Posted on October 18, 2010, Ron Whitaker Fallout: New Vegas Review
Fallout. The very name conjures to mind images of an irradiated wasteland rife with mutants, profiteers, slavers, and refugees. Bethesda received both praise and scorn for their take on the universe in Fallout 3, and I have faith that things will be much the same for Obsidian’s entry into the series, Fallout: New Vegas. So, is New Vegas a worthy successor to Bethesda’s epic tale?
First off, fans of Fallout 3 will feel right at home in New Vegas. It looks very much like Fallout 3, albeit with a few changes to the color palette. One of the first things you think when you start playing New Vegas is that this is an expansion pack, not a full game. Nothing could be further from the truth. New Vegas contains more quests and content than Fallout 3 did, with an estimated 80 hours of play required to hit 100% completion.
Fallout: New Vegas (PC [Reviewed], XBox360, PS3)
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: October 19, 2010
You begin your travels in the western wasteland as you recover from being shot in the head and dumped in a shallow grave in the desert, almost as if you’d run afoul of the Corleone family. Your goal is to have your revenge on the folks who shot you, as well as recover a valuable item that they stole from you. Unfortunately, this item isn’t yours. You were a courier for the Mojave Express, and the package you were transporting got you into this mess.
The story of New Vegas is the highlight. It’s a much stronger narrative than that of Fallout 3, which should be no surprise to those of us who have played Obsidian’s previous takes on other series (Knights of the Old Republic 2, Neverwinter Nights 2). The large number of factions, and the gravity that your reputation with each carries, brings what feels like a heavier weight to each of your decisions.
Helping out the New California Republic (NCR) can get you in good with a number of outposts in the area, but will also set Caesar’s Legion firmly against you. One slip-up (like accidentally killing that NCR guard dog), and you’ll find yourself looked at askance when you try to barter for supplies and ammo. You can regain the standing by completing more tasks, but I knew I had erred when a NCR Quartermaster told me he couldn’t spare any supplies for someone with my “spotted reputation.”
The other interesting thing about the factions is that there’s no clear-cut good or evil in this tale. Sure, some factions are dead-set against each other, but none of them are clearly better than the others. The explosives-toting Powder Gangers are prison escapees who were being used as slaves by the NCR. The Kings? They’re a 50′s style gang that emulate Elvis in every way (Their leader, called ‘The King,’ says that they found info on Elvis in their base, a school for Elvis impersonators). They also seem to truly want to help people in the slums around New Vegas get along and live better. It’s an odd combination of factors, but somehow it feels really well designed.
For a title called ‘New Vegas,’ a surprising amount of the action takes place outside Vegas, in the Mojave Wasteland itself. That’s not a bad thing, as the Mojave, much like the Capital Wasteland, is a weirdly beautiful place to hang out. Yes, the graphics engine looks a lot like Fallout 3, albeit with some upgraded textures. Even so, the landscape retains the same strange allure that Fallout 3 possessed.
Obsidian’s also tweaked some of the game’s systems. First off, you can now have multiple companions, and each can be instructed using the new ‘companion wheel.’ This is basically a brand new interface option that allows you to quickly give orders to your companions (and even use them to pack around some of your stuff for you). Wandering the wasteland with a former NCR sniper and a cybernetic canine companion is truly enjoyable, and worth the effort to make it happen.
They’ve also given players the ability to not only create things at a workbench, but to load their own ammo and break down guns and bullets they don’t want to get components for those they do. These new systems also allow you to modify your weapons with new barrels, magazines, and the like to further tweak their performance.
The skills and perks systems return, with a load of new perks (there are now 84 total) for those of you that want something new and different for your New Vegas character. Instead of books that give permanent stat boosts, you can now find magazines that will boost one stat temporarily, allowing you to tweak that not-quite-high-enough lockpicking skill so you can access that safe you just found. We highly recommend the “Wild Wasteland” perk, which puts all of the wacky stuff the folks at Obsidian could come up with into your game (Note: If you are a serious Fallout player, DO NOT engage this perk).
Once you make your way into the environs of New Vegas itself, you can hit up casinos and try out the new minigames, including Roulette, Blackjack and Slot Machines. The game now uses three currencies (NCR dollars, Legion coins, and the ubiquitous bottle cap), and you will be happy to learn that the casinos will accept any of them with a smile. Prior to reaching New Vegas, you can hone your card-playing skills by trying out Caravan, the somewhat confusing card game you’ll collect cards for all over the wasteland.
Unfortunately, not everything about New Vegas is positive. First off, there are a horrific number of glitches in the XBox 360 version. Creatures routinely get stuck while navigating terrain, and the player can also get stuck in some very awkward locations, necessitating a reload of a save game. Also, the 360 version seems to have some crash issues. On numerous occasions the game would hang on the loading screen, forcing a hard reboot of the console. On the minor side, expect terrain graphics to pop-in from time to time.
The other major issue I had with New Vegas were the loading times. When using the fast travel feature in the Pip-Boy, it was not uncommon for the game to load for 2-3 minutes. This was lessened when moving into interior locations, but it still felt like an eternity to someone who played Fallout 3 on the PC.
All in all, Fallout: New Vegas is a triumph for Obsidian. Once again, they’ve taken on a beloved franchise and managed to do it justice in the sequel. From a purely technical standpoint, New Vegas does have some issues, but a game isn’t all about the technical side of things. It’s about the experience of playing the game, and on that front, New Vegas delivers in spades. It’s easily one of my favorite games of the year to date, despite all of the technical glitches. If you liked Fallout 3, you owe it to yourself to play this one all the way through. It’s a most worthy successor.
- Outstanding overall game experience
- Multiple companions
- Solid narrative and story
- Wild Wasteland Perk
- New perks are fun and useful
- Dated graphics
- Pathing and collision issues
- Horrific loading times
We’re crafting our walkthrough for Fallout: New Vegas even as we speak, so stay tuned to this page for the help you need to hit 100% completion.