Fallout: New Vegas Review

Several years ago, before the release of Fallout 3, I went back and played through the entirety of both Fallout and Fallout 2. I had never played them before, and by the time I finished with both I was practically drooling for Fallout 3. While I was initially displeased by it due to the shooter oriented combat, I eventually got over it and I truly enjoyed the third installment in the series. I went of to spend over 100 hours in the game on two different characters, which may be why I felt a little burnt out the second I started New Vegas.

NewVegasOpeningCinematic1

Vegas is filled with booze, hookers and gambling. In game too.

New Vegas is basically a very large expansion pack for Fallout 3. The graphics, gameplay and presentation are near identical aside from the new locale. Does that make it a bad game? Or not worth the $40 price tag? Let’s find out.

New Vegas opens with your character getting shot in the face by a man named Benny over a platinum poker chip. You’re left in a shallow grave to die, and rescued by a robot named Victor. Victor drops you off at the local doctors house where, and though it seems impossible, your character recovers. Now the odds that someone who was shot in the head would recover in a few days in the real world are slim. In the world of Fallout, where everything is rusty, dirty and old, the odds that your character would survive without a massive brain infection that would eventually kill you anyway seems impossible.

The doctor is there to ask you questions and assign stats to your character, though anything you don’t like you can always change before you leave his house. I didn’t like the way they used the doctor to generate your character, as I felt that often times it didn’t make sense. Such as when he asks you a series of questions and you tell him the first word that comes to mind. At the end the doctor simply tells you that he has no idea what any of that means because he doesn’t know you, so you should just evaluate yourself. Good job doc.

NewVegasStatAssignment

Instead of a children’s book to allocate stats like in Fallout 3, in New Vegas you get a mechanical grip tester.

After the doctor patches you up he hands you his old vault clothing and his pip boy, something I can’t imagine anyone giving up lightly in the Fallout universe. Still, at least they came up with a new origin instead of falling back on the “You’re a vault dweller, and the first one to leave” story that we’ve seen in several Fallout games. It IS interesting enough to get the ball rolling, so I can’t complain too much.

The starting town of Goodsprings was pretty enjoyable for me. I found it more interesting than Megaton, though there was no option to nuke the place. Still, the citizens had more interesting motivations and stories than I expected, and I immediately got a creepy vibe from Victor that only got worse as the story progressed. Goodsprings itself is basically a tutorial for the game, though they have included an option to skip most of it for anyone who is familiar with the Fallout 3 combat. If you do skip it though you’ll miss out on some of the dialog from an old friend, the voice of Amata in Fallout 3 is your tutorial guide for New Vegas.

Some people have complained that New Vegas took a while to get going, but I’d have to disagree. Some of the most fun I had in the game was in Goodsprings and the surrounding areas. Though I was told the game picked up once you got to New Vegas, I found it to be the opposite. By the time I made it to New Vegas I was well into many of the faction storylines, and the Vegas content actually felt like a slow crawl for around five hours. Still, after that initial bump New Vegas was exciting, but it’s the wasteland that really made this game for me.

There were bugs, but nothing out of the ordinary for a Bethesda, or Obsidian for that matter, game. I did however start playing the game after the first patch that cleared up many of the major bugs, so I did get lucky there. Sadly there is one bug that I seem to have, and it causes the games launcher to crash nine out of ten times I open it. It’s easy to skip the launcher entirely, but I like to use Steam to launch my games, so I just dealt with the ridiculous crashing of the launcher. Once I got in game it was a fairly bug free experience for me, though I may have just gotten lucky.

The companions in New Vegas are a lot better than those of Fallout 3. Both in their inability to permanently die, something I hated in Fallout 3, and in their backstories and side quests. I was especially pleased with Veronica Santangelo, who was voiced by Felicia Day. A Brotherhood of Steel (my favorite faction) scribe, Veronica has ventured out alone into the wasteland to find resources for the local Brotherhood chapter. By following her quests I interacted with the local chapter of the Brotherhood of Steel, and was eventually accepted into their ranks as an honorary Paladin. This really had me excited, as the Brotherhood has always been my favorite faction in Fallout.

This was where my choices in the game came to a head. So far I had been following Mr. House, and I had decided that his was the faction that I was going to fight for on this playthrough. I had just finished a mission for him, and he asked me to destroy every member of the local Brotherhood of Steel chapter. I was floored, and even had the ability to ask him if I could go about it in such a way as to keep them alive. Eventually it came down to a simple option. Kill off the Brotherhood of Steel or turn on Mr. House. I fought myself over this decision for hours as I did side quests and explored the landscape. Anything to avoid the issue. Finally I decided that I had committed to Mr. House, and I would continue to support him. I made my way to the Brotherhood of Steel bunker and was welcomed as a friend. My heart broke as I thought of brutally murdering them all, but I realized that if I set off the self destruct I wouldn’t be able to loot all that power armor and plasma weapons, and my armor’s durability was drastically low.

Luckily I had completed Veronica’s quest line, which has several diverging paths, and I had chosen to get a very interesting gun. This gun messes with mechanics, and basically one or two shots any robot or anyone in power armor. I felt terrible in a way I had never felt over a video game as I slaughtered my friends in the Brotherhood of Steel, going room to room and painting the barren metal hallways with their blood.

NewVegasBrotherhoodDead

I felt REALLY bad killing them. On the other hand, loot.

If every quest in New Vegas was as emotionally involving as that one was for me it would be my all time favorite game. Sadly though the writing varies wildly from side-quest to side-quest. Sometimes a story is interesting enough to keep me following it until I finish that particular quest line, but most of the time they are the usual “go here for no real reason and do this”. The later is pretty prevalent once you get into New Vegas proper. You’ll be ferrying orders, documents, hats, guns and anything else from one place to another, usually just far enough away that it causes you to go through a loading screen.

That is another problem with this game, and with the New Vegas area in particular. The loading screens don’t take too long on the PC version, but when I am having to go through a door every three minutes as I make my way around New Vegas the loading time really adds up. Especially when you realize that New Vegas itself it broken into five or six sections, each of which require a loading screen to pass between, and woe be the player who wants to go from south Vegas to north Vegas as you’ll be passing through several loading screen doors. Unless you decide to just fast travel there.

That’s one of the biggest issues in New Vegas. If you want to get anywhere without fifteen loading screens, you’re going to need to fast travel, which means it feels less like an open world game at times and more like a level based RPG shooter ala Mass Effect. Combine this with the boring landscape textures and the terrible animations that are notorious in the Oblivion engine and you’ve got a game that doesn’t feel as open or entertaining as it could have.

Another disappointment is the severe lack of good looking armor in the game. You’ll find mostly low level thug armor sets which look very much like bad guys in a Mad Max movie, and a few pieces of armor that look alright, but for the most part the armor sets in the game really let me down. Especially since most of the cool ones I found were faction specific, which means if I wore them, enemies of that faction would see me as hostile. Not exactly a good thing if you like the enemy factions armor set.

The last thing I want to touch on is the music. Fallout 3 introduced me to some real amazing songs from way back when, and reintroduced me to many that I remember listening to with my grandmother. The selection was somewhat limited, but when you combined the great dialog of Three-Dog, the oddly reassuring rhetoric of President Eden, and the amazing music they included, you felt like you constantly had a companion with you as you blasted your way through the wasteland. In New Vegas this is all but completely gone. There is an interesting station run by Super Mutants that I ended up destroying early on, which was kind of sad as it was the best station out there.  I understand them choosing Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton, to be the voice of New Vegas on the in game radio, but at the same time his lines are delivered with so much slurring it was comical when he was trying to be smooth. Add to that the fact that there were only a handful of songs in New Vegas, perhaps as low as five that I heard (there are more, but it didn’t feel like it), and I had the radio off for the majority of the time.

Still, the faction and companion missions are the reason you should play Fallout: New Vegas. They are also the reason you should replay New Vegas over and over again, siding with the different factions to varying degrees and seeing what happens because of your choices. They are your choices, true meaningful choices that don’t have immediate consequences but sometimes come back to bite you many hours later, preventing the quick ‘oh no!’ reload that can happen with other games.

NewVegasSacrifice

Some quests are better than others.

At over 45 hours on a rather speedy playthrough I can say that New Vegas was well worth the money I paid for it. While more of an expansion pack than a new game, New Vegas was very enjoyable and it will continue to be for many more hours as I go back and complete new faction missions. Add to that Bethesda’s renown modding community and you have a game that will continue to entertain for as long as you want it to. Still, if you burned yourself out on Fallout 3, you might want to give your first playthrough of New Vegas a wait. Say three or four months?

Final Score: 7.5/10

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