Fallout: New Vegas (Available on PlayStation 3, PC, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date: October 19th, 2010
Xbox Live/PSN/PC: Downloadable Content
Parent Talk: Blood, gore, alcohol, violence, cigarette smoking, and killer robots await you in the wasteland of New Vegas. If you’re over 17 and welcome this type of content, then prepare for a wild adventure. For the unqualified gamer, there’s too much adult material packed in this post-apocalyptic journey, which might violate your fragile little mind.
Fallout: New Vegas is what you would expect from a proper sequel to a great RPG. It’s bigger, and more complex than Fallout 3. New Vegas is a game for RPG fans, those who adored the prequel (which is arguably 2008’s RPG of the Year), or enjoy the occasional post-apocalyptic game. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the buggiest and undercooked games I’ve played in years.
The most noticeable difference between Fallout 3 and New Vegas is the incredible faction system. Depending on how you treat NPCs, you can align with a certain faction. There’s more than just being good or bad, but that’s for you to discover. It’s possible to straddle the fence among the factions, and ultimately picking a side warrants profound consequences later on. People eventually recognize your deeds. Your choices lead to various happenings; from being showered with minor gifts to increased violence and hostility. I couldn’t begin to describe how complex this system becomes as more variables and factors pop up as you play.
+ The dozens of sidequests make the plot more engaging, despite a lesser approachable campaign than Fallout 3, mainly due to the great cast. Occasionally, you meet someone who seems mundane or minuscule in the greater scheme of your tale, but actually turns out to be more significant. The variety is impressive too. One mission has you join two lovers for example, only to be thrown later in deciding the fate of an entire pack of ghouls. The constant twisting and turning of morality makes each quest more thought-provoking than the last.
+ Can I be your companion? A friend can actually join you. Don’t get your hopes up though and expect a full-fledged online or local co-op; this is limited to an NPC tagging along. This both unlocks future quest opportunities and grants a larger inventory. It’s recommended to strengthen your relationship with friendly treatment.
+ Choice is great, and so are the quests…for the most part. I’ll elaborate later, not every quest is a winner, but far and away most are. At almost every turn a decision is placed in your hands. Do you kill one group and help another? Do you legally obtain an item but steal another? It’s no surprise that two people can play New Vegas with completely different experiences.
+ Same good stuff. VATS returns, as do the perks. As you level up, points are awarded to boost skill sets. If you want to be a better locksmith, place emphasis on the engineer. Want to be a better with a gun? Spend your points on the appropriate perk. Most of the new ones are wonderful additions to the series. Fallout 3 featured one of the most robust advancement systems ever, and New Vegas proudly continues it.
+ Welcome to Vegas, baby! I’ll be crystal-clear; Fallout is the go-to series for appreciating a post-apocalyptic world. You can gamble, enjoy the sights…do pretty much anything you want. This is how New Vegas differentiates from F3. Sure, you’re essentially in another wasteland setting, but there’s far more to discover this time. These people even have electricity…imagine that!
+ Sound design. Lke Fallout 3, NV doesn’t sport much music. There are traditional radio stations, but the subtle sounds are what make this world so rich and diverse. Soft chirps in the distance, gunshots from somewhere out in the desert, the rustle of sand and garbage from the wasteland — all the soundscape a shattered world needs. I’m comfortable stating that the audio department has been vastly improved compared to F3.
– Unequally entertaining quests. Some only seem to extend the game’s length. While the freedom to decide your character’s fate is great, I could tell that multiple paths occasionally run into a linear one. Case in point, there’s an instance where you convince an engineer that he doesn’t need a particular piece of equipment, but can’t do the same thing a few hours later. How is that possible? The answer: NV wants you to follow a certain path, thereby eliminating any choice you previously had. Sometimes it doesn’t add up. Moreover, some missions are poorly thought out. Examples include tasks that require trial and error, or putting up with a major brawl for no particular reason, etc.
– Same engine, same problems. Like Oblivion and Fallout 3, New Vegas suffers from a dated game engine. This is obvious when a companion character walks behind you and becomes stuck behind a bush or trips over nothing. Most of the NPCs are lifeless thanks to plastic appearances and jittery animations. Is it normal for enemies to experience difficulty reaching me because I’m standing behind…a rock? That’s one magical rock, no?
Where do I start? Presently, New Vegas is almost unplayable towards the end. For every choice you make, every new quest you unlock, there is an equal and often more interrupting bug associated. This becomes so profound that you may start saving every few minutes. My strategy was to save before activating a quest, save another ten times during its duration and finally overwrite a file after completing said quest. I experienced seven game crashes before finishing the campaign and 36 quest-crashing bugs. These included characters ignoring me upon completing a quest, to enemies vanishing the moment I tried to assassinate them. I’ve seen ‘exorcist heads’ on several characters, fell through the ground a few times, and threw my controller at my sofa about a dozen times. The esteemed patch Bethesda is releasing ‘sometime soon’ can’t possibly come ‘soon enough’.
My verdict is a disappointing one because New Vegas should be an easy recommendation. I can’t offer one though, no matter what kind of fan I am. There are so many bugs that you’re bound to be frustrated sooner or later. The longer your sessions, the more bugs pop up. We know Bethesda is attempting to address everything, but I can’t critique a game on potential fixes. RPG and Fallout lovers should approach with caution before buying. Try it to determine if you can tolerate its glitches. New Vegas is one of the best RPGs of 2010, but its beta feel hinders the enjoyment significantly.