Obsidian Entertainment has had an excellent track record for developing awesome games. Bethesda Softworks published Fallout: New Vegas in 2010 and I have already played it from start to finish at least three times. This is an action roleplaying adventure similar in vein to the later Elder Scrolls titles such as Oblivion and Skyrim … only instead of magic and arrows you have guns and more guns.
Welcome to New Vegas, a post-apocalyptic world that has that golden-age-science-fiction-retro-futuristic-50s feel. You enter the singleplayer game as a courier entrusted with a special poker chip to be delivered to the Lucky 38 Casino at New Vegas. From the very beginning you meet a ruthless suit by the name of Benny who shoots you in the face and snatches the poker chip from your death-like grip.
So before you can do anything you are left for dead. Fortunately, though, a robot by the name of Victor—its design possibly inspired by Robby the Robot—finds you in a shallow grave and whisks you away to a friendly town (Goodsprings). An equally friendly doctor nurses you to good health and this is where you get to create your character and alter your appearance.
Fallout: New Vegas uses the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system to determine your physical attributes from a scale of 1-10. Strength determines how much you can carry and what melee weapons you can use without penalty; perception affects your long range combat modifiers and certain skills; endurance is essentially your health and radiation resistance; charisma determines your barter and speech skills, intelligence modifies the number of skill points you can attribute per level up and can open up new dialogue choices; agility is how fast you are and how quick you can shoot; and luck can improve your chances of scoring critical hits and winning the jackpot at the casinos.
Throughout the Mojave wasteland you will meet hostile people and mutated creatures. To get the drop on someone you can aim for a specific limb or part of a body to either decapitate or dismember an opponent. For precision and a cool bullet time mode you can activate Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (V.A.T.S.). The faster you are the more action points (AP) you can spend to freeze time and splatter the enemy.
V.A.T.S. pays homage to the roots of the original Fallout games which were isometric turn-based affairs. This little touch to the first-person shooter brings a little bit of the 'tactics' back.
Every two levels you will also get to choose from a range of perks that can grant you a bonus. Choose perks that improve the kind of character you want to be.
Are a mob of crazy locals dressed in animal skins chasing you? Zap them all with a rapid-firing laser rifle or choose your targets wisely with a, slow but powerful, plasma rifle.
For destruction on a larger scale try the flamer or a missile launcher. The ragdoll physics alone should elicit a chuckle or a smile from the player.
They went that-a-way
There is more to Fallout: New Vegas than just killing things. The Mojave wasteland is rich with lore that can be found by hacking terminals, speaking to the inhabitants (who do not draw a gun on you) and by completing quests for individuals and factions.
The characters you meet along the way are at times amusing because they sometimes break certain stereotypes that are established. Take Tabitha the super mutant for example. Apparently she is a powerful and feared leader of a mountain camp however when you fix her robot and finally meet the alleged tyrant you realise the hulk is a big softie at heart who wears a blonde wig and girly, glossy red glasses with heart shaped frames.
The graphics are still gorgeous due to the immense detail and the draw distance that makes for some impressive views from the tops of towers. Compared to current triple A titles, though, you can spot the minor flaws with the frame rate and how some creatures seem to glide on surfaces when they walk. There are worse game engines out there.
Your character has a Pip-Boy strapped to the wrist. Whenever you need to check your stats, rummage through your inventory or fast travel between locations on the map you refer to the Pip-Boy. This handy tool can also be used as a lamp when you go spelunking in dark caverns.
There are 75 different locations to explore from caves and mines to underground vaults and derelict buildings that are usually occupied by survivors of the land—not all survivors are friendly though.
The choices you make affect your disposition with political factions and town communities. If you steal from someone's house you will lose karma. If you happen to get caught doing something bad you will lose respect with the relevant parties involved. Start a massacre and people will fight back.
Your decisions will determine which of the major political factions, or tribes, will either like or hate you. This can become a juggling act if you want to please a certain group.
The main quest will lead you back to Benny to retrieve the poker chip however all is not as it seems. Events have been set in motion and regardless of what you do you will make enemies.
The sandbox environment allows you to roam the Mojave wasteland and do whatever you want. The main quest is linear however getting to the battle at Hoover Dam and choosing who should take control of New Vegas is all up to the humble player.
Someone to watch over me
There are four main superpowers to encounter.
New California Republic (NCR) soldiers typically dress in brown fatigues and sport a double-headed bear as their insignia. They stand for 'good' and comprise a state of decent folk trying to bring civilisation and stability back to their corner of the world.
Caesar's Legion are the the polar opposite of the NCR. Inspired by the Roman Empire, the Legion aim to enslave and conquer.
Robert House owns the New Vegas strip and runs his operations from his Lucky 38 casino. He has an army of securitron robots that enforce the law.
Yes Man is an artificial intelligence that uses a securitron as a vessel. When you liberate Yes Man from benny's employ the robot has plans for an independent New Vegas …
There are also a couple of minor factions scattered throughout the Mojave wasteland. If you find the Hidden Valley you will encounter a technological cult known as the Brotherhood of Steel that are hiding in a bunker. It is completely up to you whether you help them or if you activate their self-destruct system …
The House always wins
Before you embark on the final mission to fight at Hoover Dam the game will prompt you with a 'there's no turning back' option. Whichever ending you commit to when all is done you will be presented with a slideshow before the end credit rolls that acts as a denouement or epilogue that explains how your actions affected different groups and what the future of New Vegas will look like because of you.
Fallout: New Vegas is available as a digital download via Steam for only USD $14.99.
There is over 50 hours of content in the core game and if you are hungry for more check out the downloadable content for new missions and swag in the Ultimate Edition for USD $19.99.