“War…War Never Changes”
…or so the smooth voice over of Ron Perlmen reminded me as I entered the Fallout Universe for what seemed to be at least the twentieth time in my life. Starting fresh, Fallout: New Vegas dazzles and delights from the off with a cinematic of great proportions. A NCR Sniper trooper wielding what can only be deemed an Anti-Material Rifle shoots down what looks to be a Raider. Meanwhile a group of people dressed in Roman-esque garb are overlooking the affair, peering into the depths of the city of New Vegas. At this introductory stage, I am still worried that this will be a glorified expansion pack to Fallout 3, and not worthy of my (or your) time.
Then we hear the voice of our reliable narrator Ron, someone who has been with us since the very first Fallout. He tells us in depth about the world that we are about to be thrust into, outlining the superpowers, and how some of the basics have evolved since the events of Fallout 2. That is correct, the game is already throwing homage to its predecessors and it is doing it in the right way. But the best is yet to come.
My curiosity is instantly piqued as the camera pans over three people digging a makeshift grave with a bound figure beside it. Suddenly thrust into first person it becomes apparent that I am that figure, and the men are two tribals being led by a man in a checkered suit. The latter talks to me for a bit, before pulling out a gun and telling me how much bad luck it must seem I am having. Just before the hot lead enters my skull, his words echo in my ear - “The truth is...the game was rigged from the start”.
Shit just got serious.
The Fallout We Always Wanted?
Bethesda have to be noted for their admirable efforts in Fallout 3. It was an enjoyable experience despite often lifeless characters and quests of little global significance – definitely worth my time at least. But ultimately, Fallout 3 only managed to feel like a game using the Fallout Universe as a backdrop, whereas New Vegas feels...well...like the third should have done.
Developer Obsidian Entertainment have been shunned as of late for its rather lacklustre game; Alpha Protocol. The truth is that no studio could have done a Fallout game better (not suprising considering that a lot of the team worked on the original games). While it was certainly made with Bethedsda's Gamebryo engine, every single unique NPC in New Vegas seems to have been created with their own life, ideals, and goals. Better yet, your actions actually have a resounding effect not just within the confines of the Mojave Wasteland in which you find yourself, but echoing all the way across the the entire US continent.
New Vegas takes place 3 years after the events of Fallout 3, and a staggering 39 years after Fallout 2. Fallout 3's events are barely referenced, which is not suprising considering their distance from New Vegas. However the events of Fallout 2 are regularly made homage to, increasing the game’s charm for the long time fans of the series.
You play as a courier, who was trying to deliver a package from the small town known as Primm, all the way to the New Vegas Strip. The package contains a poker chip made of platinum and is the reason that your character was assailed in the first place. Unlike Fallout 3, your character has no traceable back story and your only motive is to pursue the man who tried to kill you. In doing this you find yourself deep in the middle of a triangular power conflict, with each opposing side attempting to use you for their own gain. In Fallout 3 many of the choices you made were black and white, but here there are so many shades of grey that it is often not clear what the effect of any action might be. This aspect is partly what made the original Fallout games so charming and is perfectly nestled within the retro-futuristic stylings of New Vegas.
How About Some Realism?One of the numerous additions in New Vegas is a Hardcore Mode. This mode can be selected independent of difficulty settings and adds a psuedo-realistic feel to the game. Using this mode, your character has no choice but to eat, drink and sleep in order to survive, companions can (and will) die, and healing items are not instant fixes. It adds an additional oppresive feel to the already dark tones surrounding New Vegas with my only complaint being a few flaws to the system. Everything must be micromanaged to the extreme, which sometimes takes away from the game as I groan and enter the menus looking for my bottles of water. Speaking of which, an ability to refill those bottles would have been a welcome addition - apparently my character is so thirsty that he rips into the side of them, making them unusable for further refilling.
On a brighter note, this mode is something that brings life back into the game for veteran Fallout players as you have to apply an unusual skillset to ensure survival. For instance, without significant Medicine or Survival skills your healing items are so basic that they are almost worthless. With even ammo having weight in this mode, improving your Unarmed/Melee skills cannot be overlooked either. Every time you see an item in the world it seems your fate is decided upon your choice – should you pick it up, or carry on searching? All of a sudden that Blamco Mac and Cheese on the shelf that was just there for decoration in Fallout 3, ignites as much excitement in you as finding a new weapon in New Vegas's Hardcore Mode.
Amazingly realistic world with great characters, stories and imagery. This is what Fallout 3 should have been.
Severely dated engine and the same bugs that plagued Fallout 3 lead to a less-than-perfect experience.