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November 20, 2010
Fallout: New Vegas - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
21/10/2010Namco BandaiBathesdaObsidian1None
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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The sign says it all really...
Fallout 3 was one of the biggest and best games of 2008, frequently winning 'Game of the Year' awards from critics across all three platforms (indeed rated it the top RPG of 2008). Following up that success with a sequel that is just as good was a task of 'Grand Theft Auto' proportions. Bethesda has moved the game from the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Washington to the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Las Vegas, where glitz and glamour still rule. Have Bethesda spun up a winner, or is New Vegas all bright lights and no substance?

It's not often that a story begins with the lead character being shot in the head and left for dead, but that is exactly the case here. You're a courier who has evidently taken on more than you could manage with your latest cargo. Your would-be executioner politely gives you some story background before taking aim at your noggin, and next thing you know you're waking up in the quiet country town of Goodsprings.

One of the first things you'll notice about New Vegas is that it looks and plays almost identically to Fallout 3. Given the tremendous success of that previous title this isn't a bad thing, but if you were hoping that New Vegas would bring something entirely new to the table then you're going to be disappointed. Just like in Fallout 3, the first thing you do once you've gathered your senses is set up the attributes of your character via the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system. Strength, perception, endurance and the other attributes have a pool of points that can be allocated in any way you like to create the character of your dreams. Next you allocate points to your skills; things like guns, speech, survival and sneak. Once your character is set up the way you want you're free to explore the world.

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Barren wastelands in Fallout: New Vegas!
From the outset you are confronted with decisions that will have a significant impact on the people inhabiting the Nevada wastes. The people of Goodsprings need help with Powder Gangers – escaped convicts whose name is derived from their use of powerful explosives – do you help the townspeople, or look for profit and fame by helping the Powder Gangers instead? Although there is much more to the game, this is the kind of game-changing situation you'll find yourself in throughout your time in New Vegas because the decisions you make affect how the people in the game respond to you.

The world is still picking up the pieces from the nuclear war, but that hasn't stopped various factions from seeking ultimate control of the land. The two biggest factions in the game are the NCR, or New California Republic, and the Legion. The NCR is sticking to the way things used to be; they've manufactured a president, they tax towns under their control, and they try to keep towns safe with armed forces. The Legion is more or less the polar opposite of the NCR; they're run by a single man (Caesar), they strive for dominance over everyone, they make use of slaves, and are pretty much the 'bad guys' of the story. The NCR and the Legion are fighting for control of Hoover Dam, which provides nearly all of the electrical power in the region. He who holds the dam, holds the world. Or something like that… There is also a third faction who isn't keen on letting the Dam fall into either the NCR or the Legion's hands, and over the course of the game you'll take a direct hand in deciding who ends up in control.

Many of the elements you came across in Fallout 3 return here – the Brotherhood of Steel, Super Mutants, Nuka Cola and vaults for example – but to a much lesser degree. The Brotherhood is dying out in New Vegas, Super Mutants are seen far less often than the Nightkin (who just might be related to Super Mutants), people drink sarsaparilla more than Nuka Cola and vaults are more or less a thing of the past. In this way the game-world established in Fallout 3 lives on, but it is not necessary to have played that game to enjoy or understand New Vegas.

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Time to make a selection...
When you're not sorting out people's problems or aligning yourself with one faction or another, you're likely to be fighting. Combat here is much the same as it was in Fallout 3, with V.A.T.S making a welcome return to action. For those unfamiliar with V.A.T.S, basically it allows you to pause time and target specific body parts of an enemy. In V.A.T.S you'll be shown the percentage chance of hitting any part of the enemy, and then you can fire a number of shots at them dependent on how many action points (AP) you have, and the kind of weapon you're using. Smaller weapons use fewer AP and thus allow more shots, while bigger weapons use more AP but do more damage. Targeting specific body parts can be a tactical move because it can cripple a limb; crippling the legs will make the enemy much slower, whilst crippling the arms will make them less effective with their weapon. Speaking of weapons you can also target them in V.A.T.S, and if you happen to destroy the weapon then your opponent will be left weapon-less. Outside of V.A.T.S things happen much faster, but it's still just a matter of targeting your enemy and pulling the trigger so you won't fell overwhelmed.

The lockpicking and computer hacking minigames return and still rely on your lockpicking and science skills respectively, making them two of the more important skills to have. Speech challenges are back too, but New Vegas allows you to use skills other than just 'speech' to pass them. Skills such as 'barter' or 'science' will net you the same result more often than in Fallout 3, thus making them more useful, and 'speech' less of a must-have. In fact there seemed to be many more speech challenges in New Vegas than there were in Fallout 3, which makes conversations more interesting. Passing speech challenges can also fast-track your progress through missions and side-quests, of which there are plenty to find and resolve. It's a blessing then, that along with books that provide a permanent skill increase you can also find or buy magazines that give you a temporary skill increase. Did you come across a lock that you're not skilled enough to open? Have you spoken to someone who gave you a speech challenge you just weren't up to? Magazines help you overcome these deficiencies temporarily, allowing you to take the odd shortcut here and there.

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New Vegas throws up some interesting characters.
Throughout your travels in the Nevada wastelands you'll come across a few disillusioned characters that are not sure what to do with themselves. Generally their lives have hit rock-bottom and they need a sense of purpose again. It's lucky for them that you've come along then, as you can invite them to join you on your quest and help find a purpose on the road. I came across six different companions without going looking for them, and I'd guess there are others out there. Companions are helpful in a variety of ways; they can be great in a fight, they can carry a lot of equipment for you thus expanding your inventory and they can bring special skills to the table like the ability to create more or different items. You're limited to two companions at any given time, but they are worth their weight in gold. In fact, they're so good that they almost make the game too easy, particularly outside of hardcore mode where they can't die. In normal game modes the worst that can happen to one of your companions is that they fall unconscious during a fight, but once the fight ends they'll stand up and have full health again.

Speaking of hardcore mode, it's a new addition to New Vegas and it adds realism rather than increasing the difficulty (directly at least). In hardcore mode companions die in battle, rather than just being knocked unconscious. Your character will suffer from dehydration, starvation and lack of sleep if you don't take care of them, and medical supplies work over time rather than in one big hit. Perhaps the most brutal change of all is that ammo has weight in hardcore, meaning that you can't carry an army's worth of ammunition with you. You can turn hardcore mode off at any time, but if you manage to keep it on from the very beginning all the way to the end you'll pick yourself up a very well-earned trophy.

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Golf Club Vs Pistol in New Vegas.
As Michael said when reviewing Fallout 3, a game of this size and complexity is bound to have bugs, and New Vegas has more than its fair share. The difference now is that while these bugs were acceptable two years ago, consumers have a right to expect many of these to be ironed out completely, whereas in New Vegas they've grown worse. There is still frame-rate issues; when you're walking around the game can come to a shuddering halt temporarily before resuming normal service. Once again some quests break, and become impossible to complete due to a variety of issues. There were two such examples in my time with the game. First, during one sidequest where I was on guard duty out the front of a shop, a customer didn't arrive and thus the mission went on endlessly. When I tried to move away from the shop, the other guard opened fire on me for leaving my post, thus I had to kill him and hurt my reputation in certain circles. The other, more annoying bug (more annoying because I had to re-load from a much older game – note to self; save often!) happened when I tried to enter Caesar's tent during a mission. I was told I couldn't enter his tent while I had a companion with me, but the problem was my companion wasn't in town with me, and I couldn't leave town to physically tell him to say behind because the guards said I had to speak with Caesar first… Time to re-load then.

Other issues crop up from time to time, for example I'd just completed a mission that turned the previously friendly NCR against me, and I became 'Villified' by them. However in my next jaunt out to the wilderness an NCR soldier came running up and said I'd done such good work for them that they were now giving me a way to contact them if I was in desperate need of backup. I think someone missed the memo there. These kinds of things happen occasionally in the game, where someone acts inappropriately given your current standing with their (or other) faction, but this is the easiest of all bugs to tolerate given the size and complexity of the game.

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Welcome to FreeSide.
Graphically New Vegas looks a lot like Fallout 3. A lot like it. There were times in my travels when I was sure that one interior in New Vegas was identical to one seen in Fallout 3. A certain amount of cross-over is inevitable, but there's no doubt the two games are extremely similar. One thing that can be said about New Vegas is that it is much brighter than Fallout 3. Even in the wilderness you'll find spots of colour that liven things up, and when night falls on the waste it doesn't ever get as dark and drab as it did back in Fallout 3. It was with great expectation that I made my way through the wastes to New Vegas itself, but I must say that I was left disappointed. I'd hoped for something amazing, but in the end I got there and found myself thinking “is this it?”. Admittedly I first came across New Vegas in the daytime, and it looks much more resplendent at night, particularly from certain angles. The engine still holds up well enough today, but there are some issues like the aforementioned screen-tearing, or enemies and items falling through the ground or into objects, that bring it down a bit. The game is as gory as ever though, with body parts or entire enemies exploding into pieces often enough that it definitely earns its MA15+ rating.

There isn't a whole lot of music in New Vegas especially if, like me, you don't listen to your radio while you explore the waste. The sound effects are great though, and unlike so many other games out there, the guns all pack a punch from an audio perspective. It helps that limbs explode, but there's a feeling of force behind your weapons (doubly so once you find yourself a Ballistic Glove). The voice-acting is solid but not spectacular. Many of the main characters are very convincing, but the lesser characters sound very much like they're going through the motions. Many of the voices are done by the same people and it can be jarring to talk to two different people in a room who say the same thing with the same voice. You get used to it, and it's certainly understandable in game with this many spoken lines, but it's still a little off-putting at first. There's plenty of swearing here, and is it just me or is there still some shock value in having ladies drop the F-bomb?

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Using the sniper rifle from above.
New Vegas is a challenging game to review because on the one hand it provides more of the same high-quality gameplay that won it many 'Game of the Year' awards two years ago, whilst on the other hand it has a bunch of the same bugs that were in Fallout 3 and there hasn't been too much change to the rest of the game. The passage of time and the weight of expectation mean that the scores here will necessarily be lower than those of Fallout 3, but despite its flaws, New Vegas is still a heck of a lot of fun to play. It's long (30-ish hours at a casual pace) and has a massive amount of content, but given the 'what-if' nature of so many encounters in the game you'll almost certainly want to play again. If you loved Fallout 3 then you're going to get plenty of enjoyment from New Vegas, and new players will find a complex and exciting game-world to explore. Provided you can put up with a few bugs (save often, in multiple save slots) New Vegas is well worth picking up.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSIt's brighter than Fallout 3 which is a plus, but the engine, which is largely unchanged, is showing signs of age.
SOUNDMusic is sparse but the sound-effects are great. The voice-acting has high highs and low lows, so ends up a bit above average.
GAMEPLAYA couple of game-breaking bugs hurt the score here, but it's as accessible as ever, and most importantly, fun. The addition of a hardcore mode makes up for it being too easy otherwise.
VALUEA huge game really (30 hours plus), and you'll be compelled to play again to try different approaches to key story moments.
OVERALLNew Vegas is not as ground-breaking as Fallout 3 was, and disappointingly, many of the same bugs persist here. Despite that New Vegas is a lot of fun, and well worth checking out.

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