We’re going back to the West Coast with this title, back to the world of New Reno, The New California Republic, and Vault City. It’s been a long time since the Vault Dweller thwarted the mutant tyranny of The Master in Fallout 1 — echoes of his accomplishments still reverberate throughout the wasteland. The NCR has expanded far to the east and the battle for Vegas has arrived. As soon as the NCR reached Vegas their rivals to the East, Caesar’s Legion, did the same. Now these two ideologically opposed factions butt heads over the control of Hoover Dam, the major electricity provider for the Mojave Wasteland.
Meanwhile the enigmatic lord of New Vegas, Mr. Robert House, tries to acquire a long lost piece of technology, a small platinum poker chip. He’s spent a lot of cash getting it back and uses the Mojave Express to hire a Courier to deliver it to him. You are this Courier, ambushed by a man named Benny and his hired Great Khan goons. He caught you just outside of the little town of Goodsprings, shot ya in the head, and left ya for dead. Quick action by the local robot guardian, Victor, saved your life — robot got it in his brain to drag you to the local sawbones.
Back on your feet New Vegas is now your playground. Wanna get revenge? Want to leave the past behind and find a new life? Want to explore the wastes and the realms beyond? Go for it, do whatever, there’s no wrong answer. But all roads lead to Vegas and remember, the House always wins.
So, it’s 2008, Fallout 3 was a critical and commercial success, but Bethesda is busy making The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. How do they capitalize on this Fallout Fever, this Nuclear Malady, this Wasteland Zeal? They call up Obsidian Entertainment, a company founded by Black Isle Studios veterans (Remember those guys? The ones who made Fallout 1 and 2). With a team directed by Josh Sawyer, of Interplay fame, they wanted to return to the West Coast and make a game set between Fallout 2 and 3 but Bethesda put their foot down on Pre-Sequeling. They did like the idea of a Vegas based game however. So Obsidian went to work, recycling ideas that were created in the discontinued Van Buren project, to continue the story they had abandoned 4 years ago — recycling things like Caesar’s Legion for instance.
Fallout New Vegas was released on October 19th, 2010. It’s competition was Super Meat Boy (XBLA), Dragon Age: Origins – Ultimate Edition (PC, XBox 360, PS3), and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (PS3, XBox 360, PC, Wii, DS).
New Vegas is a masterful combination of mechanical complexity and raw experience. Between the quests, how they effect your interactions with the game’s factions and people, and the bizarre — but compelling — scenarios presented in the game and DLC the whole thing hits so many points it would be overwhelming if executed poorly. I would have to say that Obsidian most masterfully executes this dance between mechanic and meaning in The Lonesome Road DLC. It’s hard to believe it accomplishes so much. It was able to revive a character the writers were having a lot of fun with but had to cut, Ulysses.
What started as a mystery brought along by his appearance in playing cards packaged with the pre-order edition evolved into a full blown manhunt in the face of his attitude and presence in the various DLC campaigns. He’s always one step ahead of the player, he’s this enigma that serves as a sort of shadow for The Courier. Except you’re his shadow forever behind him until you finally meet on The Lonesome Road. A figurative high noon, where a shadow meets its source. The pursuit asks questions about player vs. character identity and the nature of identity as a whole. It went as far as to redefine one of the great riddles of the series — I mean, who would Obsidian be if they did not know their history?
In short, this game has a lot of things going on, running the gamut of experiences. It manages to showcase them all without coming off as exhausting or pulling itself in too many directions like, for instance, Elder Scrolls games tend to do
Didja read the Fallout 3 gameplay section? No? Then read that then read this. New Vegas introduces more in depth factions like cities, towns, the NCR, crime syndicates, and New Vegas neighborhoods. When you do right by them, they’ll do right by you and if you take advantage of, or outright kill them, don’t expect them to lend a helping hand. This system interacts independent of karma so you can still be a cold blooded bastard even though the Great Khans treat you like royalty.
The maximum level with no DLC additions has been boosted up to 30 from 20 but you only get half as many base skill points as you did in Fallout 3 and perks are only awarded every other level, so choose wisely. The DLC raises the level cap up to 50 and unlock new perks and character traits.
DID I JUST SAY CHARACTER TRAITS?! That’s right, traits make a triumphant return. Traits are passive and subtle alterations to your character that help customize your aesthetic, narrative realness, or playstyle. For example Four Eyes which confers a perception bonus if the character is wearing glasses or a penalty if they’re not. And of course, I can’t leave out the inclusion of Wild Wasteland. Were you missing all the crazy stuff that used to happen in the classic Fallout games? Spent too much time in 3 searching for The Tardis or Monty Python’s Bridge of Death? Well, take the Wild Wasteland trait and you can now find the peculiar wonders of the Mojave.
New Vegas manages an impressive balancing act between elements of Fallout’s past, the completely new, and a cowboy aesthetic in a way that creates a bizarre world composed of the immediately recognizable. Not since Shadowrun’s 6th world have I seen such a cohesive setting with so many disparate elements.
This game offers far more player choice than the previous installment while keeping it all relevant. The Dam is an important resource whether you support Caesar’s Legion, The NCR, or Mr. House. They will all appreciate your services whether you’re truly devoted to their cause or a simple mercenary. And best yet, if you don’t like any of their ideologies you can flip them all the bird and set out on your own.
Despite being a game about the downfall of mankind and people just barely able to get by Fallout has had very little to do with survival. So long as the character avoids irradiated hellholes the player character need never eat, drink, or sleep. New Vegas introduces Hardcore Mode which gauges a character physical needs and penalizes them if they’re not met. If the game was too easy and you wanted a solid reason to hoard all those cans of beans then Hardcore mode is for you.
This game has got some solid DLC. Vanilla New Vegas has got more than enough content to satisfy a player but if they’re hungry for more then Obsidian has got some side-dishes all set up. I’ve already spoken about That Lonesome Road but New Vegas also includes Old World Blues where the player finds some brain in jars doing science. It’s also got the obligatory take everything from the player and force them to survive scenario in Dead Money. Oh yeah and then there’s…
Lonely Hearts. It’s not even vanilla. It’s more like water. It’s bland, barely sustaining, but fine. It’s not toxic. It’s just not worth five dollars for a dose.
Fallout 3 had invisible walls around the edge of the map. A sad result of a finite world, unavoidable in a packaged product. Fallout New Vegas has invisible walls on mountains the player can climb. You’ll be about to crest over the peak and then an invisible wall gently but firmly tells you ‘best go around me, I know it’ll take 10 minutes to make the trek. I know that you can see your destination just beyond me. But I don’t give a fuck.’
Well we’re almost at the 1500 word mark and if it doesn’t show, I wuv this game — I wuv it to death with nuclear arms. I’ve been from one end of it to the other, there are very few areas and locations that I haven’t explored. The vanilla game is ten dollars on Steam and that’s a steal, the Game of the Year edition is only twenty! So if you want a great big, old, retro-futuristic, robot filled, cowboy having, desert wasteland adventure then this is the game you’ve been looking for all this time.
Next Week: Fallout 4