Game Review: Fallout New Vegas

Ranger at NV
While the rumors about Fallout 4 have persisted for a couple years now, I recently went back to the most recent entry in the Fallout series! Thanks to youtubers like ShoddyCast and their “Fallout Lore” series, I’ve been more than excited for getting back to the wastelands! While I could easily write endless pages about the entire series, I want to focus New Vegas since I replayed it very recently. Let’s ride into the sunset with Fallout New Vegas!

Fallout has been a series I’ve been hooked onto for years! From the moment I installed 1 and 2 on my Windows 2000 to the moment I got a chance to replay New Vegas. Hell, even now I eagerly await more news on the upcoming game! Something about the series has always appealed to me; apocalyptic wastelands, weird mutants, action-rpg mechanics, morbid sense of humor, and tongue-in-cheek satire. With a universe as strange and expansive as Fallout, how can one not get into it? And for a post-apocalyptic setting, the messages can be slightly hopeful at times! Fallout from the very beginning has been about rebuilding from disaster and by all means, most of us can relate on some level. Perhaps this is why I preferred New Vegas over 3. Don’t get me wrong, 3 had excellent environments and characters, but it lacked the self-aware humor and crucial choices that Fallout is famous for. But digressing, New Vegas came out in 2010 for the XBox 360, PS3, and PC systems. It released by Bethesda and developed by Obsidian Entertainment; most of whom helped to create the originals. As such, this game features a lot more throwbacks to the classic series.

This game keeps the barren wastes and decaying ruins of the classics, but injects a sense of the Old West. Being in that region of the States, it’s kind of hard to avoid it. But hey, the “Weird Western” mood meshes with Fallout perfectly. In fact, Goodsprings looks and feels a lot like an old frontier town. The only thing the Saloon was missing was an active player piano, at risk of going too far into kitsch. Beyond the starter town, you feel like a “Man with No Name” type of character as you sort out issues with law, bandits, and more. And when you’re not doing that, you’re wrestling with the harsh desert environment. One could say that much of the ambient soundtrack by itself could work for other western-themed video games.

Since the game bills itself as “New Vegas”, there has to be something about the Strip! As you’d expect, we’re treated to a recovering town filled with bizarre Vegas sights, Fallout Style! Tribes have secret feuds between the casinos and bars they own, while you waste every cap you have trying to strike it big. That said, the Strip feels way too small and empty. The actual Las Vegas strip is tons more interesting! You could say the Courier came when cleanup was put on hold thanks to the NCR and Legion War, so I guess there’s a good reason as to why New Vegas doesn’t look finished… That or the developers didn’t want to do more from there. Either way, this is easily fixed for PC users via a wide variety of mods that massively improve the strip’s sights and lights!

But, this wouldn’t be a fantastic RPG without a wide variety of characters to interact with. Each companion that joins your quest has their own viewpoints and agendas, resulting in making your job easier or rife with even more conflict and turmoil! For example, Boone is a veteran of the NCR, so pissing off the New California Republic is not acceptable in his eyes. Another example is Veronica. While she’s tied to the ultra-paranoid Brotherhood of Steel Mojave, she’s willing to explore and communicate with others. This can lead to a whole faction you align with getting wiped out… by accident! Or in another scenario, on purpose! (You monster!) On top of that, your knowledge in various fields will make or break you when trying to reason with the many factions of the waste. One passed Science/Repair/Explosives can save you from blowing yourself up, after all! Even the minor characters feel pretty interesting in this game, each of them carrying their own secrets. Along with those secrets, every character aligns with a different set of ideals and morals. Since you’re a blank slate, it’s up to you have the Mojave is shaped! Do you lead the NCR to a more Democratic world? Do you take arms with Caesar’s Legion to bring a new order to the wastes? Do you side with Mr. House and help to bring his World of Tomorrow? Or do you go Independent and travel your own path? The choice is yours and yours alone. There’s no objective morality to tell you what to do (unlike in Fallout 3), you create your morality. During my first run, I went full on independent… albeit as a violent sociopathic nightmare with atrocious karma. This run, I sided with the NCR and did my best to diplomatically sway others to my efforts! By the end, my only enemies were the Powder Gangers (from some stupidity at the start of the game) and of course The Legion.

Beyond the vanilla game, the expanded DLC only adds to the story. More rumors in the wastelands, more struggles to face, an and ultimate decision that will push your morality to the edge! Personally speaking, I enjoyed all of the expansions for different reasons. Dead Money was a stark survivalist scenario that made the character start weak and vulnerable again! This is quite transition from being a power house just moments before. You’re forced to keep moving and stay hidden, lest you risk getting battered or killed from traps and monsters. That said, the difficulty gets aggravating at times. Unless you look hard, it’s a pain to deactivate the radio bombs that kill you if you’re stuck in an area for too long. Couple that with the Poison Fog that coats the Sierra Madre and you’re in for a world of pain… especially if you can’t see the traps and monsters that blend into the fog. And one more thing, invincible hologram monsters. Luckily you can get past most of that, through VERY high level and high skill set. Honest Hearts is significantly more lighthearted. In Zion Canyon, the focus is on tribal conflict and the mysterious “Burned Man.” To avoid giving much away, Caesar is scared of his Ghost Story for a pretty good reason. Instead of dodging traps, evading warriors and a hostile environment replaces the urban adventuring of the last one. Next up is my favorite, Old World Blues! Pretty much imagine every Midnight Movie/B-Movie trope inside a secret mountain base. In the Big MT, contend with weird experiments of SUPER SCIENCE! Robo death scorpions, zombie cyborgs, and evil toasters are only the beginning! To top it off, Lonesome Road is the showdown between two carriers. This rival carrier wants to see what you’re made of. However, his agenda is much more insidious than that… and judging by his temple of Old World relics, one can make guesses.

Mechanically, Fallout New Vegas is a happy mix of shooter and roleplaying game. While I enjoy the top-down Baldur’s Gate style of the originals, I find the gameplay of New Vegas to be refreshing. It lets me indulge in some shoot-em-up style while giving me the chance to level up a character, interact with others, and even avoid conflict all together. That isn’t to say the programming isn’t without its weaknesses. While I enjoy the faux-bullet time of VATS (a carryover from Fallout 3), sometimes the animations play out way too slowly. But, as always, there’s a mod for that. And since this is a Bethesda title, we can expect a lot of bugs; some of which are game breaking. Whether it’s flying heads on the Strip or falling through the stairs and auto-dying, this game is chock full of horrific bugs. In fact, the patches probably took care of maybe half of them. It’s no wonder Bethesda has the nickname, “Bugthesda.” But, with some tinkering, it’s possible to still have a good time without too many problems arising. And even then, enough thick skin can get you past the game sans patches and mods. But, even that won’t stop Bethesda’s tendency to make NPCs freeze up and stare at you in an uncomfortable way while they talk with you. It’s like they’re watching their ever move. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to kill them and take their stuff… Well, not most of the time!

All in all, replaying New Vegas was just as rewarding of an experience as when I first played it during release. In fact, I clocked in around 150 hours total from my replay! If that doesn’t show some level of satisfaction, I don’t know what does. So, if you’ve never experienced a Fallout title, New Vegas might be a good place for the new gamer to start.

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