OXCGN’s Monster Fallout: New Vegas Review: Post-Apocalypse Now!

America’s Post-Apocalyptic Playground

by exterminat

©2010 Nicholas Laborde

In my Medal of Honor review recently, I pointed out how we’re seeing a myriad of reboots lately. Well, in 2008, a reboot of some significance was released, and it was called Fallout 3.

Never in my life have I seen more people pick up a title and not realize that there was a number on the end of it, denoting the fact that it was not a new series or IP.

Most of the audience who partook in Fallout 3 had never heard of the series before, essentially leading Bethesda to establish a massive new player base. And since each iteration in the Fallout series is its own unique story, the game might as well have been called The Fallout Reboot (or even just Fallout, as with the current trend).

• Fallout New Vegas Trailer #1

Not too long after that, Bethesda was bought by Zenimax, officially transforming the revered giant into a publisher.

One major title under the reigns of this new publishing house is the topic today: Fallout: New Vegas. But ol’ Beth said that they wouldn’t be handling it this time… Obsidian would take the reigns.

Obsidian is quite an… “interesting” developer. Not necessarily known for their quality games (Alpha Protocol, KOTOR 2), people were (and still are) extremely skeptical of the decision by Bethesda to let them tackle this iteration of a perfectly brilliant, so-far unfailing series.

The reassurance? Most of the original Interplay team is at Obsidian, essentially securing New Vegas as a Fallout similar to the originals, and not just Fallout 3.5. A match made in heaven, perhaps?

Fast forward to August 2010, and I get to sample the game at QuakeCon, the United States’ biggest LAN party, now with Zenimax and +100% more promotional swag. All of my companions can tell you that I walked away from that demo booth extremely disappointed (and irritated that I wasted my time for this game, and didn’t get to try Brink as a result).

• Fallout New Vegas Developers Diaries #1

Here we are back in the present, and I’ve finally gotten my hands on the final release game code. So let’s just see how it stacks up shall we.

Fallout: New Vegas is set roughly three to four years after the events of Fallout 3, but differs greatly. While the game runs on the same engine and technology, it is in no way the same game as its predecessor.

Fallout 3 was set in the shattered remains of Washington, D.C. The United States was brought to it’s knees; the nukes had completely decimated nearly everything in that area, resulting in the Capital Wasteland that we came to know and love.

But Fallout: New Vegas? This is Vegas, baby (to put it in even more cliché phrasing). Surprisingly, but not wholly unexpectedly, Las Vegas (or New Vegas, as the game deems it) was spared the atrocities of nuclear fallout; the atmosphere, people, and landscape of it and the surrounding area are mostly intact.

• Fallout New Vegas Developers Diaries #2

One of the main differentiations of Fallout: New Vegas’s story from the rest of the Fallout series is that you do not come out of a Vault, and you were not raised in one.

You are a prosaic courier tasked with delivering a package to The Strip, but are intercepted by a shady group along the way. The leader of this group hopes to make your life easier by taking that mysterious package off of your hands, shooting you in the head and burying you. This scene alone provides for a ‘comme il faut’ Vegas cliché, and gives an impeccable first impression of what is to come.

But fear not, because in a future that is essentially in a primal state, we have the medicinal knowledge on how to fix a gunshot to the head. A peculiar robot named Victor glimpsed what had taken place, and immediately dug you up and brought you to a man named Doc Mitchell. The good doctor patches you up, and brings you up to speed on what exactly happened to you.

• Fallout New Vegas Trailer

This begins the glorious tale of one man’s devotion to his job and the extraction of revenge upon the man who killed him, to state it as exaggeratedly as possible.

Subsequently, the world opens up tout de suite, contrary to Fallout 3’s drawn-out opening sequence. There is an optional tutorial that provides extra experience, caps, weapons, ammunition and aid if you choose to do it, but other than that, the world is yours for the taking as soon as you leave Doc’s house.

It isn’t as hefty as Fallout 3 on famous places, but you do get a full recreation of The Strip and Hoover Dam.

Fallout: New Vegas manages to tell a tale that appears to be purely insubstantial on the surface, but as you get immersed into the expertly crafted atmosphere of the Mojave Wasteland, you realize the absolute genius behind the experience, and come to fall in love with the new environment and all of the entailment that goes along with it.

One of the major changes to the game is the alteration of the morality system. In New Vegas’s predecessor, your actions and decisions affected whether your character was good, neutral, or bad. New Vegas has done away with that system, and has chosen to focus on a faction control system instead.

This new system works the same way as the morality methodology: you can be viewed by a certain group of people as saintly, neutral, or demonic. Choices you make affect how different groups in the game treat you, and even affect what quest-lines are open to you.

• Fallout New Vegas Developers Diaries #6

Numerous groups are featured throughout this iteration of post-nuclear simulation. The two main ones being the New California Republic and Caesar’s Legion; the NCR being the Army-esque group, and the Legion being the general no-good scum (slavers, drug addicts, executioners, hedonists, etc).

Who you play your cards with (no pun intended) affects many decisions later in the game, but being careful is of the utmost concern: deciding to go against a particular group may lead to entire questlines being failed or unplayable as a result.

A major complaint in Fallout 3 was the lack of iron sights for your weapons, which made combat outside of V.A.T.S. fundamentally impossible. Luckily, Obsidian heard those complaints, and incorporated iron sights for every weapon in the game. Conventional combat is now possible, making the fun factor rise tremendously.

Sound is one of the most important factors that can make or break an atmosphere, and New Vegas’s does a great job of setting the mode. Rousing orchestral scores accompany combat, while gentle tones of mystery and suspense aid you on your wandering paths. If those don’t suit you enough, you can always turn on your trusty Pip-Boy and tune in to one of the radio stations that has amusing 50s-esque music.

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Another interesting new feature in Fallout: New Vegas is the ability to play a “Hardcore” mode. Before leaving Doc Mitchell’s house at the beginning of the game, you are prompted with this acquisition. You can choose to play the game normally, or try the new Hardcore mode.

The mode lives up to its name: stimpaks do not heal instantly, ammo has weight, and dehydration is a constant burden. If you want the game to truly be a survival experience, and not just an RPG, try it out. The “reward” that is promised isn’t what it’s hyped up to be, but you’ll have a memorable experience.

The content of the game itself is, for most of its entirety, new. Little is reused or borrowed for Fallout 3 (except a few environment portions, such as vaults and some underground areas), and it provides for a whole new feeling as a result. From a purely cynical point of view, it does nothing excitingly new or different from what has been previously experienced.

The quests all play out in a similar way, the storyline is a near mirror-image of Fallout 3, and it’s full to the brim of bugs and technical problems.  But when you get past the opinion of others and choose to garner your own feelings on the title, what you’ll find is a treasure trove of new content that should not be missed by anyone who enjoyed Fallout 3, or any Fallout title prior to this.

It most certainly is not Fallout 4 (and, for that matter, should not be viewed as so), but it is nowhere near simply being Fallout 3.5. Obsidian has managed to do the impossible considering their previous pedigree: impress me.

©2010 Nicholas Laborde

9 / 10

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I'm an American from steamy Louisiana, one of the most electronically deprived areas of the United States. I've gamed since I was four years old as a result, and plan to do it onto my deathbed. I discovered I could write in June of 2010 when I started a little site called Fans of The Genre with a few friends, and that eventually collapsed three months after due to social lives kicking in. No less than two weeks after that I discovered OXCGN via the community gamer gab competition, and become a staff member shortly after. In February of 2011 I was welcomed to the Editorial staff, then in March of 2012 I was promoted to co-owner... and here I am!

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