Fallout: New Vegas

Byron Murphy

Deputy Editor

No game has ever given me the internal conflict which Fallout: New Vegas can evoke. I adored Fallout 3, and being excited for months to throw this disc-based journey through the wasteland into my PS3 you cannot imagine my disappointment when I realised “wow, this is the exact same game”. I mean there are small changes. You can aim down gun sights, the preset Pip-Boy colour is now amber and the sky is blue as opposed to grey. But this is not by any stretch of the imagination original.

In fact, in many ways it’s inferior to its predecessor. The Havok engine is very outdated and this game pushes it to the boundaries until it starts to peel, and stories abound across the web of people suffering game ending glitches like where a character needed for a quest just disappears forever. Thankfully I never came across something like that, but the game crashed quite often and the frame rate has a habit of slowing to about 2 frames per second in the middle of fights.

The Sci-fi RPG gameplay is exactly the same as its predecessor, save for the admittedly useful aim down sights ability. On top of this, I don’t see much of an improvement in the graphics and this game has the worst uncanny valley look, they may as well have pictures of characters for all the emotion they show. Loading screens are excruciating and in Vegas itself they come in abundance, as Obsidian had to divide the Strip up to pack the necessary amount of activity into it. This game has so many flaws and head wrecking issues, what comes next might surprise you.

I love New Vegas. I knew it would be glitchy, Fallout 3 was. I knew it would have the same engine, the same mechanics, the same stat system, almost the same everything. I also knew it would have great writing, fantastic characters, wacky and endearing moments, serious immersion and one of the best settings that any game has explored since Mario jumped his first barrel.

Seriously, the importance of this setting can’t be underestimated, as it gives the game its premise. Not the Vegas setting specifically, I probably preferred Washington, but the world as a whole. The Fallout games are based in an alternate reality where the Cold War dragged on about 150 years more, pausing culture at the 50’s and culminating in a nuclear apocalypse. Business suits and plasma rifles, Dean Martin and super mutants, underground vaults and power armour. What this means is that anything goes as far as story is concerned. The wackier the better and it takes full advantage of this.

That doesn’t mean that the storylines are ridiculous. Conversely, the writing in this is certainly better than Fallout 3, which is a real achievement. The main thread of the game, which sees you, a courier shot and buried for the prize you transport, recover and seek the culprits out to reclaim it. This is a little better than the last effort (summed up as “go find daddy”), especially when the details of the cargo unravel, but it’s still not the hooking point of the game. For me, this comes in an area I was fully prepared to shrug off, in the gangs which roam the Nevada desert.

Adding this faction allegiance/infamy idea is not in any way new. GTA 2 did it over a decade ago, and it essentially leads you to inevitably kill some characters who may be interesting but turn on you because of their faction. However, the genius of the writing here is what wins the day. The gangs are all so cleverly thought of, appearing on the surface to be mere gimmicks but with fantastic back stories.

The New California Republic are the main do-gooders in this outing and Obsidian do a great job of making them the lesser of two evils, but not excessively so. They’re not even the misdirected but moral bastions the Brotherhood of Steel were in Fallout 3, and unashamedly utilise some very questionable political tactics. Their main opposition is Caesar’s Legion, a huge organisation of slavers. One high point of the Legion for me is the inspiration drawn from the historical Caesar, including one event where the highest of the Caesar’s commanders orders a tenth of one underperforming unit killed by the other nine tenths. This is allegedly how the real Caesar came to control his famous Tenth Legion, giving rise to the name in the process.

Not content to adapt ancient iconic figures into their new world, Obsidian goes for more modern leaders of many also, and the Kings are the best example of this. Having stumbled upon an Elvis Presley school of impersonation, the leader (of course, the King) assumed he was in a religious establishment and now spends his time teaching the spiritual way of the monarch of rock and roll.

All of these things serve to add activity and change the nature of the game somewhat, no longer fully utilising suspense and fear as the primary method of immersion but using interesting characters and interactions instead.

The themes of Fallout 3, be it discrimination, slavery, sacrifice, eternal conflict or the material cost of taking lives, are all still here in abundance.

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