Written by Chris Price
25 Monday 25th October 2010

It’s probably been engineered. Fallout New Vegas is all about discovery, deception and manipulation. “The game was rigged from the start” – the words that echo in your freshly unpacked head, as the body of your Mojave Express courier slumps into a shallow grave. An unceremonious execution, at the hands of some faceless pizones. And that’s just the beginning of your troubles.

The wasteland of 23rd century Mojave Desert is lawless place – studded with ramshackle settlements, bearing scavenged reminders of the 21st century – the titular New Vegas is a resort of hedonism, governed by money and murder orchestrated by a shadowy entrepreneurial empire. If Fallout 3 was a ‘robots and Rubidium’ post-apocalyptic US Civil War with 1950s ‘embrace the atom’ sentiment, Fallout New Vegas is The Age of the Prospectors – The Gold Rush, with a 60’s Vegas Scorcese gangster motif (see 1996 classic Casino for more information)

If any section of US history was ripe for adhering to Fallout 3’s fame and notoriety system it’s the Wild West. And, based on the lessons we’ve all learnt from Back to the Future 3, it’s a ripe source of comedy. You’re in control of how you are perceived on your journey. Antagonistic conversation, robbery and murder will send your karma plummeting, as you become a fearsomely able bandit, friend to miscreants and general troublemaker. Completion of tasks enables upgrade of attributes and personal traits as you see fit. Alternatively, assistance and honour will make you both friend and saviour to many, but nemesis to the latter. Your notoriety is a disruptive force, encouraging real cause and effect on the network of stories that make up the game landscape.

Great effort has evidently gone into making sure every key character you converse with has a fresh yarn to spin, with regional radio stations colouring your locality and warning of natives. Religious zombie cults, rogue mutant legions, autocratic zealots – all have interlinking storylines, developing the world in your head. Conversation can be polite, rude or you can hit them with the kind of dry wit that could raise a chuckle from Guybrush Threepwood (a reference not made lightly). Based on your attributes, you can charm or threaten.

A visually grand daytime scenery of burnt hills, cobalt skies juxtaposed against flickering neon in the night, and blistered icons of past commerce redeployed. Aside from a palette extension, visuals appear interchangeable to Fallout 3. Music is incidental but suitable (classic swing soundtracks) with suitably meaty effects throughout.

The 18-rated combat system from Fallout 3 returns, radically tweaked – enemies can effectively be battled in full Doom-esque FPS HUD glory – or via the VATS battle interface - using Action Points, to disabled foes limb by limb, and maintain yourself to a far greater degree than the previous incarnation.

Fallout New Vegas also improves on its predecessor by placing each mission in a chronological fashion, with far less aimless wandering between waypoints. Herein lies my grievance. Trying to tie an effective narrative storyline into a large sandbox environment is a toughie. I have to think enough in the real world – and having my cortex pummelled when I’m playing a videogame isn’t an enticing thought.

Someone said that an intense hobby is no different from a second job – a truism I think references traditional Role Playing Games, and why I find them so hard to commit to. I feel I should be doing other things. So…I’m scavenging and trading, becoming addicted to performance enhancers, masquerading in stolen uniforms, sneaking attacks for the advantage – and guess what? You started playing an action adventure, now your worrying about Aptitude Points You’re playing an RPG – properly. And you didn’t even know it. In fact, you’re probably only weeks from starting World of Warcraft.

Fallout New Vegas is a product with lofty ambition. Bethesda ability to have crafted a fully rounded story, anchored in a familiar past is impressive. As a game, it’s as violent and satisfying experience, eminently more so than its predecessor on almost every level. It exists as both an action adventure and RPG, but as a seamless package of both, it’s a dangerous immersive a product, further perpetrated by an ad hoc save system.

Fallout New Vegas is an emotional and immersive vortex of time. Just one final gripe – please release a patch to update your third person character animation. He runs like a chicken. 

Fallout New Vegas is out now on XBOX 360, PS3 and PC. I recommend you buy it, but be prepared to kiss your life away.

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  • Guest: chris
    Tue 26 - Oct - 2010, 12:56
    cheers, yo. The still need to get rid of the chickenwalk though...its a bit of an IQ reducer..
  • Guest: slipknotyeroc
    Tue 26 - Oct - 2010, 09:19
    Awesome review this sealed it for me. Definitely going to buy this game.