REVIEWS -- Fallout: New Vegas -- PC
A good game but it broke golden rule number six
by Gregory Aiello
Fun factor: Average
Worth to: Buy/Rent
ĎNew Vegasí is too big to be a ĎFallout 3í expansion, but itís obvious it prefers riding the coattails of its precursor.
When I attended high school, I sometimes was less than honest about doing my work. I would visit a friend and ask for help on an assignment, look at their sentences and answers, and tweak the wording just enough that it looked different at first glance. Essentially, it was the same thing again with some new polish. This is the first thing I thought of when I began to play Fallout: New Vegas.
New Vegas isnít a game that can be written off as a simple expansion to Fallout 3. This is a whole new game with new problems, a new plot and more than enough content to justify the price, but built on the same infrastructure that makes it feel more familiar than new. For most people, this is where the problems begin.
Golden rule number 6 of the gaming world is a necessity to step up and raise the bar of every game sequel. If this is not possible, the sequel must be thrown out like a snotty tissue. Even Call of Duty manages to accomplish this, and COD is as about as appealing to play online as soaking your head in turpentine. So as it goes for golden rule number 6, Fallout: New Vegas made only a half-hearted attempt.
Thatís not so say that I didnít like the game, because if you believe anything about number scores being valid at all, and not simply relative and case-by-case, then a 75/100 is pretty solid, however itís not the 90/100 I wanted. I still manage to spend hours exploring and completing quests, still live to be immersed into the Fallout world, and my faith is still strong in sand-box style gaming. Despite this, I think Iím being a bit generous with this game for some reason. Maybe because Iím so in love with Fallout 3 to this day that the aura of that game has yet to wear off. Ignoring the bugs, which are more quirky than debilitating, this title has plenty to be disappointed about but also to enjoy. Thus begins my love-hate relationship with New Vegas.
Youíre a slacker, thatís what you are!
The beginning didnít really pull me in. There. I said it. I was not at all intrigued with it. The way I imagined the game beginning, when I was doing my preview reading, was with a tutorial where you made your character, did some very baby-sitter deliveries as the courier that you are, and then at the end of the tutorial you were given a bigger assignment for which the payment was a bullet to the skull. Then, you could wake up in Goodsprings, as the game has you do, with a good understanding of the whatís what in New Vegas. This would solve two problems that the beginning of the game has inherited. 1 -- You would give a damn, even a little damn, about your courier job. 2 -- You would understand a small portion of the Mojave wasteland before going off to adventure further.
Building off of number 2, what I kept thinking to myself about my character was simply... how does this guy get a courier job and know NOTHING about the Mojave wasteland? Heís the worst courier in the world! No wonder he got shot in the head! Seriously, think about it. You wake up in the doctorís office and you start asking questions like, ďwhere am I,Ē and ďwhereís New Vegas.Ē The first one, Iím okay with. Waking up anywhere after taking some lead to the frontal lobe would also have me asking where I am, but New Vegas... is kind of a big deal. I think the player should have been scripted to at least know that.
Also, this courier has some significant problems in understanding the political upheaval and war-like environment of the Mojave wasteland. Letís be serious and sit down for a moment with Mr./Ms. Courier. Open up some Oreo cookies, take a bite, dip it into milk. Yummm. Youíre meaning to tell me, Mr./Ms. Courier, that you work in the Mojave wasteland, know where nothing is, and donít even know the two political factions fighting for complete control?
You, sir or madam, are fired
This bothers me. It still bothers me even after Iíve played a good long while now. I was STILL asking people where things were without any explanation like amnesia. The doctor in the beginning said I was totally fine... so why am I acting like a total moron? I mean, I could have been a complete stranger who fell out of a helicopter and accidentally collided with a bullet and the story would be able to start in the same way. I didnít care about my courier job, didnít know where anything was, and I wasnít really upset about being shot in the head. I seemed to be okay, after all. I could still shoot lizards and chop up bad guys with a machete. No harm, no foul.
In fact, the main driving force behind me following Benny, the man who shot me, to New Vegas was so I could kill him... because he was voice-acted by MATTHEW PERRY who, for just being in a realm where I could kill him, wholeheartedly deserved a live grenade in his pocket. I finally found him and he says, ďWhoa now, letís talk about this,Ē with his terrible voice-acting. I think, maybe heís trying to sound as smooth as Frank Sinatra, but heís coming off as a college kid trying to get with a bartender. I say, ďAlright, PERRY, have it your way. Letís talk.Ē I lied. Then I sneak, sneak, sneak, a grenade in his pocketÖ BOOM! Okay, now that business has been taken care of, where can I find a laser rifle?
Ah... I feel better already
When will my Pip-Boy become a man?
One thing that stopped me from feeling really good about this game, however, is the damned Pip-Boy map. Itís the worst, and it hasnít improved at all since Fallout 3. If youíre ever in a building with more than one story, youíre totally hosed if you want to use that map. Are you on the third level of the building, or the first? Youíll be damned if you can tell by the map -- itís the same picture no matter what! Am I standing next to the collapsed wall or over it? I canít even tell. After a while, the map started looking like a Korean kidís idea of a road map of New York City -- Iíll be damned if I trust that! I hardly even use the map, which helps me learn the building I have to explore, but I also get hopelessly lost in them as well. I mean, really... that map is terrible.
And speaking of when things are the same inside of buildings... things are the same inside of buildings. You step out of the Mojave wasteland and into a building and you could very well be in, letís say, the Capital Wasteland or in a building somewhere in Pittsburgh, aka The Pitt. Everything looks exactly the same as it was back in Washington DC. Same doors, same desks, same litter all over the ground, same floor types, same stairs... and so on. I mean, honestly, in the ďreal worldĒ you canít find two building next to another in the SAME CITY with the same furniture. Gaming rule number six dictates that Obsidian should have taken this into account and at least made an effort to ditch the old Fallout 3 interiors to create a feeling of separation between the two games. Right?
At the same time, Obsidian did do a bit of a change and improved the character models. They look a lot better. For example, my character is a built dude with some actual shoulders on him instead of a skinny guy like I am IRL. This makes a difference. Player and non-play models alike, they just look better. They are all still stiff as a board, and never stop staring at you creepily, but they are improved nonetheless.
Another improvement is in the armor system that New Vegas has in its repertoire. Having different armor types and using different ammunition to get through them is a good change. You can be totally destroyed by a well equipped solder if you donít have the right ammunition and picking fights with giant scorpions becomes a bad idea, as it should be. All of the monsters are tougher too, even if itís simply because you get a good dose of radiation while fighting ghouls -- a nice touch.
Oh, for the love of Gamebryo
Iím going to take a quick moment to talk about the bugs of this game. They are there. Many of them happen during the action sequences and leave you, at first, amazed and then confused. Many-a-time I must have been saying out loud, ďWhoooaaaa... uuuhhh?Ē I threw a stick of dynamite at one dude, for example, and he got an elevator ride into the sky... where he stayed and continued to shoot me from a hovering-crouched position. As my second stick of dynamite flew harmlessly under him, I barely finished my ď...uuuhhh?Ē sound before one of his shots took my head off and I had to reload the game. Another time, the same thing happened, but I managed to kill the guy in midair and watched as his body just... continued to float above me as if it were sprawled out on the floor.
But Iím not going to talk about toooooooo many of these bugs. I just wanted to give an example and then voice the fact that these bugs make no sense at all. This is the same engine as Fallout 3, a game with very few noticeable bugs. It is completely apparent that New Vegas is an overlay onto the Fallout 3 engine, and not much has changed with core gameplay mechanics. So why the bugs? Not a new system, not a new interface, not a new combat mode.... then what? Mostly, these bugs just leave me more confused than frustrated. Thank goodness for auto-save, I say.
Speaking of more of the same, Obsidian... can we maybe put a few more music tracks onto that Pip-Boy? Honestly, a song file can be digitally compressed into basically nothing these days and still sound good. The limited soundtrack is simply obnoxious. Imagine all of the 50ís style Vegas and showtune themes that COULD have been put on the Pip-Boy, but they didnít. Six or seven different songs got tired enough in Fallout 3, my friends, but having another six or seven songs looped on three stations is even worse. A nice 20-25 song soundtrack would have been welcome in the Mojave wasteland.
Another thing about improvements that never happened: the save system is getting to be archaic. Simply providing slots to save on is so old school itís not even funny. Having two characters is risky with this system. What if you accidentally pick the slot where your other character is saved? Bad news, thatís what. Each character should have its own save panel, not sharing one. Itís not only safer, but it looks cleaner and more refined. Who uses 100/100 save slots anyway? Iíd wager most gamers use five slots max and end up deleting old ones when they get far ahead in the game. Logic, duh.
Maybe the radiation rotted their AI?
I think when it comes down to it, sandbox games are difficult to make. The bigger they are, the harder it becomes to control every aspect of them. Obsidian has come a long way since they released Oblivion, thatís for sure. You wonít find the same character talking to himself/herself when he/she encounters himself/herself as another non-player character in the game. Though you will occasionally catch two different characters with the same voice talking with one another about their problems, which is quite amusing really. Itís like me, when I start talking to myself while playing New Vegas. ďYou know, I wish they added more soundtracks to this game. Yeah, me too.Ē
If I had to put my two cents in about something that needs improving for the next Fallout or the next Obsidian sandbox game, itís the NPC AI. In battle, they seem to do well. It canít take much to program an NPC to hit you with a stick or shoot you in the eye at this point in gaming history, but itís the downtime they really have to work on. What do NPCs do when theyíre just standing around? They stand around, looking at walls, admiring the peeling paint, or simply standing somewhere staring at another NPC.
When I found Benny/Matthew Perry, for example, what was he doing? Standing in the corner, surrounded by his goons, just waiting for me to put a live grenade in his pocket. Shouldnít they have scripted him to be walking the casino floor, hobnobbing with gamblers? I mean... he was just standing there. Thatís what most NPCs do. Stand and wait for you, even if they donít know you were coming or even when they knew you were coming to kill them. It could be a lot better.
The future of NPC AI is a long way off and a total mystery to how it will behave. If a game like Halo in 2001 could write dynamic combat scripts that change with every reload, then why canít a more recent game like Fallout do the same in 2010? Itís a little strange.
I think this game could have been more, a lot more, and epically a lot more, if Obsidian did not break golden rule number six: find a way to raise the bar. It feels like more of the same, but the same kind of thing you enjoyed from Fallout 3, so itís not all bad. In the end however, now that this game has been released, all thatís been proven is that the Fallout 3/New Vegas engine has been exhausted and it can no longer carry a game on its own. Itís clear that if another Fallout game is to follow in whatever amount of time, it will need to be built from the bottom up again and major changes need to happen if this franchise is going to stay afloat.
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: October 22, 2010
Review Date: 28-11-2010
Numbers of Players: 1
Players Online: No
Notes: Downloadable Content, Dolby Digital 5.1
This is a solid looking game with some model improvements and gloomy, dry environments, but some glitches and repeated usage of past art water the impressiveness down.
The game doesnít bring in anything revolutionary to the table that Fallout 3 did not already establish. The glitches and bugs take some of the fun out of it. This can be seen as just more of the same. The map is still obnoxious.
Obsidian certainly did well to promote and hype this next chapter to the Fallout universe, but overall the game feels like it could have used more time evolving and working out the kinks.
Recycled sounds, mostly dry voice acting, and a very limited soundtrack seems to beg the idea that there was a lot of room for improvement that did not take place. The Pip-Boy radio doesnít have the variety of music that one might wish to hear.
People who played Fallout 3 into the ground might get excited to pick up this game, but eventually boredom and dťjŗ vu may set in after 15 to 30 minutes in New Vegas.