Fallout New Vegas is the latest installment in the Fallout series, released in October 2010 made by Obsidian, a developer mostly composed of the people responsible for the creation of the original 2 fallout games.
You start off your adventure as a courier who has had the misfortune to be thrown into so unfortunate business which results in an immediate a bullet to the head. You survive long enough for a friendly robot who talks like a cowboy to dig you up take you to a doctor who patches you up and sends you on your way, either to seek revenge or just tool around in post apocalyptic Vegas, scavenging, pissing off locals, shooting baddies, whatever you like.
The game itself is rather similar to Fallout 3 as far as most elements go, with a few welcome additions inspired by fallout 3 mod and the addition of ‘hardcore mode’ which requires the player to eat/drink/sleep to stay alive. The Fallout games have always been based around RPG skill systems (levels, putting skill points into specific skills etc), combat and speech, and this game is pretty much identical to all previous Fallout games in regards to those mechanics, however the general feel of the diverse amount of characters, missions and locations is much more similar to what I’ve experienced in the original Fallout games; mostly serious but slightly surreal and when humour is involved it rarely flops.
The plot is largely linear as far as the main missions go, but there are many different factions to ally with and the side missions make the entire experience rather open, and gives a nice sense of freedom, which is nicely compounded by the main quest being rather more relaxed about your progression than Fallout 3 was. There is though a sort of linear path of progression when first traveling to New Vegas in the main quest, and is supported by the location of the quests, but the only thing stopping you from going directly to New Vegas from the starting point is the pointy beasts that will try to tear you to shreds, which is much more interesting than an invisible wall.
Unfortunately the locations in the wasteland is something that isn’t quite as interesting as it was in Fallout 3. Sure, there’s shiny New Vegas, with flashing lights and casinos and robot policemen, but everywhere else is kind of boring in comparison to the places Fallout 3 came up with, which had towns built around a crater of an undetonated live nuke, a settlement on a old aircraft carrier, trenches in front of congress, everything was interesting and different. New Vegas has more locations, but most aren’t really that interesting, some military bases, some towns that are pretty much the same as the other towns. Not a deal breaker, but a little boring in comparison to what we’ve already seen.
Combat mechanics have been much improved from Fallout 3’s simplified shoot people, some people have different weapons or more health. Instead armor actually blocks damage from weapons that aren’t up to the task, guns can be modified to have better capabilities, enemies are more varied and appear at specific locations as opposed to the “Random creatures appear in the middle of nowhere” method that Fallout 3 used. However, improved from Fallout 3 doesn’t mean much, the controls, while decent at moving and picking up stuff tend to still be kind of difficult to use in combat situations, and you may lose a battle because you couldn’t aim your gun more than once. Kind of an issue, but can be looked over.
The only real major issue is with the stability and performance, which is an unfortunate side effect of using the gamebyro engine, and can often impact in the enjoyment of the game. Maybe it’ll just stop working, or maybe someone will spontaneously fall through the ground. Or the first dog you meet will have his eyes floating 10cms away from the left side of his head rotated 90 degrees like I did. The performance issues are rather constant as well, the game is frequently choppy without an apparent cause and might occasionally freeze up. Both these issues appear to be in relation to what hardware you have sometimes, so running a quick google search specific issue/components relation might be a great help.
Patches are coming out for the PC and maybe console versions, but funnily enough my copy only started to crash AFTER the first patch was applied, so it doesn’t seem to be much comfort.
Also worth a mention is the modding capability in the game. An editor to the entire game was available since release, and the game supports the mods notable well. The modding community from Fallout 3 has picked it up and have created some astounding mods that really add to the experience, as well as some fixes for specific performance issues.
Best place I’ve seen for mods is http://www.newvegasnexus.com/, so if you’re interested it’s well worth a look.
All in all, the game is pretty good if you like a healthy mix of exploration, scavenging, gambling and exploring a wasteland filled with bad guys, but it requires a fair bit of patience to play and isn’t really the game you should look for in regard to constant pulse pounding action.