Fallout New Vegas

As a final year masters student, I should have kept away from the likes of _Fallout New Vegas_; trying to blast through a game that offers tens of hours of gameplay for review while simultaneously keeping up with course work and generally having a life is an extremely challenging task. Fortunately, it was well worth the investment.

Taking place in the exceptionally depressing world created and developed within the previous _Fallout_ titles, _New Vegas_ focuses on the story of a lone courier tasked with the delivery of a platinum chip. After being shot in the head at the very outset, this courier sets out to find their would be killer and re-obtain the chip that they were nearly killed for. From there the story escalates into what can only be described as a masterpiece. Mechanically _New Vegas_ operates nearly identically to _Fallout 3_, so anyone who’s played the previous game will feel right at home. The combat is still based around VATS, a feature that pauses the action and allows the player to target individual limbs of the enemies in their sights, and the role playing elements that made _Fallout 3_ so compelling also return.

There are some new additions in terms of how the game operates: companions, while previously difficult to control, can now be given instructions through use of the ‘companion wheel’. This is definitely a useful feature, allowing you to order those following you to use health packs or be more aggressive, but is not really necessary on the normal difficulty. Factions have also been introduced in _New Vegas_ and play a big part throughout the entirety of the game. The way you act toward each of the numerous groups, effects how they interact with you. If you’re hated by a certain faction, they’ll attack you on sight, if you’re loved, you’ll be offered discounts in stores and practically worshipped. One of the key features of _Fallout 3_ was the inclusion of a karma system that dictated how the characters in the world reacted to you. Although still present, this system as been predominately overshadowed by this faction mechanic, meaning that the good or bad choices you make are simply dependant on which factions you want to, or don’t want to, piss off.

What the game lacks in innovation over its predecessor, it makes up in its narrative and captivating story. It’s a slow burner but as time goes on, you become more and more invested in what _New Vegas_ has to offer. Details, characters and little nuggets of information about the world so excellently crafted, and here expanded, in the previous _Fallout_ games are fed to you little by little. It’s the subtlety at which these details are given to the player that makes the experience so compelling: you aren’t told straight and plain what happened here in Vegas, but are given clues that over the hours you spend with the game, build up into a true understanding and history of the world that both this character and _Fallout 3’s_ protagonist inhabit.

New Vegas has a completely different feel to the Washington DC portrayed in _Fallout 3_; things aren’t as bad here, there’s clean water and electricity due to reasons that you uncover throughout story. This is extremely important as it differentiates _Vegas_ and _F3_ substantially, making this new addition to the franchise feel not like a hyped-up expansion pack but a unique entity that offers something above and beyond what could have simply been more quests and a few extra weapons.

_New Vegas_ would have been a near-perfect game if it wasn’t plagued by so many technical issues. It’s incredible this game ever got past certification. Crashes, clipping, script errors, general dodginess and terrible animations all regularly occur and caused me to loose at least a couple of hours of play time due to a combination of the above and the game’s inherently flawed autosave system. While the game does automatically save when entering a new area, this is completely useless when wondering the Mojave desert, something that takes up a lot of in-game time. I could just save more but as there’s no quick save option on the console versions, you have to go into the menu each time. This may seem petty but when you never know the next time the game is going to crash, saving is a necessity that takes far longer than it should.

I have to be honest, I was initially disappointed with _New Vegas_ thinking that all it offered was more of the same experience that I’d played the hell out of in _Fallout 3_. However, after playing for a few hours I began to remember that, in this case, more of the same is definitely not a bad thing and once you’ve become integrated into the story, there really isn’t any turning back. It’s a shame then that the game is flawed with so many technical issues, ones that even after a patch still haven’t been corrected. As long as you can live with a few console restarts, _New Vegas_ will give you something no other game can: complete and total immersion. You’ll be dreaming of the Mojave in no time.

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