Fallout: New Vegas review

VGD takes a gamble on Obsidian’s Fallout follow-up. Is New Vegas all it’s cracked up to be?

By Rupert Higham, October 22, 2010

The New California Republic appear to be the good guys, but none of the factions are to be fully trusted.

If all this sounds like a terribly arbitrary process of number balancing, it isn’t. In fact, it’s woven into the story so expertly that you feel the weight of your decisions constantly. Do you continue to follow a quest line that you’ve put hours of time and resources into even though it threatens a valued relationship with another faction? How long can you successfully play two opposing parties against each other before they realise your intent and both come after you? Your decisions are made all the more thorny by the nuance of the characters. Nothing is black and white and each faction has a charismatic leader offering compelling arguments to sway your judgment. To aid some parties you are forced to burn bridges with others. It’s an understated system and utterly captivating, not to mention a far more convincing reason to replay the game than Fallout 3’s branching achievement paths.

The securitrons are quintessentially Fallout -- 1950s design, futuristic concept and darkly humorous.

Mission structure has also undergone a smart rethink with far greater integration between story and side missions. Fallout 3 was happy to let you cut a path clean through the Capital Wasteland, ignoring almost everything in pursuit of your primary quest. Not only is the primary mission in New Vegas far more ambiguous, it’s much more demanding, successfully implementing bottlenecks that force you to explore the plentiful side missions. Stats have been rebalanced to remove all elements of chance, putting an end to save-and-load abuses of the conversation model, though the new books that grant a temporary twenty point boost can help you out when you really need to tip the scales in your favour.

Fallout 3 was uncannily similar to a certain Elder Scrolls game, and Obsidian’s effort borrows even more freely from Bethesda’s masterpiece. Oblivion’s alchemy system that rewarded players for collecting and combining herbs and flowers has been carried over allowing for camp-site concoctions, though it is the more manly pursuit of weapon augmentation that compliments Fallout’s world. The selection of items, trinkets and collectable junk to be scavenged can be combined to build specialist ammo types, stocks and scopes, adding a new layer of tactical variety when planning to tackle that cave of murderous night stalkers.

It wouldn't be Vegas without gambling, and the strip offers all the mini-game action one would expect.

No discussion on New Vegas’ greater emphasis on realism can take place without covering the daunting hardcore mode. On paper the prospect of struggling with starvation, dehydration, time-released stimpacks and weighty munitions may seem insurmountable, but the reality is far less bleak – it simply pushes you in the direction of town traders to snap up spare doctor’s bags and purified waters. As a device for amplifying the game’s desolate tone it’s brilliantly effective, connecting your avatar inseparably to the world that they now rely on for survival.

Sadly not all new additions have been as successful, and New Vegas’ biggest offence is one of the oldest in the book – utterly useless NPCs. Fallout 3 had its share of NPC-led missions, but they were infrequent enough go unnoticed over the course of its sprawling length. New Vegas on the other hand has you recruiting a whole crew of vagabonds, and likable as the characters can be (especially for the exclusive perks they bestow), they’re all hell-bent on suicide, completely ignoring any order you may have given them through the companion wheel. They’ll think nothing of starting a fight with a Deathclaw you’ll only realise was actually there when the mission failed companion death screen pops up.

An essential part of the Fallout design, New Vegas' music manages to slightly disappoint. The new country-themed songs are perfectly at home, but repetition is a big issue.

We haven’t been able to put as much time into New Vegas as we’d like, but then we doubt many reviewers have. After around 35 hours in Hardcore Mode, it’s still difficult to say just how well Obsidian’s game stacks up to Fallout 3’s 150 hours of entertainment. Yet even imagining a doomsday scenario where the credits roll and the game self-destructs, turning your console into a burned-out heap of slag, New Vegas is a pretty safe bet. The world is huge and meticulously detailed, the mechanics are captivating, and for all the bugs the rewards of persistence are considerable.

9out of 10

One Response to “Fallout: New Vegas review”

  1. . says:

    So in other words, developers don’t have to care that much anymore these days to make games without bugs?


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