Fallout: New Vegas Reader Review
So what's it all about?
You play The Courier, and you start the game by getting shot in the head by gangsters and having your package of "The Platinum Chip" taken from you. The game starts with you waking up on the operating table of a doctor in a small town not far from the city of New Vegas. A robot that lives in the town finds you and brings you there for treatment. From then on in its about trying to find out who killed you, why and what the Platinum Chip is.
The story is set some time after Fallout 3 and in a completely different area of the USA. There are three powerful factions in the Mojave region - The New California Republic, who are a fledgling new nation with a standing army, trying to restore civilisation to the region. Caesar's Legion - a group of tribes united under a brutal leader called Caesar, they have modelled themselves on the Roman Empire and are seeking to bring everything under their control, they are mean and nasty. Then there is Mr House and the New Vegas Securitrons. A robot army lead by the mysterious Mr House, based out of the Lucky 38 Casino on the New Vegas strip. No one has ever seen him, but they operate out of New Vegas and keep the city independent.
The NCR holds the Hoover Dam which is still functioning and supply fresh water and electricity to the entire region. The Dam is viewed as prime real estate by just about everyone and it is the struggle for control of it that the story centres around.
The main plot lacks intensity and I never felt particularly motivated to play through it, other than when I realised I was getting tired of the side quests and exploration. It is certainly not as compelling as Fallout 3's and I can't help but feel they have missed a trick, as the setting and the factions seem like a rich canvas to create something really interesting, but nothing ever gets explained. I never found out why I was special, which Mr House indicated to me I was, even when you choose to end the game by taking control of everything for yourself, the game then tells you what do with the power.. my character liked the NCR and helped them throughout the game, yet by choosing to take power over New Vegas for myself I had two options, drive them off or kill them all.. how about.. work with them as I had been throughout the game?
Within this mix there are lots of smaller factions, various gangs of both tribal and street varieties as well as commercial organisations such as The Crimson Caravan.
The game world is huge with more than a hundred unique locations and as with Fallout 3, you will find yourself wondering randomly from location to location, knowing full where to go for your next mission, but happily avoiding doing it whilst you rummage around the ruins, collecting weapons, ammo, drugs, medicines, build items and uncovering npc's, side missions and just "filler" material.
Doing missions for people affiliated to any of the factions increases your standing with that faction, positive standings unlock new missions and eventually access to faction shops and locations that would otherwise be denied. By the end of the game it's a choice about whether to support Caesar, the NCR, Mr House or try and twist things to your own advantage.
Missions vary from simple killing certain people, to investigating mysteries, persuading people are factions to do certain things, escorting people, delivering or collecting items etc. There are often multiple ways that a mission objective can be completed. Having high intelligence as a stat or high science, barter, speech or medicine can often allow you to avoid having to get involved in fighting or lengthy travelling to collect components or speak to people all together. This often came as a relief, because sometimes the game tries to be too big or too involved for its own good. The large game world is good, but having walk around large areas searching for people or items can take a long time and it often feels that the time is wasted. There is a fast travel system which helps, but it still only takes you to a predetermined location within that area, some of the areas are large and it still takes time to run around. For the most part the quests involve following your map marker and then making a decision about how you want to do things when you get to the end of it.
You can recruit a companion to travel with you, usually offering you a character perk when they are with you and adding an extra target for your enemies to shoot at and some additional firepower to hurl at them. The AI was sometimes a little flaky, they often ignored instructions to use only ranged weapons for example. They usually have their own missions attached which you can do to earn rewards and loyalty from them.
Combat is handled in much the same way as Fallout 3. It uses a hybrid RPG/FPS or TPS system, where you can fight in real time or use the VATS method, where the game is paused and you can spend action points on basically getting a few "free shots" in against your opponents, selecting where you want to shoot. Time slows down, your shots are taken, then it speeds back up and the game resumes, your action points return over time preventing over use of VATS.
Combat is violent, bloody and mostly very satisfying. There are often nice slow motion shots of your enemies being dismembered to add to the atmosphere of it all. My only complaint is that the difficulty seems completely random, by the end of the game most confrontations seemed extremely easy with most opponents dying to a single headshot, even on the hard difficulty. Except sometimes a deathclaw would show up and one shot kill me and take what feels like a thousand bullets to despatch. Fighting these sorts of opponents really just comes down to spamming stimpacks, running backwards and holding down the fire button.
There is an enormous amount of content on offer, I must have put in around 50 hours by the time I finished it and I know I didn't do everything and then you can also play through the game as an evil person or support different factions so there is replay value as well. Whether I would replay it or not? Don't know, not for a long time I suspect and probably just to try the hardcore mode, where you have to keep yourself fed and watered, stimpacks heal over time etc.
There are plenty of changes that Obsidian have implemented to the game, the way armour works has been redone.. completely unnecessarily and somewhat confusingly and the way weapons are repaired has been completely redone... completely unnecessarily and somewhat confusingly. They have added a crafting system to the game that offers a lot more depth to the one in fallout 3, allowing crafting of mundane items like stimpacks and ammo to unusual types of drugs and food. I largely skipped over all of it though, your inventory space is limited enough, let alone carrying around huge amounts of craft equipment - even with a companion to help carry it all. The only things I did craft were repair kits, because they are essential. I still don't like how weapon degradation is handled in the game. I understand that weapons will be poorly maintained in that world, but that doesn't explain why a perfectly serviceable assault rifle will be virtually useless after 30 minutes of combat - its applied too heavily. Weapons should start off being knackered but once repaired they should stay repaired, not wear out again after being fired 10 times.
The other thing that needs to be mentioned is the bugs. This game is full of them. I had a few quests that I couldn't complete or had to be muddled through because a key npc was missing or the game failed to record that you had completed certain parts of it. Performance is a complete joke, it was a real shock because Fallout 3 runs like a dream, but this game chugged and combat was horrendous. Anything where there were more than a couple of NPCs around and the frame rate fell through the floor. Bizarre, because Obsidian haven't improved the graphics as far as I could tell, the engine is basically the same.. how a professional development studio breaks that kind of thing I really don't know. Especially as the fix came from the modding community... use one of the old d3d9 files from Fallout 3.. so I did.. and .. runs like a dream again.
The modding community is a blessing for this game, a lot of the niggling changes or bugs can be eliminated with the hundreds of moods already available. Then there are plenty of moods to add new content such as weapons or gear or alter the way the game works - for example to reduce the rate of weapon degradation :) . Obviously using these types of moods means the game isn't how Obsidian intended, but if it improves your enjoyment of the game .. why not?
Overall it's a great game with huge amounts of content that will keep you busy for many hours. It lacks polish and the quality of Fallout 3, but it is still well worth your time - but only if you are prepared to look into the mods or wait for them to release a performance fixing patch.