Review: Fallout New Vegas
The latest addition to the Fallout franchise is finally here in the form of Fallout: New Vegas. New Vegas uses the same exact graphic engine as Fallout 3. Unlike the previous installment, the content of New Vegas is designed by Obsidian, the company behind the original Fallout games, instead of Bethesda. I recently finished my first playthrough of New Vegas and it's time to give my impression of how New Vegas stacks up against Fallout 3.
As I mentioned earlier, both games use the same graphic engine and play the exact same way. It has been a few years since Fallout 3 so while the graphics are solid, they do seem a bit less impressive given that the engine is starting to age a bit. The gameplay is exactly the same in virtually every way. The same exact combat system using the VATS, the same exact controls for interacting with the interface, and the same exact menus in the pipboy. All of the old skills and perks have been brought back in their full glory (Bloody Mess!), and there seems to be a lot more weapons in this game then I remember ever seeing in Fallout 3. If you have played the previous game you will hit the ground running in New Vegas with minimal effort.
Without giving away any spoilers, the premise of the main story is that your character was a mail courrier who gets grabbed by some thugs looking for an mysterious item that you were tasked to deliver. After snatching the package from you, their boss shoots you in the head and leaves you for dead. Obviously you survive that gunshot and wake up with virtually nothing and start your journey to find the goons who tried to do you in and get some payback as well as answers. In this way the first part of the main story in New Vegas is similar to the first part of the Fallout 3 main story in that you are trying to follow the trail of someone you are looking for in hope of getting answers. Unfortunately just like Fallout 3, if you happen to find the location of this person by pure luck or you know where they are from a previous playthrough, you could easily end up bypassing the first part of the main story entirely.
The world itself is massive and is loaded with people to meet, places to go, and things to do. You could spend hours just wandering around off the path finding interesting places and side quests. There seems to be a lot more towns than Fallout 3 had, and the actual Las Vegas section of the map makes a lot more sense than the downtown Washington DC in Fallout 3. It used to annoy me that Bethesda made DC chopped into really small zones connected by subways that made getting around the city overly difficult and somewhat tedious, while Las Vegas is pretty much completely unzoned with the exception of the downtown strip section (which is surprisingly small given the hype it got in the previews). Regardless there is a massive amount of content to be found for those willling to explore and comb over every inch of the wasteland.
One of the major differences that really sets this game apart from the previous one is the role and emphasis that factions play in the game. Fallout 3 had the opposing sides, but most of the choices in the game were pure illusion with very little effect on the main story. At the end of the Fallout 3 main story, you pretty much were always in the exact same position with a very minor decision at the end that had a small impact on the ending of the game. New Vegas offers you a tremendous amount of freedom and choice when it comes to not only approaching how you tackle certain quests, but in deciding which factions you ally with. It is possible to play some of the various factions against each other, but at a certain point in the main story the game branches out into 4 different routes depending on certain decisions to make. These decisions have real consequence and determine how the end of the game will play out, and who you will be fighting for and against.
Again without giving any spoilers, I was not able to fully appreciate just how much the game keeps tracks of everything until the ending for the particular path I chose. I always thought Fallout 3's ending was very weak in that you got a 30 second little clip that really only made mention of a select few things you did during the game, as well as your karma. The ending to New Vegas not only concludes the story specifically with your main storyline choices, but delves deep into your handling of every side faction you enconter, as well as every companion (NPC controlled party members) you met along the way. I was frankly surprised that the game was keeping track of every little thing I did. This also means that the more you see and do through your playthrough, the more interesting your ending will be. If you rush through the game and never meet or interact with certain people or groups, they will be abscent fom the ending. The only main difference is that while New Vegas shares the same "karma" system as Fallout 3 for stealing and murdering, I really didn't see how it had any effect on the ending for acting like a total scumbag throughout the game versus being a stand up citizen.
One interesting addition to NV is the option to play in "Hardcore" mode. Hardcore mode makes the game substantially more challenging in a variety of different ways. The most notable is that you are required to keep your character fed, hydrated, and rested over the course of your adventure. Secondly, hardcore mode adds weight to ammunition in your inventory as opposed to normal mode where ammo has no weight associated with it to burden you down. Finally combat is different in that stimpaks heal over time instead of instantly, and sleeping will no restore life. These elements adds a sense a realism that some players may not want to deal with, especially in their first play though, but succeeds in making survival in the wasteland a lot more challenging especially since a lot of food and water sources can be contaminated with radiation (who would have thought drinking from toilets is bad for your health!).
Overall I feel that New Vegas is a better game than Fallout 3 in terms of the branching main story and real choices that have consequences that make the ending a lot more interesting. I think that these factors not only make the game better but add a good sense of replayability. At the game's conclusion you will be left wondering what might have happened had you chosen your sides differently and what content you might have missed out on because of those choices. It will probably take you several playthroughs to experience everything New Vegas has to offer, and while it is probably just as easy to blow through the game's main story as fast as it was in Fallout 3, you would most definitely be cheating yourself out of a solid game experience.
Co-Leader of Inquisition