Fallout: New Vegas – The PS3 Attitude Review
Fallout 3 was one of our favourite games of 2008, and we’ve been looking forward to Fallout: New Vegas for months, but has Obsidian Entertainment created a worthy sequel to Bethesda’s epic post-apocalyptic adventure?
In Fallout: New Vegas, you play as a courier who gets shot in the head at the beginning of the game, and is left for dead in an open grave. Your would-be murderer also steals the mysterious platinum chip you were hired to deliver, but thankfully you are rescued by a robot named Viktor. From there, you embark on a grand journey to track down the platinum chip, and decide the future of New Vegas and the Mojave Wasteland in the process; but more on that later.
As with previous Fallout games (and any RPG, come to think of it), the first thing you do in New Vegas is create a character. Customisation is pretty much exactly the same as it was in Fallout 3; that is to say, decent, but nigh on impossible to create a character that doesn’t look like they’ve been beaten repeatedly with an ugly stick. As a side note, a lot of the non-playable characters still look rather similar to each other, which detracts somewhat from the game’s atmosphere.
Much more satisfactory is the game’s skill and experience system. The S.P.E.C.I.A.L. (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck) attributes, skills, perks and experience all work in much the same way as they did in Fallout 3, with minor changes. The biggest addition is arguably a new skill called Survival, which affects how much health your character gains from eating food, and how efficient they are at creating items in the improved and expanded crafting system.
Not only can your character create weapons at workbenches, but now they can also create ammunition at reloading benches and various healing items at campfires. This means that there is a much larger number of potential recipes compared to Fallout 3, and so scavenging for raw materials has never been more important. Luckily, the Mojave Wasteland is a huge expanse, which is just asking to be thoughtlessly looted.
Overall, New Vegas’ main quest is definitely entertaining, and kept us interested up until the very end. Following the aforementioned downbeat opening, the game world opens up much more quickly than it did in Fallout 3. In a way this is a good thing, as Fallout veterans will no doubt be eager to start exploring the Mojave Wasteland as soon as possible, but consequently the introductory quests are far less epic than their Fallout 3 equivalents; there’s simply nothing in New Vegas’ opening that can compare with the first steps you take after escaping from Vault 101.
That said, the main story itself is pretty epic, and sees you shaping the future of New Vegas for years to come. We won’t reveal any spoilers, but the biggest issue currently facing the Wasteland is the power struggle between its two biggest factions; the military of the New California Republic (returning from Fallout 2), and the slave-driving dictatorship of Caesar’s Legion. It is not immediately clear who the ‘good guys’ are, and so it is up to you to decide for yourself. Your karma level (which we’ll return to later) may also affect who you choose to ally with.
The main quest is full of choices that have massive consequences in the story, and (as if the replay value wasn’t huge enough already) features four distinct endings (and many other sub-endings) depending on your decisions. It’s worth noting that, like Fallout 3, it’s not possible to continue after the end of the story, which is annoying, but it at least suggests that the PlayStation 3 will hopefully be getting some downloadable content sometime in the future.
However, as good as the main story is, it simply can’t compete with the game’s many and varied side quests. This is clearly something that Obsidian knows too, as New Vegas has over four times as many side quests as Fallout 3, and that doesn’t even include all the ‘free quests’ that are not recorded in your Pip-Boy 3000 (the PDA-like journal that is strapped to your character’s wrist and keeps track of all your stats, quests, equipment, and pretty much everything else besides).
You discover a fair amount of side quests as part of the main story, but others will require a lot of exploring. Likewise, some take less than five minutes to finish, but many will take well over an hour if completed properly. They are also incredibly diverse, and each tend to focus on a specific aspect of gameplay, such as fighting giant insects, investigating the identity of a traitor, or negotiating peace between rival factions. There’s much more we could discuss about side quests, but a lot of the fun comes from discovering them for yourself.
For the most part, New Vegas’s gameplay is much the same as it was in Fallout 3, which is no bad thing. The combat is as entertaining as ever, mainly thanks to the V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System), which pauses the action and allows you to home in on specific enemies and/or body parts. The subsequent explosion of blood and gore is often strangely satisfying in an ‘Oh my God, that’s disgusting!’ kind of way.
Outside of V.A.T.S., Obsidian has added the ability to look down your weapon’s iron sight when in the default first person view (although you can also play in third person if you prefer). This not only helps with accuracy, but also immerses you further in the game. Another new addition is the ability to gamble in games such as Blackjack and Roulette at New Vegas’s various casinos. The developer has also made further improvements to gameplay, which expand and improve on features in previous Fallout games, such as companions and factions.
In Fallout 3, you had the option to recruit a number of companions to join you on your travels, but you really only had a limited amount of control over them. In New Vegas however, you can interact with the eight potential companions in a much more direct way; you can talk to them, give them equipment and items, choose their tactics, and more. Many companions also have their own related side quest(s), and therefore feel like a much bigger part of the game compared to Fallout 3.
It’s also worth mentioning that your character gains XP from companions’ kills, which means you don’t have to worry about them stealing your kills. This is a very good thing, especially as they will often kill enemies before you’ve even spotted them. Another nice touch is that, whilst you can only have a maximum of two companions with you at any time (one humanoid and one non-humanoid), you can tell the others to meet up at your headquarters in New Vegas, and so they are always at your beck and call.
Factions also featured in Fallout 3, but in New Vegas they are a crucial part of the game. Your status with all factions and settlements starts off as ‘neutral’, but will increase or decrease depending on how you behave towards them. For example, do some quests for a faction and they may grow to accept, then like, and eventually idolise you. However, if you do something they don’t approve of, such as help out their rival faction… well, let’s just say they won’t like you so much.
It is therefore impossible to be simultaneously liked by all factions, so you must choose who you want to support. However, as aforementioned, it is not always clear if a faction is good or bad, which makes the choice much harder, especially as you also have the game’s karma system to contend with; you gain karma for morally good actions, and lose karma for evil actions. Your faction alliances also affect your companions, because if you make a decision a companion doesn’t agree with then they can (and will) permanently leave your service, in a similar way to companions in Dragon Age: Origins.
And finally, we couldn’t discuss new gameplay features without giving a special mention to Hardcore Mode. If you’re the type of player who thinks Fallout is too easy, then Hardcore Mode will either satisfy your craving or make you change your mind. In Hardcore Mode, ammunition has weight, companions can permanently die, and the player character can die of starvation, dehydration or even sleep deprivation, amongst other things. It’s nice to know that the option is there for Fallout veterans, but being the cowards that we are, we’ll be happily sticking with Very Easy Normal.
Like many things in Fallout: New Vegas, the menus, HUD and general interface are nearly identical to their Fallout 3 equivalents. This isn’t a bad thing in itself, as the menus are perfectly functional (after all, why fix something that isn’t broken?), but it still would have been nice to see some progression since the previous game. The Pip-Boy’s interface in particular is almost exactly the same as it was in Fallout 3, so at least Fallout 3 players should feel at home straight away.
It’s unfortunately the same story with the game’s graphics. When taken as a whole, New Vegas is far from being a bad-looking game, and the Mojave Wasteland (and New Vegas in particular) looks great, especially considering its size. Close-up textures and character animations meanwhile leave a lot to be desired, and despite a mandatory 4.5 gigabyte install, the title is also plagued with several performance issues such as frequent pop-in, slowdown and the odd freeze, as well as a number of other bugs and glitches.
Our first playthrough was brought to an abrupt halt eight hours in, after encountering a particularly nasty game-breaking glitch that made it impossible for us to continue. The game has since been patched to version 1.01, which according to Obsidian fixes over two hundred quest and scripting bugs, and another patch is on the way. Our subsequent time with the game has been largely issue free, but it doesn’t excuse the sub-par quality that the game was originally shipped in – after all, what about players who don’t have an internet connection?
Whilst the visuals are a mixed bag, the sound design is generally superb. Firing a weapon is often as satisfying as it is loud, and the echo of your character’s footsteps as you explore a seemingly abandoned building is one of the most haunting experiences on PS3. Equally impressive is New Vegas’s ridiculous amount of class-leading voice-acting, although with the likes of René Auberjonois, Michael Dorn and Matthew Perry on the cast list, the quality was always going to be stellar.
As you’d expect, every single line of dialogue is fully voiced (which incidentally is something that many Japanese RPGs would do well to learn from), which really helps you connect with the characters. As with the other sound effects, there is so much voice-acting in the game that it’s unlikely you’ll ever hear absolutely everything, even if you complete it ten times. For us, it’s this level of detail that sets Fallout apart from many other titles in the genre.
The radio stations are also fantastic, with musical legends such as Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, and Frank Sinatra all included on the usual ‘40s and ‘50s soundtrack. The dialogue is also of a high quality, and is often hilarious, which helps to make the Wasteland less intimidating. Our only complaint is that there just isn’t enough of it, and so you’ll likely hear each song and skit many, many times over the course of your adventure. The same can be said for the original music score; what’s here is extremely atmospheric and effective, but it gets repetitive quickly.
Simply put, Fallout: New Vegas is a brilliant adventure, and a worthy sequel to the awesome Fallout 3. With a huge world to explore, entertaining gameplay and class-leading voice-acting, there’s no doubt that it’s one of the best games of the year. Unfortunately, the catch is that it was created on an engine that was showing its age two years ago, with disappointing graphics and a plethora of performance issues including pop-in, often crippling slowdown, and even game-breaking glitches.
The fact that we’re still recommending this game despite these issues is a testament to how good Fallout: New Vegas really is. If Obsidian Entertainment continues to support the game through patches (and, later on, downloadable content) then what we have here is a title that is simply unmissable for both Fallout and general RPG fans. It’s not quite Fallout 4, but New Vegas will easily give you one hundred hours of content if you let it, and will most probably keep you entertained right up until the release of the next game in the series.
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