The lights are on
I seems to me like the best way to review Fallout New Vegas is to compare it to its predecessor, Fallout 3, as New Vegas is starkly juxtaposed to F3 and features some considerable improvements in many ways. New Vegas also has some caveats that detract from the experience to me, personally, but amount to little more than aesthetic preference.
Whereas Fallout 3 can be seen as big and stretched thin, New Vegas can be seen as relatively smaller and notably deeper in presentation. Never fear, all of Fallout's trademark open-worldness as typical for Bethesda RPGs is present. The Nevada Wasteland is smaller than the Capitol Wasteland but is crammed full of just as much stuff to do, ruins to explore and crazy people to meet as can be expected.
New Vegas is also much more serious in tone than its predecessor, which is known for talking ghoul-trees and Republics of Dave. Nothing quite so outlandish is to be found in New Vegas. New Vegas is notably more down to earth. An adequate change of tone, if I do say so myself, since it helps get players vested in their character, the world and the plight of its people. Given the subject matter, New Vegas tends to be darker and more visceral in tone than Fallout 3.
What I do not particularly appreciate about the Nevada Wasteland is that it does not feel like a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Where-as before, in Fallout 3 for instance, it felt like it was you vs. the world and the world was out to destroy you and even in barely settled towns of rusty shanties and irradiated food and water you barely felt any safer, in New Vegas there is cleaner water, plumbing, electricity, hell there's even a working mag-lev tram. New Vegas and the Nevada Wasteland even has an organized government and it's a full fledged bureaucracy to boot! For all intents and purposes the Nevada Wasteland comes off as completely restored to modern society with all of modern societies basic conveniences and not a savage lawless wasteland. And I don't know if this is supposed to be an intentional joke or not, but if you've ever been to Nevada, you would know that it *does* look like a post-nuclear wasteland anyway. Nevada USA is desolate too. As such, you will not be encountering any ruins of real-world historic sites like in Fallout 3. The overall cowboy and western themes permeating the game is engaging, however.
The RPG character system and mechanics have received some much needed overhaul since Fallout 3. Companions are now smarter and more robust and come complete with their own quests, personalities and personal objectives. My favorites are Boone, the straight-talking army sniper, Veronica, the delightfully sardonic and achingly adorable Brotherhood scribe, and Rose of Sharon Cassidy, the trash talking feisty redheaded hardcore boozer with the sharp tongue and one helluva mean repeater. Working with these characters is an ease and a joy and they don't do much to get in the way. It's bound to happen though, just not with greater frequency.
My biggest issue with New Vegas is the soundtrack. Don't get me wrong, I admire the works of Sinatra, Martin, and all those classic vocalists as much as anyone who appreciates music - though not so much country music - but I swear to God, if I have to listen to him sing "Ain't That A Kick in the Head" one more godforsaken time I'm gonna kick a kitten in the head! The problem is the same half dozen or so songs are repeated on the radio and on the strip so incessantly it gets painful. Fortunately, you can turn the games soundtrack down until it stops repeating itself.
Another big detractor are the load times which can easily last the better part of and even upwards of a minute at best. Clearing your saves and starting again minimizes the load time a bit until frequent re-writes begin to amass again, but as the game goes on load times get increasingly longer. This is a particular problem on the busy New Vegas strip, where you'll hit another load screen around every corner.
Another complaint is how NV handles its DLC packages. Multiple plotlines from the base game are left mentioned but unresolved and carry on into paid DLC packs, which is inexcusable. You're missing some context but NV can be played as a complete game without them unlike F3 which effectively "completed" the game with its Broken Steel add on. New Vegas's DLC is deeper and more numerous than F3's so if you're looking to expand, NV offers no shortage of meaty content to engage in.
All in all, Bethesda and Obsidian Entertainment's Fallout New Vegas is a worthy successor to the next gen Fallout 3 and the grandaddy's of the series in general. It makes some much needed improvements over F3's restructuring of the series, but has an incessant retro soundtrack and lacks the atmosphere and engaging aesthetic of its predecessor.
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