Fallout: New Vegas review
The world goes about its business, delivering some amazing random encounters. After a save, I stumbled across two small gangs fighting it out. I leapt into the fray – mostly to try out my newly acquired rebar club: a lump of concrete on the end of twisted metal rods. Combat is still lightweight: swinging kilos of concrete at someone’s head only feels powerful when they explode in a shower of gristle at the end, or in VATS where you’re given choices of where to hit with different chances of success. My rebar broke the face of the Powder Ganger’s leader, leaving a ragged red lump where her smile used to be. I reloaded, and this time sat back, watching the battle play out. At one point, a Ganger limped off to safety and pulled out a Stimpack, healing himself.
The central story is a big improvement on the dad-quest of Fallout 3. You’re following the trail of the man who shot you, as it snakes across the Mojave through the major urban areas, drip-feeding you tasks that vary from sorting out a town’s escaped prisoner problem to a ghoul infestation with a brilliantly overthe- top ending. Scenarios and characters that I’m loath to go into detail over, as their tricky little problems should be experienced first-hand. Twisty moral conundrums are laid at your feet as you pick and choose who to piss off (and you’ll always piss someone off). When a game asks you to lead someone into a sniper’s line of fire, but doesn’t specify who, you definitely have to confront your id.
It’s not overtly encouraged by the game, but you can just head for Vegas. Giant Rad Scorpions and Deathclaws stand between you and The Strip, and you’ll end up aggroing every one of them, but you’re given impressive leeway to just stumble across points of the story as you wander. But eventually, all roads lead to New Vegas.
It’s here that a surprising second act kicks off. Structurally things get messy: you’re used as an emissary from Vegas to talk to the factions. While there you can take up more missions, or simply report back to Vegas without having much to do with them at all – pretty much invalidating the entire endeavour. Don’t do that. The factions are interesting, particularly the Caesars: a vast army with nasty predilections, based on the Roman Empire. They crucify people, for Jupiter’s sake. Even the lesser factions, like the Elvis-impersonating Kings or the mafia-inspired Omerta, have been teased out of Vegas tropes.
There’s something for everyone, different personalities and points of view to empathise with or despise, depending on how you’re playing. So the Romans felt my wrath, and I helped the leader of the Kings fix his robot dog (by bashing in another dog’s head to replace the brain). My reward was having the dog as a companion. There are eight companions to pick from, six human and two not, and you can have one of each if you find them. They back you up in fights, and you can set their state via a control wheel, but the most important addition is they bring a perk to your character sheet. Rex’s perk will find and mark nearby items for you to collect. I could have swapped him for ED-E, a floating robot who’s good for spotting people and fighting from afar, but Rex, with his glowing skullcap, was too cute. I was on a ‘nice’ playthrough.
But I could so easily have played nasty, and aligned with the Romans. Or ambivalent and aligned with the NCR – the other main faction and strangely likeable people, just doing what they can to survive. Those choices, and the wonderful way the game accepts and adapts when you make them, make New Vegas worth your time and money. I had a lot of fun, but I never uncovered anything as wonderful as Fallout 3’s Oasis or Little Lamplight.
There are things to see, sure, but the rewards aren’t nearly as interesting in New Vegas. I didn’t get as much out of heading for intriguing things on the horizon as I did in the previous game. With some new technology and the ambition to create a full world as compelling as the previous game’s, it could have been wonderful.
For further reading: CVG's Fallout: New Vegas review, and a guide to finding all of the collectible snow-globes in Fallout: New Vegas on GamesRadar.
More wasteland to wander. New Vegas is good, but the failure to move the series on makes it feel a tiny bit stale.