Guest Author - James Shea
Based off of the Fallout 3 engine, "Fallout: New Vegas" takes place in a new part of the Fallout world and improves on both mechanical and narrative aspects of the game.
Fallout takes place in a post-apocalyptic United States, with design aesthetics based off of the 50s. Fallout 1 and 2 both took place on the West Coast, while Fallout 3 took place in Washington DC. "New Vegas", naturally, takes place in Nevada, which also allows them to connect to more concepts and storyline events from the first two games. In "New Vegas", the player takes the role of a courier whose package was stolen and who was left near-death. Recovering thanks to the aid of a friendly local doctor, it's up to the courier to decide what they want to do about it - to seek revenge, to try to recover the package, and which faction to aid in the war-torn Mojave desert.
Unlike Fallout 3, which was fairly limited in terms of story choices, New Vegas is much more about the player choosing on their own what to do. There are several major factions in the game that the player can opt to support. These include Mr. House, the enigmatic ruler of New Vegas, the New California Republic, a democratic assembly from out west, and Caesar's Legion, a brutal but efficient army of tribes intent on subjugating the wasteland. Like past games, there's also a variety of sidequests that can have different outcomes for local communities. While the sides are a bit black-and-white (there's no doubt that Caesar's Legion is the evil choice, even though they try to dress it up with "it's the most efficient choice and they keep raiders away"), it's still better than FO3's story, which was unquestionably linear.
The gameplay itself is more solid than Fallout 3's, as well. The gunplay, in particular, is much improved, and offers the addition of iron sights for most weapons. This allows for more accurate shooting, and in general combat feels more responsive. The VATS system from FO3 is still present, allowing for pinpoint targeting of enemy limbs, but it's been intentionally made less accurate so that players will have more incentive to use normal shooting (which was basically worthless in FO3). The melee weapons still have the same problems they had in FO3 though, namely questionable hit detection and poor VATS responsiveness.
In addition to its normal gameplay, New Vegas also offers a "hardcore mode" designed to appeal to people who want to play it more like a survival game. In hardcore mode, healing items restore less health (and restore it over time, instead of instantly). However, the most important change in hardcore mode is the need for food, water, and sleep - something that's present in normal gameplay, but only for healing purposes. In hardcore mode, finding food and water is as important a part of the game as defeating enemies and scavenging gear, which makes the game feel a lot more "post-apocalyptic". In both FO3 and New Vegas, there's sources of food and water around the desert (broken pipes and old plumbing serves as an unpleasant, but viable, water option). However, only hardcore mode makes it actually worth looking for them, which makes it kind of a neat touch.
FO:NV shares a lot of FO3's problems, since it's closer to a mod of FO3 than a new game. However, it's drastically improved upon FO3 in terms of things like story, writing, and atmosphere. While the game is far from perfect, the things that are bad about it can be traced back to the FO3 gameplay and engine, while the things that are good about it are mostly connected to its own material. That's not to say the game is perfect, either - the wider variety of choices means that a lot of the quests are buggy and can easily be broken, and the wasteland of New Vegas is a lot less open to exploration (stray from the road and you're likely to find high-level monsters almost immediately that outclass you even when you're high level). Still, compared to FO3 it's a much more immersive experience.
We purchased this game with our own funds in order to do this review.
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