As you might expect bearing in mind the PC roots of the engine, it's the computer version of Fallout 3 that is the most technically advanced. The ability to scale up to extreme resolutions and enjoy higher, tear-free frame-rates plus longer draw distances puts it into a class of its own.
However, even here, there are some pretty dodgy textures on the towns, cities and interiors. The landscapes though are in a class of their own. Chances are that Digital Foundry will produce a Fallout: New Vegas time-lapse video, and when we do you'll get some idea of how the additional visual refinements can transform the game. In places, it just looks so much better than the console releases even when the core art is essentially exactly the same as the PlayStation 3 version.
The game plays better too. As we pointed out in the original Fallout 3 Face-Off, the ability to use mouse and keys transforms combat. VATS becomes less essential because aiming with the mouse is so much accurate. Assuming your PC hardware isn't from Neolithic times, the combination of more memory and a faster desktop hard drive makes the stuttering of the background streaming far less of an issue than it is in the console games. You also get to enjoy the benefits of each of the console games - high levels of MSAA combined with art that looks identical to the PS3 version's textures.
Here's a comparison of the 360 and PC versions, along with a mirror version where PS3 goes head-to-head with the computer game.
As the technology that powers the game is basically so ancient, you won't need a particularly powerful PC to run it. A dual-core CPU along with something along the lines of a 9800GT should serve you well. However, if you do buy the PC game, you should expect to find yourself consulting enthusiast sites to get the game running decently on your setup.
Two years ago, we played Fallout 3 on a 2.4GHz Q6600 quad-core system with 2GB RAM and a 512MB NVIDIA 8800GT. Our New Vegas rig was a 3.33GHz overclocked i7 working in combination with the awesome might of an NVIDIA GTX480 and utilising 3GB RAM. And performance wasn't much better. It seems that the Gamebryo tech that powers both Oblivion and Fallout 3/New Vegas hasn't really evolved much over the years, and manually fiddling about with the game's .ini files is the only way to iron out performance kinks and get a smooth gameplay experience.
Even in the game's initial setup phase in Doc Mitchell's house, we found that the game jerked and juddered atrociously before we resorted to Google and set about tweaking the settings based on the expert opinions offered by what appear to be the long-suffering fans of the Oblivion/Fallout titles. This is clearly unacceptable.
Over and above that, we had to update our NVIDIA drivers simply to make our Steam version of the game actually load (!) and even then we still enjoyed occasional crashes back to the desktop. Others have had much more amusing experiences with the many bugs found within the PC code. Patches and updates will help of course, but it is quite extraordinary that the game shipped in this state and that none of the issues with the Fallout engine were corrected at all, even when the community has done a pretty decent job in papering over the cracks in the ages-old tech.
More surprising still is that the consoles versions are suffering from inexcusable bugs even in the wake of a day-one patch - an update that people whose consoles aren't connected to the internet won't be able to download, of course.
Thankfully, Fallout: New Vegas is a game where the core concept and the sheer scale and scope of the adventure manage to eclipse the shortcomings of the tech. The content is indeed king here for all the reasons explained in the 9/10 Eurogamer review.
But as the content in the shipping release is effectively identical on all platforms, the focus on which to buy if you have the choice available shifts into other areas. The PC version of the game is the one to get if you're looking for the very best all-round experience, but it's something of a Hobson's Choice situation on console where both games have some fundamental issues that detract from the quality of the experience: the 360's graphics are inexplicably poorer in some areas whereas background streaming on PS3, even with the 4.5GB install to the in-built hard drive, is dog-rough.
It is fair to say that the quality of the content is all-important in a game like this, and once again Microsoft has scored a major victory by tying up the exclusive rights to New Vegas DLC. The chances are it's a timed exclusive similar to what happened with Fallout 3. This undoubtedly gives the 360 version an advantage that the other platforms cannot match - until the window of exclusivity closes of course. But quite how wide-ranging the exclusive is remains to be seen, and it's interesting that the press release only specifically mentions the first DLC upgrade coming this Christmas.