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Fallout: New Vegas (PC) including DLC

Fallout: New Vegas (PC) including DLC

Fallout: New Vegas (PC)

Fallout: New Vegas (PC) Review

Click Here To Read About The New DLC – 8th June 2011

Back in 1997 Black Isle Studios created a game which to this day is considered an all-time classic by many. That game was Fallout and it was followed in 1998 by a sequel which didn’t quite reach the same levels but did cement Black Isle Studios as a force in the RPG world. That status was further enhanced between then and now as the company worked on the Icewind series, Baulders Gate Series and more recently, following a name change to Obsidian Entertainment, Neverwinter Nights 2 and its expansions.

So, what does that have to do with Fallout: New Vegas which is the follow-up to Bethesda Game Studios Fallout 3? Well Fallout: New Vegas sees a return to the franchise of Obsidian/Black Isle, the guy’s (and gals) who started it all.

A return to the franchise of the company who started it all should make anyone sit up and take note but as so many developers have found in the past, recreating the magic of a classic title is no easy task. Have Obsidian risen to the challenge?

NOTE: As with most RPG’s part of the overall experience in Fallout: New Vegas is being able to experience the story first hand with minimal information. For this reason we will keep plot points to a minimum in the following sections.

The first thing which we need to say about Fallout: New Vegas is that it has no relation to specific events in Fallout 3, or the original games for that matter. We are now in 2281; two hundred years after the Great War between the USA and China which turned the world into a nuclear wasteland and joining us are a whole new bunch of characters and location. For this reason previous experience with Fallout is not essential.

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As the name suggests, the latest version of Fallout centres around Las Vegas or as it is now known, New Vegas. When the bombs dropped earlier in the timeline Vegas was not directly hit and so is still, at least at The Strip, similar to the city we all know rather than a complete wasteland. We begin with a small introduction, voiced by Ron Perlman, where we find ourselves tied up in the desert, shallow grave to our left and in front of us is a gun which will soon lodge a bullet in our brain courtesy of "Benny" (Matthew Perry). What brought us to this unfortunate scenario? Well it seems we are a courier and shortly before firing off a single shot to the head Benny gives us the cryptic line that we had been set-up from the start.

Within a few minutes Obsidian has set the scene for a storyline which is as much 50’s/60’s Vegas and mobsters as it is classic western and in doing so have us buried in a shallow grave as the game fades to black.

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And so begins the game proper with the now familiar character creation system. Taking us through this section is the Doctor from Good Springs who has patched us up after a friendly Samaritan discovered us, near death, in the desert. We start with the usual visual attributes before choosing our main skills but then, in a change to the norm, we end up in a psychology test, answering questions such as "What do you see in this ink picture?" and word association which helps determine how our character will initially play. It is an interesting method and certainly feels a little more engaging than the initial stages of Fallout 3.

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All patched up and confirmed as reasonably sane we are presented with a jumpsuit, energy weapon and Pip-Boy by the Doc who sends us out into the world. The Pip-Boy is our main interface within the game for managing information, statistics and items. In its various screens we can check on our own health, assign items to wear/use, manage our inventory, keep track of quests and even listen to the radio.

So what will we be using this for, well first and foremost we want to find out why Benny saw fit to shoot us in the head.

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From this point on the game really opens up for the player. We can essentially play it in our own style, approaching each challenge as we prefer and attempt to pass each using the skills we have chosen to concentrate on. Those looking for a more action packed game who start with attributes which lean towards gun skills are catered for immediately through the small quest where we take on some gecko pest control. Mixed in with that, the crafters amongst us will find a small quest on how to combine various plants to create healing powder. We also get to grips with combat controls, an interface known as V.A.T.S. which allows us to target specific points on a NPC to achieve maximum damage, or if preferred cripple the adversary to reduce their attacking skill. One option which will appeal to fans of action RPG’s is KillCam, which can be enabled or disabled in the options. KillCam brings us out of the normal interface to a more cinematic, slow motion camera of the fatal blow. As expected this can be both cool and humorous with a decent amount of gore on show.

Damage during quests can be repaired by using various medical supplies or sleeping and the latter is very useful for passing the time if a quest requires that we wait until a particular time of day to progress. Also present in Fallout: New Vegas is the ability to fast travel, something which is hugely appreciated in a game so huge.

For those who haven’t played this type of game before fast travel allows us to move between locations without having to take the time to control our character in "real time". The only requirements are that we begin the travel out in the open, that we are not under attack and that we have been to the location before. Through this aspect Obsidian are able to give the player a feel for the size of the game, make them work for their quest completion but always retain interest as we are not required to travel through the Mojave Wasteland over and over again, looking at the same landscape.

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As we progress through the quests, killing enemies, solving puzzles, chatting to and assisting NPC’s and generally progressing the story we receive experience points which combine to level our character. At each level we are given points to allocate to our skills and a new attribute to learn. The skill points assist in general gameplay, possibly increasing our gun skills or ability to barter. Our other choice gives us abilities such as enhanced night vision and sneak potential. Essentially, making our character better at the skills we deem most important for our gameplay style.

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While the game takes us through a core plot there are of course a huge number of side quests, generally they all run at a good pace and are located in areas which are challenging but not impossible for our character at the time each is accepted. We can of course walk away from the core story and go exploring the vast landscape available to us. Be warned though, there are dangers out there and each is put in place for a reason, essentially quest content later on in the game. Go north towards Vegas too soon and be torn apart by Deathclaws. Go south out of Primm too early and if the gangs don’t get you the Feral Ghouls will and the results are rarely pretty.

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As Fallout: New Vegas progresses we also begin to take on companions who join us on our quests, often for reasons which benefit them and ourselves. These characters generally perform well, sometimes taking out adversaries before we even knew they were a danger. While these NPC friends are generally self-sufficient we can assign them tasks depending on the quest or scenario we find ourselves in. A simple wheel interface with the available options allows us to control this.

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So that’s the basic game mechanic covered, how does it all hang together? The answer is very well indeed.

The main strength of Fallout: New Vegas is of course the quests. Obsidian have done well to keep them varied, well-paced and most importantly, challenging without being impossible. When we take on a quest the chances are that, as long as it’s in roughly the right order, we have a reasonable chance of succeeding. It is also very clear when we are out of our depth and should return at a later time to complete particular tasks.

In terms of that variation we mentioned above, there really is something for everyone here. In the couple of hundred main and side quests there are fast paced action set pieces, slower paced character driven stories, even a bit of survival horror based gameplay mixed with a nice level of humour, both verbal and physical. It keeps things fresh throughout and ensures that players of all types find something to keep them playing.

The controls for our character are pretty standard for an RPG, or an FPS for that matter. WASD controls movement. Space to jump, E to interact and so on. It makes the game as pick up and play as it could be and leaves the player to concentrate on the overall experience rather than worry about how to perform a particular action.

With a game that has an environment as large as this there are of course some bugs which have yet to be ironed out, though none that we experienced were critical. For example there were a couple of occasions when we travelled off the main path to find one of the larger scorpions half trapped in the ground, essentially rendered at the wrong height. Those sorts of scenarios are beneficial as we can dispose of that enemy without any danger. On the other hand there was one occasion where we hid in a building only for the NPC who was chasing us to be able to damage us through a wall they should not have known we were behind.

No doubt these will be picked up and patched as more players play through the game and in truth the problems are few and far between, given the scope of the game. It is also worth mentioning that for every small blip there is also a new and interesting addition to the game. For example we now have a hardcore mode and reputations. Hardcore mode is more challenging as stimpacks heal over time and won’t fix broken limbs, ammunition has weight and dehydration of our character occurs. Reputation is essentially a karma system where our actions, even down to minor things like picking up items which are not ours, have an effect on our overall standing in the various communities of the Mojave Wasteland. For those who complete the game in Hardcore mode, keeping it on for the entire main story, then there is a special reward at the end.

NOTE: Fallout: New Vegas is also linked to Steam, offering 50 achievements in adition to the standard game quests/tasks.

DLC Comments 8th June 2011:

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In February 2011 and again in May 2011 Bethesda released extra content for Fallout New Vegas in the form of two downloadable packs. Dead Money and Honest hearts are available on Xbox Live, Playstation Network and Steam costing around £7.99/$9.99 or 800 Microsoft points.

One of the key points of the DLC packs is that each raises the level cap by 5 however other than that they are quite different. In Dead Money we are stripped of all our inventory, taken to a locked area surrounding the abandoned Sierra Madre Casino and forced by our captor to form a team with NPC’s in order to perform a heist. And when we say forced, we mean forced… by the fact we have an explosive collar round our necks; act in a way which is deemed incorrect and we will lose our head.

The gameplay area for Dead Money is significantly different in style to New Vegas and with it come a new selection of enemies. This very much freshens up the game for more advanced players (level 20 and above is recommended) and when we add in items such as the Holorifle it becomes even more worthwhile.

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For Honest Hearts we find a style of gameplay which is more suited to players at lower levels and the overall pack is much less restrictive with a similar art style to the standard game though it lacks the wasteland feel.

Having said that Honest Hearts is less restrictive than Dead Money we still have to leave any companions we have behind and there is a limit to what we are allowed to carry. So on our own and with a minimum inventory we start Honest Hearts by following a transmission to the Northern Passageway. This does mean players will want to have at least reached Vegas before signing up or face a very long walk and at the passageway we meet with Jed Masterson and a band of NPCs. Here we sign up to assist them in reaching Zion, then New Canaan. We are then treated to some lore which sets the scene for Zion and beyond, before things don’t quite go to plan and the adventure really begins.

Click Here for DLC Summary


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Click Here for full 5760×1080 resolution image

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Click Here for full 5760×1080 resolution image

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Fallout: New Vegas uses the most recent version of the engine which powered Oblivion and more recently Fallout 3. In many ways this benefits the game. First of all, with it being an older engine it has a good level of optimisation by AMD and NVIDIA, ensuring a good bug free experience out of the box. There is also the fact that the older engine is less demanding than something new and so it plays well on low specification and ageing hardware. This, mixed with the amount of options available to the user makes for an easy to tailor and enjoyable experience for everyone. The use of the same engine as Fallout 3 also means the game looks similar in terms of style which will please fans of the older game.

On the down side, the older engine, for all its updates and nice lighting effects, is a little lacking in quality compared to more recent titles. There are some pretty low res textures in the game, some noticeable popup and the faces used during conversations are very dated. We do know from experience though that there will be fan/community modifications available which will improve the visual aspects of the game, just as there were with Oblivion and the previous Fallout.

To be fair, none of these issues cause a significant problem with the game and there are some impressive views in there. The view distance as an example is excellent and through a tweak to the config file we can add support for surround gaming… allowing us to play at 5760×1080 across three screens. In this mode the game takes on an extra level of quality as our examples above and below show.

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Click Here for full 5760×1080 resolution image


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Fallout: New Vegas contains some excellent voice acting, a good chunk from Matthew Perry… Kris Kristofferson too but the most notable being William Sadler as Victor. He plays that part perfectly and it real is a highlight of the game.

Where the game falls down a little is in the Radio which is available through our Pip-Boy. Wayne Newton makes an appearance here as the DJ and does a fine job. The country theme mixed with Vegas style tunes such as Blue Moon does give the game an initial atmosphere but after a short while we had to reach for the off button as it becomes far too repetitive. It’s lucky this is the case though as turning off the audio allows us to really enjoy the exceptional environmental effects on offer.

The sound guys at Obsidian really have excelled at creating a fantastic soundscape which conveys the bleak wasteland environment. From whistling wind to creaking pylons it all sounds fantastic and playing through a set of headphones really adds to the effect of wandering through the Mojave alone.

Fallout: New Vegas arrives with a huge weight of expectation upon it, mixed with a whole load of hype. This was guaranteed when a franchise which was awarded game of the year 2008 returns with its creators, the guys behind an all time classic, at the helm. In many ways this almost guarantee’s some fan backlash as people get carried away in what they think the game should be, could be or is.

So what have Obsidian delivered? Well to be straight to the point they have given us one of the most well rounded RPG’s of all time. The game is huge, the quests are engaging as much as they are varied and there is some exceptional audio in here. The graphics engine isn’t the best and there are a few minor bugs evident in the build we had access to but neither of these aspects come close to ruining what is a hugely enjoyable experience.

As we noted earlier in the review there really is something for everyone here, action fans will enjoy the battle at Boulder City. Survival Horror aficionados will like the rocket factory quest and character driven plot lovers will find fun in the numerous side quests where we get a glimpse into the lives of the Mojave Wasteland residents.

In the end the true test of any game is whether it manages to keep a reviewer wanting more and Fallout: New Vegas certainly does that… A point emphasised by the fact that I was still playing at 5am every day since installing the game… just one more objective… quest… hour…

DLC Comments 8th June 2011
Having now had the chance to play though the first two DLC packs for New Vegas we are pleased to report that the game continues to evolve well. Dead Money was our favourite of the two packs with its more eerie atmosphere and style though it is better suited to advanced players, especially if playing on hardcore where just being in the environment drains our health. Honest Hearts is still challenging and see’s our decisions affect the future of Zion however it lacks the same impressive atmosphere of Dead Money.

Overall two good packs which enhance the New Vegas experience, offering a fresh look and feel for those who have had their fill of the wasteland in the original game. Both are well worth the asking price for Fallout fans.

Gameplay 93/100 Easy to pick up, as deep as you like and hugely rewarding at the end of each main quest.
Graphics 80/100 Some impressive aspects. View distance and overall style being two but the engine is dated and it shows in facial animations and textures.
Audio 95/100 An absolute highlight of the game. Some of the best audio ever released for a game, especially the ambient/environmental effects which convey the wasteland so well.
Value 95/100 Hundreds of hours of gameplay are available in this game. The fact that the strategy guide is over 500,000 words long tells its own story. Additional DLC packs further enhance the experience.
(Not an Average)
93/100 A fantastic addition to the Fallout franchise but more than that it is one of the most enjoyable RPGs ever released.

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About Author

Stuart Davidson

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