If there’s one thing Fallout 3 is most often remembered for, it’s arguably the ability to roam as you would, taking missions if you felt like it, and screwing others up when it suited you. The amount of messing around you could do just wandering around the Capitol wasteland was astounding, and left to their own devices, players could spend hours exploring, looting, pillaging, or engaging with passerby and random NPCs before ever embarking on the game’s primary quest (god knows I did).
Obsidian has taken this to heart in New Vegas it seems, at least if my hands-on time with the game at this year’s PAX is anything to go by. Unlike most game demos that are either guided or shoehorned into only a small section, my time with New Vegas was limited only by my character’s level and the amount of time I was able to play it. Since the demo reps dropped me into the middle of the game (from what I am assuming isn’t too far into New Vegas’ core progression), my impressions are going to be different from what any other journalist may have experienced. Basically, after I asked if there was a progression or something I needed to take, I was told I was on my own and just to roam around take in the game as I saw fit. So, with little else to go on, that’s what I did.
Before I get into my personal experiences within the world of New Vegas, let’s go over what changes Obsidian’s made to the Bethesda’s core Fallout 3 design. At first glance, there don’t appear to be any; New Vegas looks, more or less, like it could be a western-themed expansion to the last Fallout game. Despite the visual similarities (the desert is actually much more colorful than the bombed-out Capitol wasteland, which was pretty much irradiated to the point of utter erosion everywhere), New Vegas actually has some new tricks up its sleeve to keep it from being more than just Fallout Heads West. For starters, there’s a real story here; not that anyone probably played Fallout 3 for its basic narrative, but it’s a nice touch that Obsidian is actually putting some thought into the fiction of New Vegas. Not that I saw any of this, but at the beginning, your character is essentially left for dead, and because of it, you have an actual objective when the game begins. V.A.T.S., the specific-body-part targeting system introduced in Fallout 3, has also been given an overhaul, which makes it both easier to use as well as more versatile; now you can target enemies with melee weapons, with expectedly gory results. The morality system has also received a facelift after the somewhat binary feel in the last game. Obsidian is promising there will be a lot more gray area with decisions now, and your actions may not have such clear-cut or one-sided consequences. There are also traits you can choose to take (or not take), which can affect the game, and who or what you encounter in different ways. Finally, weapons can now be tricked out with new parts and ammo types (likely a not-so-subtle nod to Borderlands) to achieve even more effective and deadly weapon combinations.
While I didn’t get to see much of this for myself during my relatively brief time with New Vegas, I can tell you that fans of Fallout 3 will feel right at home. Everything from the wasteland itself to the NPCs to the look and feel of your Pipboy is largely the same as in last Fallout entry, making gameplay easy to pick up and play if you’ve spent anytime roaming around the Capitol wasteland. My time in New Vegas was then spent talking to random folk about their various problems, the most notable being an interaction with an NPC who was looking for a shady character that had apparently involved himself in some disreputable behavior in the town of Goodsprings. I was able to find him hiding out in a seemingly abandoned gas station. Although the man was at first suspicious of my motives in finding him, he quickly dropped his guard.
After a few curt words (I wasn’t too nice in my demo time), I decided rather than helping out this sap, I would just drop him with one of the guns that came preloaded with my save. Combat is as satisfying as it was in Fallout 3, if not more so, and the man went down without too much trouble, although I did have to take cover behind an old shelf briefly. After gunning him down, I went to see the man who was looking for this shady character and told him I’d taken care of the problem. Although the man was appreciate of this, I decided to gun him down, as well, running a good distance off and readying my trusty grenade launcher with V.A.T.S. After watching the appropriately violent action, I decided to head off towards New Vegas (at least I’m pretty sure it was towards it) to see what else I could see. This yielded a few encounters with roaming geckos, which are harder to kill than you might think, at least with the low-grade rifle I had, as well as a couple of scuffles with desert bandits, who, much like in Fallout 3, will try to kill you indiscriminately. I was reaching the outskirts of another city when my time ended, leaving much to still uncover in the final game.
Though a brief demo can’t possibly do a game as massive as New Vegas justice, I went away feeling impressed with what Obsidian had done with the series. It feels like Fallout 3, but improved in all the ways it should be, and with a wicked Mad Max-look that was missing from the very East coast Fallout 3. What may be the coolest thing about New Vegas, though, despite the fact it’s not really a Western, is you can die of dehydration in the desert. Not even Red Dead Redemption had that feature, which was sorely missed in such an otherwise jaw-dropping rendition of the West. In any case, we’ll find out what other secrets New Vegas holds when it hits October 19.
What Happens in Vegas…
April 27, 2010 – For many gamers, Fallout 3 was unquestionably the 2008 Game of the Year. Developer Bethesda Softworks managed to brilliantly update the classic Fallout formula with the first-person RPG formula it had perfected in games like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The game was a huge hit, and a sequel became all but inevitable. Two years later, that sequel has yet to be announced. However, series fans will only have to wait until the end of the year to return to the world of Fallout when the spinoff, Fallout: New Vegas, hits stores.
Although Bethesda has handed the development off to RPG veterans Obsidian Entertainment, much of Fallout: New Vegas will feel familiar to fans of the last game. The core game remains unchanged – you still play a created character who wanders an open-world, post-nuclear environment, taking on missions and interacting with the residents as you see fit. However, New Vegas also has major changes in both the setting and gameplay. New Vegas wasn’t hit directly by nuclear weapons in the war, and the city itself is much more intact and functional than anything in the Capital Wasteland. The world is brighter, the color palette is wider, and mutations are less obvious. However, that doesn’t mean that New Vegas is any less dangerous than the Capital Wasteland. Fortunately, you’ll have several new tricks at your disposal to keep you safe.
The V.A.T.S. system from Fallout 3 is returning in New Vegas, which allows you to freeze the action and strategically target specific enemies and their individual parts. A new upgrade to V.A.T.S. adds special attacks with unique effects to melee weapons. For example, a golf club weapon called the 9 Iron has a special attack that can potentially knock enemies off their feet. If getting up close and personal isn’t your thing, New Vegas still has plenty to keep you satisfied. New Vegas features twice as many firearms as Fallout 3, including ridiculously powerful weapons like a rapid-fire grenade launcher and the Helios One orbital laser. You can even customize your weapons with scopes, larger magazines, and more.
Along with the additional weapons, several other features debut in New Vegas. After you create your character, you’ll be asked if you want to play in Hardcore mode. Despite the name, this isn’t a new difficulty setting – you can play Hardcore Easy or Hardcore Hard. Should you select this option, a few important tweaks will be activated. First, stimpacks will heal over time instead of instantly. You won’t be able to fix a crippled limb with stimpacks, either – you’ll have to visit a doctor or use specific healing items just for that task. You’ll also have a dehydration meter that will function much like the radiation meter; over time it will deplete and you’ll suffer ill effects until you rehydrate.
Another new feature streamlines how you communicate with and command your companions, which will come in handy as you interact with New Vegas’ various factions. The way you interact with different groups will affect how they treat you. Harassing the residents of a town will make the entire populace more hostile towards you, while rescuing said town from invaders might cause them to shower you with gifts. The trademark Karma system will return as well, and obviously will tie in quite neatly with the new reputation system.
The reputation system is a good yardstick for Fallout: New Vegas as a whole. It, along with most of the other changes, seems like natural extensions of the core Fallout gameplay. Fallout: New Vegas looks like it will offer up more of the same gameplay that players loved in Fallout 3, while offering up new content that keeps things fresh without feeling out of place. More of the same would be enough to make another Fallout game one of our most anticipated titles of 2010. The fact that Obsidian went the extra mile makes us want to play it even more.