Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Fallout: New Vegas

Here's an old review I found in my emails, thought I'd just get it out there. 

Fallout: New Vegas is often accused of being little more than a retread of the critically acclaimed first person RPG Fallout 3, and the use of subtitle rather than a sequel number would go towards supporting that claim. However, despite the bugs in the game build this is a far larger prospect than any DLC could deliver.

Many of the game mechanics are lifted wholesale from New Vegas' predecessor, with the same First Person perspective, the same menu access via the wrist-mounted pip-boy, the same levelling up system granting incremental skill increases and related perks, the same inventory system and the same VATS targeting.
Despite the many similarities it was the extensive exploration that made Fallout 3 such a special game, the sense of discovery when coming across new buildings, caves or areas and uncovering the stories of those who lived (or used to) within is what drove the hundreds of hours of gameplay that many fans poured into it. Finding a skeleton slumped on an office chair near a note and a pistol on the floor helped to conjure the feel of a world destroyed, where survivors were struggling to get by.

While mainly not trying to fix what wasn't broken, New Vegas introduces some new elements to the mix with the new survival skill helping you to craft new items from component parts, and disassemble and reassemble numerous types of ammo for your weapons depending on your related skill levels. Levelling up is now staggered, with some levels providing only skill increases without extra perks, though you can earn perks from task repetition - killing a set number of mutated insects grants a permanent advantage against them in future.

Compared to Fallout 3, New Vegas is quite a lot harder. Even ignoring the crazy Hardcore difficulty mode (where you need to regularly eat, drink and sleep regardless of combat damage, and ammo has weight alongside the other items in your inventory) the game throws up a stiff challenge when just attempting to get from place to place. In the Capital Wasteland of Fallout 3 the creatures roaming the countryside soon became distractions as your abilities outmatched them; in New Vegas a number of the creatures you meet (including new faces such as geckos and wasp-like cazadors) remain fatally vicious a dozen levels into the game, making companions more of a necessity than they were the first time around. Elements of the Hardcore mode seep down into the lower difficulty levels, such as food and health items working over time rather than delivering instant boosts, which definitely ups the challenge when facing hardened foes. After 28 hours of play I still found myself killed in seconds when I was ambushed by a small group of deathclaws.
Another new element is that of the factions present in the Mojave desert. In Fallout 3 you made choices that affected your karma, choosing to help slavers or decent townsfolk changing your standing in various people's eyes, but in New Vegas you can have different standings with the various groups depending on your actions. Initially you can mingle and mix with any of the groups (excluding the raider types who attack any strangers on sight) but as you decide to align with specific people, you will inevitably clash with their enemies. Karma is still as obvious as it was (stealing and murdering innocents is bad), but the factions' allegiances aren't necessarily clear-cut from the start.

New Vegas is a welcome update of the successful Fallout 3 formula with the emphasis wisely placed on exploration and combat. Any fan of the original will find something to love here, and the new variety of environments and enemies brings a freshness to the game despite the same basic template.

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