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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shoot an Arrow - Fallout New Vegas Uber Re-Review

Title: Fallout New Vegas
Release Date: October 19th, 2010 (NTSC territories), October 22nd, 2010 (PAL territories), November 4th 2010 (SECAM territories)
Systems: Xbox 360, PC, Playstation 3
Format: 1080i HD, Downloadable Content, Subtitles, No Online Capabilities
Developers / Publishers: Obsidian Entertainment, LLC / Bethesda Softworks

Everything from 2008 comes back into my head. With a pistol and a few stimpacks stuffed inside my pack, a knife at my side, and the clothes on my back, I opened the Vault, blinded by the sun. The Capitol was a desolate wasteland. Everything had been destroyed by the nuclear warfare. The sun was harsh and violent, and the gravel was cracked and sandy. The Capitol horizon was nothing but destroyed. And that was the start of one of the most extraordinary adventures of all time. Heralded as one of the single greatest role-playing games of all time, and one of the most expansive, when a series absolutely blows you away with a superb redefining of it all, the absolute swan song of the whole series, you wonder 'Will the sequel be good? Will they continue the success that it ever had? Will it, dare I say it, be BETTER?'

New Vegas is a mixed experience. On one hand, New Vegas is one hell of an adventure. New Vegas is an excellent, extraordinary one-of-a-kind experience that is sure to blow everything else away, entertain you for hundreds of hours, and pack a powerful punch that knocks out everything else in its path. On the other, New Vegas is frustrating, confusing, complex, and unspeakably, unrelentingly hard. It makes me want to pull out my spine and bash it against my game system just to calm myself, let out all the outdated anger. Now that I've helped produce the game, design it, and write it, New Vegas is a game that, despite my undying love and devotion to it, forces me to hate it all the same.

War Never Changes, though.

The story of New Vegas is complex. Enter New Vegas, a city that was spared a good deal of the nuclear fire that the East Coast of the Capitol Wasteland suffered with. This takes place in 2281, which is after Fallout 3's events. The New California Republic (NCR) had set up a military army up in Vegas after the Great War. They have to defend Hoover Dam, which is why Vegas is still supplied with electricity and fresh water. However, the NCR got tangled up with Caesar's Legion. Following Roman civilization techniques and rituals, Caesar took over the remnants in Vegas. The long-standing war against Caesar and the NCR soon progressed for Hoover Dam. Several other neutral factions, such as the Enclave, Brotherhood of Steel, the Followers of the Apocalypse, the Boomers Air Force, and tribes such as the White Glove Community soon got entangled with the war between the two factions, therefore deciding to remain neutral. Enter Mr. House, who creates the Lucky 38, which Caesar's Legion wants to take control of along with Hoover Dam.

In between the good and bad, there's always the ugly. In this case: that's you. Instead of The Lone Wanderer in Fallout 3, you play as The Courier. He was sent to deliver a platinum chip to Vegas's famous joint, The Strip. As shown in the intro, though, a couple of hitmen, one in particular, Benny, shoot you in the head and takes the chip. And your sorry ass is just barely saved at a doctor's hospital. The usual Fallout stuff comes in here: he asks you your name, you have to customize your character, pick your traits, your S.P.E.C.I.A.L., and test out a few dialogue choices. The major difference is that you don't start in a Vault, unlike the previous games. You're now hell bent for revenge, and you set off to get revenge. Eventually, however, you becomed involved in the NCR-Caesar war. Mr. House also wants to take sides with your customizable character, or you can go the independent route with an almost-creepily obedient robot Yes Man. Either way, your choices come with troubles with one faction, and advantages with another.

The story isn't as hooking as the emotional father-son journey in Fallout 3, or the adventure for water for the Vault in the first Fallout. In fact, there's a lot of plot holes to be filled. The characterization doesn't help either. The voice acting is more drab and boring this time around, they sound tedious and don't exactly care about anything. The dialogue trees aren't as interesting in Vegas as they were in Fallout 3. In fact, the characters in Fallout 3, while still being animated worse than a modern day cartoon, were likable. (I swear, Charon is the single best companion of all time, Moira's the single stupidest person I've ever heard of) And they talk more than you do, which is very overlong. I swear, you could solve a Rubix's Cube inside your head by the time they're done talking.

Next of all the problems in New Vegas, it's repetitive. It's unrelentingly hard. The Mojave wasteland has gotten a tweak since the last Fallout, where things were difficult, but not repetitive and impossible. Let me tell you this: the last missions at Hoover Dam are some of the single hardest gaming experiences I've EVER had. Now, of course, the better gamer just doesn't wander into the wasteland at a low level (smart, smart). And I took time to level up. And I still got my ass kicked hundreds of times, watched that ridiculous death screen and orchestra pop up every single time. It was unbearable at times, really.

Now comes the addition of "Hardcore Mode". This was also one of the programs we worked feverishly on, to create a survivalist dimension. In all honesty, I'm disappointed. Hardcore is supposed to add realism, a more survivalist feel to the almost cartoonish (though a bleak cartoon) Fallout series. Instead, they just amp up the enemies. And the other traits are ridiculous. You have to go through an entire sleep cycle. You suffer from loss of regular sleep, you die. You can't die from lack of sleep, just pass out eventually. And there's beds everywhere. Sleeping bags, tents, houses, hotels, and even in little buildings you'll pass by in the Wasteland. Something tells me the sleep idea was just added at the last minute (I'm a little ashamed to say that, but I gotta give criticism to my own work, right?)

There's an almost endless buffet of food everywhere in the Mojave. You can die from starvation, but food's unanimously cheap in vendors, and you can find them in the Wasteland. Have a problem with ammunition weight? Shoot a few rounds from the gun you hate, you'll be walking like a pro again. The most logical survival tactic, to not dehydrate, is even easy, because finding water in the Wasteland is easier than it was in Fallout 3. (That's thanks to Hoover Dam, but you already know that) Perhaps the most troubling was that you have to worry about stimpacks (first aid kits in the Fallout series), because they have to heal over time. But, you could always see a doctor, and once you get a decent amount of body armor and a level cap of around 20-25, you'll be virtually indestructible, anyways.

The shoot-and-loot engine from Fallout 3 that helped make the game memorable is still here, however. There's a lot of weapons out there in the Mojave. Energy Weapons that peel off skin with plasma and acid. Explosives that blow off limbs like crazy. Other types of automatic rifles that leave more holes than swiss cheese. Special, worth-searching-for enhanced weapons. New Vegas tries to help make the whole experience worth your while. (Personally, the All-American is my favorite. as Lincoln's Repeater was in Fallout 3) Same thing goes with armor.

Radio in Fallout 3 was another thing that helped make the experience less bleak and dark. Whether you were listening to the annoying, yet informative "a-WOOOOOOO" from Three Dog in Galaxy News Radio, playing awesome 30's - 40's songs, or the mature, soft-spoken voice of the Enclave president John Henry Eden, playing American theme songs, Fallout 3's radio was definitely a way to keep company, in its own way. Radio in New Vegas isn't exactly that special this time 'round. This time you've got the Mojave Music Radio, a channel that contains some nice songs, but there are songs that keep playing OVER AND OVER. While not as unfitting as the Enclave's US themes, they soon get so tedious after several listens that make you want to start punching your own car radio. Thankfully, the Radio New Vegas, hosted by Mr. New Vegas (who is not featured in the flesh unlike Three Dog and the president) who, like Three Dog, talks about the latest news. Unlike the Mojave Music Radio, which was Fallout 3's Enclave Radio (tedious and eye-rolling after a while), the Radio New Vegas does list some pretty good facts. Don't expect to always have it on while shooting enemies in the face.

Speaking of lonely experiences in the Wasteland, companions and NPCs return to become optional pardners in your Mojave adventures. Unlike in Fallout 3, where your karma depended on whether or not you could recruit those companions, you can just hire them if you either complete a quest for them or just promise caps. (99.9% of the time it's quests... sigh) Most of them are pretty helpful. For the Dogmeat-lovers (a dog companion in Three) a similar companion returns, Rex, a bionic dog. Real-life companion Boone (instead of Fallout 3's Charon) and super mutant Followers of the Apocalypse recruit Arcade Gannon (instead of Fallout 3's Fawkes). However, these aren't exactly memorable like the last Fallout (the RL-3 companion has some hilarious dialogue, I've laughed harder at that robot's lines than I have at Hollywood comedy in years). The companion wheel is new, you can access it to command companions what to do, instead of having to enter a dialogue session every time. A nice addition, but nothing astounding.

The breathlessly popular VATS makes a return, but there's not a lot of changes, it's still the same old system. It seems that real-time combat in New Vegas got a bit of a tune-up, so it's not as slightly questionable as it was in Three, but the third-person perspective is worse.

New Vegas can be an amazing adventure, even when all's said and done. The game's mechanics are still amazing, while adding their own unique tales. The numerous amount of side quests while surely keep you entertained for months. Another thing to enjoy about New Vegas is about just how Fallout 3 it still is. Obsidian has done a masterful job of recreating Fallout. It's the same massive, eye-catching Wasteland, while adding a western feel instead of the eastern coast feel Fallout 3 had, the same interesting, progressive story, and realism is added (with or without Hardcore). It's still a fight for survival, but there's no need to complain. There's so many good aspects about New Vegas. SO many. And yet, I just can't see giving it the same praise I did Fallout 3. When I inserted my hard work into the disk three years ago, and experienced a spectrum of awe and nostalgia when I was first blinded by the sun exiting that filthy Vault, it was just an awe-inspiring, superbly crafted adventure. New Vegas is lifeless and sterile in many places, but still an entertaining adventure, and a must-have for RPG lovers, Fallout fans, and people who enjoy a good game. Still, though, it all depends on how you viewed Fallout and your taste.

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