Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fallout: New Vegas

Written by Joe the Revelator

If the Jetsons and Mad Max had an irradiated, punk-rocking, leatherclad child, Fallout would be it. Bethesda has contributed another great RPG into the post-apocalyptic series and this time it’s wearing a sheriff’s badge. The quirky, mature, ultra-violent fun of Fallout 3 has been brought back. And what could have been a repeat of Bethesda’s 2008 hit has distinguished itself enough to capture the interests of the player for another go-around. The Vault Dweller can step aside for this one, cuz’ the California Mail Courier is on the case. (Courier, See; The Postman)

This is not your daddy’s wasteland;

Officially there have been five Fallout games; Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, Fallout 3, and Fallout: New Vegas. What began in Fallout 1 & 2 as clunky 2-D turn-based action game, in which your little character trots around a grid to increase your percentile chance to shoot at supermutants and ghouls, has evolved into the sleek 3-D realtime shooter with a magic panic button (V for Vats) that allows you to freeze time and perform attacks based on your character’s skills; again, to shoot at supermutants and ghouls. There was also an in-betweener squad-based tactics game, Fallout: BOS, which became a buoy after the original developers folded up shop, thus sending the entire Fallout line floating away into videogame limbo until Bethseda could rescue it.

The action in New Vegas gets kicking much quicker than the last Fallout game. Instead of an hour of establishing the vault dweller’s childhood background through tutorials, mini quests, and menu descriptions, you’re given a brief sharp-tongued apology from a greasy-haired gangster before he puts two slugs in your head and leaves you for dead in the desert. The screen goes black, and like a cowboy revenge movie of old, you wake up in the Doc’s office angry and burning for satisfaction. You’re taken through a quick spin with the menu options to pick your character’s generic-looking face and beard, a turn of the dial on a carnival test-o-meter grip to set your stats, and you’re ready to sling some hot lead.

The quests are equally reminiscent of golden age western cinema, those that don’t deal exclusively with fallout-themed motifs. (it’s hard to inject rat-pack and John Wayne values into a group of Brotherhood knights) Defend the town from a gang of escaped convicts. Save the frontier soldiers from the raider’s camp. Settle up old debts and accounts, etc. The gun-slinging and whisky-sipping prove effective as the game progresses too, as there are perks to support pistol skills and modifications for weapons, which means you’ll be less inclined to ditch your revolver when a laser rifle gets dropped in your lap.

A new feature is also offered at the beginning of the game; Hardcore mode, wherein the player must monitor their hydration/hunger levels and remain mindful of companions’ health, since they can die permanently instead of falling over unconscious. Greater challenges, as well as Faction-based quests and disguises, guarantee more than one playthrough. And like so many of the newer games that lean on the player’s online profile, this one through Steam, there are more achievements than you can shake a radscorpion at.

Bugs- Not the irradiated type;

Fallout: New Vegas doesn’t ride off into the sunset without any hiccups though. Almost every quest that deals with NPC’s following you around or getting ‘saved’ from capture is fraught with minor glitches. A quick look at the unofficial wiki or support site lists half a dozen methods to get around each fouled scenario, so they aren’t without hope or possibility of fixes in future patches. But there’s nothing as irritating as turning in an overlong quest, to find that the person who sent you chasing after a wild goose is hiding in the ethereal plane. Or when you’ve sighted a mutant’s head through the scope of a high-powered rifle, and the moment you pull the trigger his bloodspatter blinks and turns into your windows desktop.

I was sent on one particular errand through a factory full of killer robots. The first mechanical bully to stand in my way was given a 12-gauge shot to the chest, which recoiled him so hard that he flew rag-doll into a wall. Literally. His corpse got trapped inside the wall, and throughout the entire factory I could hear him clunking around like some clumsy metal poltergeist. Eventually I had to turn off the sound to finish my search of the compound.

The quests themselves will sometimes cancel out other storylines, forcing you to navigate through a web of missions that may or may not burn your chances with other factions or game companions. It stands to reason that killing a gangster’s boss will make him sore with you, but there are a few quest updates that will pop up on your screen without warning and neatly file itself away into your ‘completed’ or ‘failed’ list. So when in doubt, check ahead. I don’t often advise walkthroughs for games, RPG’s especially, but New Vegas is faction-sensitive enough to merit a quick peek at later chapters. Unless you really are the sort of devil-may-care type who doesn’t mind which side of the coin you land on, so long as the loot is rich.

When the gunsmoke clears;

New Vegas is witty and intelligent without going over the player’s head, and makes references to past installments without pandering too heavily to diehard followers of the Fallout franchise. The novelty of alternate quest-lines and endings are weighty enough to justify the price. The fights are hailstorms of bullets and explosions. The story is interesting, controversial with sharp twists. All in all it’s a good play, which will keep you rummaging through trash bins and bomb shelters while the computer overmind watches like you’re a hobo from 1984.


  1. That sounds pretty good except for the bugs. I think I would get it for the PS3 after the price goes down (and hopefully the bugs'll be patched out by then!).

    One thing I'm curious about: did you play Fallout 3 before New Vegas? To me, everything about New Vegas just LOOKS the same as Fallout 3, and I played Fallout 3 for soooo long that it is hard to get terribly excited by New Vegas. If you've played Fallout 3, what would you say to encourage someone to try New Vegas? It sounds like it has a different aesthetic/feel (Western) but I must admit that makes it sound more like an expansion than some sort of standalone game/sequel...

    But I definitely did enjoy your review, and I'll probably end up playing it regardless. Your response will simply help me decide whether I'll be willing to buy it at $40 instead of waiting for it to fall to $20 or $30 =)

  2. Sorry; you do reference playing Fallout 3. Answers to my other questions I'm still curious about, though!

  3. Oh yeah, as good as fallout 3 was, if you played the expansions you kind of get your fill of it. I definitely had trepidations about buying another Fallout. But I think it's the novelty of New Vegas that has kept me going. Some of the storylines of the quests are so bizarre...