War. It never really does change. The question at stake is how does a game developer revive a decade old franchise into a triple-A game of the year and quickly meet the public’s demand for a follow-up? Bethesda has the answer. Turn the game back over to its original developers that hold on to what they had previously achieved so greatly with Fallout 3.
Fallout: New Vegas successfully manages to throw players everywhere back into a war-torn wasteland with nothing but a vault suit, “pip-boy”,and a pathetic excuse for a weapon, and carry the player on a seemingly never-ending journey that is not only entertaining, but captivating, just as its predecessor had 2 years ago.
It hammers in the idea with style and flare that not only does New Vegas successfully bring back what made adventuring the capitol wasteland so fun in Fallout 3, but that it could be made better by tweaking the faults and implementing the ideas from the fans. These ideas include a new location, new weapons, more crafting, better companions, a system of factions, moral choices, extensive detail, and challenging players with the simple difficulty of surviving in harsh environments.
The first thing that New Vegas manages to imprint into the series is the unescapable similarity to Fallout 3, in terms of the feel of the game. This is not just because Obsidian, the developing company behind the new installment, kept the engine and style that Bethesda integrated into the series with their revival of the franchise, but also because of the environment that the player is instantaneously thrown into upon walking outdoors for the first time.
Although not directly hit by the bombs in the U.S.’ war with China, the chaos, anarchy, and dangers of the Mojave Wastelandis clearly not one to be tampered with. Everyone in the game’s world is with and/or against someone else, and players find their character constantly thrown into the middle of the ring, having to decide their own fate, as well as the fate of others and the land they inhabit. If that is not enough, there is a plethora of gambling and guns for players to play around with in their off-time.
Although the game feels strikingly similar to its predecessor, there are many things that Obsidian decided to implement in order to widen the horizon of each players adventure. One of the most daunting is the new “Hardcore” game mode. This allows players to face the challenges of keeping their player hydrated, fed, and well-slept while adventuring through the wasteland. This provides a sense of “life or death” survival gameplay that is not achieved very often in gaming. It allows players to feel that much more involved and challenged in the RPG and allots a higher sense of realism.
However, this is not to say that it is an entirely realistic experience. If one expects it to be they may be disappointed, as one might find themselves journeying for 3 days (game-days) straight without suffering from sleep depravation. That being said, Hardcore mode is still able to instill players with a whole new aspect of play.
The location of the new installment was a fairly controversial subject soon after its announcement to fans. Obsidian decided to take players away from an area that was directly hit by nuclear and atomic bombs and place them somewhere that technology was blooming again, with intact sky-scrapings and even better than that…circuited electricity!
By making the setting the remnants of Las Vegas, or due to post-war growth, New Vegas, the player is guaranteed that just because there was not a bomb that hit somewhere nearby, players would still be guaranteed the vast desert (thanks in-part to the war-scarred Mojave desert) that players grew to love in Fallout 3. On top of that, they can take their journey inward to the strip itself, and gamble their hearts away in the accurately re-created casinos that modern Vegas veterans would not be slow to recognize.
Obsidian also decided to double the size of the player’s personal armory with an impressive amount of weapon customization, modification, creation, and discovery, and not like Left 4 Dead 2 did. Whether it is energy weapons, pistols, mini-guns, snipers, or rechargeable blasters, players will find themselves ever-curious to the various combat styles that are available to them.
The new weapon modification system gives them the ability to expand the use of the boring weapons (e.x. hunting rifle). Plus who doesn’t enjoy turning a standard 9 mm pistol into a hand-cannon with a scope and laser-sight. Or turning a gatling gun into…well…a bigger, faster, gatling gun.
They also added in new ammunition, like hallow-point rounds and armor piercing bullets to hoard up until the big guys come out to fight. From carbines to automatic grenade launchers, players are sure not to find themselves empty handed, no matter what the situation.
Looking back at Fallout 3, it was so frustrating watching Dog-meat get launched by a super mutant with a sledgehammer over and over. Or be running to a new location, and turning around to see my Mister Gutsy or Jericho get killed hundreds of yards away because they ran off to attack some army of Radscorpians in a canyon that I was no where close to.
This is an issue that Obsidian fixed with the new companion wheel. It allows the player to fix what they want their companion to do without going through 10 minutes of dialogue to do so. Having said that, there are still some issues. Specifically when trying to sneak, a specific companion will blast patriotic music and draw the attention of the previously oblivious raiders that a player was sneakily about to prey upon after 15 minutes of slow walking around their camp. Other times however, they work perfectly. Whether or not this gets fixed in upcoming patches is unclear.
The story of the game sets it apart from any of the other installments in the franchise. It is the first to not have players start off inside a vault. Instead, it throws them into the world in true Vegas style. With a shallow-grave and a gunshot to the head. They also expanded upon the story differences when playing as male opposed to playing as a female. They are extensive, and quite impressive to those looking for a higher-replay value and unique interaction with the opposite sex. There is also the implementation of a “interrupt/intimidate” talking option perk that allows players to interject their scariness into the conversation and send mobs running. Somewhat similar to the one that was used in Mass Effect 2, without the cinematic awe.
The game is not all flowers and treats though. There are numerous times where I found my game freezing up, or I would get stuck on top of a tree, in a cave, or some other earthly niche that I was really hoping I could jump on top of. The graphics are not as up-to-date as many may have hoped they would be after Obsidian said they improved them, however in the scheme of things, I feel the graphics, which some would call very poor, are not horrible when one looks at the detail of the world that they roam.
The most noticeable change in graphics is on character’s faces and in the character creation. It’s slightly more challenging to create a character that looks like they were run over by a truck compared to Fallout 3. The reloading system that they attempted to put in is clever, but ultimately annoying due to the lack of collectivity of items needed. As well as the cooking and campfire creation.
Fallout 3 carried a karma system that rewarded and hurt the player accordingly. New Vegas took it a step farther, and created factions for players to side with. When one helps one side, they hurt their reputation with the other, and henceforth, pushing the character further along down their path to deciding the fate of the Mojave Wasteland. Every action, quest, and NPC in the world somehow affects a faction, one way or another, and this adds an entirely new motivation for the decision making of the player. This faction system sometimes downplays the karma system by making karmic decisions more difficult to discern while the game of “who is good and who is bad” dominates.
The beginning of the game is difficult for some people to get a hold of when compared to the simplicity of the “vault” tutorial that Fallout 3 had. Players can get lost after stumbling outside searching for where to go, who to side with and where to find resources needed to succeed. This game is definitely not made for people with the attention span of a goldfish or the patience of a toddler. It is challenging, and sometimes frustrating.
In conclusion, Fallout: New Vegas not only successfully draws players into the Fallout world once again, but does so with flying colors. Its addictive gameplay and expansive world allow for players to truly have an exceptional RPG experience. The new installation’s developers did a good job of not causing overkill on the added abilities and tweaked gameplay like Valve did with the Left 4 Dead series. Returning the franchise to some of its original principals not only paid off, but did so with style.
Fallout: New Vegas was released on October 19th, 2010.