds roam across the skies like flying carpets, plants dance in the cool breeze. In essence, you never feel trapped in the metropolitan-tomb of Fallout® 3, even while on the Strip or in the slum ghetto of Freeside, the rustic Midas touch of the Mojave envelopes this digital desert.
[review title=”Fallout®: New Vegas™” pros=”Expanded and modifiable arsenal, serene environment, a mysterious yet intriguing storyline, Factions are back, a more thorough RGP and Fallout® title than the previous” cons=”Graphical driver errors leading to game crashes, Rare issue with reloading that bugs out the iron sights, Named weapons not modifiable, Explorable caves are quite short and shallow” verdict=”A solid RGP suffering from an aged game engine” score=80]