While far from perfect, Bethesda’s Fallout 3 was easily one of the best games of the last few years. It was expansive and interesting and dangerous and flat-out fun. But it was also violent and full of extreme gore—not a game I’d recommend for everyone.
The recently released pseudo-sequel Fallout: New Vegas is more of the same…and then just more. This game takes place three years past Fallout 3, and there doesn’t seem to be any real connection to the two games, other than the general setting: post-apocalyptic America.
Fallout 3 took place in the area in and around Washington D.C., and felt claustrophobic—not least because you spent so much time making your way through the city’s various Metro stations. New Vegas takes place in the wide open wild West—in and around Las Vegas. The strip was spared much of the devastation that hit other parts of the country, so it was able to recover much more quickly.
You’re a courier, and the game opens up with you being shot and left for dead in a hole. But you survive, and now you want to find out why you were marked for death. The game has some main quests that move the storyline forward, but there are lots of side quests to distract you. Overall, the side quests seem more interesting in New Vegas, and there are more of them.
Fallout 3 featured a Karma system that was supposed to determine how you were treated by the local populace. It didn’t make much sense, and didn’t seem to affect things in any real way. New Vegas features a Reputation system, and it’s much more robust. The game includes numerous factions, including the militaristic New California Republic, and Caesar’s Legions, a charming group who emulate ancient Rome’s tactics of domination—right down to crucifying anyone who gets in their way. They’re all vying for control of Hoover Dam, which holds a giant supply of radiation-free water. How you interact with one faction will affect how the others treat you. It makes the game much more interesting, as you’re keenly aware that your decision has made you some allies and some powerful enemies.
Once the story brings you into Sin City itself, you can visit and play games in the casinos, which are again open for business—and with names like Gomorrah, it seems sin is still in.
One of the most interesting new features is Hardcore mode, which ramps up the difficulty, and will test your survival abilities. Ammo now has weight, so the already tight inventory system is even tighter, as you’re juggling just how much precious equipment you can carry on your next foray into the desert. And if you don’t stop occasionally to eat, drink, and sleep, you’ll start to get weaker and weaker and eventually die. Using Stimpaks no longer instantly and miraculously heals you—you’ll heal over time, making battles even more harrowing. And if you’re crippled by a mine, a quick nap won’t help anymore—you’ve got to find a doctor, and quickly. Hardcore, indeed.
There have been reports of numerous bugs—and they’re accurate. I’ve experienced Xbox lockups, having my rifle jump all over the place, and seeing people stuck halfway through terrain. And YouTube is full of funny examples of coding gone bad. But Bethesda is hard at work on patches, so it should be more stable soon.
If you enjoyed Fallout 3, there’s no reason you won’t enjoy this, too. It’s more of the same, but an evolution of the system. It is extremely violent, though. While I thought Halo: Reach didn’t deserve its M rating, this game absolutely earns it. Players beware.
Scott Firestone IV is the associate editor of Group Magazine, online editor for youthmindev.wpengine.com, and a lifelong gamer.