One way I like to judge a game’s quality is by the quality of its critical reviews. Many people will slag off even a good game for the sake of causing some controversy to drum up page views, and these pieces are always whiny, bitchy and badly written with no substance or depth.
Fallout: New Vegas has some of the worst critical reviews I have ever read.
The game is pretty easy to surmise. If you played and enjoyed Fallout 3, then go and get New Vegas. If you’re interested in New Vegas, then grab Fallout 3 GOTY edition as you won’t be missing all that much, and it will probably be cheaper for you. If you like it, you can then go on to New Vegas.
This is in no way a slight on New Vegas; Fallout 3 was a solid, well constructed piece, a little short but still providing hours of entertainment. New Vegas doesn’t change much of the formula, but does add a few new elements to the mix. At the end of the day, it’s Fallout 3 +, not a huge revelation, but a welcome addition to the series that holds up very well on its own. But if you wanted a wholly new experience, you will be disappointed.
New Vegas’ gameplay is identical to that of Fallout 3, except for the addition of a couple of new pieces. Your weapons are now actually useful outside of VATS targeting, many new perks have been added, new guns, weapon mods, new crafting options (including cooking, preparing your own medicines and manufacturing/repurposing your own ammo) and of course the much touted ‘Hardcore mode’
I’ll address Hardcore mode first as it’s probably the biggest difference between Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 3. Hardcore mode requires you to keep track of your hunger, hydration and rest levels. In realty this just means stopping off at a sink for a swig of water every time you stop by a settlement. If you eat food to recover health you’ll never worry about hunger, and sleep climbs so slowly that you practically need never worry about it. There are a couple of other differences though; including ammo having weight (which doesn’t really make a huge difference as it’s so light) and stimpacks only regenerating health over time as opposed to just giving you a chunk of HP. This is possibly the most important change as it means you can’t take on vastly superior enemies just by shooting yourself full of stimms. Also, when a limb is crippled you can only repair it wither with a doctor or a doctor’s bag item. Provided you play carefully though, this is never really an issue (although it does make landmines a real pain in the arse).
The name ‘Hardcore mode’ certainly implies that it will make the game a lot tougher than it actually does. That said though, I kind of like that. There’s nothing more annoying in videogames than an escort mission, and that sort of frustration could just heave easily been transferred to Hardcore mode. New Vegas would be far less enjoyable if you needed to constantly be looking for your next meal as opposed to blowing up super mutants. Provided you keep some food and water on you in case you’re caught short, Hardcore mode is quite forgiving. Personally, I would have made it a little tougher, but it’s better too easy than too hard, or else it would easily just become annoying rather than a little extra challenge.
The new crafting is very nice, especially if you’re using guns that have rare ammo such as .44s or .357 (not that rare, but still). You can also convert Laser and Plasma ammo with varying efficiency. This means that even if you’re broke, you can still scrape some ammo together. Cooking is also quite nice, allowing you to mix up herbal remedies or just a packed lunch to help take care of Hardcore mode. The workbench can still be used to make new kit, including the exceptionally useful weapon repair kit, which allows you to patch up your guns without needing a similar gun- very useful if you have a penchant for rare guns such as the .44 magnum!
Picking up random nick knacks is now worth it because of the crafting mechanic- whatever you grab there will probably me some use for it somewhere, but with nearly everything now having a weight value, you will need a place to store your gains.
This is where the new faction mechanic comes in. New Vegas offers greater freedom with different factions, as rather than just gaining/loosing karma, you also get a reputation with each individual faction. This can lead to them offering you discounts at stores, or just slaughtering you on sight. Get nice and cosey with people and they will offer you other benefits such as free accommodation, or access to restricted weapons and gear. It pays to stay on people’s good side.
Bugs wise, I didn’t really notice much in New Vegas. There where some floating objects here and there, and on one occasion someone’s head clipped into a wall as I was trying to shoot them in VATS (resulting in the shot hitting the wall), but these sorts of things are to be expected and are permissible. I’ve not found any broken quest lines, corrupt dialogue or anything genuinely game breaking (apart from one crash to Windows in all the time I’ve been playing New Vegas), just a few graphics bugs here and there.
If I had to pick a hole in New Vegas it would be Vegas itself. It seems exceptionally small, and the Casinos are barren- far from the hustle and bustle we were expecting. Maybe this is supposed to be some sort of artistic play, people coming to the big city looking for fame and fortune, the ritzy life style, only to find it a hollow shell, devoid of life (why yes, I have read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, why do you ask?)… Or more likely the game probably can’t handle large crowds.
The graphics are nice, if a little bland. Even the New Vegas strip itself seems a little flat and monchrome, but some of the Casinos do make up for that. Still, this is a post apocalyptic wasteland, so browns are the course of the day. Still, it would be nice to see some actual colour here and there as opposed to interesting shades of beige.
The world is a little larger, but I feel it’s a little less dense than Fallout 3. Not hugely so, and if you get around without using the fast travel mechanic you will usually find something interesting (or at least something to scavenge), but you should be prepared to spend some time just moving in one direction.
Beyond that, there isn’t much to say about New Vegas that hasn’t already been said about Fallout 3. As intimated, they are essentially the same game, only New Vegas has some nice extras. If you’ve not yet played Fallout 3, have a run through that first before committing to New Vegas. That said New Vegas is still an excellent game that holds together very well, even when compared to its predecessor.