Oh dear, Fallout has had a troubled past. After it finally got a chance to prove itself again with Fallout 3, it proved itself to be a hit and a sequel was inevitable. That arrived in the form of Fallout New Vegas, very much the Fallout 2 to Fallout 3‘s Fallout.
OK now that’s just confusing as all hell, let me explain. The original Fallout was a dark, atmospheric yet limited game that captured a pervasive mix of both hope and despair as the player attempted to stop a singular organisation from destroying the people’s of the Wasteland. And Fallout 3 was very much that, and has one of the best atmospheres I’ve seen in a game period.
Fallout 2 on the other hand, added more locations, factions, weapons, moral ambiguity, choice and, most controversially of all, humour and bugs. This is what New Vegas has done. For the record it’s made by a studio comprised mostly of the people who made the old Fallouts, and boy did they bring back the classics.
The Mojave Wasteland is much more inhabited than the Capital Wasteland, mostly because the titular city was spared most of the destruction of the Great War by the efforts of one Mr House, now its enigmatic ruler some 200 years later. But even outside of the city, the Mojave is brimming with the local inhabitants and the presence of two invading factions.
The plot at first concerns itself with you, the Courier, being robbed of your package and left for dead. Once you track down the guy that did it, you come back into possession of the item that was stolen and your efforts have gained the attention of the three major factions, who now all want your help.
The first is Mr House, a Pre-War Industrialist who wants to make Vegas great again, damn the desires of everyone else. Then is the New Californian Republic, a state-spanning democracy dedicated to providing equality, freedom and basic living for all under its banner. Then there’s the aggressive, imperialist slave army known as Caesar’s Legion.
Who you work with is your choice, and each has their ups and downs. House is an excellent administrator, but has no interest in anything beyond Vegas’ wellbeing. The NCR are nice guys, but their bloated bureaucracy and idiot Presidents are dragging things down. Caesar’s Legion will establish order, and quickly. But they’re bloodthirsty, technology hating slavers that treat women like cattle and destroy whatever culture of beliefs you held before.But moving on from the major players and glossing over the minor ones, what’s different in the gameplay? Well, the basics are the same. This game’s more difficult. The old school developers have made gamers fear Deathclaws and Super Mutants again. Armour works differently, Big Guns as a skill has been dropped, with each such weapon instead using a skill based on its ammo type.
And of course, there’s Hardcore Mode. This optional setting sounds great, but in practice I really think it should be handled differently. With this on, ammo has weight so you really have to pick your weapons carefully, you need to eat, drink and sleep regularly so a lot of that junk you can find has a point now, healing is much more difficult and if a companion’s health drops to zero, they’re gone. Permanently.
Now some of these options would allow for a fun, roleplaying experience. The others are just there to give you a challenge. What I want to know is why this has to be an all or nothing feature, instead of a bunch of options you can choose from.
The companions themselves are worthy of mentioning. In 3, they were rather basic. Dogmeat and Fawkes broke the game, while the rest were likely to die with varying degrees of ease. In New Vegas, the companions are instead useful for a wide variety of reasons and have interesting back stories you can explore that lead to a variety of quests. For example, Boone is a monstrously powerful shot as an ex-sniper, and you can recruit him for his skills and then help his work through his issues. Or Raul, who’ll keep your weapons in good condition and who you can convince to revive his old Vaquero skills or become a dedicated mechanic.
All this choice and depth aside, it’s still difficult for me and many others to say whether or not this is the better game. Pretty much the only subject 3 wins out on is atmosphere, but it was such a strong atmosphere that it just might be enough. New Vegas trades the broken 50’s feel for a cowboy/swingin’ Vegas aesthetic that all but vanishes when you’re not in the Mojave itself or the streets of Vegas.
But still, this is a good game. The characters are great, the factions are plentiful and interesting, the moral choices are more ambiguous, the tweaked combat and new weapons fit and all the throwbacks to old Fallout are well executed and never intrusive.
If you liked 3 you’ll like this. It’s more of the same but from a different approach. 3 showed the world broken and barren, New Vegas shows us what civilisation’s up to. I hope the future games continue this approach, I want to see the NCR and Caesar’s Legion really go to war. I want to find out about the Commonwealth. And who else is out there? An army of tribals like the Great Khans? More Enclave? More Brotherhood of Steel? How’s about bringing the Pitt into this?
My recommendation for this game is just as strong as it was for its predecessor, but for different reasons.
Price: (CEX) £10 – XBOX 360
£10 – PS3
£10 – PC
DLC – £7.49 each/£22.47 combined