Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fallout: New Vegas Review

Fallout: New Vegas, developed by Obsidian, has taken up the reigns from Bethesda, who made Fallout 3, and created a new experience for Fallout players. If you’ve played Fallout 3, you’ll feel right at home, as both the look and feel are almost identical. But, has Obsidian improved or done anything special to make New Vegas stand out from its predecessors? Read on to find out.

New Vegas, like Fallout 3, is very story and environment driven. You are placed in this wasteland, with all sorts of inhabitants, and have to find a way to survive, while being guided by quests and an overall goal. While there is a main series of quests that are story-driven, you are still very free to explore the wasteland and do whatever it is you want to do.

There are various groups of people, from the NCR and Legion, to the Brotherhood of Steel, Powder Gangers, and Great Khans. All of these groups of people have varying side-quests and dynamics for you to explore. You can change their allegiances, or choose an alliance of your own. If you don’t like one particular group, you can go and kill all of their members, or choose to cooperate with them. One of the main dynamics of the game is how each group can either like or hate you, depending on your actions. If you murder an entire sect of a community, obviously they won’t be too fond of you, but the way a group feels towards you can be more subtle, in that if you, for instance, help the Legion, the NCR, their rivals, will start to show aggression towards you. In this way, the entire environment and all of your decisions start to have more of an impact on how you are treated and what you get to experience. If you help one community, they may feel more comfortable with you and you may be able to do more quests for them, which could completely change later parts of the game. In fact, the game has at least 4 real ways to reach the end, which are all chosen by your actions and on whom you decide to help. Granted, the endings aren’t very different, technically, but you get the idea.

I believe Fallout 3 sort of had this idea, where, if you blew up the Brotherhood of Steel’s base, they would always be hostile towards you. However, New Vegas explores this much more deeply, giving you a reputation with each and every group you meet in the game, and these reputations will help lock or unlock quests. Having a good reputation can also lower costs for items, so that’s a plus. And, if you don’t have a great reputation with a group, you might be able to disguise yourself as one of them to walk around without getting immediately assaulted.

One of the fun aspects of Fallout has been exploration. This is still the case with New Vegas. The map seems to be about the same size as Fallout 3’s, and it is about the same in terms of how much there is to see. I might go as far as to say Fallout 3 had a more diverse map, with more interesting areas, but New Vegas has plenty to see. There are tons of buildings and vaults to explore, and areas in which to find special items and weapons. Another new thing Vegas adds is the ability to mod your weapons. As you progress, you can purchase modifications from vendors, which range from scopes to extended mags. These don’t really change the weapons too much, but they can be helpful, like the night-vision scope. Unfortunately, a lot of the same weapons from Fallout 3 are present in this game. Granted, they were decent weapons, but it would have been nice to see an entirely new arsenal.

New Vegas “borrows” quite a bit from Fallout 3 actually. And by quite a bit, I mean pretty much everything. The graphics are the same, controls are the same, items are the same, and pretty much everything else. Most of the enemies and character models are the same as well. I wish Obsidian would have went all out and created a completely new game, but New Vegas seems to simply take Fallout 3, and add in a couple new features.

But, there are still some more changes to discuss, mostly of which don’t drastically change gameplay to any degree. One such change is how you can create more things. One aspect of this is with food items you find scattered throughout the desert. If you come upon a campfire, and you know the recipe, you can create new items, which are more potent/valuable and can be used to your benefit. The same is basically true of ammo. You can break down unneeded ammo, and get parts necessary to build a new type of ammo. And some guns even have different varieties of ammo, so, instead of using standard ammo, you can use a hollow-point, or armor-piercing round, etc. You can spend lots of time building these pieces, or finding them scattered around, but I didn’t actual use either feature in my 30+ hour play through.

You also have a bit more control over your companions this time around, via the companion wheel, which gives you various options on how to instruct your companion. Again, I never used this, except to tell a companion to stay, or follow, and this was only done to get them to follow me again when they had to wait outside of a place, due to security, pft. But, it would be useful in combat perhaps, especially in Hardcore mode where they can actually die!

Hardcore mode is one of the main new features that New Vegas has to offer. This mode makes the game more “realistic” and challenging. One feature of this mode is three added meters that you have to take heed of; Water, Food, Sleep. Like radiation, if any of these get too high, you’ll be penalized via health loss, or other stat loss, etc, until you eventually succumb and die. But, like radiation, these things are fairly easy to manage, at least they were when I played Hardcore on very easy.... Basically, you eat food, your food meter goes down, drink water, water meter goes down, etc. Thankfully though, it’s not all that simple and there are various, realistic tweaks. For instance, if you drink alcohol, you actually get more dehydrated, just like real life, and if you drink a Nuka Cola, your tired meter goes down due to the caffeine. These meters are definitely important and things to keep an eye on, which can get annoying, because you can only see them on your Pip-Boy and can’t display them to your screen like HP, although warnings will appear when levels get too high.

Other features of Hardcore include ammo weight, and the fact that stimpacks and radaway heal over time. Also, you can’t just sleep to heal limb damage, but have to see a doctor or use a doctor bag, so you’ll want to be a little more careful. And actually, in all modes, food heals over time, which is a bit of an annoyance in comparison to Fallout 3.

The story in New Vegas seems to be more attached to everything you do. In Fallout 3, it seemed to me that finding your dad and all of that stuff was sort of a side mission. Once you got out of the vault, you could do whatever you wanted and I almost forgot I was even looking for my dad. With New Vegas, pretty much everything you do is connected to the main story line. That isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of “unrelated” side quests and what not, but it seems to all culminate in a more meaningful way in New Vegas. You start off as a courier, trying to deliver an important package to an important client, but end up with a bullet in the end. Ah, that’s how it always happens. Anyways, you end up surviving, and start off on your journey to figure out who shot you, why, and what you were actually trying to deliver. It’s a fairly intriguing story and has great build up, but the ending was a little disappointing. And like I previously mentioned, there are various factions you can side with to alter the ending, so the replay value is fairly high.

Overall, Fallout: New Vegas is a great game. If you liked Fallout 3, then you should find plenty to enjoy with New Vegas, as it is essentially more of the exact same. There have been some minor enhancements, with the ammo system, weapon mods, and hardcore mode, but these don’t add too much to the game. I wish there would have been some more changes, like more new weapons and newer looking environments. The vaults and environmental items look the same, and pretty much everything else looks like Fallout 3, which is disappointing. Also, there are a ton of bugs. You would have thought they would have fixed all these in Fallout 3, but apparently not. I ran into a few problems with getting stuck in rocks, the game freezing, and some other issues, but I think JDW had even worse problems, like certain graphics not showing up, basically making parts of the game unplayable. Assuming you don’t run into those problems, there is plenty to enjoy, but those are some glaring issues that needed to be fixed before shipping the game. And on a side note, the Strip itself and all the excitement about gambling and so forth was also very disappointing... :(

Overall Score: 8/10

This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game, but most statements can also be applied to both the PS3 and PC versions of the game.

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