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Fallout: New Vegas 360 isn't only about swooning fans, its new setting also adds considerably to the fiction. Full of interesting characters, locations and most importantly decisions, this is the richest of gaming experiences for those that like to role play.
The previous Fallout consumed well over 100 hours of my life, fulfilling my fantasies of wandering a post apocalyptic landscape, doing what I had to do just to survive.
With the arrival of the next chapter in the Fallout universe, I wondered whether a game that is essentially the same could draw me in again so completely. I wasn't sure at first - Bright Spring just looked and felt too familiar. I had to admit initial disappointment at how little progress had been made between iterations, at least on a superficial level.
After the first few missions though, once I'd left town, my love affair with the wasteland was quickly re-ignited.
The universe of Fallout is one where at some point during the 21st century, humans obliterated each other. Survivors hid underground, emerging once the radiation had subsided. This is a world that could have been ours, but isn't - the technology of their day was futuristic but designed to a 1950s American idealistic aesthetic. This sparsely populated post apocalyptic world is full of both danger and opportunity that leads to some exceptional role playing moments.
As I wandered over the top of that first hill, I saw something below me in the distance and Bethesda's philosophy of "if you can see it, you can walk to it" lead me to investigate. Here was my first bit of scavenged bounty and my first opportunity to be double crossed by someone in the world. This set the old familiar compulsion going again and before I could put the controller down I just had to look over the next rise.
This set the old familiar compulsion going again and before I could put the controller down I just had to look over the next rise.
Despite borrowing the art and the engine of Fallout 3, Obsidian has managed to give New Vegas its own identity. From the additional complexities of their crafting systems and weapon upgrades to the fresh New Vegas city, this works on a number of levels.
The city, having escaped the nuclear fires, glows audaciously against the Nevada skyline - offering perhaps the ultimate in both danger and reward. This is a place so wicked that you can't even gain entry until you've collected enough caps - the game's currency - and this won't happen in your first 12-15 hours. So it stands there like a tantalising beacon until you've grown in both experience and wealth, whereupon you may just have a chance of surviving the sin it offers.
Like all Bethesda games, New Vegas will be criticised for its bugs and its dated looks, but for me this misses the point of what they manage to create. Their worlds are bigger in scope and richer in imagination than other developers manage. The quality of the quests and the decision making involved are amongst the most difficult and rewarding I've found.
An early example presented a sniper that had information vital to my quest, but he wanted the identity of his wife's killer in exchange. At this point I could take the easy route leading an innocent to their death or do the work to uncover the guilty party.
The truth behind the story, once uncovered, was even more disturbing than first appearances and it turned out to be very rewarding to send the murderer to meet the sniper's bullet. Later on, you will face tougher choices with no obvious noble path.
Again, this removal of absolute right and wrong makes Fallout an impressively meaningful role playing experience.
This decision making permeates the game, with the multiple factions providing friendship or enmity depending on your actions - allying with one will certainly bring you into conflict with others.
Again, this removal of absolute right and wrong makes Fallout an impressively meaningful role playing experience. Like our own society, the rigid rules of most games signpost good and bad or moral or immoral choices and I find it incredibly difficult to work against what I believe in. Fallout, by blurring those boundaries, lets me live in its world.
The piece de resistance for those that want to fully experience the difficulty of surviving the wasteland is hardcore mode. By giving ammunition weight, forcing you to regularly sleep and hydrate and making injury more difficult to recover from you are suddenly forced to consider not just where you want to go, but how you're going to get there.
I have to admit, I eventually switched it off because exploring was more fun than merely surviving, but I would love to think that one day I'll have the discipline to play the game "properly". I could even imagine keeping a diary of how I managed to traverse the world, much like a 19th Century explorer.
Complaining about the mediocre visuals is like returning from a road trip to tell everyone that the car was a disappointment.
Fallout: New Vegas was more than I expected, not only giving me the same core experience but enhancing the trip with new mechanics that made this my favourite role playing experience. Complaining about the mediocre visuals is like returning from a road trip to tell everyone that the car was a disappointment.
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