Ah, Obsidian Entertainment, how you have provided me with many and varied memorable gaming moments – not always in a good way. Team Obsidian up with Bethesda Softworks, and the rate of memorable moments increases exponentially, it seems. At least, this was certainly the case with Fallout: New Vegas, which, I think it’s safe to say, was a complete mess upon launch. I remember seeing videos of some truly horrifying looking glitches, including the doctor who wakes you up spinning his head around like an extra from the Exorcist. Of course, my first foray into Fallout games, number 3, had its fair share of glitches too, including an interesting one where my character sank into the floor and couldn’t get back out. After a fruitless time trying to get back into the world, I had to reload from my last save. Goodbye 45 minutes of exploring!
The setting for Fallout: New Vegas, it should come as no surprise to learn, is the region of America that used to be Arizona, Nevada and California, with Las Vegas (now renamed New Vegas) the main city in the region. The game is set in the year 2281 – 204 years after the nuclear war that ended the world as we know it – and about four years after the events of Fallout 3. Lots of the mechanics from Fallout 3 return, including the V.A.T S. system, perks and levelling up in general, a vast area to explore and find new locations in, and a plethora of unfriendly people and beasties to defeat. But as well as that, there were the usual characters that can be helped out and potentially recruited as companions.
The danger was balanced out by having more weapons and a wider range of categories available, as well as perks being rebalanced. As an example, having “Big Guns” and “Small Guns” combined into a single perk, called, surprisingly enough, “Guns!”. A new perk, Survival, impacted how much health was replenished by food and drink items, and especially when playing in Hardcore mode the difference between life and death could be a single sip of water. Hardcore mode also meant that if a companion died, they were dead, not unconscious, and as such this was the ultimate challenge in the Wasteland.
So, aside from the inevitable bugs, what else stuck in the mind about New Vegas? Well, the first thing was the opening, as there are not many games where you “die” within the first five minutes. And done in by Chandler Bing, nonetheless. It turns out that we were (previously to being viciously retired, anyway) a courier working for the Mojave Express, tasked to deliver something called a Platinum Chip to New Vegas. Obviously, Benny, our murderer, takes the chip, and as such a revenge tale is unleashed. As we travel the world, meeting and killing various fauna and bad people – along with helping the nice ones – there are a number of missions to get involved in.
Basically, the story of the game, apart from finding the man who killed us, is based around Hoover Dam, which still provides electricity to New Vegas. What’s Vegas without a bit of neon, after all? Now, three factions are interested in the dam, and taking certain actions can affect your standing with one or all of these factions. The first – Caesar’s Legion – are a nasty bunch of slavers who have based themselves around the old Roman empire. The New California Republic are the kind of default good guys, if only by shades, but as the only democratic faction I threw my lot in with them first. The last faction is run by the mysterious Mr House, a guy who is in charge of New Vegas and maintains his position with an army of Securitrons to do his bidding. It transpires that the Platinum Chip is actually a data storage device that can upgrade the Securitrons to greater levels of combat effectiveness, and was stolen as part of a plot to take Mr House’s army away from him.
So the scene is set for an epic battle, and by running missions for the factions, our reputation can be enhanced or degraded with other factions. For instance, I pretty much sided with the NCR all the way through Fallout: New Vegas, and as a result Caesar’s Legion would attack on sight, whereas Mr House’s forces were more ambivalent. It’s the way that this balancing act is performed throughout the game that makes it so interesting; a single decision taken the other way can take you down a different path, leading to a different run through the game and even a different outcome, with four different ways to finish New Vegas depending on who you side with. What I enjoyed about these different paths is that it was sometimes possible to negotiate a ceasefire rather than just blowing everyone away. Of course, sometimes some gratuitous violence would be just what the doctor ordered.
Now, let’s talk about the bugs again, briefly. While researching this article, I discovered that patches were rolled out very quickly indeed, with the first one hitting all platforms within a week of release. It was needed too, as the bugs were pretty bad, with corrupted game saves, games freezes, crashes and players getting stuck in the landscape – sounds familiar. All in all, five patches were released over the subsequent nine months, fixing more and more issues, and by the time that Bethesda and Obsidian were done, the game had become a brilliant experience. With such a wide range of activities to take part in, New Vegas kept me hooked for weeks, as I tried my best to ensure that everyone liked me before I decided which way to go with my playthrough.
After the base game was fixed up, Bethesda didn’t sit on its laurels but set about expanding the experience with DLC. Dead Money was the first addition and featured our character being captured and forced to try and find the treasure in the Sierra Madre Casino – something which isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. The second pack, Honest Hearts, sees us join the Happy Trails Caravan as we attempt to go to Utah, and instead end up involved in a fight between a New Canaanite missionary and the Burned Man – one of Caesar’s former Legates who was covered in pitch, set alight, and thrown into the Grand Canyon.
Old World Blues, the third installment, sees us becoming a lab rat in a science experiment, that against all the laws of probability goes wrong. In this pack we get an insight into how some of the mutants wandering around in the wild may have come about, and again have to face a choice about our actions at the end. The fourth pack, Lonesome Road, saw us contacted by Ulysses, another courier who refused to deliver the Chip that caused all our woes…
The last two packs, Gun Runners’ Arsenal and Courier’s Stash, just added various new weapons and types of ammo throughout the world, including things like the katana and chainsaw.
So, Fallout: New Vegas then. A brilliant game, eventually, and one that still stands the test of time today, even more so now that it has recently hit Game Pass. If you haven’t played it, now is the time. Trust me, stop reading this and go and download it from the Xbox Store. For the veterans though, what do you remember about New Vegas? What are the highlights of the game for you? Let us know in the comments!