If you’ve read my comics on the website up to now, you can probably guess I have a thing for Fallout 3. Well, it’s a brilliant game, as my colleague Luca has already pointed out. It’s immersive, it’s both depressing and invigorating at the same time, and it gives possibly one of the greatest experiences I’ve played in what people would call ‘sandbox’ games. So I decided to pick up Fallout: New Vegas, which came out late 2010, the follow-up title from Bethesda Softworks, to see if it improved on Fallout 3.
I should point out that New Vegas uses the same graphics engine as Fallout 3, so while there are marginal improvements in the graphics, such as facial mapping and character details, the graphics do often look like they have been lifted right out of Fallout 3. However, I don’t mind this. Fallout 3 wasn’t badly done, so it’s not like we’re getting horrible graphics for the time this game was released in. Also, considering some of Bethesda’s other notable games – and I do mean Oblivion, where the characters are, to put it bluntly, ugly - this is quite a good-looking title. There are improvements that could be seen in some areas and aspects of this game, mainly scenery issues, but besides that I can’t criticise it too much.
How does the storyline compare between the two games? Well, in a sense, I think I prefer the story of New Vegas (by the way, this paragraph is riddled with spoilers). In Fallout 3, you took up the role of the Lone Wanderer, a man/woman fresh out of a Vault (a giant fallout shelter) looking for your runaway father and in the end helping either one of two very important factions in the Capitol Wasteland to either the benefit or detriment of the lives of thousands. It was a great story, with some intriguing twists and some epic moments, but it was far too grandiose and the story never really grabbed me enough to keep me going throughout without diverting to the myriad of side quests at every opportunity.For the setting of this game, New Vegas swaps the Capitol Wasteland, the ruins of Washington DC and the harsh, unforgiving land filled with grey, brown and ruined buildings for the all-round merrier Mojave Wasteland and the city of New Vegas, the still-intact city of Las Vegas, which offers a much brighter, much less depressing and sorrowful experience then the last one. Here, the desert settings, the small towns making due with frontier justice and run-ins with gangs and convicts, the still-running electricity and the large cities and settlements give a real feel of a western-styled film or game, as though you were a cowboy strutting around the desert, hunting outlaws – which, if you happen to pick up the aptly named ‘Cowboy Repeater’ and side with the good guys, you can actually do.
New Vegas is different. You play the Courier, a runner who is attacked while carrying an important package and left for dead. You start off on a quest for revenge, and get embroiled in a war between numerous factions that could change the lives of people not only in the Mojave Wasteland, but also most of America, or at least what’s left of it. I do like the way that the story, starting small and working its way up into bigger stuff, always seems very personal in that you can proceed along any route you want, pulling off numerous endings depending on your chosen side during the plotline, and a lot of the game’s events revolve around your actions. In fact, almost every town and settlement that you see and interact with during the game has an involved ending once you complete the game, showing the scale of your actions and what you have accomplished, something you just didn’t get in Fallout 3.
The aforementioned factions are yet another great addition. A lot of the towns and settlements you encounter have reputation, as well as individual groups like some raider gangs, but the main factions are the New California Republic – straight out of Fallout 2, as are a lot of elements included in New Vegas – and Caesar’s Legion, themed around the ancient Romans. If it wasn’t for the fact that the Legion just happened to be the assholes of this game – and I find myself taking the moral high ground every time - then I would probably have joined them, just for the audacity of running around a nuclear wasteland wearing Centurion Armour and waving around a Gladius (that’s an old sword for you non-historians). What’s that? A ten-foot tall, radioactively mutated scorpion? Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it with this rusty sword… Actually, you know what, I don’t think that sounds like such a good idea. But the faction system works well. People react to your actions. Different towns and people act differently depending on what you did to their home, which works well with creating a much more personal experience.
Gameplay-wise, this game doesn’t change much from Fallout 3, but judging by the popularity of Fallout 3’s combat system and play style, they didn’t need to. What is a welcome addition is the inclusion of iron-sights aiming, allowing for more accurate and much more realistic shots rather than a simple ‘zoom in a little closer’ aiming style. While the sights sometimes get in the way, they do help a lot. Companions in this game are also much less idiotic, their AI improved somewhat, and to be fair I like them a lot more than I liked the annoying little f*****s in Fallout 3. What’s that, Jericho? You used to be a badass raider? No one gives two flying – you get the idea.
Companion perks also help. With each Companion comes a new kind of perk exclusive to that character. For example, sniper Companion Boone gives a perk that, when aiming down the sights, highlights all enemies in view in red. It makes for much easier targeting, and often I find myself taking down groups of six or so enemies before they’ve even got within firing range between my own sniper rifle and my Companions actually lending a decent hand this time around. I won’t tell the story of what happened when I tried to fight a Super Mutant Behemoth in Fallout 3. Rest assured, it involved a twenty-something-foot mutant, my idiotic Companion running in with a hammer, and some visceral agony of multiple formats.
It must be said that this game feels more like an add-on or a DLC for Fallout 3 than a new game. A lot of elements have been taken from Fallout 3 and placed directly and unedited into New Vegas. But it works. A lot of what was involved in the previous game worked well, so any changes would have made fans unfamiliar with the system and likely would have made the experience much less enjoyable. The levelling system is simple, the inventory micro-management and trading systems are easy enough to understand and grasp, the use of certain skills and weaponry is easy to learn, and in short, everything in this game is easy to pick up and play right off the bat, which allows new players to get right into the in-depth experience much quicker.
A new addition to the game however is a hardcore mode, which I have yet to try. Rather than just wandering around with little worry for much except which mutated horror is about to try to shove a gigantic iron claw ten feet up your ass, in hardcore mode you also have to worry about hunger, thirst and sleep deprivation, all of which adversely affect and even kill you in extreme levels. Also, ammo has weight. In casual mode, it does not, meaning you can carry hundreds of rounds for all your weapons without a worry. With weighted ammo, the limit is just impossible to comprehend, but I suppose it is only for the ‘hardcore’ players after all.
Overall, I think this game rates higher than Fallout 3. Its presentation, gameplay and story are all brilliantly placed, and its graphics, while still leaving something to be desired and nothing really original shining through, are still what the game needs. I don’t have much to complain about in this game, I really don’t. Wait, no, I do have one. Deathclaws.
They. Are. Impossible.