Fallout: New Vegas Review (PC)

Homecomings are a wonderful thing. A bit of an alien concept to Brits such as myself, I nevertheless appreciate the sentiment of a welcome return, or the retaking of a much deserved mantle. Obsidian Entertainment, forged from the remnants of Interplay's Black Isle Studio, fresh from the not-so successful Alpha Protocol have returned to a franchise they know very well. Anecdotally referred to as the Vice City of the series, Fallout: New Vegas is a companion game to Bethesda's 2008 revival of a cult classic.

I get the feeling this isn't going to end well...
Set three-four years after the events of Fallout 3 (and, incidentally, 204 years after the Great Nuclear War that created the setting), New Vegas puts you in control of a new hero who, after a rather snazzy intro cinematic, is left for dead and missing his/her memory right at the start of the game. Armed with only a few clues and whatever else you end up scrounging, you embark on your quest to find out who you are, and why a top New Vegas club owner wanted to rob you of the package you were (apparently) carrying.

Obsidian's mark is obvious almost from the off in New Vegas. The engine is pretty much the same as it was in the previous game, but from the off you notice several tweaks, such as the interface. The V.A.T.S. system is improved, there's a companion interface, the weapon and crafting system has been changed... but the way the world is portrayed is also largely similar and yet considerably different. To quote an old adage, God is in the details, and Obsidian have used their previous history with the series to great effect. The black humour is there, complete with old-school Fallout's trademark moral ambiguity. Whereas in Fallout 3 the Enclave were pretty much 'Bad', and The Brotherhood of Steel were pretty much 'Good', in this game things are less clear cut.

The New Californian Republic, who are the de facto 'good guys' are actually pretty bullish and corrupt, and Caesar's Legion, the 'bad guys', actually aren't that bad when you get to know them... even though they rape, pillage and kill a lot. There are many other factions as well, old and new, and Obsidian have brought in an in-depth faction system to help deal with it all. No matter what you do, you're bound to upset someone, and that will dictate your actions later on in the game.
This 'Companion Wheel' really helps you customize your follower's behavior
To say that there's plenty to do would be an understatement - Even after 35 odd hours, we'd only just made it to New Vegas itself, and that was after an executive decision was made to stop faffing about and get on with the main story. New Vegas is reportedly the same size, if not bigger, than Fallout 3's Capital Wasteland . While we've not tried to verify that claim, we can certainly believe it. The map is a decent size, and it's crammed with nooks, crannies and side-quests that can easily distract you from your main objective.

Still, Mass Effect taught us that a game shouldn't just rely on side quests to fill in the content, although the side-content in New Vegas is a lot meatier than Bioware's Sci-fi RPG. If we're being really honest though, the main storyline is a bit weak right up until you get to Vegas. Sure it's interesting trying to figure out who you are, but nothing of real value is learned until you get to the Vegas strip, and the first 30-40 hours (side-quests included) are just spent chasing your attackers across the Mojave desert. Still, it gets you out and about I guess. If we're being really picky, (although this is a personal thing) I kind of wish there were more references to Fallout 3, just for continuity's sake, but then it's been clear from the start that this is not a direct sequel.

The real gem in this game though has to be Hardcore mode. Naturally, if things are seeming too easy then you can always up the difficulty level, but Hardcore mode really focuses the extra challenge. Everything, including Ammo, has a weight. You must make sure you eat and drink enough, as well as sleep (you have metres that you need to keep an eye on) critical wounds can only be healed by the Doctor, and so on... Whilst you get a special reward for completing the game on Hardcore from the off, if you're unsure what to expect, our advice is to play the game on normal, stockpile loads of supplies, and then give it a try. It truly takes the gameplay experience to a whole new level, and definitely one of the better additions to the game.

And yet, for all its brilliance, it seems that Obsidian didn't learn the lessons from Alpha Protocol quickly enough. Whilst the code is nowhere near as bad as SEGA's modern-spy RPG, there's enough glitches to to be very noticeable. The game out-right froze on us half a dozen times, forcing us to restart our Xbox, although we had the prudence to save regularly anyway. There's sometimes a serious lag/slow down, although these only last a couple of seconds due to it either sorting itself out... Or crashing. Even loading times - not something that we normally pay attention too - can take up to several minutes. Whilst Fallout 3 and the DLC had a history of buggy initial releases, you'd think Bethesda, and especially Obsidian, would know better.
Hey. What's Up
Despite minor disappointments however, this is a very engaging title. Those who missed some of the more trademark Fallout elements in Fallout 3 should be somewhat satiated in this game, as Obsidian really bring that flair to the franchise once again. The glitches, whilst highly annoying, will hopefully be patched soon after launch, but again we can't help but feel that as time goes on there's less and less of an excuse for shipping games in such a state. Perhaps they're paying the QA testers in Caps? This could have been a great game, so it's a shame certain things are holding it back - still, it's addictive, interesting, highly enjoyable, and so credit where credit's due. A great addition to a great franchise, and a must have for fans and new comers alike.

Top Game Moment: Just exploring the world and doing all that there is to do, and of course New Vegas itself.