Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas Box ArtThe long awaited Fallout 3 was released a mere two years ago in 2008, and when gamers finally got their sweaty hands on it, the game was hailed as one of the greatest open-world role-playing games of the time. Flash forward two years and the unstoppable force that is Fallout 3 adds another title to the franchise in the form of Fallout: New Vegas. This game may as well be called Fallout 3: New Vegas due to the fact that Obsidian didn't really change anything about the gameplay, but then again that isn't really a bad thing and this game definitely doesn't feel like an expansion.

The story of New Vegas focuses on your character, a courier (male or female depending on your choice), who is tasked with delivering a package to the New Vegas Strip. As you can imagine, this simple courier mission is anything but simple. The story throws in some minor twists to keep things interesting, but overall you can pretty much guess what happens. The game does have three possible endings and, like Fallout 3 at launch, you will not be able to continue your journey through the wastelands once you complete the game unless you go back and re-load an old save.

Upon first entering the Mojave Desert, you will notice that the landscapes look fairly similar to the previous Fallout wastelands except now they have vegetation. Most of it is dried up but you are able to harvest fresh fruit, seeds and herbs which you can use to muster up different concoctions like healing powder or stimpacks. The game is fairly hard if you are inexperienced, though the main story does take you through a relatively safe path to the New Vegas Strip. It is here that things start to get really interesting.

Each faction you encounter in the game has its own shades of grey as opposed to Fallout 3's black or white morality scale. For example, the New California Republic is bloated and incapable of providing adequate protection for its people, whereas the Legion runs a tighter operation with slave labor. However, the game does give you karma for killing Legion members and detracts Karma for killing NCR troopers.The primary quest is pretty short, which is disappointing, though you really should not be focusing most of your time on that at all.

Since this is a Fallout game, the amount of side quests you can undertake is staggering, and it is here that the game really shows its true colors. One of the greatest things about New Vegas is that there are few limits on exploration. There is an almost overwhelming amount of locations to discover and nearly every step you take has someone asking for your help. Just when you think you have seen all an area has to offer, an undiscovered sewer system will open up or a new area will uncover itself. Some of the side quests or your typical, short "go get these items for me" type quests, where others are epic tales of adventure that may very well overshadow the main plot of the game. If you are the type that HAS to complete EVERYTHING in the game, then expect to spend no less than 100 hours doing so.

Fallout: New Vegas ScreenshotFallout: New Vegas includes companions just like Fallout 3. Several companions will join you on your quest, each with their own agenda by which to seek assistance from you. Two different companions can accompany you at any time, one robot/animal companion and one human/used-to-be-human companion. Each companion offers a special boost and all of their kills give you experience points though some companions can be more trouble than they are worth.

Players will easily lose track of their companions and tracking them down isn't easy. Their A.I. is also terrible. While it may be nothing for your character to hop over a three-foot fence, your companions will have to trace the entire length of the fence until they find an opening to walk through. But despite their obvious flaws, traveling the desolate wastelands with a companion is better than doing so alone.

Want to listen to some tunes on your journey? Then tune in to Mr. New Vegas, your prime DJ for the game, voiced by the ever-talented Wayne Newton. Newton is far less irritating than Three Dog from Fallout 3, but his songs and stories do have a tendency to repeat themselves which means you want be spending the entire 100 hours of gameplay listening to Mr. Newton.

Transitioning from Fallout 3 to New Vegas is simple for those who have played Fallout 3. Meeting friendly people while killing aggressive monsters and thugs will return to your comfort zone with ease. Heck, you may even decide to kill the friendly peeps and side with the thugs, but do remember to always kill the monsters. Players will encounter new animals out west including Cazadores (giant flying bugs that poison you), giant praying mantises and Nightstalkers (terrifying crossbreeds of coyotes and rattlesnakes). All of the new creatures feature pretty colorful designs but don't let that distract you, always aim for the face.

New Vegas allows you to play from either first or third person perspectives. Third person is nice because it gives you a pulled back view, meaning you won't get crept up on. However, animations in third person are goofy and shooting on the fly isn't recommended. First person mode is more accessible, and though you don't have a full 360 degree view, you can finally aim down your weapon's sight making it play more like a first person shooter while your V.A.T.S (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) recharges. V.A.T.S allows you to pause the action of New Vegas and target specific body parts of your enemy. Blow off limbs and heads galore! The game does make V.A.T.S shots take action points to keep the game balanced.

Fallout: New Vegas Golf Club SwingFallout: New Vegas uses the same leveling system as Fallout 3, S.P.E.C.I.A.L (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck). You allocate points to these categories at the beginning of the game and with each level you build on them, depending on which play style you use. All the same skills are here, and you will have to choose where you spend your skill points wisely. Perks are also available in New Vegas. Perks are fun and can either help build out your character by increasing V.A.T.S. accuracy, level you up again immediately, enable Easter eggs that are otherwise locked away or even let you go all zombie on somebody and eat their flesh to regain health.

New Vegas is obviously a gambling town so there are a ton of new ways to earn caps, Fallout's form of currency. Hit up the slot machines or blackjack tables on the strip or engage in a game of Caravan with some drifters on the wastelands. Caravan is similar to blackjack but requires more skill and allows you to build your own unique deck of cards, similar to Pazaak in the KOTOR games. Play these mini-games or just loot every single house and dead body you come across and you should never run out of cash.

The biggest addition to New Vegas is Hardcore Mode. This makes surviving the wastelands much tougher. So much tougher, in fact, that the game actually advises you against it. The game takes on a sim-like nature, requiring you to feed, water and rest your character often. In addition to this inconvenience, everything in the game, including ammo, counts towards your weight limit. Fast travel is also limited. If your character dehydrates by the end of his/her journey, you will be unable to continue until you rehydrate. It is more realistic and offers a great deal of difficulty that is hard to come by later in the game.

Being that New Vegas uses the same engine as Fallout 3, the same technical issues are found in this game as they were in Fallout 3. Animations have no weight to them, lip syncing is either good or non-existent and the A.I. is really, really dumb. While some of these faults may seem humorous, the choppy framerate and horrible load times are nothing to laugh at. Some load times are as "quick" as 30 seconds, where some can take as long as two minutes! New Vegas can also run smoothly sometimes but does suffer from slowing down as well as sudden freezing, so do yourself a favor and save as often as you can.

The incredibly fun and addicting formula that powered Fallout 3 is definitely intact for New Vegas. Combat is more polished, side quests are of the highest quality and the setting of the Vegas Strip is definitely exciting. However, the Fallout 3 bugs managed to sneak their way into New Vegas as well. Had Bethesda and Obsidian polished up the A.I., improved the animations or even made the game run smoothly, then New Vegas may have felt less like an expansion of Fallout 3 and more like its very own game. Despite all that, Fallout 3 was an incredible game and Fallout: New Vegas is just as good. Looking past the faults, this is definitely one wasteland you want to take a joyride in.

Source: IGN.com
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