Fallout: New Vegas – Second Thoughts

After finally finishing New Vegas and giving it some time outside of hardcore mode, I feel that I’ve got a better feel for what made this game tick, and I think some injustice may have been done. Here I seek to rectify, or perhaps simply elaborate, on a game that I’ve really enjoyed. What follows is the original review, annotated in blue with my new thoughts.

Bethesda doesn’t build much with this new title, but is there really anything wrong with that?

Platform: PS3*/Xbox 360/Windows PC
Genre: FPS/RPG
Players: 1
ESRB: Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs)

Having finally published a Fallout 3 review, and now getting my hands on New Vegas, I feel there’s no better time than the present to attack this title as well.

First off, it’s a lot of the same. It’s hard to tell any graphical improvements, and many of the fundamental gameplay elements are the same, so let’s hit the ground running with the big differences.

The biggest difference is the new faction element that has been implemented. In Fallout 3, you were good or bad, which coincided directly with the Brotherhood of Steel and the Enclave respectively. New Vegas, on the other hand, while still providing the option to be good or evil, also has four different sides you can join in the battle over Hoover Dam, the source of power for the New Vegas Strip.
Mr. House is an entity that speaks to you only through a computer in the Lucky 38 Casino. He wishes to retain control of the Strip through the use of his army of Securitrons, and one can choose to help him out.
The New California Republic is an army-style faction looking to take control of the dam as well in what they call an attempt to unify the Mojave Wasteland region.
Caesar and his legion are a sort of mercenary hierarchy fashioned after Julius Caesar and his men. They are looking to take power and believe the NCR is evil.
Finally, after exacting revenge on Benny, the man who kills you in the beginning, you can locate his robot Yes Man and use him to take control for yourself.
Siding with any one of these paths will garner disapproval from the others, and may result in you getting jumped during your travels. It adds beautifully to the RPG portion of the game. However, this does result in a stark contrast to Fallout 3. Where in 3 you had the ability to complete all the quests presented to you in one go, New Vegas requires four at least partial playthroughs to accomplish everything. This wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t alert you to quests you failed that you hadn’t even started, which is sure to give you a sinking and unaccomplished feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Here is one of my first oversights. Rushing for the end on hardcore mode, I overlooked a lot of exploration of the Mojave Wasteland. By avoiding progression along any one faction and turning over a few rocks, it’s quickly apparent that there are a slew of quests to be done in this game beyond those that are affected by the main path, and a lot of them are really fun and varied. If one plays through this game without helping out around the Mojave, he or she has done it wrong. The main plot isn’t even that great – hit the side quests hard.

Beyond these four paths, there are also several factions one can gain approval from and do quests for, resulting in even more depth and challenge.
True-iron sights have been added to many weapons, but this doesn’t aid much the sloppy gunplay the third title was notorious for. Stick to VATS. Fortunately, with this new focus on the RPG aspect, a lot of stress has, in turn, been taken off of the combat system, which helps to diminish the glaring faults in that aspect.
New Vegas also introduces a new hardcore mode in which ammo has weight and one must consistently drink, eat, and sleep. This is not as challenging as it sounds once you can fast travel places with beds and clean water, though food can sometimes come down to eating whatever you can find, which will result in progressively higher levels of radiation. This system works really well, actually. It adds a sense of urgency until you get used to it, which can be good and bad. Personally, I arrived at the final battle of the game (siding with Yes Man) fighting Caesar’s highest ranking warrior at only level 16, since I was trying hard to get to the end fast to counter building radiation, hunger, etc. Having burned a lot of attribute points on Barter, Speech, Medicine and Survival, I was no match for them, and will certainly have to load an older save and do some side quests. This is really the only fault of this system, and should be taken into consideration.

This stands true, but should be stipulated. It’s hardly a challenge to get around with this system in place, as one will usually have plenty of Rad-X on hand, so eating whatever is no big deal. Purified water is sometimes in short supply, but those rads can also be removed with a dose of Rad-X. No, the most daunting part of hardcore mode is that your companions die. They do not go unconscious. They die. This makes the no-holds-barred frivolity of jumping into whatever quest a whole new ballgame. One has to weigh the options carefully or be stuck reloading old save after old save. I regretfully saved while Rex was poisoned and had to load the save several times in order to figure out that injecting him with about thirteen Stimpacks was the only way to save him. You’ll all be happy to know he survived and exacted his revenge on the cazadors after beating the game and turning off hardcore mode.

And finally, a playthrough of New Vegas will not be without bugs and freezes yet again. While this is viewed by some as a simple staple of Fallout – something the game wouldn’t be the same without – for others, it’s a glaring oversight and an occasional frustration. While doing tasks for the Brotherhood I found myself locked in their bunker after having gone through several times without problem. Reloading would not solve the issue, and I ended up losing a couple hours of gameplay, also contributing to my rush to the end out of frustration.
Beyond these things, I don’t mean to say that this isn’t a great game. While it’s doesn’t have the stalwart attribute of 3 (for reasons that lie deeper in the recesses of my mind than can be accessed, quite likely), it’s an awful lot like 3, for better or worse. For those of us who loved 3, it comes down to “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

Once again, not sure if I agree with myself. Unlike most people, I enjoyed this every bit as much as I did Fallout 3 once I really dug into it. I’ve already pre-ordered the Special Edition due on February 7 so that I have my first shot at the DLC, which has been received generally favorably.

Unfortunately, there were a few blemishes that were overlooked.

Bottom Line: 8.5/10
I would totally bump this to a 9.
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