Review: Say goodbye to your life with Fallout: New Vegas

I’ve got a confession to make, and it’s one that developers hate. I’ve never been a fan of the Fallout franchise. I think Fallout 3 was a technical marvel for its time, but there was something about it that just didn’t grab me. When it came to review this, and after many recommendations from peers, I put my preconceived notions aside and embarked on my journey to the Sunset Strip. I’m glad I did, as I love, absolutely LOVE Fallout: New Vegas, and though it is riddled with bugs and flaws, after 75 hours of gameplay I am a convert to what Obsidian Entertainment has brought to the table.

Distancing itself from the family-centric escapades of Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas moves in an entirely different direction. Rather than a Vault dweller with Daddy issues, you play a courier in the Mojave. The radiation that featured heavily in the previous installment has almost missed Sin City entirely, with only irradiated pockets infesting the land. After Ron Pearlman sets the tone with his gravelly voiced intro, you find yourself amidst a dapper dressed douchebag, Benny, flanked by his hyena cackling cronies. They take your package and give you an acute case of lead poisoning. Wow. Short game huh?

Of course, that’s not the case. You’re unearthed within a bee’s dick of death by the mysterious Securitron robot Victor, patched up by Doc Mitchell (surprisingly softly voiced by Battlestar Galactica’s Michael Hogan) and set off to The Strip for a little, actually a lot, of payback.

Those of you who decide to just focus on this as the main quest, and ignore the rest of the Mojave, are doing themselves a gigantic disservice. The staple of the series has always been its ludicrously deep and engaging story, fleshed out by the ample and near endless side quests available. Sure, I could have knocked it out in around 20-30 hours, but I would have missed out on so much that Fallout: New Vegas has to offer.

For the uninitiated, Fallout: New Vegas allows you to tailor the experience to your liking in so many ways, it’s absolutely astounding. You can be a beacon of hope or the devil. You can choose to use traditional ballistic based weapons like guns, energy based lasers, melee combat with bats, knives and sledges, even unarmed with its own unique takedowns, and that’s JUST the combat.

It lets you get balls deep formulating your very own play style. Add to that the numerous other skills such as Speech (my personal favourite), Barter, Science, Lockpick, Repair, Survival… the list goes on and on. Newbies should take note that it is key to either level up Lockpick or Science as the wasteland is littered with terminals to be hacked and locks to be, obviously, picked.

I found Speech to be the most useful attribute as it often allowed my silver tongued devil to negotiate her (yeah, I play as a chick, what of it? What would you prefer to look at for 75 hours?) way through a minefield of explosive exchanges (as depicted above). Without too many spoilers, it also can in handy in the later stages of the main quest. I won’t go into any story specifics as the meat and potatoes of Fallout: New Vegas is discovering and uncovering its layers on your own.

As with previous Obsidian Entertainment titles, Oblivion and Fallout 3, you can switch your camera from third person to first with a simple button press at any given time. You can play it as a traditional shooter, or slip into VATS mode to get a bit of turn based action on. Using VATS you can target specific body parts and even weapons, with an accuracy percentile displayed for your shot/hit. This is usually accompanied by a glorious slow motion camera pan as (if the wound is fatal) you watch their organs and extremities erupt into a bloody gooey mess. It never, ever gets old. For real.

A few features make a triumphant return to the fold and others have been suitably tweaked. The faction system from Fallout 2 is back, with each group you encounter displaying a certain disposition towards you. Depending on your interactions, this can raise to being idolised or degenerate until you’re vilified by the community. I really enjoyed walking the tightrope with several factions at the same time, seeing how each scenario would play out and which were the best to have in your corner.

The companion system has also had an overhaul with a considerable deepening of commands available. There are about a dozen or so throughout New Vegas, each with their own perk to add to your collection. Boone, found in the sleepy town of Novac, was my wingman throughout the majority of my travels. His Spotter perk, allowing any enemy in the vicinity to be highlighted in red if you aim your weapon, was crucial. That, and he’s a crack shot and one aggressive son of a bitch too boot.

Another little companion tidbit is that you can recruit more than one at a time. Rex, The King’s faithful pooch in Freeside or ED-E from the Post Office in Primm can compliment which ever sidekick you recruit. Given that you get a bonus perk with each, added attacks and triple the inventory storage, you’d be mad not to roll with a posse, and frankly, Boone did a lot of the heavy lifting while I was busy looting corpses.

But it’s not all a bed of roses in the Mojave. Story, characters and gameplay can only get you so far. The overall graphics feel dated and have had only the scantest of cosmetic makeovers, and really show their age. The draw distance on console is limited to say the least, and suffered from many pop up textures and even entire settlements literally materialising before me. In this day and age that’s not cutting the mustard. Not by a long shot.

Other, niggling bugs buzzed about my entire campaign like mosquitos, striking at the most annoying and inopportune moments. Bringing up the menu via the Pip-Boy often wouldn’t render, forcing me to lose valuable seconds during a skirmish to reload and often was met with death. Sometimes when hacking a terminal the screen would inexplicably disappear and force me to leave the terminal untouched. The worst example of this had the screen not render, and then re-render as an overlay over any lock I wanted to pick for the next several hours of gameplay. This left me breaking and entering by feel alone, and while I did feel The Force while successfully unlocking each door, it was frustrating. These, however were not the worst offenders.

The best advice I can give any gamer is save a lot, save often, and save multiple, multiple times. By the end I had 77 different game saves, I shit you not. This was due in part to wanting to revisit certain sections, but more so due to a glitch that had me ripping my hair out and cursing Obsidian, Bethesda, their wives and children for several hours (I’m over all that now, though).

After working through a mission for The Brotherhood of the Steel (if you want the most bad-arse weapons and armour, befriend these guys) involving searching out three separate Vaults, I had no less than four different game saves corrupt and refuse to load for no apparent reason, costing me around four hours of lost play. After questioning whether or not to proceed, several days later after my anger had subsided, I retraced my steps and knocked it out in about an hour and a half, but it still left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Fallout: New Vegas is an amazing experience, but not without its flaws. The combat is intense, the storyline captivating and immersive, but the constant bugs are a thorn in its side. I really wanted to give it a higher score, but these technical letdowns cannot be discounted or ignored, and that is a crying shame. Lets hope Obsidian Entertainment heed the fans’ calls, and tighten the reins on its next irradiated adventure.

8/10

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Dave Kozicki

Shotgun Samurai
Video game reviewer, presenter and enthusiast. Film and TV-aholic. Pop culture geek. T-shirt and sneaker addict. All around nice guy and one hell of a sexy beast. Writer for Official PlayStation Magazine AU, AusGamers and Hyper Magazine.