America is a nuclear wasteland in chaos. Now go out there and survive. What better assumption could there be for a sandbox shooter-RPG game like this second entry in the revived Fallout series? I would find a virtual hiking game exciting if it operated off of that assumption. Not that you won’t do plenty of hiking early on, but New Vegas does an incredible job of balancing first-person shooter and RPG genres with a survivalist sandbox frame of mind, providing very powerful gameplay and storyline that deserves multiple playthroughs.
New Vegas adds to the successful formula by taking the engine and gameplay of Fallout 3 and giving them a sense of place (in this case, a combination of Wild West and 50s casino aesthetics) that they only rarely achieved last time. Fallout 3’s Washington D.C. setting may have shocked a few people with its images of a demolished National Mall, but for the other 90% of gameplay, the sense of setting really never took off. So Fallout 3 developer Bethesda may have realized they were a little too focused on, well, the immediate area around Bethesda, so they shipped allowed the sequel to be developed by Obsidian, who have a claim on the rest of the Fallout series’ past. The new setting around the former Las Vegas area is an inspired choice, and the narrative surrounding an important regional battle for Hoover Dam propels the narrative better than Fallout 3’s setting did.
The setting is so important, in fact, that the gameplay is hardly changed at all from Fallout 3, which has led to accusations that this new title is more like a large $60 DLC package than a new game. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing– RPGs generally don’t enhance their gameplay for each iteration, because gameplay isn’t really the point of a lot of RPGs. They are more about storyline and character interactions than most video game genres.
New Vegas concerns a major upcoming border clash between the New California Republic and Caesar’s Legion, two armies of nebulous morals in conflict over the resources of New Vegas and Hoover Dam. The player character is a courier who has been miraculously revived after receiving a bullet in the head from a New Vegas casino owner trying to get at your character’s mysteriously meaningful delivery, a platinum poker chip. Your character is pushed by the desire for revenge to reach New Vegas, and events he encounters along the way may rule him to either align with one of the armies looming over New Vegas or attempt to forge his own destiny.
Yes, the gameplay is more or less the same as Fallout 3, however there is one major gameplay addition that’s very enjoyable, but might be looked over because the game truly recommends that you don’t use it. The new Hardcore Mode provides some realistic survivalist additions like requiring your character to eat, drink, and sleep, and making it so they cannot closest heal all injuries on the fly. The game warns you not to adopt such a challenging characterize, but the changes do not truly make the game considerably more difficult, and in fact they add to the fun feeling of surviving a postapocalyptic society. If Obsidian had simply forced the player to adopt these changes, this new gameplay component would seriously enhance the game for everyone, but most gamers will likely not choose to adopt features that the game itself warns them will be more difficult than they truly are.
So it really is a fantastic game, but for a modern console game it is incredibly riddled with bugs, to a ridiculous degree. I did estimate the game on the PS3, which Bethesda has historically not given two craps about while porting from Xbox 360 and PC versions of their titles, but that can’t explain all of the continued issues. A player may see in any given few hours of gameplay a scorpion fall out of the air, a giant gecko running in place forever, quests with an NPC that never quite figures out what it’s supposed to do to keep gameplay going, and a nearly controller-tossing number of random freezes. A downloadable patch is of course “in the works,” but given Bethesda’s track record, it may take months for these major issues to be solved, if they are ever solved at all. It’s not exactly game-breaking, but expect to reset your console about fifty times before you’re finished with the basic storyline.
Fallout: New Vegas is nevertheless a spectacular game, and the new western setting fits the series perfectly and adds a lot to the experience. Be sure you turn on Hardcore Mode unless you really find you can’t remember to eat and drink at times, and you’ll find this title really is already more entertaining than Fallout 3. And I’ll get right back to enjoying this game again right now, already after the 30+ hours I spent playing it for this review.