by Christopher Park
previewed on X360
For a lot of Fallout fans, Fallout 3 was not Fallout. It was Bethesda's Post-Apocalyptic RPG and nothing more. For people who were introduced to Fallout through Bethesda's effort, Fallout 3 is their Fallout. How do you make a compromise? How do you try to get Fallout 1 & 2 fans interested, while not losing the fanbase that arose with Fallout 3? Here's how – Fallout: New Vegas. Hand over development duties to Obsidian Entertainment, a studio with former Fallout leads, while sticking to the engine and gameplay mechanics that defined Fallout 3's gameplay. It is the kind of compromise that has the potential to give way to new possibilities, and that's enough of a reason for all kinds of Fallout fans to get excited for New Vegas.
Sticking with familiar territory, Obsidian's taking the setting back to the West coast, where Fallout 1 & 2 both took place in. Set 3 years after the events of Fallout 3, this means it has been nearly 40 years since we heard of any of the events that transpired in the West since Fallout 2. With such a large gap of time, things have changed.
With Las Vegas as one of the few areas of the US not affected by the nuclear war that devastated most of the world, New Vegas continues to hustle and bustle, powered by the Hoover Dam. In the city is a power struggle going on between the New California Republic and Caesar's Legion and your involvement with these factions will determine the fate of New Vegas. The faction-warring seems to be familiar, at least in concept, like Obsidian's soon-to-be-released Alpha Protocol. Reputation will play a large factor, as karma is now intertwined with reputation, which will affect how either faction judges you. It is an extremely promising outline for how New Vegas might play and if Obsidian delivers on choices carrying tangible, world-affecting consequences, then that alone would make it a game worth playing.
The core of the gameplay mechanics of Fallout 3 underwent various tweaks and changes. Skill checks have been changed up a bit in dialogue trees. Dialogue options aren't locked off to players who don't have the appropriate skills to initiate a successful check. Instead a different line of dialogue with a failed response will be present, indicating that maybe, in another play through, you might revisit this point of the game with the appropriate skills present.
The Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, or VATS makes a return. There wasn't much to the system in Fallout 3. You aimed for the head and fired away with zero consequence; it was a combat method that was easy to exploit. So far, very little has been said of how New Vegas will bring any rebalances to V.A.T.S, but there will be a bevy of new weapons and special attacks.
The lack of challenge in the combat in Fallout 3 affected the game as a whole. It was a fairly easy game, with little in the way of genuinely tough scenarios. One way Obsidian plans to rectify this problem is with the introduction of a hardcore mode. This mode goes beyond just upping the amount of bullets you can take and how many bullets you need to give in order take down a raider. Stimpacks will heal over time, instead of healing instantaneously and dehydration is now a factor in surviving. Damage variables have been adjusted and perhaps the most welcomed inclusion is how ammunition will have weight values. Hopefully, it will be possible to adjust all the hardcore options to accommodate the needs of every individual player, but this new gameplay mode sounds like it will give New Vegas a sense of true survival that every Fallout game needs.
With all the various changes going into the game, the same can be said for the visuals. Due to the fact that this area of Nevada is a relatively safe zone compared to the completely destruction and intense radiation present on other parts of the world, New Vegas has a much richer aesthetic. Blue skies, green grass and unlike Fallout 3, New Vegas might consider what 200+ years can do to a bombed out US. We have seen real world examples, like how Chernobyl has developed into some of an urban forest, but I digress. New Vegas will have a different look, which is both refreshing and sensible.
Little bit of everything
With a Fall 2010 release date, it is hard to believe just how much Obsidian will be able to cram into Fallout: New Vegas with such a short development timeframe. It won't be as big as Fallout 3, but expect a game that will dig deeper into the rich lore of Fallout. It is about the closest thing to an actual Fallout 3 no-compromise fans will ever get and for other Fallout fans, this is more Fallout 3. There's a little bit of everything for all to look forward to and hopefully, Obsidian can pull it off.