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PS3 Review – Fallout: New Vegas

October 23, 2010 Written by Ray Conley

When Fallout 3 ushered in Bethesda’s apocalyptic world, gamers dove into a unique experience. Even though a war-torn world setting is familiar and somewhat cliché, the RPG developer managed to create a visceral experience with their RPG. The concept, the gameplay, down to the storyline, felt fresh and gave endless hours of a timeless experience.  Two years later, Fallout: New Vegas is here, and we are filled with anticipation from the new location and mysteries that surround this city and story. Can New Vegas carry over the thrills of its predecessor and embed our imaginations?

With New Vegas, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that we expected this title to deliver the same greatness as Fallout 3. But after putting many hours into character development and pushing the story forward, it was definitely hard to shake that feeling of déjà vu. It seems that Bethesda allowed the developers at Obsidian to follow the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix” approach, and it shows in every aspect of the game. Everything about New Vegas, from the graphics, presentation, and gameplay is exactly the same as experienced in Fallout 3, which can deliver mixed emotions to the overall feel.

In New Vegas, the story starts you off on a much different tone than Fallout 3. Naturally, we already know about the world’s devastation from nuclear fallout, but you’ll get a quick recap about it from the starting cut scene. Instead of beginning your journey from the vault, you’re immediately thrown into the story somewhere in the Mojave Desert with a pre-emptive role as a courier, but will find yourself at the bad end of a gun barrel without much of an explanation. You survive the almost fatal gunshot, and then get recovered by a village that nourishes you back to health. From here, your journey launches in search for the people who attempted your murder.

Strangely, the main story doesn’t seem to be as titillating as the first one. Fallout 3 successfully tied the landscape and the main quest together, where both felt organically woven together to deliver a story. In New Vegas the scenario and main story really don’t feel as connected, leaving little encouragement or wonder to explore a world that already feels familiar. However, the campaign that we are given does feel pretty solid on its own though, and you’ll find that Obsidian Entertainment really put a lot of time towards streamlining the main quest. The main story is paced really well, and you can easily find yourself moving along its trail fairly easily and may forget to branch out to pick up on the plethora of side missions.

You will never be short of tasks or side-quests in New Vegas. Even though the overall world map is noticeably smaller than Fallout 3, there are much more compelling side missions to do that can keep you off the beaten path for hours. Occasionally, you may run into an area where the enemies can slay you within one hit, but this only encourages you to come back later on to finish the fight once you’ve leveled up enough to handle it.

The fighting is relatively unchanged for those of you familiar with VATS system. A quick push of the R2 button will freeze the gameplay, allowing you to strategically target specific appendages on your opponent. To help increase your weapon’s efficiency, you are also able to add various attachments to your weapon of choice to alter its statistics. Weapons can also be fed different forms of ammo, from hollow points to armor-piercing rounds. In spite of this feature, most of the special ammo seems to always be in short supply, and finding the ingredients to put it together never seem to yield enough for it to be fully effective. But if you are really adamant about having that special ammo, be prepared to do quite a bit farming and digging into the darkest nook and cranny for items.

Graphically, New Vegas doesn’t really seem to put in much of an effort to “wow” its audience.  Every texture and polygon from its predecessor makes an encore appearance. The stiff robot-like animations are back as well, which doesn’t really help the game in its general presentation. It feels like Obsidian Entertainment used a copy-and-paste method for the game engine and spent no effort to actually fix the shortcomings from Fallout 3. The game is fraught with graphic glitches. Enemies will sometimes get stuck in the ground or wall (which actually can be an quirky advantage), and sometimes you’ll see the screen flash with strange warped artifacts. The most common “bug” is that the screen will occasionally freeze at random intervals as you’re high-hoofing it across the open world. These frequent pauses can last anywhere from 2 seconds and onward towards infinity – also known as a “crash” which will require you to perform a hard reboot on your PS3. Such occurrences really take away from the experience of the game, as you’ll find yourself constantly saving every five minutes out of paranoia or holding your breath when it performs that brief pause, which is simply unacceptable.

On a brighter note, the sound within New Vegas is quite stellar. Granted, all the sound bytes are exactly the same from the previous Fallout, but it gets the job done and does it well. The sounds of the weapons are punchy and the characters or creatures that you encounter deliver their distinguishable tones. The old scratchy classics of the jukebox are back with new tunes added to the playlist, adding to that charming feel. The music that you can tune in over the radio from your Pip-Boy 3000 does a pretty decent task of making you fall back in time. There were few instances though that sometimes a sound wouldn’t register or the sound effect had a noticeable delay. This didn’t happen too often, so it doesn’t really jar your fun as much as the visual glitches.

There are some newer features for this run of Fallout that perhaps help distinguish New Vegas. As you make your way across the Mojave, you’ll have to be extra careful with how you treat the various towns and factions. Every good and bad deed will be remembered by the people within those factions, so it is wise to decide who your enemies will be. Depending who you chose to team up with will definitely have an impact on the political landscape and how the overall environment responds to you.

Obsidian has also allowed a “Hardcore” mode for those daunting players needing the extra challenge. You’ll have to eat and sleep regularly if you wish to survive, and also count your ammo as each round you carry will add weight. So if you find the regular difficulties too simple and boring, then Hardcore mode will definitely give you a run for your money.

Speaking of money, you’ll also get a chance to take a stab at your luck at the tables. Even before you reach New Vegas, you will get the chance to play various forms of poker to your hearts content or until your wallet is dry. One of the newer forms of poker is Fallout’s very own Caravan. A game of Caravan can be initiated with any NPCs that have dialog available while you chit-chat with them. This can be a great departure from the main game if you are in need for a break to dust off your boots.

In spite of Fallout: New Vegas being plagued with bugs, it still manages to take what is familiar and make it work. Sadly, I’m still not sure if putting in the hours is worth the effort just yet because of the random crashing that occurs, and that can really break your patience if you forgot to make that last important save file. The critical side of me feels that this game could have used more polish, especially since the game engine has already been out long enough for the developers to work out the kinks, which they clearly didn’t do. The quality of other open world games really make New Vegas seem mildly archaic in its presentation, however the long list of missions, additional features and technical aspects may entice the hardcore RPG fans to come back for more if they are willing to forgive the rampant glitches. If you’re a fan of the franchise, play the hand you’re given here with Fallout: New Vegas. For others, it might not be worth the gamble.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Loads of missions and replay value.

-/+ Little improvements over Fallout 3.

- Graphic glitches and sporadic bugs.

7 out of 10