Fallout New Vegas
- Street Date:
- October 19th, 2010
- Reviewed by:
- Nick Hartel
- Review Date:1
- September 30th, 2011
- Game Release Year:
- Bethesda Softworks
- Obsidian Entertainment
- ESRB Rating:
- M (Mature)
“Fallout: New Vegas” is not, I repeat, not the second coming of “Fallout 3” nor a true sequel. Yes, it uses the same engine and the game play is relatively unchanged, but backbone removed, “Fallout: New Vegas” is a game worthy of your time, taking what you likely loved about “Fallout 3” improving in many ways and only failing to impress in a few instances. Kiss the Capital Wasteland goodbye, forget about journeying from birth to your life defining moment, instead, head West young one, as the Mojave Wasteland awaits, and on the horizon, The New Vegas Strip looms, watching humanity cling to hope outside it’s imposing stone and steel walls.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
In “Fallout: New Vegas” you sort of do begin with a birth, a re-birth specifically as you are rescued from the grave (literally) and patched up, from a bullet to the brainpan that thankfully missed it’s mark, by the wise and haggard Doc Mitchell. Regaining your lease on life, the good doctor takes you through a few standard, fairly cleverly disguised character creation segments before you’re off and running, hot on the heels of the man who prevented you, the lonely Courier, from delivering a Platinum Poker chip to The Strip. Like your brothers and sisters in postage before you, you will see your delivery through…or at the very least track down your assailant and give him his bullet back.
For those familiar with “Oblivion” or “Fallout 3,” the basic game play should be familiar ground. On the surface, “New Vegas” looks like a standard shooter and generally things are unchanged. You can manually shoot the various weapons you encounter, but being as this is an RPG after all, if your skills are lacking, your weapon of choice might not be the most effective. Item selection and world map navigation are all clearly accessible from the press of a button through the returning Pip Boy interface. However, fans of the series will see improvements in combat through the addition of weapon perks and customizable ammo. If all this on top of a FPS experience sounds imposing, fear not, as VATS is back and just as good as before. If real-time fighting isn’t your forte, you can go into the VATS system yet again and depending on how many action points you have built up, set up a queue of attacks before being forced into a little real-time excursion as your action points build back up. As a “Fallout 3” veteran coming into “New Vegas” I’ll say the real-time combat feels a little more polished and balanced, and so far, my time in VATS feels like a fraction of the time I put into the previous game in the series.
Combat isn’t what has you coming to “New Vegas” though; no, you’re here for the story and the character interactions, all of which remain unchanged from “Fallout 3.” Temporary skill boosts however are a much beloved addition, offering players a temporary 10-point boost to a given skill, or 20-points should they choose the appropriate perk upon leveling. The game writers definitely put some thought into interactions with NPCs, allowing a character with poor charisma and likely poor speech skills to assist or bluff an NPC with a medically related issue, should the player have a high enough medical skill. While speech is an arguably valuable skill to have in “New Vegas,” there are some appreciated alternatives.
Story wise, “New Vegas” will seem deceptively simple and linear upon first playthrough. I clocked 12 hours into my first run, which all but ignored the plethora of side quests and ultimately a great deal of dramatic depth. Compared to “Fallout 3’s” search-for-dad plot line, “New Vegas” seems hackneyed and a letdown, but like any good treasure, additional digging is required, and upon a second playthrough, the subtle intricacy of “New Vegas’” Mojave Wasteland began to reveal itself. Gone are the simple options of being good, neutral, or evil. Yes, the Karma system is back, but supplementing it and eventually becoming more important, are the New Vegas factions. The Wasteland and The Strip itself are populated by groups of colorful characters ranging from wayward gangs such as the Powder Gangers or Great Khans to the bigger threats, specifically the NCR (the game world’s unified military) and Caesar’s Legion, an eerie roving force with a strong central outpost, headed by Caesar, an arguably insane fascist fighting against all opposition, brining back a Roman themed rule that is simply put, orderly and barbaric. When the player eventually arrives on The Strip itself, they’ll encounter the “upper class” factions or the Fallout universe’s equivalent of mob families running the remaining casinos.
As you take the time from your main quest line to get to know these factions dozens upon dozens of side-quests ranging from basic fetch missions to multi-tiered recon and strike missions will open up, each having their plusses and minutes, namely you please one faction and the cost of angering another. As with any “realistic” game world, you can choose to double cross your employer, making for a number of end game differences that will have you wanting to come back at least a few times. To put it in perspective, my second playthrough was clocking in around 20 hours and I hadn’t even reached the final act of the main quest, nor had I begun to fully explore all of the Mojave. To summarize as efficiently as possible, “New Vegas” isn’t a clear cut, three forms of Karma story. The people and groups you encounter will build on one another and come end game when tasked with important decisions, there will be emotional weight to your decisions and even the good Karma player will be presented a “lesser of two evils” scenario.
Adding to both story and game play, the more solidly integrated companion system is a bit of a double-edged sword. The simplest benefit companions provide are unique perks and support in fights, however, the AI which is designed almost solely for enemies, doesn’t translate the best to an NPC ally. I’ve had companions get stuck on objects as well as run headfirst into combat, resulting in some frustrating consequences, specifically permanent death in Hardcore mode. Yet, each companion has his or her own unique side story that the player can explore and in some cases, the outcomes affect the main story.
Also new to the Fallout series is Hardcore mode, an option offered at the start. The only benefits it has are an added level of realism to game play and a nice 100-point achievement should the player leave it turned on from start to finish. In a nutshell, Hardcore requires you to manage food, water, and sleep meters, making food and water more critical items to have on hand. Neglect any or all three and temporary (until dealt with) debuffs are applied to your stats. Hardcore also gives ammo a negligible but noticeable weight value, causes med packs to work over time rather than instantly, and require limb damage to be attended to by a doctor, by using a doctor’s bag or by risking drug addiction and taking a dose of the wonder drug, Hydra.
While not as outwardly original as “Fallout 3,” “Fallout: New Vegas” should prove a rewarding gaming experience for fans and newbies alike. Personally, I wasn’t impressed on my first run-through, but on a second go-around, I realized the obvious fact, that the side quests aren’t just filler; they’re vital to full enjoyment of “New Vegas’” tale of revenge and control. To reiterate, “Fallout: New Vegas” isn’t a rehashed “Fallout 3” story, careful planning was put into offering gamers a unique, new saga in a familiar game setting and in an RPG, story is everything. “New Vegas” isn’t a gaming masterpiece, but it’s still a top tier title and a must own.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
While “Fallout 3’s” graphics might have been a revelation, a few years later rehashed in “New Vegas” the seams and limitations of the engine are painfully obvious. Character animations are still stiff and in some cases, downright glitchy. I’ve seen a few times a minion model get stuck on some other object and end up looking distorted and out of proportion, although this is a very rare occurrence when compared to more drastic issues such as pop-in and poor rendering.
The nature of the outdoor setting results in the necessary evil of graphical pop in, but in close quarters interior settings this is a distracting issue. Likewise, some (almost always small) textures don’t fully load on occasion, but usually a camera movement or character movement solves this problem. The only other glaring graphical hiccup comes from the shadowing system that often makes no physical sense resulting in an out of the blue crosshatch effect on terrain. I don’t want anyone to think it’s all doom and gloom, because it’s not; the game is fluid enough in game play and plotting that your eyes will eventually adapt to the little graphical issues.
Thankfully, “New Vegas” isn’t plagued by slowdown, but that’s not to say it’s completely absent. It does occur once in a while, but nothing truly game breaking (especially with the VATS system to fall back on), but given the above average at best quality of the graphics in general, it shouldn’t occur much at all. “New Vegas’” graphics definitely aren’t a selling point, they merely exist, very competently to bring the Mojave Wasteland alive and on this level they succeed. Like the sound (more on that below), the graphics do get repetitive, even in the brightly busy Vegas Strip, which is truthfully, the same graphical design as the rest of the game but with a shinier finish and wider color palette.
Hopefully, “Fallout 4” will take advantage of the advancements being made in “Skyrim” much in the way that “Fallout 3” benefited from “Oblivion,” because if the next game looks like this, as Ricky Ricardo might say, there will be some serious ‘splainin to do.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
On the audio front, “Fallout: New Vegas” is impressive but lacking in a few key areas. On the plus side, the massive cast of characters are all brought to life by a phenomenal voice cast, from Ron Perlman reprising his vital role as narrator, to Michael Hogan as the grizzled doc who saves you, all the way to the pitch perfect insane genius of Rene Auberjonois as the impossible to read Mr. House, you won’t be disappointed.
Likewise, the game also impresses by creating a solidly immersive experience, with your surround system best put to use off what is left of the main road to The Strip. A simple trek over hills can be a nightmare as the sounds of unseen foes quickly close in you, only to be fully in your face as you whip around to stave off an attack. On the other hand, repetition is a critical detractor in this installment of the series. While the various weapon classes have distinct sounds, individual weapons tend not to. A few hours into the game and gunfire just became background noise. Additionally the little aural cues for critical hits, regular attacks and/or misses equally blend into the background. To make matters worse, the effects don’t have the desired kick one would expect and some are downright shrill.
Lastly, while “Fallout 3’s” vintage soundtrack was generally well received, it also had a little more variety. In “New Vegas” you will quickly tire of many songs, which just don’t muster up to the 30s’ big band fare. The bright spot is Wayne Newton as Mr. New Vegas, who serves as the Wasteland’s de-facto commentator. It’s a nice addition given Newton’s history with the real Vegas.
The replay value of “Fallout: New Vegas” shone especially bright for me, given my quick (well , 12 hours for a “Fallout” game is quick) initial run through the main story. On a second playthrough, the wonders of the Mojave as well as the small but complex Vegas strip itself were revealed. While the initial storyline is arguably less “epic” and looser in terms of actual structure than “Fallout 3,” “New Vegas” is a creature of subtlety. The faction focused storytelling makes it incredibly hard to identify “good guys” and “bad guys.” Even Caesar’s Legion in all of it’s fascist, crucifixion obsessed glory make valid points as to why they are a better alternative to warring small factions of the cloaked oppressive nature of the NCR. The player willing to stop and smell the irradiated roses will find many little side stories and quests populating the landscape, from desert outposts to fortified mountaintops of Super Mutants. The more a player engrosses him or herself into “New Vegas’” mythos, the more the final endgame decisions will weigh on their conscience. The bottom line is the faction based element makes multiple playthrough incredibly rewarding, offering in some cases no clear cut way to be a hero or villain to all.
While showing it’s seams and limitations from a purely technical standpoint, “Fallout: New Vegas” is a different beast than “Fallout 3.” It’s an exercise in subtlety that offers what few single player games offer any more: replay value. The complex faction driven storyline and multiple side-quests will ensure that each new playthrough offers something new and add to that, the options for different play styles, and “Fallout: New Vegas” in some ways trumps it’s amazing predecessor. Highly Recommended for all gamers.
- Dolby Digital 5.1
- DLC content
All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More
about our gear.
Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.