If your a regular of BN-Games.com, or know me personally, then you know about the utter decade of time I put into Fallout 3 once I got the “itch”. You will also know I gave it one of my most glowing reviews of any game on this list. It stands to reason that I would buy Fallout: New Vegas without a hitch, and enjoy it just as much. Fallout: New Vegas takes place in the western wasteland of Nevada. As the title implies, Las Vegas is the center city and main attraction of this title. Although Las Vegas is the crux of the plot and focus of the narrative in general, you will spend most of your time in the wastes of the Mojave desert in search of answers. Fallout 3 was a phenomenal game, and in my option a quality reboot for the series. Does Fallout: New Vegas bring anything new to the table, and can it stand up with its predecessor as another worthy addition to the Fallout universe?
Story: New Vegas wastes no time in getting you acquainted with the primary task at hand, as your character is killed by Benny in the opening cutscene after acquiring a poker chip from you. After being saved by a very creepy Securitron whose AI is that of a friendly TV Cowboy’esqe personality, you are off to New Vegas to find and kill the man who tried to murder you. In the process you are, for the lack of better terms, sucked into the struggle for control over the New Vegas strip and surrounding wasteland between the various factions. There are three primary factions that consist of the mysterious Mr. House whom controls the New Vegas strip and a small army of Securitron’s who will make quick work of lower level characters who want to try going on a murder spree. There is the New California Republic which often is only referred to as the NCR. The NCR generally want to control as much land as physically possible with the intent of strengthening the NCR as a new nation. On the other side of the river is Caesar’s Legion (Pronounced “Kaizer’s”) whose leader Caesar wishes to control the same territory of the NCR as well as the rest of the world. Where these two factions differ are very clear. The NCR, even though disliked by the locals of New Vegas, generally are peaceful and only want to be the ruling body. Caesar and his legion want to rule New Vegas with an iron fist, ban the use of any sort of Chems or other items of the same nature. In an early event in the primary story quest, you end up passing a ghost town. You quickly learn what Caesar and his minions are all about, finding the town sacked and the citizens crucified. There are many minor factions, all fighting for a piece of control all over the wasteland, all of whom need your help in reaffirming power for themselves. The majority of the time you will be busy assisting one faction, which typically means your undermining another on some level. NCR versus Legion is the most obvious, and the one with the worst consequences if you decide to side with on one over the other. Once you finally make it into New Vegas, the arc of the story becomes clear. There are certainly choices and paths you can take depending on who you want to help and who you don’t, but there isn’t much in the way of twists. It becomes a game of seeing the outcome to the end, the way YOU want it to end. This isn’t necessarily an issue, however it doesn’t have the same sort “What if” sort of quality FO3 did, unless you have no perception skills in real life and cant see the big picture. The Mojave wasteland is generally not quite as diverse and interesting as FO3 as factions play a bigger part in side quests. That’s not to say its bland, but I never got the same ping in my stomach when entering abandoned buildings and finding computers with logs. If I did have a narrative focused complaint, it is the severe lack of Audio Halotapes. In the 50 or so hours I put into New Vegas and seeing a great deal of the wasteland and its secrets, there were very VERY few audio logs to be found. Audio logs were definitely a borrowed idea from Bioshock in Fallout 3, and one of my favorite narrative devices in general which helped solidify the idea of the time that had past from the end of the war to present time better than anything else, or even story specific pieces. New Vegas definitely captures the ideas of an older Mob run Las Vegas, and you will certainly meet some crazy characters along the way. It is also my opinion that the White Glove Society is a nod to Bioshock by the developers, you’ll know it when eventually meet them.
Presentation: The Gamebryo engine that developer Bethesda has used since Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is really showing its age here, badly. Maybe its not the age of the tech, just the lack of QA and resources set aside to polish the title. If you thought Fallout 3 was inconsistent, just wait until you plunge into this mess. New Vegas’s biggest issue, and most obvious one to boot, is the framerate which never seems to hit or stay at 30fps, and just struggles when two or more characters are in your field of vision that need to be rendered. Texture popin is not subtle, its that “In your face!” popin that breaks the 4th wall and keeps reminding you that this is a video game. If it isn’t texture and geometry popin, its straight up freezing every one hundred yards or so for what seems to be a section of land that is being rendered before you can move. This seems to happen most often when out in the open wasteland just traveling to your destination on foot. Aside from general performance issues on the console versions of the game, you will find countless items, enemies, and NPC’s who are stuck in the environment like in rocks or through walls. You’ll find environmental geometry that has no collision detection that you can walk through, you will find floors you will fall through and get stuck in, you will find NPCs half sitting in there chairs, in the sitting position, just beside their seat, etc. In summary, you will find a ton of technical problems that plague the entire game, through the entire time you play the game, period. The artstyle of the wasteland is very much cookie cutter, and not just from this game. Plenty of textures and structure have been ported over from Fallout 3 shamelessly, implemented with some new additions. If you played as much Fallout 3 as I did, all of this will be obvious minute one of starting the game. If New Vegas had any saving grace in regards to its technical failings and visual and style execution it would be in the way of sound. Fallout New Vegas again borrows many sound bytes from Fallout 3 in regards to weapons and such, but the voice work is superb. For a game that focus’s on story, they definitely put in the leg work in the way of voice talent and script writing. I particularly like the differences between the different Casino factions, particularly the Tops. The environmental mix is great too, making that 5.1 really work. As with everything else though, the sound is tarnished with really poor song choices for the radio stations. Fallout 3 definitely lacked in the way of radio variety, and it appears that has become tradition. At LEAST the songs in Fallout 3 were upbeat, but in New Vegas this Johnny asshole and his guitar can go to hell as far as im concerned. Really the songs just make the world seem to drag and the radio was off for good about an hour into the game.
Gameplay: Have you played Fallout 3? Good then you know what to expect here. If this is your first time in the wasteland, your gun shots are all based on dice rolls in the background as this is an RPG based on your stats. So if your shooting from the hip, or down the sights as it were, even if your aim is dead on, if you don’t have the status your not going to make the shot. Distance makes this even more problematic for lower level characters. Personally I rely on VATS for nearly every shot. For those of you new to the wasteland, VATS is basically the RPG equivalent or queuing actions in combat which you would find in a good deal of RPG’s, specifically from Bioware. VATS Mode allows you to select specific body parts of your target and or targets depending how many action points your character has, and how many are used per shot on a gun for gun basis. These Action Points grow in number based on your level, and which perks you have selected. Most of the perks from Fallout 3 have been ported over without modification, but there are a few welcomed editions. One of my favorites so far is based on Plasma Weapons. When you kill a target with a Plasma weapon, the character will explode in a mini Plasma Grenade fashion damaging enemies within the blast range, which has resulted in some awesome multi-kill shots. In Fallout 3 you could have a companion depending on choices made during the narrative, and really if you put enough time finding these companions. Companions play a much greater role in New Vegas making most combat situations a breeze. You find these characters in various parts of the wasteland, which will have specific dialogue options in which to have them come along with you on your journey. Eventually you will obtain a suite where you can have the unused companions stay and swap them out at will. Each companion enables a perk that only occurs when they are traveling with you, however none of these perks really do much in the end. My favorite companion is Lily, the crazy Lady Nightkin who slays enemies with her Airplane-Propeller Blade-Sword. As I said, combat becomes a breeze with these characters as they kill everything and anything that targets you, often without you knowing. You will often find yourself looking at a slow-mo kill cam of an enemy your companion killed while running through the wasteland, never knowing you were being followed in the first place. In the casinos there are some forgettable mini games of blackjack, slots, and roulette which are fun for about 5 minutes, or the time it takes to get the brain dead easy trophies for playing the said activities a number of times. I suppose if you want to keep at it to earn money you can, but it really is a tedious way of collecting caps.
Special: Aside from technical and performance issues, and aside from the fact that the game WILL crash, and fairly often, I found another bug with the game. For anyone who plays alot of Rock Band (1, 2, or 3) and keeps the wireless sync dongles attached to your PS3 USB ports, you will find alot of trouble playing the game if they are plugged in. When the Dongles are plugged in, your character will often not respond to attack an enemy, and R2 appears or completely not work. If you have a USB cable plugged in from any of the Rock Band Dongle’s on one of their additional USB ports (You know so you can charge your controller) you will find after firing one shot your character will completely lock up for good. I make mention of this in this review as Rock band 3 was released recently in the same time frame and im sure someone will also run into this this holiday season as well. Fallout: New Vegas will have DLC, most of which will be exclusive to the Xbox 360 version for a time, but will come to the other platforms shortly after. Bethesda stated a big patch is on the way to help resolve alot of the issues listed in this review, but we have yet to see it. As someone who bought this title on launch day, put in a good deal of hours and completed the primary story path, I may not see this game in a more stable state regardless.
Conclusion: So its buggy as hell, it doesn’t look particularly good, and you will find yourself reloading the game often due to a crash or getting stuck in the environment. The story is not as fleshed out nor as interesting as Fallout 3 nor is the environment and the back story. So why would want to buy this game? Well either because you loved Fallout 3, or you put story over gameplay and even visual and technical fidelity. If you don’t have the patience to deal with the technical issues, then I would tell you to pass on this game. If you played and loved Fallout 3, then this really should be a no-brainier. This game will only satisfy people who have patience and love to explore for hours on end or people who do love good story telling even if this is inferior to its predecessor. Sadly for me Fallout: New Vegas is not the sequel I was hoping for, and will not hold the same status as Fallout 3 did in my collection. If you do not get bit by the Fallout “itch”, and you’ll know when you have, this game will be lost on you and you’ll wonder why you bought it. I enjoyed it even with all of its faults based on its strengths, however for the average consumer that will not be enough.
Fallout: New Vegas is a *** out of 5
By: Bobby Major