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Fallout: New Vegas Review

Review; Jan. 7, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Edward Kaczynski
Followup to the popular Fallout 3 is more content of the "same game"

(Editor's note: This article contains moderate language. Younger readers, or readers of a sensitive nature, please be advised.)

Better late than never, I suppose.

I’m going to preface this by taking stock of Obsidian Entertainment’s many failures over the years. Let’s begin.

  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords – terrible.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 – worse.
  • Alpha Protocol – this was Obsidian’s attempt at an original intellectual property. It was even fucking worse than the previous two.

That’s it, that’s all she wrote. The expansion packs for NWN2 don’t count because they’re expansion packs. Even if they’re amazing, you have to sift your way through garbage to play them.

As is made evident, Obsidian Entertainment’s track record before Fallout: New Vegas is one of failure and ineptitude. They can’t make it work with a proven franchise, and they can’t make it work with their own IP. They had three chances -- and screwed up every one of them.

Fallout: New Vegas Screenshots
Click the image to view screenshots

Based on the above, here’s pro-tip for game developers: If you have an intellectual property you like, and you want to see it developed further but don’t feel like doing any work, hire anybody other than Obsidian Entertainment.

Being a bit of a Fallout fanboy, you can imagine how surprised (and subsequently crestfallen) I was to learn that Bethesda Softworks had chosen Obsidian Entertainment to follow up Fallout 3, a game I once described – published, in print and still available in archive – as being better than sliced bread. That was the article’s title.

So, what can I say? Fallout: New Vegas is pretty good. And why shouldn’t it be? Bethesda already did the hard work – Fallout 3 was amazing. Fallout 3 was original. Fallout 3 was a fresh take on an old favorite, and they managed to do it with style and class. All Obsidian had to do was copy the design and add their own flair.

It was difficult not to have expectations with New Vegas. I’ll admit, I didn’t know exactly what those expectations were, but I was hoping for more than an expansion pack with a couple of mods thrown in. New Vegas is…Fallout 3 again. Yeah, it’s a different story. Yeah, it’s a different map. But it’s still the same game. Sure, they added a few things here and there – hardcore mode, weapon modding, etc. So, while I can say that New Vegas was about as pleasant as a cold beer on a sunny day, you have to keep in mind that it’s following up learning you just won Megabucks.

In this instance, being “pretty good” isn’t good enough.

So, let’s start with what they did right.

New Vegas is beautiful. Really beautiful. Simply walking around the environment, you can tell a great deal of time and effort was put into perfecting the Mojave wasteland, and there wasn’t an inch missed. From Red Rock to the Hoover Dam, everything is superbly modeled and textured. This couples perfectly with the soundtrack to New Vegas. I’m not talking about the radio stations – turning the radio off and allowing the ambient music of the Mojave wasteland to wash over you is simply a treat.

The story is a big motivator in New Vegas, if for no other reason than a much wider range of choices. Multiple paths to multiple endings makes this feel like a true sandbox game. Factions are introduced, which are interesting and can be fun to try and work your way up through their good graces, but if you’re looking for moral ambiguity, there’s still very little in the way of “grey areas” when it comes to right and wrong, good and evil. The reputation system complements this, although it’s admittedly sort of broken (slip a grenade into someone’s pocket = one step down in reputation. Steal Caesar’s fork = KILL ON SIGHT).

What New Vegas did wrong, however, is part of the reason this review came so late.

At this point, many of its initial faults at launch have been addressed, but that doesn’t change the fact that the game was released bugged all to hell – which is a real accomplishment, given that Bethesda was holding hands the whole way. The PC version of New Vegas was worse off than the console versions, but even they were finding new and inventive ways to crash. It was difficult to write a review when the game crashed for the first month of its release, and you couldn’t quicksave because the quicksave slot wouldn’t actually save any information.

The companions that New Vegas tries to force on you are much like the companions in any Obsidian game – mostly unlikable, poorly coded and unnecessary to the main story. They try and give them their own personalities, side stories, mini-quests, etc., but that only serves to open up places that are normally denied to you. Which, for the record, is completely and utterly frustrating when the poor coding comes into play and the NPCs don’t work

Caravan: Why? I honestly tried playing this, over and over again, to see the card game that Obsidian brought to the table. Instead, I found it so frustrating and confusing, that I quit, killed the NPC attempting to teach me and stole his caps.

The most disappointing thing about New Vegas, however, is the vast amount of unused space on the map. Fallout 3 – climb anything. If you could find a way up, you could move all the way to the edge of the map. New Vegas – invisible walls wherever Obsidian didn’t want you to go. Moreover, all four sides of the map have vast areas of land that are neither in use nor accessible, and to me, it smacks of rushed development – Obsidian’s typical excuse as to their previous failures.

The bottom line: If you liked Fallout 3, you’ll like New Vegas. You won’t like it as much as Fallout 3. It doesn’t have a whole lot more to offer, and most of what it does have is aesthetics. Story, setting and sound can please some of the people some of the time, but if you’re looking for game play improvements, you’re not going to find much beyond some bells and whistles.


darkstar2380 - Jan. 9, 2011 at 1:07:14pm

Yeah, community mods are great. The community shouldn't have to fix the game for the developers.


JCXanirus - Jan. 9, 2011 at 4:47:24am

I would say the community mods would more than make up for the game's shortcomings, but considering I have had the game for more than 3 months and I have yet to see the main menu before crashing to the desktop, I can't very well say that can I?

Plus, after two replies from Bestheda, and a entire month gone by without a third reply to my tech support question, I can pretty much call my $40.00 wasted.

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