25th October 2010 - Sin City takes a turn for the worse, in the newest edition to the Fallout franchise from Obsidian. Stuck in the 50s, the shell shocked citizens get a dose of rads in the wild west as a lone stranger is brought back to life and the chase is on, to find out who did it and why. War, war never changes, but has the stalwart franchise enough to keep fans interested...
At the time of writing, we had not entered New Vegas City proper with experience at around level 8. Playing on normal and hard but not hardcore. The following review will assume some knowledge of both Fallout 3 and the franchise in general. Spoilers be warned. Zero crashes to report, no clipping issues and no sign of flying ants... yet.
Vegas, baby. In theory it sounds like the perfect cocktail, of glitz, glamour and gambling to flesh out a full length Fallout feature. Add some mutants, a few additions to crafting and alchemy not to mention companions and you would think that therein lies enough for a full game. Certainly this was the logic behind Obsidian taking a crack at Bethesdas' baby nary 18 months after events in Fallout 3.
More and more recently, it seems that expansions that aren’t expansions are popping up- as full games using the same tech and resources to fill the gap between sequels. Blame Rockstar if you want, that pulled out two extra titles to GTA IV, followed closely by Bioware with Dragon Age: Awakening (not to mention >sic< Halo:ODST). In the end, it doesn't matter if Fallout New Vegas is a complete game or not, rather a) is it worth the money? And b) is the gameplay good?
War never changes
New Vegas is an anomaly, because it is almost impossible to review without sounding like you are repeating yourself and yet there is still enough content to justify the price of admission. It's just dang it, if Bethesda haven’t gone and cloned Fallout 3, for the sake of a few dollars. It's almost as if Obsidian piched an idea to Bethesda, that they 'could do it better' came up with a bunch of things that they couldn't fit into Fallout 3 and made more of the same. After 5 expansion packs already, conceivably New Vegas could have been the 6th minus all the guff surrounding side missions and factions; but lets stop the ranting and get into the differences that puts Vegas, on the map.
Set fours years after previous events, the most noticeable difference initially, is the amount of plant life and obvious factions in the game. The surrounding Mojave desert and Vegas managed to miss the nukes and as such still supports a relative amount of plant life. This in turn leads to some new crafting mechanics and alchemy around the camp fire, perhaps the most welcome addition to the franchise. The number of workbenches as well has doubled, so that the blue benches for making weapons are joined by red ones, for breaking down shrapnel, recycling ammo and making upgrades to said items. It is a subtle addition, but being able to pick plants and then craft them on a camp fire to make healing potions, poison and food brings Fallout back in line with it's role playing roots.
Further, factions are nothing new to MMOs and role playing but not since GTA: San Andreas has the clothes you wear actually mattered. Now rather than random raiders, the deserts are full of different factions and wearing said faction clothing will result in you looking like them and generally being excepted by them. In theory, on the map you can view if different tribes like or hate you, and the choices you make and missions you do will effect that outcome. It's all very superficial though, as you can turn people against you only to steal their clothing and make them like you (or at least not kill you ) later on. People who love you, may still try and off you just because you are wearing their enemies clothing.
If it feels like a balancing act, that's because it is and Obsidian knows it. Iron sights have been added to guns, in the hopes of main streaming the shooting, but V.A.T.S, the automatic targeting system of body parts, is still ever present. Further more, cover is not really an option and it's bloody hard to shoot in real time with an iron site when the enemy just run straight at you, all up in your face with melee weapons anyway. To their credit, Obsidian have work with Bethesda to balance some issues, like AI and now at least it will take a while before you can venture out too far as the enemy are actually tougher, take more damage and weapons have DPS scaling to boot. You will not feel all powerful from the start and sometimes shooting enemies enough will cause them run in fear rather than dying, which is a nice addition to see critters high-tail it out of a conflict.
No doubt, New Vegas and the surrounding zones are big, the game is 40+ hours of roleplaying- it's just unfortunate that 'surrounding zomes' either feel undercooked or exactly the same. This game, would be an excellent entry point to anyone who hasn't yet explored the epic series, except that Fallout 3 GOTY Edition is ridiculously cheap now and is just as good, if not the same (including all 5 expansion).
The bugs are back
No review would be complete without mention some hilarious bugs, which only a require a quick Google to see what all the fuss is about. At the time of writing, Bethesda has already launched one patch with more to follow, so you either experienced the glitches or you didn't; which include the usual floating items, clipping issues and flying animals.
While some progressive tweaks have been made to the gameplay, at least in an effort to move it forwards, the same can not be said for the graphics. Luckily, less than excellent graphics do not make the New Vegas any less interesting, fun or engaging for the budding Wastelander.
Some issues that even plagued Oblivion; like items inexplicably floating when another is picked up, should be fixed for each game while no amount of voice acting talent can make up for what is lack lustre models and poor animation. Considering the new talent on board from Obsidian, over Bethesda more changes should be apparent. Yet, if the industry learnt anything from Dragon Age, it's that a) roleplaying games are highly supported with patches and fixes and constant expansions and b) people who play for the role playing don't actually care that much about graphics. Inexplicably, despite limited changes in the décor, there is an overwhelming feeling of familiarity with the game, either good or bad. Instantly comfortably the game almost plays itself so ingrained are the details.
While draw distance is good, standing on any number of hills, will reveal the extent of the map which is largely brown and full of hill and lumps that just look very plain or ugly. Reminiscent of Red Dead Redemption, earlier in the year, it is a shame to see less variation in plants with nary a cactus field to be seen. Down on the ground, the wind and change of day/night cycles is still exciting and relaxing at the same time, but true to form even the new animals and plants seem thrown together.
From Vegas, with love
To truly bring home the feeling of a 'new-old' New Vegas, a number of cosmetic changes had to be made. Nuka Cola from Fallout 3 is more or less replaced with Sarsaparilla and all the art and splash screen are reworked. Obsidian has squarely aimed for a 50s 'rat-pack' era of greasers and music but curiously mixed with cowboys and western saloons. It is a slightly odd mix that generally gels well, and yet feels odd when you consider that Vegas in general is actually not that full of farms and “cowboys”. In fact that whole area of America is now slightly skewed and it would have been nice of Obsidian to lay it off a bit with the cowboy references.
Fallout 3 purists, will miss the cavalry and old world charm of an 'Uncle Sam' America with the confederates and flag waving but those in the know about Fallout 1 and 2 will appreciate more colours, characters and eccentric quests. Scorpions pack more of a punch too, with a bigger emphasis on poisoning (over radiation damage) this time around and new weapons grace the waste, including upgrades such as scopes, silencers and longer barrels making the weapons look even more cobbled together.
Ron Perlman, Michael Dorn, Mathew Perry, Rene Auberjonois, Felicia Day, Danny Trejo, Zachary Levi and Kris Kristofferson not to mention Wayne “Mr New Vegas” Newton. Two of those actors starred in Star Trek for over 10 years and one is currently the pinup girl of nerds everywhere. Certainly Obsidian didn't cut corners with voice talent, and rightly so being perhaps the highlight of the whole saga. So much so that the acting alone in sheer voices is enough to justify New Vegas as a 'full game'.
Again, while the music is mostly excellent and highly addictive, the main reason it sticks in the head is that it really does repeat with perhaps a much shorter play list of songs than Fallout 3. On top of which with at least three radio stations to choose from only two of them have hosts and all of them feature the same music. Wether it is a bug or not, sometimes a song will play and then the host will introduce the same song only to play it again! Other times reloading means hearing the same song multiple times and it just gets to the point where turning it off is an option. Background music without the radio is as it was in Fallout 3.
Obsidian have thought about all aspects of the game though, the song choices are soft and never overwhelming and compared to Fallout 3 propaganda never pose an agenda. While you may miss the piping tunes of the confederate marching songs, almost all the music are guitar tunes and riffs with some Spanish and Elvis and Bing Crosby thrown in for good mix. Considering the Vegas vibe, more Elvis or Bing ie. Blues and Jazz would have been welcome.
It can not be understated, that sometimes quantity trumps quality. A lot of ordinary stuff can sometimes make up for a a rather small amount of AAA content. Currently the industry is seeing this with some very short games like Cod:MW2 and Medal of Honour vs very long RPGs : Dragon Age and Fallout. While there is no multiplayer for replaying, more DLC is on the way, despite promises to the contrary and perhaps with the saturation of Fallout merchandise, the game will now go back to being 'leet' or only for those die hard fans.
Feel free to add another point onto the games score for being a fan boy, but the content that is given is what is reviewed and all in all despite size and relative longevity, the game is lack luster is many areas with dated graphics, mixed gameplay and some obvious bugs. Take your time and you will be rewarded with a captivating trip through the wanderland of waste, or get bored and switch over to something else. The game doesn't ship with any avatar awards which is a shame, but there is enough secrets and mystry to keep the avid gamer happy.
Additionally “hardcore mode” adds an extra challenge: of regenerating health over time, weight to ammo and scrap and other additional character stats like the need to constantly drink water, but NOTE: You can play hardcore mode on ANY difficulty including easy thus it only affects the player and not the enemy, fights ect.(making it less than hardcore)
As it turns out, this review went south almost as much as Fallout has. This reviewer would have liked to bang on about how awesome Fallout is and how my childhood has been vindicated and New Vegas is everything I had hoped and more. For me, it is and if you're like me then that makes you a very special person.
What Obsidian have achieved, is a copy cat effort at best with a few new tricks to keep the old dog kicking. For me though, that's more than enough as it turns out, that war, war never really changes.
AAG SCORE: 8.5/10
+ New Vegas is not Washington DC
+ Upgrades to companions, weapon mods and crafting
+ Music and voice acting is excellent
- Not much else is excellent
- Game is running on dated graphics and Engine
- Potential to alienate new comers to the franchise
Reviewed and Written By Ian Crane