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

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alt="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:
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.


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 - 97 / 100

The 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

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).

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. style="font-style: italic;">New Vegas is a
console port just like Fallout
, 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 style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">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.

alt="Pip Boy" style="width: 640px; height: 360px; float: right;">

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 style="font-style: italic;">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
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 - 87 / 100

The 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 - 97 / 100

One of the most endearing features of style="font-style: italic;">Fallout 3 was the
numerous radio stations that the PIP Boy picked up as you traveled the
wastes.  New
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
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.  

Value - 95 / 100

New Vegas
is a rarity in today’s single player market, a game that can easily
surpass 30 hours of play time. In my first play through, which was
admittedly in hardcore mode and on a higher difficulty level, it took
me 50 hours to reach the end game and that was with me bypassing
multiple story lines to reach a final outcome. Even if one chose to
play regular mode at easy difficulty they would be hard pressed to see
the final battle in less than 40 hours even if they did only the most
basic and necessary story arcs. At an average price point of 49.95
dollars this equates to nearly a dollar an hour of entertainment, which
is nearly unheard of these days. (Oh, how I miss the summers of my
youth where a game like Star
lasted three months).

Lasting Appeal - 97 / 100

In addition to being an exceptional value, style="font-style: italic;">New Vegas is one of
the few games that simply begs to be played more than once. With its
wide open world and multiple possible outcomes, this is as close to a
‘choose your own adventure’ book as there is. Will you be a people’s
champion or a walking nightmare? Will you ally with a brutal dictator,
an egotistical autocrat or a harsh military regime? Will you subvert
all the players and install yourself as the leader of a (relatively)
free New Vegas? All of these choices and tons more are available to you
and with hundreds of locations to explore and a bevy of quests and
tasks to undertake, no two players will ever have exactly the same

Pros and Cons

Pros –

  •     Highly customizable character
  •     Vast world to explore
  •     Tons of quests
  •     Exciting combat
  •     Top notch music
  •     High immersion factor
  •     High replayability factor
  •     Vegas, baby - You're money
    and you don't even know it

Cons –

  •     Infrequent but annoying
  •     Enough bugs that a patch was
    released the first week of release
  •     Not suitable for young eyes
    or ears.
  •     Not an MMOG…yet


style="width: 640px; height: 360px;" alt="FalloutNV"

New Vegas
had the unenviable task of following a legend,
but it pulled it off in true high roller fashion. Taking the existing
formula of edge of your seat combat, detailed quests, fascinating
exploration and tossing in a dash of cool is a recipe for success no
matter how you stir it up. Those new to the franchise will undoubtedly
want to go back and explore the previous adventures after getting their
fill here, but remember what happens in style="font-style: italic;">New Vegas, stays in
New Vegas

Overall 95/100 - Outstanding


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