Fallout: New Vegas

After two highly successful Action RPGs on PS3, in the form of Oblivion and Fallout 3, the Bethesda bandwagon moves onto the first spinoff in the Fallout series on PS3, New Vegas. Set a few years after the events of Fallout 3, the post-apocalyptic wasteland is largely unchanged, since bandits, mutated creatures and private armies dominate the landscape, continuing their respective struggles for dominance. If anything, life has become harsher, with people forced to do increasingly unsavoury things to survive, especially in the harsh Mojave Desert setting. There are also signs of hope though, with plant life starting to make an appearance, often in the form of hardy pines and resilient bushes, but occasionally with more delicate, fruiting plants. For your playable character though, things start with a bang; shot in the head by a casino gangster. It's not the best way to begin the day, but (shock!) your character survives, and comes back stronger, ready to save the day or wreck everyone's year, depending on how you wish to tackle this enormous, open RPG.

Fallout: New Vegas

Recovering from your injuries, the local doctor allows you to rebuild your character, essentially allowing you to decide what sort of a person you'd like to be for the game. In typical Fallout fashion, this involves choosing a number of special skills, as well as distributing a limited number of points across a variety of attributes such as Intelligence and Strength. The system leaves you to craft a character that might be great with big sticks, but unable to decipher even the simplest lock, clever with test tubes but useless in a fight, or one of many other unique combinations that will affect the way you can tackle the game. It's not restrictive in the sense that it might prevent you from finishing certain quests, it simply guides which way you might attempt them. If you were wondering about sneaking into a factory and fixing a computer console so as to activate a set of sensor arrays, then maybe you'll struggle if you don't have sufficient repair and sneak skill, but a glowing personality, combined with effective persuasion, might be equally effective, and there's always the chance to resort to violence. Essentially what it means is: the game is yours to craft as you see fit. The choices you make will affect how you are perceived by different groups of people, and what happens to the world around you.

The sole downside of this flexible story is that, unlike Fallout 3, there's less obvious motivation to embark on your adventure, aside from knowing that the game will probably be a lot of fun. In Fallout 3, there was considerable mystery, and fear of the unknown world beyond the vault. Upon escaping, the plot thickens rapidly until you're in an epic struggle to save the world. Conversely, in New Vegas, things start with a misguided quest for revenge and understanding over a gang incident that probably has no impact on the grand scheme. Inevitably things open up gradually, and you swiftly learn of a major struggle between the New California Republic and the Legion, led by Caesar. Which side you choose and which other friends you make along the way are both crucial to the outcome of the game's story, and many will be very tempted to explore both avenues with repeat play. Without spoilers, the ending sequence adapts to the things you've accomplished in the game, and also includes your failures. If an organization succeeded or failed because of your actions, it'll be reflected in the end sequence, and in some cases the ending even involves individual characters that played a key role in your story. Because of the impressive number of people and communities you can meet in the game, there's actually a huge number of combinations that can form the end sequence, and it'd be very tricky to see them all without playing the game through multiple times, each with branching save files.

Fallout: New Vegas

Returning to the inevitable comparisons with Fallout 3, the differences aren't all unfavourable. Admittedly there's a hefty amount of recycling, but that's no bad thing when only the stuff that worked is recycled. Fallout 3 was plagued with bugs, and many users saw the game crash on a large number of occasions. While New Vegas does suffer from some comic atrocities, like hovering characters and other stuck objects, the major bugs, causing system crashes, appear to have been reduced somewhat. The fear of playing for more than ten minutes without saving is lessened in this game, perhaps as a result of Obsidian's involvement as developer. Crashes are still fairly common, but come nowhere near the apocalyptic crapness of Fallout 3 crashes. In addition, the character models seem slightly more varied, and the same can be said for both the voices and environments. The result is a more consistent, believeable world, without the constant crashes back to reality. There's also an extra layer of subtlety that the previous title lacked. As opposed to red flags highlighting every karma opportunity, New Vegas allows you a wide array of conversation and action options that result in very different progression paths. In addition, your actions have a real impact, often with very moving effect. For instance, Caesar is portrayed as a slaver from the East, determined to capture all for himself, but a particular sideline involving a companion called Arcade can reveal an entirely different side of Caesar, revealing some of the hidden depth the game possesses.

Combat forms a key part of the gameplay, with melee weapons, hand to hand, pistols, rifles, shotguns, lasers, plasma weapons, rocket launchers, dynamite, grenades and still more to choose from. The VATS system, featuring slow motion combat and body-part selection, returns, complete with blood spills and stats-based shooting, and works very well in the New Vegas world. The wasteland is filled with weaponry, although finding good quality arms, in good condition, is sometimes tricky. It's equally filled with enemies, with some colourful additions to the Fallout 3 cast, meaning that it's rarely safe to go anywhere without weaponry. Not only that, a good supply of food, water and medicine is essential for survival, especially in the game's hardcore mode, where thirst, radiation poisoning, hunger and sleep all have a serious impact on your character unless regularly maintained. It stops short of becoming a chore, and manages to make this addition a key part of the gameplay, enjoyable in its own right for the feeling of success and progression as you make your way through the Mojave, surviving on your last apple and some cactus fruit.

Fallout: New Vegas

The desert setting is as harsh an environment as any, but it is marked but some truly special locations. Undoubtedly the Vegas Strip has to be mentioned, populated with casinos ready to grab your chips. The city retains its famous visual appearance, equipped with a multitude of bright neon lights advertising the numerous gambling arenas. Elsewhere though, small towns have picked up the pieces following the nuclear fallout, while other communities exist in caves, bunkers, and the relics from civilizations passed. Among the archaic buildings you'll find the Repconn factory, a sci-fi style weapons firm, and other massive structures to explore. With every quest you accept, you are gently led past other quest initation opportunities. For the curious gamers who explore more than just the straight line to their next objective, each quest will open up another, giving the game a truly open feeling as you decide which way to go next. You'll also get to decide who you go with, quite often, with the addition of companions who can join your quest, again positioned quite carefully on routes you might sensibly explore.

Such exploration is rewarded with some visually stunning moments, like the moonlit black mountain, the hidden valley's nighttime sandstorms, the Vegas Strip at night and many more. Despite occasional graphical oddities, it all looks amazing, as do the characters, weapon effects and, in fact, the entire package. It's brighter and better presented than Fallout 3, and the voicework is also neater. Rather than feeling as though all characters sound and look the same, New Vegas offers a truly immersive, complete experience that is a joy to explore. The menu music is quite moving, and the radio stations make a return, with New Vegas radio providing an example of easy listening while wandering the desert. The sounds effects for weapons are superb and, importantly, the awesome sound effect for the start and finish of missions returns, completing a superb visual and audio package.

Fallout: New Vegas

With some inspired missions, and very few that become trivial, there's a huge amount to enjoy in Fallout: New Vegas. It's not long before the story becomes quite engrossing, and for fans of the series, it's brilliant to be able to meet up with familiar organiziations like the Brotherhood of Steel, a favourite for many. It's nice to be able to tackle the game without resorting to violence a lot of the time, for peaceful gamers, and the opportunities for naughty sex scenes are well highlighted, easy to avoid if desired, and quite discreet anyway. Viewed as an individual experience, Fallout New Vegas is exceptionally good. Compared to its predecessor, things are fairly even, with the reduction in bugs a major plus. However, the story can't match the grand adventure that unfolded in Fallout 3, leaving New Vegas as the second best Fallout game on PS3, but still one of the best RPGs around. With a bit more punch to the story, this could have been incredible.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Bethesda

Developer:

Obsidian

Players:

1

Online:

None

Release:

2010-10-22

Trophies:

51

Review summary

Gameplay:

Less glitched than Fallout 3, and still great fun

Graphics:

A huge open world, more lively in the Mojave

Sound:

Great voicework and sound effects

Lastability:

A massive RPG, with loads of quests to try

9.1

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The healthy human mind doesn't wake up in the morning thinking this is its last day on Earth. But I think that's a luxury, not a curse. To know you're close to the end is a kind of freedom.

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