Fallout: New Vegas review
Living Up to the Highest Expectations
It's difficult to sum up my experience of Fallout: New Vegas without feeling that I've been offered little new from my previous Fallout consumption. For it takes only 10 minutes of gameplay to realise that this game essentially looks - and feels - like a carbon copy of Fallout 3. The graphics remain the same, and there is nothing that has changed from your character creation setup to the former release. If anything, you could mistake New Vegas for new (albeit massive) downloadable content for Bethesda's previous success. You may want to ponder for a moment and ask yourself if you were a fan of Fallout 3: do you really want to spend money on a game that has already sucked the life out of you? Or are you happy to indulge in a somewhat similar adventure and environment for the sake of a role-playing experience? The answer lies within the core of your own personal opinion/taste and for me, it's certainly the latter.
First judgement can be crucial
My first impression of this game was that it's basically Fallout 3 and it's the early stages of the game that really disappointed some of the larger fans of the franchise. When setting up your character, you'll probably question whether you have the right disc in your disc tray. Your Pip-Boy remains unchanged, and perks seem a little too familiar. After you've been given a little taste of your character's background, you are given the opportunity to ponder the bottomless pit of the Mojave Wasteland. But again, on first view you'll feel that you've been robbed of your precious money as the wasteland lacks a fresh landscape. Interactions with others and the facial outlook of wasteland folk remain virtually unchanged. But in case you haven't had the privilege of playing Fallout 3, there is an opportunity presented to you to run through the basics of the game (shooting, using V.A.T.S., and hunting the odd creatures of the nuke-ridden waste). Once you finish a quest or two, the decisions on which path to choose are endless and it's this journey where you can really start to judge your true experience.
As you begin to explore and find the creatures of the radiated wasteland, you will encounter some difficult scenarios. While the enemies aren't particularly tough, they travel in larger amounts than before and seem to work better in teams that what you were used to. You may find yourself swarmed by Geckos coming from all directions, while you're left standing helplessly hammering the V.A.T.S. action button or just spraying as much pistol ammunition as you possibly can. Or you may find that you've attacked a seemingly innocent ant, only to find that his revenge-seeking friends have formed a mini army of attackers to end your life as quickly as it began. What I like about the opening adventure is that you can choose whichever path you like. You'll be given 3 or 4 new markers on your Pip-Boy to choose from after you leave Goodsprings with a fair idea of what each town holds for your fate. However, the rest is totally down to what you want to do. Choose the easy path, or feel like a Fallout veteran and choose the path that will inevitably cause struggle and strain. The biggest highlight at this stage for me was heading to Sloan, just northeast of your opening quest departure. When I got there, a miner told me of the difficulty of getting his workers back to the mines which were now infested with Deathclaw, including an Alpha Male and mother - just to spice things up a bit. Bear in mind that this town is a five minute journey from the town you began. Imagine that you could be torn apart by a Deathclaw just ten minutes into your New Vegas experience.
Just mother and her young, chillin'
Hints of variety from its predecessor
After a few hours of gaming, you'll realise that you haven't been conned. You are not playing Fallout 3. Obviously some of the wasteland creatures are unfamiliar. From my experience of Fallout 3, encountering Raiders and Super Mutants became an inevitability through almost every local location to the opening sequences. New Vegas shows glimpses of freshness as you'll find a significant amount of creatures, rather than Raiders (or what are known as "Fiends" here) or Super Mutant. In actual fact, after completing the game - tallying up to about 15 hours of gameplay - I bumped into two Super Mutant crowds. Through the whole game. That's certainly something positive to take from the experience for me as it shows a departure from the poor repetition witnessed in Fallout 3.
Most of the enemies that you encounter are fresh. The most relevant fresh enemies you'll come across are Nightkin and Nightstalkers. Nightkin are similar enough to Super Mutants, only they're blue, less friendly, oh and they're invisible. They don't use guns, but instead either a Super Sledge or another very powerful melee weapon. Overall, they seem like an improved version of Super Mutants and it's safe to say that they really are. Nightstalkers look like Coyotes from a distant but at a closer inspection, they are terrifying beasts with mouths opening so wide, the deadly teeth inside are teased with the amount of flesh they can tear. They are probably my favourite new enemies that Bethesda have introduced as I don't feel there was a powerful four-legged beast in the previous game. Some of the enemies, however, are a right pain to deal with. The toughest enemy you'll come across (bar Deathclaw) are Cazadores. They look like an improved version of Boatflies - do not be fooled, these guys are a dominating species that never travel alone. Two stings from them could diminish your HP quicker than you can say "I hate Cazadores!".
"Look at the pretty butterfly!"
Digging deeper, you'll see that upgrading skills have become more important towards your main and side quests. While in the previous game having good lockpicking, speech and science skills were essential, you'll find that it is certainly more widespread in this game. Your barter skill can play a large role in many wasteland interactions and can often be the difference between having lots of stimpaks, ammunition and HP and having none of the aforementioned necessities. What's best is to decide which skills you want to focus on from the beginning, and which you'd rather neglect. Set 4 or 5 main ones, and then deal with the others at a later date. This pushes you to play through the game more the once, becoming eager as to which approach is best to take.
The most impressive freshness of the game is most definitely the plot. From the beginning, you're given an in-depth background of your character. You were a courier, tracking down a platinum chip only to be betrayed, shot in the head and left to die in the wastes. However, you are recovered by a robot named Victor who seems to take particular interest in your character. After your recovery, you adventure through town after town, clutching at any news you can get in order to hunt down the men who betrayed you. Throughout this hunt, you will meet a variety of different characters who make the experience all the more enjoyable for you. As the plot thickens, you'll find it difficult to turn your console off. "Just one more quest...", you promise yourself as the clock reaches 3am! If I had to choose between which storyline I prefer between this and its predecessor, there's no doubt that I'd choose this. It's the one main area that seems far superior to Bethesda's Fallout 3 and it's a plot that I'll certainly remember forever - a plot that I'll no doubt compare to future releases.
Pertinent features that remain strong
It is apparent that Bethesda felt as though tweaking this release too much from Fallout 3 could have been a massive catastrophe - and I admit that their decision to go down the same path with this game was the right idea. There are winnable qualities that made Fallout 3 the game it was, and removing these features could've destroyed the franchise altogether. The most enjoyable feature that they solidified is definitely the wasteland radio. While roaming the wastes alone, hearing the sounds of Ain't That a Kick in the Head? and Blue Moon from your Pip-Boy can be nothing less than comforting. The radio can be somewhat repetitive (what do you expect when all musicians are probably dead!?), but there is always the option to switch radio stations just to mix it up a little. Some of the artists that feature on this game include Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Guy Mitchell and Hank Thompson. Any of those names tickle your fancy? Then get ready for some enjoyable adventures roaming the wastes of Vegas!
Character voice-overs are very similar to before, creating a various amount of distinctive characters. Keeping the characters interesting is a key element to success - particularly in a role-playing game. Most of the time, the characteristics of each member you deal with in the game can often decide your fate - you don't like the tone of one guy asking you to do his dirty work and prefer the approach of someone else looking for a similar task done? Fine, you have the option to choose who you want to befriend, betray, alienate or kill. Simple! Being an Irish gamer, I found it somewhat disappointing not to hear an Irish character's voice such as Colin Moriarty from Fallout 3. Although his Irish accent was done awfully, it's nice to hear a familiar tone of voice in a game (see 'Irish' in Red Dead Redemption for example).
The biggest disappointment for me in regards to repetitiveness is the lack of new/creative perks. I did enjoy the perks from the previous game, but that was over 2 years ago now. In fact, there are very few perks that I felt would be beneficial to me during my first playthrough. If you recall the perk Intense Training from Fallout 3 (also apparent in this game), where each perk chosen allows you to add 1 more point to your S.P.E.C.I.A.L., you'll probably remember that you maybe used it once or twice. I actually used this 7 times, which sort of reinforces the fact that they should've been a bit more creative. Not only are the perks very similar, you only get to add a perk every second level up - whereas on Fallout 3, you could select a perk with every rank up. It's just little things like that in the game that can often lead to boredom.
Why change a winning formula?
In hindsight, Fallout: New Vegas is a much stronger game than I first imagined. While it offers so much similar to its predecessor, it has remarkable qualities that cannot be overlooked. There's no doubt in my mind that the plot is superb and only makes Bethesda's previous plot look inferior. With a role-playing game, you're obviously going to lose a serious amount of time when consuming said product. New Vegas eats up a lot of your time. However, the term "eaten" must be used in a more pleasant way, just for this game. If you can imagine being eaten, only to become digested in the stomach of a comfortable, warm and timeless experience, then that's what you should be expecting from this game. It's a battle of personal push, patience and sheer loyalty that will keep you clinging on to play through the first few hours of this game. However, it's a battle worth fighting because when you dig your heels into this game, you really dig them in deep. I've lost a countless amount of sleep over this game, and while it's very similar to Fallout 3, I wouldn't prefer it any other way. Let's remember that Fallout 3 won Game of the Year in 2009 for a reason. Living up to expectations when they are that high can never be an easy task, and at the end of the day, why change a winning formula?
OVERALL RATING: 8/10
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