Overview

It’s not the big things in New Vegas that make the game stand out, but rather the obscure details that make up its world. After all, there’s nothing particularly new that’s worth shouting about. V.A.T.S. returns in all its slow-motion glory, as does the skinned Oblivion engine. You’re greeted by another American post-apocalyptic landscape to explore, filled with unique characters, settlements and quests. So why does it make such an impression on the player?

I’d just visited the actual Las Vegas in September. Having driven across the real Mojave, it was only apt that I explore the alternative version in all its glory.  I can safely say that after roaming the wasteland for hours, you won’t be disappointed.

Take Novac as an example; an early rest stop that’s nothing more than a motel amid the dust and destruction. Its gigantic novelty dinosaur towers over the locals – their time spent scavenging the surrounding wasteland. Even with the world destroyed, its residents still tout tourist tat to anyone passing by – scale replicas of its prehistoric monument. Only in America, eh?  The name Novac, a clever pun that becomes clear once you spot the ‘No Vacancies’ sign lacking in illumination.

The world of New Vegas is alive with countless settlements like Novac; a collection of intricately designed set pieces rich with personality and character. However, the desert itself seems the opposite – it feels a lot more desolate to the original Fallout 3. Sticking to the safety of the highways, you genuinely feel relief when you stumble across an abandoned petrol station. Its murky interior provides the perfect place to protect you from the elements.

Storyline

The remnants of mankind litter the way as you trudge towards the game’s centrepiece. The neon glow of The Strip calling to you like a siren calls to ships. New Vegas literally rises out of the ground beckoning the player with the same draw of its real world equivalent.

The game sends you along a natural path to Sin City. The main quest holds your hand delicately, never pushing you too hard, but at the same time being compelling enough to never feel like it’s not worth your attention. A lot of the time you’re ushered along without even realising. Of course, strangers along the way will petition your services for the reward of caps and equipment, but you’ll find the main plot constantly calling your name.

When you do procrastinate, you’re free to indulge in as much side-questing as you see fit and there’s always a point-of-interest on your compass beckoning you. As you head deeper into the game, side-quest paths overlap. It gives the impression of a living world where everyone has a past giving real weight to your actions. You don’t foresee the outcome of your intentions until the game reveals the result later on. It makes you think twice about killing those who seem villainous and sparing those who cry for help.

Voice acting is typically of a high standard, it’s just a shame that the aging engine doesn’t reflect the emotion. Characters’ faces struggle to yield the required emotive response from the player. It’s upsetting because there are individuals in New Vegas that would genuinely illicit a better response if the technology allowed it.

But it is perhaps, the untold stories of New Vegas that are its crowning glory. The Nuka Cola truck that’s been ransacked after the highways became too clogged to continue. The note left in a New Vegas casino room by a man on a hot streak. The corpse that’s surrounded by dead ants by the side of the road. The empty house, fully furnished but leaden with deadly traps. You’re left to fill in the blanks, your imagination allowed to run wild. Subtle signposts exist purely to conjure the ghosts of a civilisation that crumbled amid the strain of a nuclear horror.

As you ransack the dilapidated houses of the game, you feel as though you’re intruding on people’s lives. You’re literally bearing witness to a forgotten generation. It’s powerful stuff.

Gameplay

It’s all well and good providing a slice of nuclear goodness but if the game doesn’t actually play very well, it’s a grind.

Thankfully, New Vegas returns in all its Fallout glory. There’s little difference between it and the original Fallout 3. In fact, bar an improved companion control system and fleshed out crafting mechanics (there’s use for the scrap that was previously pointless ), it’s a carbon copy of the original. The menu systems are the same as is the V.A.T.S. dispatching of your opponents. The game does its bit to explain the mechanics behind weapons and armour (armour piecing, damage-per-second values) to ease new players in, but generally it boils down to picking your weapon and watching limbs explode in all their slow-motion glory.

In the past you often found that character development favoured those with a combat-centric mindset. This time around New Vegas makes uses of every skill available. Bartering and speech are no longer a waste of points and along the way; the game provides plenty of alternative lines to progress along. It means that you’re free to specialise in what you want rather than be punished for not choosing a combat-heavy character build.

For example, choosing a scientific focus helps you with crafting. You’re now able to produce a wide range of ammunition through recycling and salvaging. There also plenty of traditional health-giving recipes and a mod system for tacking on all sorts of weapon appendages (think scopes, etc).

Elsewhere, Hardcore mode makes its debut appearance, aiming to provide veterans with another layer of difficulty to overcome. Ammo now has weight (meaning you’ll have to choose what you carry with you) and you’ll need to sleep, eat and drink to stay in top condition. Limb damage is only repairable by a doctor or a ‘doctor’s bag’ – stimpacks no longer work for anything but raw-heath regeneration. Health is also regained over time rather than instantly.

Sadly, it’s still fairly forgiving and you’ll rarely find yourself parched or hungry for more than a few seconds. It’s possible to carry around 15/20 weapons, complete with ammo, aid and apparel with even the weakest of strength values. Still despite its ease, it’s still a noble effort by the developers to bring some realism to the game.

Finally, being such a large open-ended game (that has limited scripting) results in an experience that a tad rough around the edges. Bugs and glitches, humorous and irritating alike, rear their ugly heads regularly and the game’s engine has a habit of occasionally crashing. Still, the game’s already had the game breaking / save-game-corrupting problems fixed and there are more patches on the way to alleviate the remaining minor issues.

Graphics

The good? The world of New Vegas has charm, is expansive and The Strip is particularly impressive (albeit a little small). However, the cracks are beginning to show. The same items, textures and character models from Fallout 3 appear frivolously (except this time the colour palette is brown rather than green).

There are still plenty of occasions where you’ll marvel at New Vegas’ beauty but it’s usually down to the skill of the developers, rather the technology. The various factions all have their own look, (which you can mimic for reputation benefits – i.e. disguising yourself), which brings a much needed level of variety to the game. The Romanesque legion who crucify those who defy them; the NCR representing the supposed good in the world; the mutants, hobos, drunks and hookers that line the streets of Vegas. They all have their allure that’s mimicked by their surroundings.

It’s only when your nestled deep in the heart of the debauchery of Vegas that you can appreciate the game’s looks. The casinos design, each with their own theme (much like the real Vegas) are a fresh of breath air. They almost seem out of place – a point reflected by its real life counterpart.

Still, basing a game in an apocalyptic setting will always prove difficult – after all, ruined interstates and flaming buildings are hardly unique in the world of gaming. New Vegas is by no means a bad looking game – it’s just that its shine is beginning to look a little dulled.

Sound

Any slack left by the game’s graphical pitfalls is picked up by its superb soundtrack. It’s perfectly period – a mix of Vegas greats amid a flurry of gravel-toned crooners. It makes you feel part of a bygone era of glam. New Vegas clings onto its past glory as vast casino halls pump out melodies of a forgotten time. It’s deliciously authentic and it’s one of the game’s standout points.

Overall

So losing yourself in New Vegas is easy; its charm and character sucking you into a world wonderfully realised. The only downer is that it’s not as pretty as it might have been. Despite it being rough around the edges, the bright lights of the world’s biggest adult playground are unavoidable. Enough time since its predecessor has elapsed that you’re not going to feel burned out by the nuclear winter. Sinatra had it right when he sung: “This town is a make-you town, or a break-you-town.”

About The Author

Marco’s been playing games since 1996 and has been writing about them for four years. RPGs are his strong point and he has an unholy love obsession with the Calibri font. Follow him on Twitter @M_Fiori

  • Xenoliath

    @xboxer360 Fallout 3: New Vegas?

    • http://twitoaster.com/country-gb/xboxer360/ xboxer360

      @Xenoliath Just noticed the error before and corrected it

  • darkru1er

    @xboxer360 Its not Fallout 3, its a totally different game. Just Fallout…

  • Thomas Mulrooney

    Great review Marco!

    I've only played a few hours of the game so far, but I still find myself agreeing with what you wrote here. I was initially a bit disappointed that the map is smaller than Fallout 3's, but after spending 135 hours playing that (and still having Broken Steel to complete) I have to be a little thankful that it may not be as long as before. There's way too many games coming out to spend all my time playing one.

    • http://www.marcofiori.co.uk Marco Fiori

      Thanks a load dude. I'm itching to play it, but very busy this week.

  • Ecksbawksthwee60

    Fallout 3.1 Copy Paste Backgrounds New Vegas has reached the top of the charts. Buggy,crashes all the time,same characters,dull landscape. Sound like fallcrashalotout 3 to you? Anyone who pays full price for this is an R-Tard. And yes, let the fanboys comments comence…….

  • chris

    BORING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Such a boring game – how could they have messed it up so much when its basicaly fallout3.