Review: Fallout: New Vegas

By Mike on 1:03 pm

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Life is a craps shoot. Sometimes you hit it big. Other times, you wind up half dead and buried in a shallow grave. Bonus points if you can do it all in the same evening. Fallout: New Vegas certainly isn't a craps shoot for Bethesda. It exploits Fallout 3's reputation for better and for worse. More classic Fallout is never a bad thing. How Obsidian and Bethesda executed it, that's another story.

The gameplay in Fallout: New Vegas is essentially unchanged from Fallout 3. You play as a courier who has been shot and left for dead. Your package, a platinum poker chip, has been stolen. The main quest has you tracking the thief to get the chip back. Maybe you'll extract a little revenge in the process. You wander the Mojave looking for clues to his whereabouts, eventually leading you to fabulous New Vegas. One of the few cities spared by the atomic bombs, Vegas is attempting to regain its former glory. However, rival and militant factions are all vying for a slice of this desert oasis.

Vegas Baby

The game differs from Fallout 3 in five key areas. The karma system has been replaced by a reputation system. Doing good or bad will either enhance or reduce your reputation among the Mojave's different factions.

The companion system is greatly enhanced as well. You can now issue orders to party members using the companion wheel. There, you can tell them to wait, attack, talk to them, give them items, or medicine. It's far more fluid than the clumsy companion system in Fallout 3. Your team mates are far more effective this time around as a result. No having to pickpocket them just to transfer new weapons and armour.

Issue orders to your teammates with the companion wheel

The third edition is a hardcore mode. Obsidian was trying to go with ultra-realism, and recapture some of the unforgiving difficulty of the original two Fallout games. In this mode, you have to eat and sleep. Medicine works slowly over time and stimpacks won't heal crippled limbs. I suspect most players will steer away from this setting. It's an interesting touch but most people game to escape reality.

Your favourite weapons are back, plus a ton of new ones

New Vegas offers a much enhanced workbench system. You can now collect raw materials; plants, bullet casings, etc, to create and modify items. You can also upgrade existing weapons with scopes and suppressors. It's very similar to what they did with KOTOR 2 and works well. A new skill category, survival, determines what you can and can't build.

Lastly, this being a Las Vegas themed game, you can gamble. There aren't too many casino games. Black jack, slots, and roulette are the only ones available. You can also play a card game called Caravan among wastelanders. Its similar to Black Jack but its not played with a full deck. It's a great way to earn, or loose, those hard earned caps. More often the latter, which makes a gamble.

The overall difficulty of the game is less than Fallout 3. Raiding parties, mutated animals, and traps are far less common in the Mojave than they were in the Capital Wasteland. New Vegas lacks that feeling of desperation players felt when first leaving the vault in Fallout 3. It makes gameplay faster, but less of a challenge. On the plus side, it makes exploring, and finding beds, less tedious.

Obsidian's story for the game is fairly solid. It's certainly not any better or worse than the original. Voice acting has been greatly improved though wooden facial animations steal from that a bit. They've done a really good job recreating the Vegas desert and its landmarks. New Vegas is far more colourful than Fallout 3. The grey of the Capital Wasteland is gone, replaced by vibrant earth tones and the bright neon lights of The Strip. Otherwise, graphics are the same as Fallout 3.

Audio wise, a lot of the music and sound effects have been recycled from Fallout 3. On the plus side, New Vegas has a much improved soundtrack of licensed music. These range from Dean Martin classics to Old West folk songs.

This is where the hedonistic bliss of New Vegas ends. What we have here is a solid game brought down by a complete lack of quality control.

Fallout: New Vegas is the buggiest game I've played in some time. You'll see dogs with missing eyeballs, only to see them floating next to their head. You can fall through the ground. Some even report seeing NPC heads rotate a la the Exorcist. Groups of NPCs will occasionally turn hostile and attack you for no apparent reason. Frame rates on the PC version are also spotty at best.

Gamebryo can create some stunning vistas. Frame rates are a different story.

I can live with all this, except for the crashing. Bethesda has been using the Gamebryo engine since Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion came out four years ago. The engine itself has been essentially unchanged since then. It's capable of some stunning graphics, but it's also unstable. Version 2.6 of the engine contains a multi-core bug. This causes the game to crash on any system with more than two physical CPUs. The PC version requires an easy hack to fix it. Console gamers will have to wait for a patch. The same bug is present in Fallout 3 and Oblivion. Bethesda and the Gambryo coders have failed to fix it after all these years. It's unfortunate that such a good game is plagued by so many bugs. Issues that should have been fixed long before now.

While more Fallout is always a good thing, Bethesda needs to get their act together when it comes to bugs. It's unacceptable to release a game so broken to retail. Gamers should not have to wait for patches ad infinitum to fix problems. They should have been caught while the game was still in development. This is the only reason why it's not getting a higher score. But if you can live with the bugs, Fallout: New Vegas will offer hours of fun post-apocalyptic RPG gaming.

Score: 7.5 out of 10

What Works:
-Better party controls
-More colourful landscapes
-Long game, 30hr+, lots of replayability
-Weapons modifications
-Better voice acting
-Reputation system

What Doesn't Work:
-Game too buggy, needs major repairs
-Hardcore mode more tedious than innovative
-Frame rate issues on the PC
-Can feel too easy at times

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