Review: Fallout: New Vegas

Game: Fallout: New Vegas
Made by: Obsidian
Published by: Bethesda Softworks
Available on: PC, Mac, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Fallout: New Vegas is one of my favorite RPGs of all time. A follow-up to Bethesda’s Fallout 3, New Vegas brings back a number of writers and developers from the original Fallout games and offers them Bethesda’s development tools to craft a new Fallout experience set in Las Vegas and the surrounding Mojave Desert. What results from this merger is one of the most captivating and well-written roleplaying games of its age.

FEATURES

Role-Playing Game: You’ve been shot in the head, but the local town doctor fixed you up just fine. Who you were before and who you are now is all up to you. Build your character to play as you’d like, allocating points to skills and player stats as you see fit.

First & Third Person Combat: As in Fallout 3 before it and in Skyrim, New Vegas allows players to either stick with its default first-person camera or switch to third-person at any time. Either way, much of the game’s focus is on fighting the irradiated beasts of the post-apocalyptic mojave with whatever you’ve managed to scavenge.

Player Choice: More than Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas is about choice. Who controls the Mojave and how the game ends is up to you. Whether or not you even address the game’s main quest is up to you. Use what weapons you want, or try not to fight at all. Play as a hero descended upon the desert or as a cunning villain focused only on improving your own riches and status. In New Vegas, the Mojave is yours to shape.

Progression: New Vegas utilizes a leveling system similar to Fallout 3, and each level offers you the selection of a new perk (player upgrade) and a number of skill points that can be allocated as you see fit. As you venture through the Mojave, you’ll be able to do more and more, and how you progress depends on your priorities. Whether you focus on lockpicking, hacking, stealth, speech, or weapons is up to you.

Single-player: Ignoring the game’s NPC companions, New Vegas is a one-man ride.

Open World: From the start, the Mojave desert is yours to explore. Follow the main quest as you see fit, or choose to ignore it completely and follow your own compass.

WHAT I LIKED

World Design & Story: The characters of New Vegas tell a story of a complex landscape fought for by three factions built by men and women of competing motivations. Where Fallout 3 introduced us to a salt-of-the-earth Brotherhood of Steel and true-evil Enclave, the factions in New Vegas aren’t so simple. The New California Republic endeavors to spread the old-world values of democracy and representation to the Mojave, but the republic’s highest echelons are plagued by corruption and war-weariness. Conversely, the harrowing Caesar’s Legion uses war crimes as a favored strategy, but the leadership of a powerful and charismatic Caesar seems to have returned law to the chaotic wasteland. Beneath these two giants, a handful of complex survivor groups attempt to survive amongst each other, and it’s again to you to decide their fate.

It’s Serious… but not too Serious: In the same universe and game that has us sweating through the tense battles between New California Republic and Legion forces, we’re introduced to The King, a familiar-looking local leader who runs The Kings, a New Vegas-area greaser gang made up of men who endeavor to dress, speak, and act like Elvis Presley. Aside from The King and his cyborg dog (did I not mention that…?), the opening of the game offers player the “Wild Wasteland” option, which introduces a variety of characters and random events to the game, including a gang of elderly women who will attempt to mug the player, rodents of unusual size, and a cosmetic skin which changes the game’s familiar Pip-Boy 3000 handheld device into the classy and gilded Pimp-Boy 3 billion.

Player Choice: New Vegas doesn’t skimp on the choices. Which direction you take the game in really is up to you. Who wins, who dies, which weapons you use, which skills you level up, which quests you take and how you complete them. Since its release in 2009, I must have played through New Vegas at least five separate times, and each playthrough has me having a blast once more.

CONCERNS

Unpolished Combat: For all the game is, New Vegas’s combat is not stand-out. It’s not lousy, or even unfun, but it’s simple and without shine. The game boasts a variety of guns that will alter your playstyle, and while it’s fun to take out vicious enemies with a flamethrower, sniper rifle, and baseball bat, there’s no real satisfying hit feedback involved, and you’ll spend as much time with your eyes on the enemy’s health bar as you will focusing on the fight.

WHO’S IT FOR?

If you’re looking for a choice-driven Action-RPG with a powerful and compelling story, look no further than Fallout: New Vegas.

If you’re looking for something more short & simple, or you’re not looking to make hard choices in order to further a game, consider giving New Vegas a pass for now.

STATISTICS

From Steamspy unless otherwise noted.

Average Playtime*: 57 hours
Average Cost per Hour**: $0.17

Median Playtime*: 21.5 hours
Median Cost per Hour**: $0.46

* Playtime rounded to the nearest half-hour
**Costs calculated using a price of $9.99

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