The Fallout series debuted as a computer game in 1997. A sequel, Fallout 2, was released in 2002 and was also a computer-exclusive game. It wasn’t until the release of 2008’s Fallout 3 that console owners were able to step into the Fallout universe, a post-apocalyptic wasteland set in the distant future, though it resembles the post-WWII era. Now the Fallout series is back with Fallout: New Vegas, which trades Fallout 3’s bombed-out Capitol Wasteland of Washington, D.C. for the Mojave Wasteland and Las Vegas, which managed to avoid the bombs and has been rechristened “New Vegas.”
New Vegas is not a sequel in the traditional sense. While it takes place in the same universe as Fallout 3, New Vegas does not continue its predecessor’s story. There are references here and there, but don’t expect to see any of the same characters. You step into the shoes of a courier carrying precious cargo, who has been shot, robbed and left for dead. Of course, you’re not really dead….there’s a lot of gameplay ahead! When you wake up, you are in the town of Goodsprings and in the care of Doc Mitchell. From here, you will create your character’s appearance and name and assign attributes and gender. This will be immediately familiar to Fallout 3 vets. From there, the rest of the game is pretty much up to you. There are a series of missions that you must play to beat the game; however, many branching paths open up depending on how you approach the early missions. Ultimately, you must decide whether you want to maintain the status quo, assist in a hostile takeover or establish an independent New Vegas. Along the way, you will meet a number of characters and tackle optional quests that enhance the experience. Think of the main story as the skeleton and the optional quests as the meat on the bones. The story missions and optional missions are much more varied than they were in Fallout 3; you will likely need to play the game 3 or 4 times to see and do everything.
By and large, Obsidian Entertainment sticks to the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” formula. The game looks and plays almost exactly the same as Fallout 3. This is both a positive and a negative. The graphics are exactly the same. They weren’t all that impressive in 2008 and they’re even less so now. The weapons, armor, health, experience and attack points systems are all mostly unchanged. There are a few new wrinkles, though. The additions of different ammo types and the ability to create different foods, items and ammo types are a welcome expansion from Fallout 3. Another addition is “Hardcore Mode,” which injects a dose of realism into the game. You must eat, drink and sleep to maintain your health. You also can’t simply go into the menu and use Stimpacks and food at will to fully replenish your health. Each item has a limited health recovery that must occur in-game. Alcohol and drugs have serious health consequences that will hamper your abilities. The radio playlist has also been appropriately changed to feature more Vegas and Western songs, and the DJ has been changed from Three-Dog to Mr. New Vegas (Wayne Newton basically doing Wayne Newton schtick).
Ultimately, the new scenery and gameplay additions just aren’t enough to distinguish New Vegas from its predecessor. Fortunately, Fallout 3 is a great game, so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just lacks a bit in originality. Where New Vegas really suffers is the glitches. This is not a well-polished game. There were missions I couldn’t complete because of this, one of which drastically altered the outcome of the game. At a key moment, I was supposed to meet with a gang leader but couldn’t because the game told me I had a companion with me that I didn’t have and the companion was nowhere to be found. Other times I’ve died because my character froze or got stuck in the ground and I couldn’t do anything while my enemies wailed away on me. There’s really no excuse for this. I gladly would have waited an extra 6 months for this game to come out while Bethesda fixed all the bugs. I suppose this can be corrected in downloadableupdates but New Vegas should not have been released in this condition. Perhaps part of the problem lies in the game’s size. New Vegas is an absolutely massive game. Be prepared to spend 30-40 hours on a playthrough and even more if you want to see and do everything.
Though this review may sound as if I’m down on the game, I’m not. New Vegas isn’t as good as Fallout 3, partly because of the bugs and partly because it doesn’t feel as fresh. Nonetheless, New Vegas is still a very fun and compelling game. I recommend picking it up; however, you may want to wait a little while to see if Obsidian Entertainment can release some patches for the bugs. I would also expect to hear some news on downloadable episodes in the near future. If these are anywhere near as good as the ones for Fallout 3, then they will only serve to enhance New Vegas and its replay value. — Pedro Moreno
Score: 4 Little Goombas Out of 5