Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first. This is for the Playstation 3 version. Fallout 3 may be my favorite game this generation. It is a toss up between it and Demon’s Souls so you know that I have a bias to this series already going in, BUT it also raises my expectations a bit more as well considering how well I know Fallout 3. I have played Fallout 3 for well over 200 hours so I know about everything there is to know about that world and the game.
Why is it a semi-review? Well…I haven’t finished it yet and I still haven’t seen a patch for it, which would skew my final score. Of course NEEDING patches of any sort to give a final score should lower the score immediately already shouldn’t it?
Now, we are on to Fallout: New Vegas, which was released on October 19, 2010 in the U.S. and released TODAY in Europe. I purchased it at Walmart at midnight on the 19th and got myself a free pack of Fallout: New Vegas playing cards and a DLC code for the Caravan Pack which included the Sturdy Caravan Shotgun, Binoculars, a few Stimpacks, and Light Leather Armor. All of which I have found useful even though you would think they are junk for early game stuff. That shotgun has saved my ass more than a few times. Of course not until about 6 hours into the game because the DLC codes couldn’t be redeemed until about 3 PM on the 19th since they didn’t get them updated. Off to an awesome start the second I pop the game in!
Straight away you need to know that you only get perks every TWO levels in New Vegas, although you can level up to 30 in the vanilla version unlike Fallout 3. This isn’t as big a deal as you might expect as they offer a bunch of challenges separate from quests such as “Bug Stomper” which is awarded for killing you guessed it 50 bugs. It gives you a damage boost against insects. There are dozens of these challenges in the Pip Boy and you will get many just playing the game. They give EXP and Perks so the leveling up isn’t the only way to get stronger. Companions also add perks to you if they are around, although I hate companions so that is up to you to figure out. Unless they offer acne scar removal I could care less.
New Vegas has added quite a bit under to the RPG element that Fallout 3 didn’t have. First of all the new Hardcore mode significantly changes the way you play. Stimpacks work as regen rather than all at once. You must eat, drink, and sleep to stay alive. Fast Travel can actually kill you if you are too close to death already.
The biggest obstacle is the lack of sleep-healing that Fallout 3 had. Critically damaged limbs can no longer be healed by Stimpacks in Hardcore mode. You either have to hook up with a doctor, or use special items like Doctor’s bags to fix yourself up, but early on these are rather scarce and hard to come by. It gets a little hairy out in the field with this new limb damage system. Hardcore is offered right after you pick your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats and is separate from difficulty. You can play hardcore at any difficulty. It adds a lot of depth to the experience so I would highly recommend it. Just remember that Medicine and Survival are pretty important skills in this mode.
Some of the depth of the game comes in a lot of recipes and creating your own stuff in New Vegas. You are able to create aids at campfires which will heal you, replenish your food and H2O stat, and even give you a caffeine boost to stay awake. Not to mention super-charged regular chems like Party Time Mentats that offer +5 Charisma! Yup…Charisma=1 is definitely the right call once again for your set up.
Weapon modifications are available. Ammo upgrades and creation are available. Weapon benches are available. You have much more in the way of customization in this game than Fallout 3 and it is awesome.
The weapon modding in particular I find pretty enjoyable. Early on you will probably end up with a weapon called the Varment Rifle. It’s nothing special really, but great for shooting early weaklings and it is cheap. In one of the first towns you can go into a shop and buy a silencer and larger magazine upgrade for this gun (these mods are weapon specific). Then you open the Pip Boy and highlight the weapon and open the mod menu. You add the silencer and the new magazine, and you have yourself a new silenced Varment Rifle+. You can see what these mods do before and they add things like extra limb damage, scopes, silencers, etc. Finding the upgrade parts is the real struggle though.
I have found the difficulty of this game much higher than Fallout 3 early on. At least from an enemy standpoint. No longer are you just battling with enemies based on your level. You will see Giant Radscorpions at Level 2 if you wander the right way, and Super Mutant Masters if you wander another. They will rape you at low levels. I ran into a couple Giant Radscorpions at level 2 and my weapons took like 5 shots just to take 1 tick of health off. I HAD to defeat them too to get away from the area. Only way I could do it was by jumping on top of a rock that they couldn’t climb up. I was down to a machete by the time I got the last sliver from that last one.
The story I have not even begun to tap into so I can’t comment on how good it is. What you will find are though is FACTIONS! Quite a few. Powder Gangers, Legion, Vipers, NCR, etc. You can help, or destroy them. You have affiliation with them and gain advantages, or disadvantages with them. Do them wrong and they may hunt you relentlessly. Put on one of their uniforms and you may be able to get away with nothing but a “How do you do?”. A couple of the factions are major players in the story and of course, they are natural enemies. The system is neat, but giving a lot of way is just spoilers and I think it is fun to find out and decide who really is good and bad for yourself. This is an RPG and you should play it how you think would be the way your character would react to certain groups.
One last thing as a positive. Take the “Wild Wasteland” perk at the beginning of the game as one of your perks when you first get to. (You get 2 right at level 1). This perk has a bunch of weird stuff happening to you if you take it. UFOs, Indiana Jones in a refrigerator, and many other oddities. Totally worth it to see if you can catch the references to pop culture no matter how obscure.
Now for the buttload (well not a lot, but they are big ones) of negatives…
You may be lucky. You may not. The biggest negative seems to be luck based at least to some degree. A few of these could be patched so they could happen to you regardless. FREEZING. Player from all platforms have experienced freezing of the game that require a hard shutdown of the console as soon as an hour into the game. It may be just moving to a new area, or trying to repair an outfit in the Pip Boy.
The other is the constant framerate issues, and the chugging graphics like pop ins, and momentary pauses for loading elements in the world. If you played Fallout 3 you know these issues were there and you loved it anyways. Unfortunately, our dream of smoother gameplay, and 2 more years of the developers with their own engine hasn’t produced much of an improvement in the overall technical prowess. This engine is DATED. It runs like crap and you feel it when you play. Bugs of things stuck in the ground, pathing issues, and of course the stutter when trying to run around to new areas. It just feels like they didn’t improve the engine at all between Fallout 3 and now. We just have to live with it because no patch is going to fix these issues. These are problems with the engine, and it is what it is. All the way back to Oblivion. Back to the drawing board gents because you can’t put out another major release with this engine and expect any of us to buy it.
All that being said I am still enjoying this game quite a lot, faults and all, just like Fallout 3. The uniqueness and feel of it aren’t quite “new” like they were in Fallout 3 so there is no way I am as blown away by it as I was to that. It still adds a lot of depth to the RPG elements from Fallout 3, new locations, and new story so it has undoubtedly enough to make this a purchase. While some may feel like it is Fallout 3.5, or Fallout 3 DLC at first, there are so many subtle changes to the gameplay that make it a much richer experience. Hardcore really makes you feel like a Wasteland Survivor compared to a GOD like you were in Fallout 3. New Vegas is more challenging, and has quite a bit more to do such as gambling, weapon mods, survivalist cooking, etc. that are worth it to take a look at the game.
The ONLY thing holding this game back from a high 9/10, or better is the outdated engine it runs on. The technical issue and bugs just make it impossible to give this game a score higher than 8/10 for me, and that won’t even come until after patches. At this point I have to give it a 7-7.5/10 as a soft score subject to change, but there is no way it ever gets the 9s that some morons are giving out. Technical issues MATTER. I do not pay $60 to be a DAMN BETA TESTER!.