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    REVIEW: Fallout: New Vegas

    Written by Mark Hagan

    Fallout: New Vegas is a paradox. You could compare it to baseball; entirely too long, slow, overpriced, and resistant to the improvements technology could provide. Yet, as the immortal Greg Maddux once said, chicks dig the long ball. So, does New Vegas hit a home run?

    From the get go, Fallout: New Vegas will not let you down. Whether cut scenes are your bag or not, you will find them used quite sparingly yet effectively to open your journey. You are a courier in the remains, and revival of Sin City. The scene is set some 200 years after the Great War, and about 4 years after the events of Fallout 3. The protagonist has been shot in the head, left for dead, and robbed of his parcel. No, this isn’t a sequel to The Postman. It’s your fairly standard starting point, where you set off into the world to track down the guys who couldn’t finish the job.

    The V.A.T.S system is a tiger, as in, as tight as. Or rather, it was, 2 years ago. It’s hard to get excited about the shooter elements of this mechanic while games such as Mass Effect prove that RPG combat can be skill based without compromising RPG control. If you are a fan of tactically dismembering your foe in real-time, then look elsewhere. If you are a cerebral fighter though, the V.A.T.S system is for you. Bringing it up at the first sign of danger allows you to analyze the situation then return to your load-out, calmly choose your weapon, drug up your character with jet, slap on a helmet and get to it. I may be too harsh however, as shots of paralyzing adrenaline still course through my midsection when a radscorpion comes around the corner.

    The newly added “Hardcore Mode” can be toggled on or off anytime during play. In hardcore, you must sleep, drink water, and are over-encumbered by carrying too much ammo. Oh, and radaways and stimpacks heal over time, with the latter no longer mending injured limbs. An interesting twist on the Hardcore Mode might have been to disable your V.A.T.S, and force you to manually take aim, but I guess that’s too gangsta. While hardcore may be for some, it contributes to slowing down the already plodding gameplay. For the most part, I avoided many side quests and attempted to stick to the main quest when possible; however the absolutely massive scope of this world makes it difficult to do anything in a timely manner, despite the fast travel option once a new location is discovered. New Vegas is a figurative and literal sandbox. However, those who lack the exploration bug have little motivation to go into the Mohave and root around because it is what it is; a desert.

    By far the most troubling aspect of New Vegas are the glitches. During my crusades, I encountered quite a few bizarre bugs, and I don’t mean bloatflies. At one point, inside a building, a slow-mo animation kicked in when I rounded a corner. It appeared my character had suffered an untimely death by spontaneous human combustion. There was an enemy nearby I had not yet engaged. At first I thought it was a tripped mine that had spelt my demise, instead, when the animation had ended, I was still alive, unharmed, with no enemies in the vicinity. One of the many issues I had stumbled upon. A simple Youtube search of ‘new vegas bug’ will return tons of unique results. Glitches happen, sometimes they’re even hilarious and fun. They are recognized by the developer and fixed, usually, but when they begin happening to such an extent that it takes you out of the world, or breaks the game, it’s disappointing to say the least. At the time of writing this review, a patch has been released which eliminates many of New Vegas’ bugs (so they say). For the fans who purchased the day of, the damage is unfortunate, and in certain cases, irreparable. I understand the game world is incredibly large, but you should scale your testers accordingly. There is no excuse for shipping a product with the amount of bugs the community has so easily encountered.

    An unfortunate nitpick, that could have easily been improved upon from Fallout 3 are the menus. I wish there was a separate clock for how much time I spent in my Pip-Boy 3000, manicuring my inventory so as to stay underweight and generally find out where the hell I’m going. And that's not even in hardcore mode. Of my logged hours thus far, at least 25% of my time spent has been in menus, it feels. For such a prominent aspect of the gameplay, it would’ve been nice to perhaps streamline the menus, make them easier to navigate. There’s a PC mod that decreases the text size, allowing many more lines of text to appear in menus and speech boxes. That little fix looks seems to work wonders. Why something similar was not implemented by Obsidian is beyond me.

    Art Design
    An eye for detail doesn’t do justice. I’m pretty sure the folks at Obsidian have OCD, every one of them. The absurd amount of detail in everything from the posters, character models, weapons, sky, earth, buildings, guts and gore is beautiful. By no means am I a fan of the 3D craze, but I think this game would without question benefit from the immersion 3D would lend. Upon completion of this review, I’ll simply wander the desert, much as I did for Red Dead Redemption, and marvel at the love put into the fern and fauna, even if they are irradiated monstrosities. The ambient lighting inside buildings is well done and popping on the dim assistance of the Pip-Boy’s on-board light is just enough to give you a real sense of how irrelevant you are, even as the baddest muh’fugga up in the place.

    As you must already know by now, this world is huge. The mountains majestically corral the edges of the map without being too obvious. The slot machines convincingly pull you in (and drain you) just like the real deal. The vending machines flicker and sputter like old engines on their last legs. Building floors are littered with the realistic clutter of my adolescent bedroom. Don’t look under the mattress! The amount of objects you can interact with is crazy, and for the more patient gamer, these items can actually be used in recipes to make custom death-cocktails. Also, not to be overlooked is the 1950’s western motif throughout. One aspect of the Fallout series that I have always respected is the alternate history they have created. The Salesman Weekly magazines you find laying around not only give you a temporary boost to your barter skills, but are a grounding mechanic for the world. The worldly artifacts of Fallout New Vegas, like the other Fallout games, give you a connection to this bizarre reality, a connection that has been forged into our cultural heritage.

    Sound Design
    At first, I scoffed at the song selection the first few hours into New Vegas, convinced that it didn’t live up to the timeless selections of its predecessor (Ella Fitzgerald became somewhat of an obsession last year). Like the rads, slowly sterilizing you, the music seeps into your subconscious and you will soon be humming Marty Robbins’ “Big Iron” all day. The contemporary country western twang of the Roues Brothers followed by Rat Pack nods to Blue Eyes and Dino make this one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard in a video game. Total immersion is Obsidian’s theme, and they use music as a Pavlovian response here better than almost any designer in the business.

    The ambient sound of the world doesn’t take a backseat either. The reloading of guns, tripping over Sarsaparilla bottles, punching the head off a wasteland ghoul, all sound dynamic and reflective to the environment. Even though I lack the 5.1 setup in my living room, the faux surround created by my sound bar and subwoofer was more than enough to keep me on edge in the dank REPCONN basement. The voice-over work is probably the only critique here, as it seems they have once again resorted to using only a few actors to voice every character in the game. To get the most out of the generally well-written dialogue, turn subtitles on and ignore the uninspired VOs.

    Glitches aside, New Vegas is a very strong addition to the Fallout library. It will keep you occupied for 40-60 hours, easy. The frustrating thing is that it does not feel like 40-60 hours of game. When you set your mind to knocking out a particular quest, and instead find yourself reorganizing your inventory every ten minutes, or trying to decipher the inept mapping system, it can become frustrating. Fortunately, the game is still a looker despite its recycled engine. Let’s get one thing clear though, Fallout: New Vegas is NOT a sequel to Fallout 3. It is, for all intents and purposes, an add-on. A full priced add-on at that. Many things have not changed from Fallout 3, even though they should have been reconsidered. However, Fallout 3 was arguably the best game of 2008, and as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. After all, if Fallout: New Vegas is just to pacify fans and fill the coffers for Fallout 4, then I don’t mind if the house always wins.

    Buy it if: You liked any of the Fallout or Elder Scrolls games, you enjoy open world exploration 
    Don’t buy it if: You don’t like RPG’s, you hate micromanaging, you’re impatient
    The Score: 8 outta 10 blasters!

    Mark has been gaming since the days of the Atari 5200 and such classics as Dig Dug and Eggomania. The Dreamcast was a turning point for him with games like Seaman and Jet Set Radio. His love of gadgets, games and geekery stems from his curiosity of innovation through art, and vice versa. His turn-ons include the sound of cellophane wrappers and warm sake in the morning.

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