Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Plot: A courier survives a bullet to the head and sets off on a revenge mission to find and kill the person who left him for dead.
Fallout: New Vegas must be mad. The very idea of Fallout is to throw the player into a Sci-Fi apocalyptic world. We have come for the Sci-Fi universe: the super-mutant monsters (this time equipped with their own invisibility cloaks), the hollowed out city, the vastly technologically superior government baddies. It is what we expect from a Fallout game. However, more so than ever before, New Vegas feels closer to a Western open world game. Yes, we are still in that war-torn apocalyptic setting, but the characters and themes explored this time around wouldn’t look out of place in a Clint Eastwood movie. And somehow New Vegas is all the more better for it.
The first thing newcomers to the game must understand is that New Vegas is not Fallout 3. If you have never played a Fallout game before, start there. Story-wise, that game was so much better. Your character, while able to be moulded to each new gamer, had a strong sense of narrative to follow and as the game progressed, you could go down your own character arc, finding your own character development. It was a truly immersive and fantastic piece of story-telling. New Vegas was a little slap-and-dash. You are shot in the head by Matthew Perry’s well-groomed gangster (yes, Chandler from Friends), get healed to health by some kindly townsfolk in a quiet Western town and are set off on a quest to find out why this person wanted you dead and to exact bloody Western revenge. A three year old could have written the premise (perhaps it was, explaining why Matthew Perry was cast). However, what it does do is act as an excuse to simply play some more Fallout. At the end of the day, 50% of the audience for this game, and absolutely everyone on that second playthrough (and there will be a second playthrough), will ignore the story and go off on their own tangent. Why chase after this gangster figure, when you could be breaking off into a side-quest to help out a creepy Ghoul cult? Slaughtering the Legion, as they try to enslave helpless villagers? What about the town on the outskirts of the map, flooded with radiation, that the main story doesn’t even reference? There is a whole world out there to explore and sticking to the script means you are going to miss more than half of it. You could get through the entire game and not realise that the Brotherhood of Steel or Supermutants are actually in this game. To shake things up, they are reduced to cameos, which makes their addition even more fun. You have to physically hunt them down to find them and discover what they have been up to since Fallout 3. So yes, the story is pretty tame (it doesn’t really even have a proper conclusion – the initial storyline petering out in the final act to focus on the bigger picture that builds up as you get further into the game), but by the time, you are two hours into New Vegas you won’t care a jolt.
Mainly because it tidies up some things since Fallout 3. The one thing that stops me revisiting Fallout 3 since this newer version came out was the sheer size of it all. I love that Fallout really hammers home the open world side of things. Again, you can miss the finer details, which is really what Fallout is all about (supporting characters have incredibly interesting personalities and back stories you might miss, if you rush through the story), but there is a lot less trekking. Fallout 3 had a lot of empty space, labyrinths of subway stations that ground the pacing to a shocking halt. New Vegas has the right amount of emptiness, so the scale is still there, but it never gets tiresome. There is rarely any moment where you wish that the game would hurry up. There is no section, at least in the main story, where wave after wave of the same enemy gets under your skin. New Vegas never traps you in a moment, so if a section tires you, feel free to wander away, shoot some Deathclaws and get back to it at your own leisure. Maybe some fans of the series feel that New Vegas feels more restricted because of it. There are fewer hidden clans that are too tricky to find – if you know the vague direction, you will find what you are looking for. But that atmosphere is still there, so, for me, this was never a problem. New Vegas feels like it cuts to the good bits of the franchise, rather than dragging out the grinding side of the game that we originally thought was a necessary evil. It also focuses on the little things that unexpectedly worked out rather well with Fallout 3. The luck angle is made more prominent, so good fortune (or misfortune), might come your way at any point. A bandit might step onto his own land-mine in a firefight. A bullet could either go awry or end up as the perfect headshot. You can select a feature to increase the likelihood of random events cropping up, which usually results in hilarious gameplay. And for the hardcore gamers, you can enter an extreme mode, where you have to factor in dehydration, hunger and fatigue into your survival of the Fallout wasteland.
The reason the main story peters out, as I said earlier, is because the game ends up not really needing a story as complex as the last game’s, because of its warring factions. As you chase down Matthew Perry’s villain, you will end up learning a little about the current political climate. Gone are the Enclave’s oppressive government and the Brotherhood of Steel are out of the picture, reduced to that aforementioned cameo role. Instead, the law is run by New Californian Republic, a police force of sorts, although they are so over-stretched by this large territory that they are starting to lose their war against crime. The new bad guys on the block make the Enclave look like teddy bears. Bandits resorted back to Roman culture roam the wastelands, building up a larger and larger army. They are mercilessly cruel, devoid of temptation or greed and making them your enemy makes your life so much harder. Few players might even accept the option to become one of the Legion rather than dealing with their constant stream of assassins sent to take you out, before you get to their next outpost. Both sides are endlessly interesting and a nice change of pace from the usual faces in the Fallout games. Then there is the enigmatic Mr. House. When you finally catch up with your would-be killer, he is holed up in New Vegas, a casino strip that resembles a civilisation apparently free from the horrors of the wasteland. Mr. House owns New Vegas and he could either be the big villain or the secondary hero of the game, depending on if you want to join him or team up with the NCR and stop him. Of course, you could always betray both the NCR, The Legion and Mr. House, taking New Vegas for yourself and ending the game as a criminal mastermind. This end section of New Vegas is a lot better than Fallout 3’s, simply because the directions to take the story are endless. Sure, Fallout 3’s narrative was deeper and richer, but when it comes to RPGs, perhaps New Vegas is closer to the game we actually want.
Final Verdict: While the main story is a little thread-bare, the setting and atmosphere are just as thrilling as ever. In league with the great Fallout 3.