Available on: PC, PS3, X360
Developer(s): Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher(s): Bethesda Softworks
Fallout 3 was one of the greatest surprises I've ever experienced during my years as a gamer. Released in 2008, this game was on my hatelist for months into its release. It looked dull, it was poorly delivered, and essentially a first-person RPG; I've never liked to play in first person. And, it was full of glitches. Chocked. Yet, after just a few hours, I completely understood why people praised the game. There was just something so awesome and addictive about it. As praised as the game was in the media and as much as I liked it, fans of the Fallout franchise were almost unanimously disappointed in the game, in one way or another. I've heard some fans downright berating the game for destroying every bit of what used to be so great about Fallout. Most of the blame was on the game's developer, Bethesda Softworks. In 2009, a sequel to what many more casual gamers consider the game of 2008 was announced. Obsidian Entertainment, a team of developers comprised of many former employees of Black Isle Studios - who made the first two Fallout games - was hired by Bethesda to combine their Fallout know-how with the modern Gamebryo engine, in an attempt to bring balance to the Fallout fanbase. Me, I'm not into this "Fallout 3 vs. the world" war. What I see in Fallout: New Vegas is simply another great post-nuclear role playing experience. Yet, like that of its predecessor's, New Vegas' greatness comes with many costs.
Viva New Vegas
Matthew Perry : Benny
Wayne Newton : Mr. New Vegas
Kris Kristofferson : Chief Hanlon
Zachary Levi : Arcade Gannon
William Sadler : Victor
Rene Auberjonois : Mr. House
Michael Dorn : Marcus
Danny Trejo : Raul
John Doman : Caesar
Ron Perlman : Narrator
It's the year 2281. The state of Nevada has not had the worst share of the nuclear war that reduced the East Coast to a pile of rubble over 200 years ago. There's a steady supply of fresh food and water, and general radiation level across the land is nominal. However, all the benefits New Vegas has over the rest of the world calls for a power struggle. The New California Republic army usually manages to keep things in check for the common man, but their rules and regulations don't suit everyone, least of all the opposing tribe of Great Khans, the maniacal Legion, or the mob families running the many casinos in central New Vegas. Nevada's a battlefield created by several factions looking for dictatorship. A courier is sent to Vegas on a seemingly brief and simple delivery job. Things get a lot more complicated when he's ambushed in the small town of Goodsprings, shot in the head twice and dumped in a shallow grave. A re-programmed Securitron robot named Victor saves the courier and takes him to the local doctor for thorough treatment. When he comes to, there's only one thing in his mind; he needs to find the man that shot him, and make him pay.
If you have seen Fallout 3, you've seen this game when it comes to the visuals - the graphics engine is perfectly identical, there are just a few changes in the interface that those with the keenest eyes can spot. It looks so identical that some people actually still believe New Vegas to be an expansion pack to Fallout 3 instead of a full-length game in itself. That, and the fact that Bethesda has explicitly stated that New Vegas is NOT Fallout 4, rather a spin-off of the first two games. The tone of the palette is different, the game is somewhat lighter than Fallout 3, to clarify New Vegas' relatively healthy status as opposed to the Capital Wasteland, and of course, most of the free roaming in the game takes place on the Mojave desert, where you'd expect a lot of sand and sun. Oh, did I mention the game's size? If you thought Fallout 3 was big, you ain't seen nothing yet. A somewhat larger and more cramped world map, four main quests and over 70 official - or "marked" - sidequests, four prominent minigames, plus all the extra stuff you can do, topped with the trademark freedom of the series... how'd you like that? Welcome to New Vegas.
The original music's once again composed by the Israeli master of classical ambience, Inon Zur. He's assisted by Mark Morgan, the guy responsible for the soundtracks of the original Fallout and Fallout 2. In addition to the original score, we have a righteous, traditional collection of songs from the 40's, 50's and 60's, including tunes from Frank Sinatra, Guy Mitchell, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Peggy Lee and Bing Crosby. All in all, the soundtrack's better than the one used in Fallout 3, but it's still highly repetitive - I don't even remember hearing more than perhaps six or seven different songs during a 10-hour stretch.
Despite of a few repeating lines - usually greetings and goodbyes - that sound ridiculous and totally out of place, the quality of the voice acting has gone up by many notches. The monotony of the previous game has been harvested for the most part and there are some individuals who do outstanding jobs and are always a pleasure to talk to. Whereas the previous game only had two big names calling the shots, Liam Neeson and the series stalwart Ron Perlman, New Vegas features appearances from Matthew Perry (Chandler in Friends!), musical legends Wayne Newton and Kris Kristofferson, William Sadler (perhaps best known as the villainous Col. Stuart in Die Hard 2) and Rene Auberjonois (the filler actor of all time, best known as Odo in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). Michael "Mr. Worf" Dorn returns as the Super Mutant Marcus from Fallout 2, and Danny motherfuckin' Trejo makes an appearance as Raul the Ghoul with a much-criticized and perhaps a little decontextual, but the way I hear it, moderately cool performance - it's Danny motherfuckin' Trejo! The sound effects are great across the line, but I have to heavily criticize the effect indicating a poisoning or a severe drug addiction. That's dastardly.
This is a progressive review, which basically means that I've played the game for 52 hours right now, while writing this paragraph, but I won't write all of it before I'm done with the game to get the difficulty ramble right; I predict I still have 30 hours or so to go (indeed I had - post-game note). On the first glance, Fallout: New Vegas looks exactly like Fallout 3, which makes it even more difficult to understand that it's a stand-alone game instead of an exceptionally epic expansion pack. Many fans of the old school Fallout experience have pointed out that essentially, Fallout: New Vegas is what Fallout 3 should've been - there was never anything wrong with making Fallout run on Gamebryo, instead it was a whole bunch of tiny nuances that affected the negative views on the game from the old community. I loved Fallout 3 and disregarded any negative thoughts, because it was my first Fallout game, and the first game, as good as it turned out to be, didn't quite captivate me in the same way. I'm still aiming to beat it, though, and then take on Fallout 2. Great games, but there's just something about the modern engine that pleases me. Be the game at its best in first person or not.
Fallout 3 took about two hours to really kick in and show off its true greatness. Fallout: New Vegas takes a hell of a lot longer. I don't remember when I've last played a game as slow to get its hooks on you - it's certain, but slow. The plot and all its subtleties are quite confusing (ie. too political) at first, you'll start to understand them better by talking to different NPC's and hearing their takes on all the shit going down in Vegas. Parts of the story are very, very solid - some lengthy quests have better plots than the entirety of Fallout 3! - but as a whole, the story's all over the place. It's the ambition. Too many eggs on the frying pan here. I can safely say right now that the game didn't really make the same kind of impression on me Fallout 3 did. Some parts are better, none are really worse but could've used more work. Both games look exactly the same, though, and I highly doubt anyone who liked the previous game would go and disregard this epic journey across the wastes.
|One of the first big choices: either you help this|
prick and his cronies take over the village you
woke up in, or lead a deserved attack against
On to the things that actually are different. First of all, Fallout 3 began with your character's birth in Vault 101, and there was a series of small "quests" for him/her to do as an infant, a child and a teenager before his/her great escape into the wasteland. In Fallout: New Vegas, your character is a male or female courier - his/her exact age you can determine yourself. You have similar options to customize your character as in Fallout 3, the explanation for the options being that after being shot in the head, your character needs to be tested both physically and mentally - it's recuperative training, so to say.
The voiceovers are indeed of much better quality than last time around, so is the dialogue itself. "Fuck" is not a common word that just has to be squeezed into every sentence because it makes the game "cool" in the golden age of Grand Theft Auto. In this game, "fuck" and all other expletives are thrown around a lot, but I haven't been in a situation in which it wouldn't have had some real meaning - it's "fuck" with passion, all the way! The downside to the dialogue is that there's perhaps too much of it; many characters have a tendency to ramble for tens of minutes if you give them the chance. It's awesome at first, but when the game clocks in at about 30 or 40 hours, you'd just wish for less words, more action. Many of the quests in this game are purely based on dialogue and different speech challenges - which are no longer simply tied to your general charisma and speech skill, but all of your skills - instead of the seemingly endless dungeon crawling in Fallout 3. In that game, most quests required you to speak to an NPC and go to an appointed cavern or building to get an item, and return to declare the job done. There aren't many of those kind of quests in New Vegas; it was wholly Bethesda's idea, while Obsidian clearly wanted to return to the open areas of the first two games, and base an important part of character development and leveling up on diplomatic conversations and accomplishments instead of straightforward action. This guarantees diverse, exciting and surprising sidequests (in the creative vein of Wasteland Survival Guide, my fav in Fallout 3), and a larger quantity of them, but personally, I would've preferred more action. Of course, you can try to cross the many off-road desert areas on the map and see what kind of bastards lurk there if you get bored with all the talking... but some groups of enemies will make you want to get back on track as soon as you can, regardless of your experience level.
|Victor's kinda annoying, but you'll get used to |
him. After all, he seems to follow you everywhere.
Whereas Fallout 3 had very few different enemies for its size - Feral Ghouls, Glowing Ones, Super Mutants, Centaurs, Mirelurks, Radroaches, Radscorpions, Bloatflies, Mole Rats, Ants, Deathclaws and humanoids are the first and only to come to mind at the moment - New Vegas has all of them, and a whole bunch of different enemy avatars. Many quests have some sort of a variation of a regular enemy or a wholly unique one. For example, there are two different, prominent types of Uglies (Super Mutants for you new players), and at least three different kinds of Deathclaws. There are very few Feral Ghouls, which is easily explained by the semi-radiated setting of the game; there are not many Ghouls living among the people, either - ironically, they're treated a lot better than their huge community of bros in Washington. Standard Mirelurks are scrapped, but Mirelurk Kings return as Lakelurks. Among the unique enemies that weren't present in the previous game we have Nightstalkers, a strange breed of coyotes spliced together with rattlesnake DNA, Cazadors, Spore Carriers, Spore Plants, Giant Mantises, Geckos of several kinds, and weaker versions of Radscorps called Bark Scorpions. The Radscorpions are a freakin' menace in this game and Cazadors should really, really not be judged by their thin look. These poisonous, overgrown mosquitos are by far the bitchiest enemies in the game, and require high levels to kill and/or evade efficiently. Even if you manage to kill the first batch, they multiply by the second and get more aggressive all the time. They're incredibly fast and perceptive, and simply cannot be escaped unscathed. Plus, they have a tendency to pop up whenever there's only one route to take to your destination. Traditional Raiders are reborn as Fiends, even crazier, openly cannibalistic versions of their previous selves. There are many humanoid gangs, tribes and cults, most of who are against the NCR superpower: escaped cons calling themselves Powder Gangers, the "civil barbarians" Great Khans, the peace-loving Followers of the Apocalypse, the brutal and insane Legion, a posse of Elvis impersonators calling themselves The Kings, and the derelict Brotherhood of Steel, among many others. As always, you get to choose your side all by yourself... or just piss off and/or kill everyone in your way. Oh, except for kids.
This time, you can recruit a companion or two if the going gets too tough. Yeah, sure, we've seen Dogmeat and all sorts of buffs, but in this game, you can control your party members' tactics via a companion wheel and send them back to the shithole they came from at any time, if the only thing they do right is getting in your way. You can drag around two companions at once, one humanoid and one robot. The companions are usually found by completing certain sidequests, and some are perhaps only recruitable by one with a silver tongue. Each kill scored by a companion is added up to your personal EXP, of course. Each one of these unique individuals offers up a perk, which is valid as long as they're with you. At first, I was very against having a party in a Fallout game. Like, isn't the game all about being alone in the wasteland? When I witnessed this game's first really hard moments, I immediately accepted the idea with no further questions.
Having dozens of different communities in one role-playing game entrusting your character with an unworldly amount of quests might sound all fun, especially after Fallout 3, which had about 30 different quests available. That didn't mean the game was short, on the contrary, but in the end, it's less than a half of the quests available in Fallout: New Vegas. However, most of them don't involve any sort of dungeon at all, as I already said, so the game isn't that much more formidable in length as its predecessor - actually, I completed it about 25 hours quicker than the previous game, and I did everything I could. That said, you have to keep in mind that a 100% completion on one single playthrough is downright impossible, courtesy of the Karmic system, which is now enhanced with Reputation, a much appreciated feature returning from the first two games.
The Reputation system is easiest to explain by saying that even though you have a basic Karma meter that keeps track of your person, for example your tendency to steal, it really doesn't affect people's take on you by a great deal; Reputation is much more important, it's kind of like your Karma within a certain community. For example, if you decide to play it nice, you'll probably do a lot of stuff in the game that benefits the NCR and severely pisses off the Legion. If you are a saint all the way, you'll eventually become "idolized" within the NCR community and "vilified" within Legion, while other communities might not have any opinion on you yet. This practically means that the guys and gals at NCR are behind you 100%; they might give you free stuff, they are not very prone to attack you even if you pull some random psychotic pranks on them, and you might even get some really delicate, exclusive quests by enhancing your reputation within the community. In turn, you are downright hunted by the Legion. Mercenaries might show up on the behalf of Caesar and his cronies to bring them your head on a plate, and you should really, really avoid any Legion settlement. Sadly, this also means you can't accept missions from Legionaries. Not even those that are worth a Trophy or Achievement. You thought this was going to be one casual game among all of your other easy Plats? Tough luck.
Don't get me wrong, of course it's cool that we have guaranteed replay value, but the whole sidequest network in this game is way too delicate. Think about this: we have three rivaling factions in a small area - the New Vegas Strip, for example, is a place where many communities are at work: Mr. House, the NCR and the Families. Let's say all of them give you a sidequest, and all three quests oppose each other. You'll go cross-eyed before you can say "bomb" and making a mistake is way too easy. I never failed a quest in Fallout 3, but in New Vegas, it's inevitable to fail quests, even by pure accident. You can't have total control over the game. You might fail quests before even triggering them, due to the delicate nature of the Rep system. Also, as much liberty as the developers granted you when they made this game, they seemed to have an idea of exploration order within settlements. One quest involves finding the smoothest possible talker to work as a prostitute for a cheap casino. Well, I had no idea who to talk to about it. Then I found this Latino guy, lodged in an obscured corner and talked to him. One non-optional sentence was all it took to get this guy to work at the casino. He just took off, and that part of the quest was done. Well, great? I just would've liked to talk to him a little? What the fuck just happened? Well, it didn't end there. Suddenly, I got another quest. Apparently simply finding this guy was the first part of a quest I hadn't even heard of. Apparently he gave me some money that he owed to another character before leaving. Well, I followed the instructions and took these caps to the character I had not even met, and she talked to me like we would have spoken several times before. Then she gave me orders to kill a dude I had never heard of, but my character apparently had. Is this how it feels like when your creation surpasses you like in all those philosophical versions of Frankenstein? Seriously, this game gets really confusing at its worst, and it's sad it's purely due to the otherwise phenomenal amount of sidequests.
|Mmm, slots and sluts. My kind of place.|
Even though your character is not a Vault Dweller, you have a well explained Pip-Boy to serve as your control panel for everything; handling your inventory, leveling up, keeping track of your movement around the world map, and reviewing your quests and current objectives, among all else. If possible, the Pip-Boy is a little more strategic and important to use than ever before. You can be poisoned by different animals, in which case you need to use Antivenom - which is ultimately so rare of an item that the poisoning really becomes a nuisance. You can battle it out by curing yourself up to the point the poison naturally leaves your character's body, but that can take a long time. You can tune up your weapons with different mods, such as silencers and scopes. Stimpaks cure you immediately - except in Hardcore Mode, which I'll explain later - Super Stimpaks also cure you immediately, but they do a temporary number on your Strength stat. Food and drinks slowly regenerate your health instead of curing you immediately. The regen time depends on the food and the amount of it. Workbenches can still be used to build new weapons, but you need high numbers of certain stats in addition to all the schematics. For example, you can't just simply whip up a whole bunch of Bottlecap Mines with the right ingredients like you could in the previous game, you also need an Explosives skill of 75 to be able to build one of them. Mostly, you will probably be using the Workbench to make more bullets. There's also a Reloading Bench for this sort of action. You can use Campfires to cook great food from even the worst ingredients and make medicine, like in Oblivion... if you have the proper medical skills. As you might've picked up by now, Fallout: New Vegas isn't quite the breeze Fallout 3 was. The common theme is that reaching the surface, like finding an awesome schematic for a weapon, is hardly ever enough, you also need the skills to back it up.
The crafting system is therefore more realistic than before, and I like it, even if on the first playthrough I found myself short on just about every skill needed to make what used to be my favourite weapons in Fallout 3 - personally, I usually spend a lot more skill points on diplomatic skills and thievery than guns and explosives. I thought I would have pretty much emptied the bank of one negative for one positive by now, but during the last few hours, I picked up two things that really tick me about the game - and both things are lessons I thought the previous game would've taught the developers. First of all, Fallout needs a minimap. It's really tedious and in this game's case, even glitch-prone to keep checking the Pip-Boy's GPS over and over again to see if you're surely going into the right direction. The marker on your compass seems to move around all the time, and even duplicate on the fly. The marker on the GPS map, on the other hand, never quite indicates the ground level your destination is on.
The second thing is that it's weird how they emphasize liberty and the benefits of stealth. OK, you can definitely enter a building in a settlement and kill everyone inside as loud as you can, and probably no one outside the building will mind your little outbreak. But, just try to kill a faction member in the same building as the rest of them and they'll be on you like hounds - it doesn't matter whether or not you closed the door and slit the guy's throat with a switchblade from his back, with absolutely no sound. It's even said in the random loading screen that melee weapons are completely silent and therefore, they make for excellent tools for stealth. Somehow, everyone in the building just knows what you did although nothing points to you and you're liked by the community. Like I said: it's weird. I can't think of one quest in which you would actually need to stealthily kill someone, but still, the game's main attraction is its liberty, so it's kind of a hefty nuisance as far as I'm concerned.
Lastly before I'll go into the game's different challenges in better and worse, and into all the stuff you can do yourself to manipulate the difficulty level of the game: the game is set in a version of Las Vegas, so feel free to expect minigame madness, something that has never before been experienced in the Fallout series. Central Vegas is filled to the brim with casinos, complete with hookers, mobsters and game tables. You can play three different games at these casinos: blackjack (my definite favourite, I can't get enough of it... lucky for me, I'm not a real gambler), roulette and slots. In addition, there's Caravan, a really popular card game within several poor communities, exclusively designed for Fallout: New Vegas. It's a quite tricky and irritating, but ultimately addictive game that has some elements of Solitaire in it. You'll find yourself spending hours on these minigames alone and constantly visiting the cashier for some chips to replace the ones you lost. They're stylish, and comfortable to play. Fans of the casino in the first Leisure Suit Larry game are perhaps a little disappointed that there's a one minute cooldown period to reduce the desire to cheat by reloading the game again and again if the casino games don't quite play out as you planned.
|Fans of Fallout 2 surely remember this guy.|
However, you might be an all-around RPG expert who knows every trick in the book, regardless of the game at hand. There's a surprise gift for you as well: the Hardcore Mode, with the cherry on the top of the cake being the ultimate Trophy/Achievement in the game, acquired once you've beaten this path of Satan. On Hardcore Mode, your character absolutely needs to eat, sleep and drink in a steady rhythm to survive. Stimpaks no longer heal your broken limbs, and they regenerate health just like any food or drink instead of healing you immediately. On top of all, ammunition has weight. You might think that you'd do fine if you just stick to the main quest, work on your Unarmed and Melee skills, stay out of off-road areas and kiss the asses of the most formidable armies around to get decent back-up, but it's simply not that easy. Hardcore Mode is like taking care of a glitchy Tamagotchi. It's gonna hand you your balls. I bet you regret criticizing Fallout 3 for being too damn easy, right about now.
In addition to the Trophies, the game has tons of in-game challenges that range from simply eating a certain accumulative amount of food to unleashing mayhem with different weapons. These challenges might strike you as "cute", until you realize that some of them give you extra perks on the go, in addition to the perks you get each time you gain two EXP levels, or by bringing companions along. This is a really cool addition to the Fallout experience, one of my favourite unique things about this game.
It's full of glitches up to the point you're not even certain if you're going to see the credits. I didn't, not on the first playthrough - the game crashed right after the final scene. I still got the Trophy for the quest, though. Also, it's confusing and once again, a little uninteresting when it comes to large portions of the main storyline, while some of the sidequests absolutely rule. Still, Fallout: New Vegas is a bonafide, 100% real Fallout experience. The previous game struck me better on a personal level with all of its delicious shotgun action, and hours and hours of navigating those dark mazes, but New Vegas' diplomacy in open areas is not all that bad of an option - and, it's a refreshing change. Also, the dialogue, especially the pitch-black humour that nearly skipped the previous game, is a lot better. Still, I'm with 3 when it comes to gameplay and some forms of presentation.
Graphics : 9.0
Sound : 7.9
Playability : 8.3
Challenge : 9.2
Overall : 8.5
GameRankings: 84.44% (PC), 83.69% (PS3), 83.64% (X360)
The specific laws of censorship in Germany and Japan are the same for Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. The official German version of the game does not feature any blood and gore, and the Fat Man nuclear launcher is named Nuka Launcher in Japan - due to the Hiroshima bomb's well-known nickname "Fat Man".