Fallout: New Vegas Review for Xbox 360

Fallout: New Vegas Review for Xbox 360

Gambling in New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas isn’t technically a sequel to Fallout 3, but it may as well be: the two games use the same engine, and the basic gameplay is almost identical. However, New Vegas offers an extensive new setting, a great new story, and plenty of small tweaks, making it a good buy for fans of 2008’s groundbreaking FPS/RPG hybrid.

Fallout: New Vegas screenshot

The game begins with your character, a courier, receiving a bullet to the head. Fortunately, the injury isn’t fatal (that would make for a short game), and you’re taken in by Doc Mitchell, who nurses you back to health. After setting your starting stats and (if you want) going through some tutorials, you’re on your way. Your first goal is to figure out who shot you, a mission that requires a fair amount of gunplay from the get-go.

This opening sequence transpires much more quickly than the childhood scenes did in Fallout 3, and that’s for the better. However, once you hit the streets of Las Vegas — ahem, New Vegas — and start wandering the surrounding Mojave Wasteland, you’ll feel immediately at home. All the core aspects of Fallout 3 are intact, right down to the HUD, the lock-picking and terminal-hacking minigames, the Pip-Boy interface, and even the dialogue font.

It’s déjà vu all over again. You explore an open world from a first-person perspective, completing a variety of story and side missions. You can play the game almost exclusively as an FPS if you so choose, but it helps to use VATS, a system that pauses the action and allows you to fire a few shots RPG-style. Over-the-top, intensely graphic kill scenes punctuate the combat. As you complete missions and dispatch enemies, you level up, quickly at first and then more slowly as you approach the game’s conclusion. You interact with a wide range of characters, and the way you treat them can come back to haunt or help you via “karma.” If you mostly stick to the story, the game is meaty at fifty-plus hours, but with side missions and general exploring, you can easily spend days upon days with the title.

Fallout: New Vegas screenshot

There are a lot of minor tweaks, however. This time around, Bethesda’s in-house development team stepped aside, and the publisher put Obsidian at the helm. Many of Obsidian’s employees handled earlier Fallout titles at Black Isle Studios, which ought to please long-time fans of the series. Perceptive gamers will notice countless references to the early entries in the franchise, and even some returning enemies (most notably, the disguised and difficult-to-kill Nightkin). Obsidian also added weapon modding and expanded the crafting system, giving players an almost unlimited variety of ways to draw blood and assemble items. The combat has gained special moves, and you can now look down your weapon’s sight, which makes it easier to attack from a distance. There’s an appropriately named hardcore mode, which ups the realism to ridiculous proportions, giving ammo weight, decreasing the effectiveness of health packs, and requiring you to eat, drink, and sleep regularly to stay healthy.

The game also gives you a chance to explore the Vegas Strip, which is rife with opportunities to gamble, take in shows, and even find prostitutes. There’s a new card game called Caravan, and you can build a deck to use in it. We found this to be more of a distraction from the core gameplay than anything else, but the mini-games are well-designed, and fans of digital gambling will find a lot to like.

Fallout: New Vegas screenshot

New Vegas is also populated by a variety of factions. It was possible to get through Fallout 3 without worrying too much about the various groups, but that’s much more difficult in New Vegas. A reputation system encourages you to balance different factions’ interests, especially considering that your missions often require you to help one group at the cost of another. How you choose to navigate this landscape determines which missions are available, meaning you’ll have to play through multiple times to see everything.

Also, you can now have two AI partners at once, and you can give them orders via the new command wheel. We had mixed results with the command wheel; it gives you a great deal of control, but your companions still do stupid things now and then. Still, your partners are helpful during combat, and they provide some extra inventory slots.

Fallout: New Vegas screenshot

Perhaps the most significant new elements, though, are the story and environment. The year is 2280 (just a few years after the events of Fallout 3), and the region looks like America looked in 1950s science fiction — it has the aesthetics and music of the 1950s, but with futuristic technology and a little bit of a cowboy vibe. The two most important organizations are Caesar’s Legion (a slaver outfit) and the New California Republic (the closest thing the region has to a government), which are fighting over the Hoover Dam. As you set out to solve the mystery of your shooting, you become enmeshed in the Mojave Wasteland’s politics, and eventually, the decisions you make affect the future of the entire region. Various wacky details provide comic relief — you’ll come across the Kings, a gang of Elvis-worshippers, for example.

The environment, meanwhile, is completely new. Primarily because it wasn’t hit with a nuke, New Vegas is more colorful and lively than the Capital Wasteland was, which makes up for the fact that the graphics aren’t any better from a technical standpoint. The facial animations are still a little off, and we noticed some pop-in and framerate issues. Even if you don’t feel like pursuing a mission, it’s always a great experience to travel from place to place, taking in the sights and sounds.

We do have a few complaints about New Vegas. We encountered some significant glitches, including everything from ridiculous physics errors to full-on crashes; we imagine these will be fixed with an update, so those who plan to play on a machine that’s connected to the Internet might want to wait a bit before diving in. The enemy AI seems to have gotten worse, with your foes frequently moving in odd patterns and making themselves easy to kill. And overall, we wouldn’t have minded a little bit more of a departure from the Fallout 3 formula. Even with all the aforementioned tweaks, New Vegas still feels a lot like an expansion pack.

But is that such a bad thing? Fallout 3 is one of the best games of this generation, and fans should be thrilled to see a new story told in a similar fashion. We’re looking forward to spending more time in New Vegas, and checking out the DLC when it comes out.

There’s not much improvement over Fallout 3, but New Vegas is a little more colorful than the Capital Wasteland was. 4.6 Control
The FPS and VATS controls haven’t changed at all, and they were great in Fallout 3. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The radio stations are well-done, the voice acting is top-notch, and the sound effects work well. 3.8 Play Value
This is a long, meaty game with replay value galore, but it feels a whole lot like Fallout 3. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Feel the heat in New Vegas. Not even nuclear fallout could slow the hustle of Sin City. Explore the vast expanses of the desert wastelands – from the small towns dotting the Mojave Wasteland to the bright lights of the New Vegas strip.
  • Feuding factions, colorful characters, and a host of hostiles. A war is brewing between rival factions with consequences that will change the lives of all the inhabitants of New Vegas.
  • New systems. Enjoy new additions to Fallout; special melee combat moves have been added to bring new meaning to the phrase “up close and personal.”
  • An arsenal of shiny new guns. With double the number of weapons found in Fallout 3, you’ll have more than enough new and exciting ways to deal with the threats of the wasteland and the locals.
  • Let it ride. In a huge, open world with unlimited options, you can see the sights, choose sides, or go it alone. Peacemaker or hard case, house rules or the wild card — it’s all in how you play the game.

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