RPG lovers around the world cried a single, manly tear when Fallout 3 was cancelled and Black Isle closed its doors. The company that had made some of the most acclaimed games of the genre had been lost, forever. The original two Fallout games are considered to be genre defining classics and the chances of a sequel became slim. Then Bethesda, who made the much loved Morrowind, bought the rights to the franchise. However, when they finally released the long awaited Fallout 3 many gamers were left with a hollow feeling. This game was a massive departure from the originals in gameplay, tone, and quality of writing. Forums were filled with angry comments from long time fans. Then in a twist of fate, Obsidian Entertainment was contracted to make the next game. The people responsible for Fallout 2 were getting their hands back on the series. Many a fan rejoiced. Now, did they bring back the spark of the originals? Or did they lead the series further down hill? That’s what I intend to find out.
Graphically, this game is a disappointment. It is cluttered with down right ugly textures and mediocre character models. Somewhat amazingly, it is a significant step backward from the previous game, released two years earlier. Most of the world is a reddish brown that begins to blend together after a while. Though, the spots that do have color are much more varied then those of Fallout 3. This includes, but is not limited to, the New Vegas strip. Disappointingly, the strip is small and split up which makes it feel even more cramped then it already is. On the other hand, the creature designs vastly improve on Fallout 3. The Super Mutants look like they are straight from a 40’s or 50’s pulp comic book. The other creatures have this same feel which was lacking from the previous game. Unfortunately, Graphical glitches also make their presence known. One time, a hill I was standing on disappeared and after walking on it a while, I fell through it which forced me to reload.
More importantly, the combat is functional, but very average no matter how you play it. But, V.A.T.S provides some much needed flair to the proceedings. It is nice that combat can be skipped altogether if you get your stealth and charisma skills high enough. This ability is sadly lacking from many other games in the genre. As an added bonus, if you get your skills high enough you can get some special abilities. Unarmed fighters get the ability to do right hooks and upper cuts as they improve in their fighting abilities. This doesn’t have too much of an effect, but a bit a variety is always nice.
This game has two main story-lines in it. The first is a quest for revenge against a man who shot you, robbed you, and left you for dead. Benny, played by Matthew Perry of Friends fame, is an arrogant man with a lust for power and if you are playing pure good it will take great force of will to give him mercy. The second storyline is deciding the fate of the New Vegas Strip. While I hesitate to spoil anything more then that, I will say that there are many different options and all of these options are various shades of gray. This is rather fitting to the Fallout Universe as a whole considering there were no true white knights in Fallout 1 or Fallout 2. Tough times make for tough and bitter people and the inhabitants of the Mojave have sure seen some tough times.
This is a long game. Hundreds of hours of quests and locations are scattered across the Mojave Wasteland. The replay value is also rather astounding considering all of the different skills and the morality system. You can be anything from an old fashioned gunslinger bringing justice back to the land to a psychotic mad scientist brandishing both laser weapons and an insatiable hankering for human flesh. Exploring these options and seeing how the various quests change as a result is quite involving and you can easily find yourself getting lost in the game.
The emotional core of Fallout: New Vegas is the characters. I felt for Danny Trejo’s Raul. As a Ghoul, he had lived since the bombs dropped. He had to deal with the memories of the fiery explosions consuming his home and the radiation that turned him into a Ghoul. As you go through the game you learn more and more about his past and who he really is until he blossoms into a fully realized three dimensional character. The same can be said about all of the other companions you can pick up over the course of the game. They are all likable and believably flawed which is a step up from the companions of all the previous games in the series.
Lastly, no matter what choices you make you get a uniquely satisfying ending. The endings give the much needed closure the characters and factions deserve. My first ending was bittersweet because I had made a few mistakes with my initial character. It hit me almost as hard as the conclusion the original which is, frankly, an achievement.
In the end, Fallout: New Vegas is a must buy if you are a fan of the series and can get past its homely looks and glitchiness.