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As Bethesda and Interplay continue to squabble over the rights of the Fallout license, gamers who started Fallout 3 back in 2008 have finally played through most of what the game and its DLC content has to offer. The stage is set for a new adventure to follow up one of the best action RPGs released in the past decade. Fallout: New Vegas takes players from Washington D.C. across the country to Nevada where the nuclear apocalypse was less severe. People have started to pick up the pieces and build a life similar to the wild west of the 1800s. Players must now adapt to their new surroundings and fight, help or become the new sheriff in town.
The graphics have lost their ability to wow gamers this time around. The engine used is the same as Fallout 3 which is several years old. Some situations look fine like when sunlight permeates through bordered windows, but most of the time characters and landscapes appear muddy and washed out. It may not be pretty, but it gets the job done. Rendering so many items, outfits and player models is taxing for any engine so it’s still impressive in that regard, however, many glitches and graphical problems were inherited from Fallout 3 while new issues were added from a new development house. The technical side of the presentation is a disappointment, but not a surprise. Obsidian Entertainment has created a poor reputation for developing unpolished games like Neverwinter Nights 2 and Alpha Protocol. New Vegas is buggier than Fallout 3 and feels less refined. The game has a tendency to freeze or lockup at random. Hopefully a future patch should be able to remedy some of the more critical glitches.
The aesthetic has successfully converted from East coast destroyed skyscrapers to a Western, Mad Max border culture that makes you feel more like a cowboy than a scavenger. The voice acting has more star power this time around with actors like Wayne Newton, Ron Perlman and Kris Kristofferson. It’s still impressive to see that just about every NPC in the game world, which is easily hundreds, has some spoken dialogue. This keeps the element of a living world intact as you traverse radioactive desert and canyons.
What made Fallout 3 so successful was its ability to engross players into a grand narrative where the player formed the story based on their decisions. You don’t necessarily need to follow the road most traveled. It was in the abandoned wayside and fringe areas where players thrived in experiencing Fallout. New Vegas continues that style of player immersion but makes the narrative more accessible to new players who may not have tried Fallout 3 or its many expansions.
Creating your character is handled in a clever way. You have been rescued from near death and nursed back to health by the town doctor. He performs tests that determine your skills, abilities, perks, strengths and weaknesses. After that, you are given some names to hunt down and you’re off. For the next several months, the game is what you make it. If you don’t want to help people, no one is forcing you to. If you want to steal everything that isn’t nailed down, have at it, but be prepared to face the consequences. It is refreshing for a game to not hold the player’s hand while not punishing them for playing “the wrong way.” Players who are used to ball-busting difficulty will also be pleased to find an optional Hardcore mode that makes the game exponentially harder. This mode forces you to find a doctor to heal your broken bones, adds weight to ammunition and requires you to eat, sleep and stay hydrated on a regular basis.
Despite the game implementing iron sight aiming and an improved-over-the-shoulder third-person perspective, the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, or V.A.T.S., is still the ideal method for combat. New Vegas is still more of an RPG than a shooter with damage and accuracy decided by statistical calculations based on your own unique skill point spread and abilities. The V.A.T.S. makes battles more strategic and offers players more options than just shooting wildly into a group of convicts and mutants. Weapons can now be modified with attachments and scopes in order to increase range or magazine size. These mods are helpful but lack a personal touch that makes the guns feel truly unique. Players can also use a new harvesting system to make food and better healing remedies similar to the Elder Scrolls games.
A game set in Nevada wouldn’t be complete without gambling. There are several opportunities to build a fortune in New Vegas. Several townsfolk will bring up “Caravan” which is their version of poker. Since you can save before engaging in any form of gambling, the risk has been virtually removed. This could be used to abuse the game, but some of the best items and equipment have to be found on enemies or made yourself so an infinite line of cash can only get you so far.
Fallout: New Vegas offers a fresh start that improves upon gameplay while faltering on technical execution. New players will appreciate the streamlined interface and the abundance of options to build their own avatar. Fans of Fallout 3 will feel right at home while enjoying the new locals and the spaghetti Western meets The Book of Eli presentation. The game’s biggest weakness comes from poor coding and day-ruining crashes that can wipe out hours of progress. New Vegas is definitely worth checking out, just be sure to save often and play nice with the locals.