Fallout 3 was probably the best game of 2008, its massive, interactive world allowing players to explore the ruins of an alternate reality Washington DC destroyed by nuclear war. I personally must have spent at least 100 hours roaming the Capital Wasteland, and I’m pretty sure that I still haven’t done everything in the game. The DLC added a lot more to do, but eventually the font of encounters was going to run dry. As good as Fallout 3 was, gamers wanted more.
Bethesda tapped the infamous sequel team Obsidian (known for Knight of the Old Republic 2 and Alpha Protocol) to deliver on a follow up. Their answer is Fallout: New Vegas, which hearkens back to the original games by way of having several members of Fallout 2’s team on staff at Obsidian. Making the trip back to the American West, New Vegas puts players in the boots of the Courier, shot and left for dead in the Mojave by Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry, for those of us who never watched Friends). Was putting Obsidian in charge of the sequel a good gamble considering their previous offerings?
One thing that Obsidian did right was nail the feeling of the original Fallouts, which managed to be more humorous than Fallout 3 did. While 3 did have its moments of levity, it was by and large a depressing game. The main hub of civilization, Rivet City, was carved out of a massive Navy ship, its iron walls standing against the Super Mutant onslaught. In contrast, New Vegas’ titular gambling town in a neon-lit beacon in the night, its other-worldly glow visible from half the map away. This alone marks the change in attitude from game to game and after marching through the Capital Wasteland for hours upon hours, the different tone was welcome indeed.
The writing for New Vegas is also much sharper than it was in Fallout 3, and the main quest line is actually interesting as opposed to being a nuisance like it was in 3. The quests are many and varied, and even ones that are beyond boring, like standing guard outside of a weapons dealership, are over fairly quickly or have multiple parts to keep things fresh. Alas, even Hemingway would sound like dross with bad voice acting, which New Vegas has in spades. The big name voice actors, like the aforementioned Matthew Perry and Star Trek veteran Michael Dorn, turn in great performances but the generic wastelanders all sound like Obsidian called their friends and families in one weekend to churn out the lines. There are a couple noteworthy offenders like the New California Republic General who sounds like he’s forced to sit through a boring lecture every time you come back to report on whatever critical mission he sent you on.
Though Obsidian obviously made strides to improve the main quest, they still lose points for having the game end after you complete the final mission for whatever path you decided to take. Even though the game can end one of several ways, depending on which faction you cast your lot in with, you’re still unable to go back to the Mojave after the credits roll. This time around, the ploy to get us to buy the DLC is almost too obvious so the game gets a slap on the wrist for that.
On a gameplay level, New Vegas is exactly the same as Fallout 3 except for the addition of being able to use the iron sights on your weapons, something that shooter fans will appreciate. Other than that, the game is a complete copy/paste in terms of graphics and playability, but Obsidian somehow managed to make the Gamebryo engine even more unstable than it was in Fallout 3. The graphics presented by the engine are also starting to show their age, especially in a year when we’ve had both Mass Effect 2 and Red Dead Redemption blow us out of the water in this regard.
Crashes and complete lock ups are common, and every bug that was present in 3 is back, but worse than before. Many of you have probably seen the various YouTube videos of the mutli-eyed dog and the twisting head of Dr. Mitchell, but these aren’t the only problems plaguing the game. I played New Vegas on PC, and even on a beefy rig it will still chug along at some parts. I could run Fallout 3 on maximum graphics with nary a slow-down, but New Vegas has draw-in galore and frame rate drops at the most unexpected times. While some may defend the game by saying that a large sandbox title is impossible to do adequate quality assurance on, even a testing team of ten would have found these bugs. I have at least two unfinished quests because the game refuses to acknowledge that I have completed them. Some essential non-player characters won’t spawn, and bringing the correct person to the correct place won’t trigger the appropriate response.
Despite the serious technical problems, New Vegas is more Fallout 3, so if you were a fan of that game, this will be something that will please you greatly. Obsidian didn’t try to add anything amazing on to what Bethesda did with Fallout 3, but rather built a giant sixty-dollar expansion pack. The same addictiveness is still there, and if you can forgive the bugs you will be sucked back into the world as soon as you get past the first loading screen.
I deliberated over the score for a while, moving between a B and a C, but I eventually decided to stick with C, defined on our chart as a “good game”. New Vegas is simply more of what people loved. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I enjoyed it greatly, but I won’t acknowledge it as raising the bar in a significant way for gaming. It’s another fantastic RPG experience that’s unfortunately dragged down by dodgy voice acting and annoying technical issues. If you were a big fan of Fallout 3 and its numerous expansion, pick New Vegas up. There’s enough content here to keep you busy well into next year, and the inevitable DLC will only expand on the engaging formula.
Alright, that’s what I thought about New Vegas! While the game was more of a step sideways than forwards or backwards from the last title, it manages to do enough with the standing blueprint to make it worthwhile. What about you guys? Anyone playing New Vegas, and what do you think of it?
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