FallOut: New Vegas is the sequel to the Bethesda Studios (the same guys and gals who brought us the Elder Scrolls series) 2008 Best Seller ‘FallOut 3’. Although, maybe ‘sequel’ is not the right term as though it is undoubtedly the same apocalyptic wastes of the US set four years after the FallOut 3 storyline, it does feature all new characters and is set in an entirely new city; Las Vegas or ‘New Vegas’ as it is now named.
The Mojave wastes of New Vegas are not as devastated as the Capital Wastes of Fall-Out 3, many of the buildings are still standing, especially when you get to the heart of New Vegas which still has it’s own version of the golden strip glittering away. However, this meant that the area is rife with gang warfare and mafia-esque gangland bosses vying for power.
In FO:NV you play the part of a courier who, after being mercilessly shot down and killed by a mysterious stranger in a checked jacket, sets off to find the person who ‘murdered’ him and find out why. As you travel, you discover that the main focal point of the Mojave Wasteland is the Hoover Dam, which as you can imagine, is a large supply of both power and clean water. The controller of which will ultimately gain control over the region and a lot of people wanting to get their hands on it.
After the main introduction sequence, you come to at a doctor’s house who explains to you that you were found left for dead at the bottom of a shallow grave.
After a brief pre-cursor you are thrown in to the first creation screen. On this screen, you state whether you are male or female. The other elements are purely aesthetic, being able to choose race, and all manner of other facial characteristics. If you’re in a rush to get in to the game, there are a number of pre-made options available for both male and female characteristics.
A few sentences later and you will get to set your main characteristics such as Strength, Charm, Perception, and Luck etc. These characteristics define the fundamentals of your character (Strength defines how much you can carry as well as melee attack strength, Perception indicates how far away you can spot enemies, Charm is a conversational skill etc.) You only have a set number of points so excelling in one thing will undoubtedly mean being less able in one or more of the other areas.
The doctor will then ask you a series of questions with a number of responses. These responses will then give you an idea of the starting skills of your character. For example, if you answer the questions with particularly violent answers, then it’s likely that your combat skills will start with a boost; answer questions showing interest in science or explosives and those skills will be increased. Of course, don’t worry if you don’t like the results that you’re given at the end. If you don’t like them, just tweak them to your liking.
The gameplay in ‘FallOut: New Vegas’ is fairly non-linear. You can plough straight through the main quest line, explore anywhere you want in the large expanse of wasteland; dotted with old farms buildings, makeshift settlements, abandoned mines, and waste dumps or pick up any of the huge amount of side quests that will help fill out the storyline, not to mention your pockets.
After performing certain actions within the game, such as completing quests, killing enemies, picking locks, influencing people through dialogue etc. you gain XP which after gaining so much will enable you to gain a level.
Each level you gain will allow you to increase your skill in various activities such as science, combat skills, lock-pick, survival etc. With each point of skill you gain, the ease at which you perform those skills increases. At certain levels you also get the option of attaining new skills, these can have both combat and non-combat benefits. Some will increase your overall damage with guns, for example, while the ‘Confirmed Bachelor’* skill allows you to use your charm with other male NPC’s providing dialogue options you would not normally get otherwise.
*I assume there is also a female equivalent for the above skill, but my character is male, so have listed that one for ease.
The VATS (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) can be activated as soon as there is a target. When you activate it, it freezes the gameplay and zooms in on the enemy. Once in VATS you can target and attack specific parts of the target, such as their legs, heads, weapon, arms etc. Each location shows the percentage chance that you will hit that part of the target, with the hit chance varying depending on the target and it’s distance etc. Causing critical attacks to those areas has an effect depending on the area hit, legs will slow down the enemy, weapons critical’s can cause the weapon to become unusable, head shots reduce the visibility of the target etc. Though, you can’t hide in your VATS all the time, as the number of shots you are able to fire in VATS depends on your AP (Action Points). On average your AP will allow approximately 3-5 weapon attacks depending on the weapon used, before it needs to recharge.
A new introduction in FallOut: New Vegas is the ability to use melee weapon specific attacks in VATS, such as ‘Four’ which involves smacking your opponent when armed with a golf club. In the previous game ‘Fallout 3’ you weren’t able to target specific parts of the enemy with melee weapons, making melee based characters disadvantaged when compared to their gun-toting counterparts.
Throughout your journey, you will meet a variety of good, bad and just plain ugly people wanting everything from your help to your blood.
The dialogue interface has been slightly changed since FallOut 3. The percentage chance of success of FO3 has been replaced by allowing you only to choose options that are going to work. Skills and actions will add to the number of dialogue options available, however if you don’t have the skill required it will let you know it’s an option but it will remain un-selectable (i.e. [25/30 Banter] “Are you sure you can’t let me have them for less, they’re depending on you”.)
Reputation and Karma
Karma has carried over from FO3, with every action having either a good or bad karma effect. Protecting a village will provide good karma, while shooting someone in the head while they sleep will obviously not be looked upon so favourably. Certain actions, or companions will only be available depending on your level of karma and which side of the good/bad divide you walk on.
The other effect in FO:NV but not in it’s predecessor are reputations. You will have reputation level with each faction that inhabits the Mojave Wasteland, that will increase or drop depending on your actions or allegiances. Siding with one faction may well increase the animosity that another faction will have against you.
By wearing the gear of a faction you are deemed to be in disguise, and the faction you are disguised as will treat you more favourably. Of course, the opposite is also true, and factions that dislike the faction’s colours you’re wearing will instantly open fire on you on sight, believing you to be one of them.
It is also worth noting that karma and reputation are not necessarily linked; a bad action may lower your karma but have no reputational effect what-so-ever.
One of the nice little touches alike about both ‘Fall Out 3’ and ‘FallOut: New Vegas’ are the radio stations and more specifically the music played. The nuclear explosions went off in the 1950’s, and as you can imagine, when survival and rebuilding a broken world are the top priority you tend not to have too much time to start up a new entertainment industry. So the music played on the Jukeboxes and radio stations of FO: NV are actual songs from the 50’s such as ‘Aint that a kick in the head’ by Dean Martin, ‘Blue Moon’ by Frank (Ol’ Blue Eyes)’ Sinatra or “Orange Colored Sky”by Nat King Cole.
To me, the music; which most of us know and recognise from an earlier era and probably has certain romantic or nostalgic connotations to many of us, is used to a positively stunning effect. Making the Mojave (or even Capital) wastelands seem a little too close to comfort.
Music aside, the radio stations make for good background music. Each Radio Station having a different tone and sound. The mutant hosted radio station definitely makes for one of the more interesting stations to listen to as you cross the wastelands.
However, even after quite a substantial patch to sort out most of the bugs there are still a few lurking around. My advice is to save often and on multiple slots. If you get caught by one of those bugs, you can just reload an old save.
I loved the first game, and all the new tweaks and niceties of FallOut: New Vegas have made me even more of a fan of this game.
The graphics are very nice, the sound is brilliantly retro and the role-playing elements are so diverse that I’m sure that once I’ve completed it, I’ll be instantly restarting with a new different character to complete it in a different way and discover one of the ‘other’ endings.
The bugs are annoying certainly, but these are being hammered ut one by one. It all boils down to how much of a fan you were of Fallout 3. If you loved FallOut 3, you’ll overlook all the little bugs as I did. If this is your first experience with the Fallout games, you may be a little put off.
Also, look out for Matthew Perry (‘Chandler’ from ‘Friends’) providing the voice for your would-be assassin.
This is definitely one of the best RPG’s out there at the moment and well worth a look.