The lights are on
It's safe to say that it's impossible for Bethesda to release a Fallout game every year. It took four years with Fallout 3. This time, it has taken only two years for the sequel to 2008's game of the year to be released. Fallout: New Vegas takes place in and around the spectacular New Vegas, run by the mysterious Mr. House. Does it live up to Fallout 3's success? In many ways, yes, but in others, it's a new take on the post-apocalyptic United States.
In most ways, the gameplay in Fallout: New Vegas is just like Fallout 3. V.A.T.S. and S.P.E.C.I.A.L. haven't gone anywhere. You level up the same way. Many of the perks are the same, with a few exceptions. Only a few subtle changes have made the gameplay better. For one, you can now use the iron sights on your guns. In Fallout 3, you could only zoom in for better accuracy. Being able to look through the actual sights not only makes gun battles easier but also more engaging. The recoil when your face is inches from your gun really amps up the action, making gunfights much more fun. Another change is the amount of different approaches you can take to battles and quests. In Fallout 3, you could take different approaches, but most situations only allowed for one tactic because that was obviously the best one. Now, quests offer a wide variety of ways to tackling them, and you can do it based on your play style. There is also a new mode called Hardcore Mode. This makes the game more realistic. You must eat, drink, and sleep to survive. Crippled limbs must be healed by either a doctor or Doctor's Bag, and ammunition has weight. This makes the game much more difficult but also more engaging.
Some quests can also be tackled using your standing with certain factions. While there is good Karma and bad Karma, you will most likely spend more attention to your standing with factions such as the New California Republic and Caesar's Legion. You can use a good reputation with a faction to your advantage when you're trying to do something like breaking prisoners out of a camp held by that faction. Also, in Fallout 3, random things would come up as you searched through the Capital Wasteland. You may come up in a heated battle between the Brotherhood of Steel and the Enclave, just to find out that you're in the middle of it. Random occurrences like these are more common in New Vegas simply because there are so many factions, many of them battling against each other. Along with this, critters and insects are more varied and "explore" more. What I mean by this is while animals and insects may have areas where they are common, it is possible for them to stray from those areas, making random fights outside of normal territory common. All of these random occurrences and faction reputations make for a more engaging and realized world along with a more individualized character. You feel like you have control over what you do and how you react more than in Fallout 3. This is really cool later in the game because that's when big decisions come and you really need to watch your reputations with factions.
There are a few things that hinder the gameplay in New Vegas, however. Like Fallout 3, New Vegas is filled with bugs and glitches. Slowdown happens a lot in big battles, when there are tons of things going on at once. This sometimes leads to deaths, but a lot of the time, they're not that bad. Weapon and armor condition now mean a lot and are more complex than in Fallout 3. Now, armor is effective through its Damage Threshold, which is determined by its condition. If the DT is stronger than the enemy's DAM, then the armor absorbs the damage. Likewise, if you are shooting an enemy with a gun with a bad condition or DAM, then you're not doing much damage. The problem here is that the system is difficult to understand early in the game. A lot of different elements go into a weapon's DAM and armor's DT, making it frustrating when you're pumping some guy with lead and it's doing nothing.
The story in New Vegas is your classic revenge story. The game starts in a cutscene showing some guy in a checkered suit pointing a gun at your head. He pulls the trigger, and you wake up in a doctor's home. From there, you search for this man through the Mojave Wasteland. From there, you open up secrets and plots that make the story more complicated. All of this is happening in the midst of a war between two of the biggest factions in the game, the New California Republic and Caesar's Legion. Of course, you can follow the main storyline or just go your own way. It's a good story overall but with a bad presentation. The only part of your background that the game tells of is what you were doing before you were shot. There was nothing about a family, a potential sweetheart, or where you were born. Because of this, I didn't care for my character as much. Yes, I created him, but I have no knowledge of what really got him to this spot. It just seemed like the character popped up in this world just to get caught up in a twisted scheme and shot in the head. But you can still make your own name, either through saving that needy person or shooting him.
Like Fallout 3, the voice acting and dialogue are top-notch. There are difficult choices in the game that make the world more compelling and more real. There are tons of possible endings, which are all added from your ventures through the Mojave and your reputation with factions. The story and gameplay really open this world and makes it feel like it has tons of potential. Like Fallout 3, you will want to unlock all of its secrets.
The graphics are exactly the same as in Fallout 3, with all of its problems. This world is huge, beautiful, and filled with content, but it suffers from constant pop-up and occasional frame-rate problems. You may have the game freeze completely although this rarely ever happens. There are tons of loading screens although they are not long. Again, the animation isn't very good, but that's never been Bethesda's strong suit. And like Fallout 3, this is a world teeming with tons of secrets for you to find and side quests that are varied.
One problem that people might see in New Vegas is that, despite the new game world and story, it's gameplay resembles Fallout in almost every way. Some people might see repetitiveness, but Fallout fans should be right at home with this game. This game is still as much fun to play as Fallout 3 even with its problems.
Black Isle Studios managed to create a great post-apocalyptic series before it closed its doors. Bethesda mixed two great elements and made a legend in video games. If anything, New Vegas gives us the confidence to say that more Fallouts are to come, and that's a good thing. Although war never changes, the amount of worlds to explore are vast. Maybe California? Or China? Or perhaps Europe? There's a lot to consider, Bethesda.
Great review. I am a big fan of this game. I plan on playing through this the second time later on this year.