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Mojave Mo’ Problems – Ten Ton Hammer Reviews Fallout: New Vegas

Updated Thu, Nov 04, 2010 by Medawky

Pip Boy War. War never changes. This simple yet powerful statement has become one of the most anticipated phrases in modern gaming. Hearing these four words, spoken in their trademark somber tone, signals the beginning of an epic adventure that will leave you dreaming about vaults, mutants, deathclaws and ghouls.

New Vegas is the second 3D rendering of a series that has spanned well over a decade and is technically the 4th installment of story (there was an RTS version, Fallout: Tactics, that was released but it didn’t make any meaningful contribution to the lore). On the surface it doesn’t appear that much has changed since Fallout 3 but, true to form, it’s what lies below the surface that counts in the wastes.

Cautions

Fallout: New Vegas is not for the feint of heart or the weak of stomach; it is a mature game and carries the ESRB rating of M for Mature with good reason:

  •     Violence
  •     Language
  •     Drug Use
  •     Sexual Situations (of the Male, Female, Ghoul and Robot varieties)
  •     Gore

Gameplay

97ExcellentThe world of Fallout is a harsh one, one that finds humanity struggling to survive 200 plus years after a devastating nuclear war between the United States and China. The United States of the Fallout universe is one that never outgrew the cold war era, one in which the look and the feel of the 1950’s blend with bleeding edge technology and a love for nuclear power, where big band and swing still rule the airwaves and where mom still makes fresh apple pie and looks like June Cleaver.

FalloutNV In the previous versions of the series players were either vault dwellers, or descendants of one, and in a desperate search for an item known as a G.E.C.K, or Garden of Eden Creation Kit. This time around we assume the role of a courier who is beset by a near fatal ambush that leaves him (or her)  shot in the head and dying in a shallow grave. Rescued by a suspiciously helpful robot, the courier is patched up and sent out into the Nevada desert to track down his assailant and uncover the mystery of the item he was entrusted to deliver, a platinum poker chip.

Fallout: New Vegas, like its direct predecessor, uses a consolidated interface device, known as the PIP Boy 3000 to handle all non combat aspects of the game. Players can check their inventory, quests, weapons, view the local and world maps, and travel to various discovered locations from within this virtual swiss army knife – it also serves as a flashlight (you could even cut a tin can with it).

FalloutNV Movement is handled via the W A S D configuration, while combat is handled by left clicking the mouse. Keyboard shortcuts are also preset for jumping, crouching, toggling between walking and running, auto running and interacting with various objects in the game world. New Vegas is a console port just like Fallout 3, and as such hasn’t changed much in its interface. One new addition is an enhanced interaction layout for NPC party members in the form of a wheel with graphical representations of various commands that streamlines the previous process which forced you into a dialogue box each time you wanted to interact with your companions.

Character complexity and customization has been a hallmark of the Fallout universe, and is one that is rooted in the G.U.R.P.S. roleplaying system (Steven Jackson Games was an early contributor to Fallout before legal issues got in the way). In addition to the seven core attibutes of Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence and Luck, players are able to select two perks and tag three of their skills to round out their characters. I recommend tagging Lockpicking, Science and Speech for those new to the series. Players start at level one and gain experience for everything from combat to successful dialogue, eventually earning enough to gain a new level. Each level will award the player with skill points to allocate in a host of skills and every other level will grant a new perk that give advantages and add greater flavor to a character that continues to evolve throughout the game.

In addition to gaining levels, you also gain karma and reputation as you travel the wastes. A new feature in New Vegas is a more robust reputation system where players will earn faction specific reputations based on their deeds and interactions, many of the factions are independent but some are interwoven and getting on ones good side could be done at the expense of being vilified by another. The way you chose to deal with the world will still result in an overall level of heroism or villainy, but how the various subgroups react to you is based less on that and more on their personal feelings – a huge upgrade in immersion factor from Fallout 3 in my opinion.

Pip Boy
Another new feature that was added is hardcore mode. Hardcore mode can only be selected at the beginning of the game and is available in all difficulty modes. It adds several new wrinkles that give you a much more immersive feeling of being alone in a harsh environment where every day is a struggle to survive. Hardcore mode adds a hydration meter, a sleep meter and adds weight to ammo. Weight is a huge concern in the wasteland and ammo was one of the few valuable commodities you could gather with reckless abandon. While sleep isn’t that difficult to manage, the availability of fresh water is scarce and you often have to juggle your radiation level and hydration levels as the majority of your drinking water is irradiated.

One thing that has also carried over from Fallout 3 are the bugs and crashes that plagued it. While they are few and far between they can be annoying and usually happen when you have forgotten to save recently. You are allotted 1000 save games, use them liberally and use them often. New Vegas had its first patch within a week of release and the team is vigilant about fixing bugs and improving gameplay quality.

 Like all of the Fallout titles before it, New Vegas is a world that begs to be explored. Players are free to customize their experience and interact with the world at their own pace. While the main quest line looms over the story, there are so many side quests and subplots that it may take a player weeks to reach the end. Politics, morality and survival blend together to make one of the most compelling role playing experiences available today.

Graphics

87Very GoodThe world of New Vegas is an arid desert that has been further ravaged by nuclear holocaust, a bleak and barren world mostly devoid of life, and the graphics represent that scenario perfectly. Using the same engine as Fallout 3, there are very few differences between the two games, but more advanced settings are present on the PC version to allow greater customization. While the lack of a graphical overhaul may leave some players feeling like they are playing another DLC pack, the adage “ifit ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rings especially true here. Textures are surprisingly crisp for a console port and animations, lighting and shadows all feel a bit cleaner than before – but this could simply be due to the color scheme and the glowing neon of the Vegas Strip. 

Sound

97ExcellentOne of the most endearing features of Fallout 3 was the numerous radio stations that the PIP Boy picked up as you traveled the wastes.  New Vegas continues the trend and adds its own unique twist. The best radio station in the Capital Wasteland was GNR, with the colorful Mad Dog at the helm. His New Vegas counterpart is Mr. Vegas, a Casey Kasem styled DJ who spins the swinging sounds and dispenses with news of the Mojave Wastelands. The timber and tone of the game’s unofficial narrator invokes images of an aging pajama clad hipster lounging amongst a bevy of showgirls.

 The music of Fallout is such an integral part of the series and the tracks chosen here are a wonderful addition. My only complaint is that the recurring Ink Spots track isn’t one of my favorites like the ones in previous versions were, but that’s akin to saying that a t-bone isn’t quite as good as a fillet – you win either way.  Voice acting is also top notch with fully voiced NPCs and quest dialogue capturing the feel of the series perfectly.  

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