Review by Mephistofun
"New Vegas. Old News."
New Vegas was a difficult game to sell for Bethesda. Using the same engine as Fallout 3 it looks old and though the Mohave desert ought to have given the designers more room to create a greater variety of locations (less bombs fell here) it ended up feeling blander that its' intentionally grey predecessor.
The blandness extends also to the characters you meet. There are no standout performances for the voice actors as the big name actors seem to have taken the weakest characters. For fans of the series there are a few characters from previous games to find but the story is so small in scope that they barely make a footnote in the story.
It was hard to think what let the game down because there have been attempts to push the game further. The narrative changes depending on your actions, make enemies in one place and their allies treat you differently. Though the story is linear it is very much a part of the rest of the game. Fallout 3 had an open world and lots of side-quests but those side-quests had no impact on the main story at all. New Vegas very nearly manages to to get that whole open world experience right on every level but in doing so it is possible to break the game.
I, for example, went on a rampage and killed Caesar, one of the major characters in the game. It should have immediately prevented the end battle from ever happening or at the very least, had another character take over as leader of his faction. Not so in my case. The story rumbled on as if nothing had happened. Caesar was most certainly dead, I played the rest of the game wearing his clothing and checking on his naked, dead body from time to time just to make sure but every NPC in the game referred to him as if he was still alive.
The fact that it was possible to do that is brilliant, and shows just how much freedom the player is entrusted with but the game is so full of bugs and glitches that it is, at times, extremely frustrating. Fallout 3 crashed a lot but in New Vegas it isn't a case of "It might crash," it was always, "It will crash."
I've mentioned the blandness of the environment as a whole but there is a general lack of awe throughout the game, even in the DLC additions. There are few locations or buildings that stand out as being exciting or inspiring and only one or two missions come to mind as I look back and try to think of what I spent my time doing.
A I mentioned, the DLC adds little to that lack of imagination. Dead Money is a lesson in how to annoy players into hating the experience. There is a level limit to getting in, so the player has to work hard to get there, then the game takes away all of those skills anyway. Only after you've started playing it do you realise that it isn't the level you reach that makes the DLC a little fairer but the levelling up of a particular skill set. Get the skills set wrong and its' near unplayable, even at level 40!
It does a good job of setting up a creepy, fear filled atmosphere and then wrecks it by both trying to encourage exploration and then making exploration fatal. And there are some bizarre design decisions. I wound up looking a bit stupid asking people how to find a key, assuming that it was going to be some clever puzzle to unravel or that my exploration would uncover some essential nugget of information. In the end it turned out to be just lying on the floor inside a fatal cloud. You found it by randomly wandering around, getting killed gradually by a cloud that for some reason they decided to make fatal. I had set my expectations WAY too high.
If you play Dead Money like a corridor shooter it works, Try anything different and it punishes you. Not by being harder but by being frustrating as the NPCs get stuck on bits of scenery they were never meant to go on or forget to wakeup because you didn't walk down the right path towards them. The mist was explained as a tool to make the player feel uneasy and on edge. All it really does is stop you from playing it like a Fallout game.
But this IS a Fallout game.
The second DLC was little better. Very short, very linear and based around a canyon, Honest Hearts managed to turn the "Legend Of the Burned Man," hinted at and built up by the main story as something epic, into somewhat of a damp squib. There is a little more exploration, but not much, some ill-advised, near - platform type gameplay that is mercifully rare given how bad the engine is at that sort of thing and a few new weapons that become useless once you return to the main game. Honest Hearts looked more like an excuse for the developers to try greater verticality in the game. It doesn't work but they charged for it anyway.
It isn't all bad. As I mentioned the side-quests all link together into the main story nicely and the post apocalyptic cowboy theme works quite well and it's a world worth exploring to get the most out of it. But the whole game feels like a one great experiment as Bethesda try to push the engine a little too far and try to get closer to the "true sandbox" experience. In that last sense, as a sandbox experience, it is a triumph but the whilst the experiment has made the game feel more that a natural sequence of events you have set in motion through your own actions, the general feeling all the way through is that you've either seen it before in Fallout 3 or, worse still, you've seen better in Fallout 3. Every Vault feels yawnsome as the same cliches are handed out. Combat feels better at times but, once again there is nothing new to challenge you.
Graphics: Out of date and a lot buggier than any game running on a closed system should be. 6
Sound: Voice acting that does the job but no standout performances. Sound effects are pretty good. 7
Gameplay: For a game where the designers seem to have tried to push the boundaries there sure is a lack of imagination in much of it. It's never bad but it never excels either. 7
Longevity: It's a long game, if you explore every inch of it. It's actually as much fun trying to break the story as it is the play it but that's not a good thing. 8
Overall: A solid 7. If you're a fan you'll love it. If you're not stick to Fallout 3.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/24/11
Game Release: Fallout: New Vegas (EU, 10/22/10)
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