Yes, only a month after its release I have a Fallout review for you all. I know I said I wouldn’t play it until it wasn’t on Steam but it turns out my constitution isn’t as high as I had hoped. Also, a cracked exe to disassociate itself from Steam may have swayed me a bit.
So we are all on the same page, I LOVE Fallout. But I do not love Fallout 3. It is ‘okay’. It is not great. It is not terrible. It’s generic and bland for the most part. The only parts I really dislike are the indoor wander-around-and-get-lost-in-loads-of-identical corridors. Mostly because it gives me motion sickness, for some reason, which is probably not the game’s fault (although it might be). It is a 6/10 affair. Its major shortcomings are:
- Bad writing, giant absence of character design save a select few people (RPGs are heavily story based, writing and character depth is important)
- Bad visual design (bland world, too many greys and dark greens and browns)
- Lazy world design (many things seemed to have been placed largely at random. The wasteland is supposedly sparse but you can’t walk more than 3 steps without meeting someone/something or finding a settlement)
- Annoying combat system
- Fairly dated game engine, leading to ugly graphics in places (shiny walls?), really strikingly mediocre animation and lacking AI.
- Quantity over quality. This is Bethesda’s motto.
Fallout 1 and 2 were incredibly deep and broad RPGs, which crafted their own world from scratch in 640 by 480. Fallout 3 was made by a different company (Bethesda) and didn’t have much innovation or focus in general, it had an advertising budget and a game market saturated by first person shooters. Plagiarising Fable, they marketed it as an action-RPG, but also plagiarising fable, it wasn’t much good at being an action (i.e. FPS) game or an RPG. For some reason it was a huge success, mostly with people too young to remember Fallout1/2 and too young to believe that people REALLY used to use 640×480. Which just goes to show popularity isn’t the same as quality.
New Vegas is made by a different company and is implemented using a modified version of Fallout 3. That means some of the above criticisms are unavoidable, like the game engine and the combat system, but the other things are addressed very well. In fact, it’s made by a company whom many of the Fallout 1/2 developers joined when Black Isle shut down. As such, it’s clear that they do get Fallout. They get Fallout because they made Fallout.
The world is no longer grey, it’s more yellowy-brown, because it’s in the desert. You’d be forgiven for being a little sceptical at the apparent change in direction into a desert world with a slight wild west theme, but you’d also be wrong. Fallout 3 was on the east coast and gave Bethesda the freedom to completely ignore the canon and start making stupid shit up, New Vegas is, well, for those of us who don’t know our American geography that well, somewhere a bit inland of the west coast, i.e. adjacent to Fallout1/2. So, there’s no geographical overlap but New Vegas and Fallout 2 definitely consistently reside in the Fallout universe while complementing each other: New Vegas turns out to be quite a lot like New Reno, and one of the major happenings in the world is the NCR (from Fallout2) are pushing East and trying to annex territory. There are nice little additions, like you can talk to an old woman who’s an ex-pilot who claims she once crashed a vertibird near Klamath. This vertibird? Oh yes! This is just a single example of the kind of attention to detail that Fallout requires but Bethesda didn’t have any interest in providing.
The overall story and game events are a lot deeper and more interesting. The locations are more interesting and the world is more believable. Fallout 3 felt like everything had been thrown down on the map at random, whereas New Vegas’s map consists of realistic human settlement patterns and transitions between areas, and better wildlife. The characters are by and large more believable, dialogue is much better written. Everything is better. It’s of a noticeably higher quality than Fallout3. Also, combat is a bit more fun as they give you iron-sights. Also also, the sound is really good. Some of the music is recycled from Fallout 1, like the Cathedral music which you’ll recognise instantly even if it’s 4 years since you played Fallout 1, because it’s one of those things, but the new ambient music is also wonderful. Some of it has a hint of Ennio Morricone/spaghetti westerns, which is perfectly fitting as you’re wandering about the desert with a revolver and a lever-action repeater.
New Vegas also has one of the most obvious omissions from Fallout 3: humour. Yep. Fallout1/2 are full of totally bizarre don’t-take-it-seriously hilarious moments. So is New Vegas. Here’s a screenshot of one of the sights you are given.
Ghouls in spacesuits. A hilarious ‘WTF’ moment! That whole quest was brilliant. First there’s a human who’s convinced he’s a ghoul, then there’s a Nightkin who talks to an animal skull called Antler, because he was lost without The Master (killed in Fallout 1) so they “needed new master”, so he found Antler whom he believes relays orders to him and “since then everything’s been going REALLY well”. You wouldn’t find this sort of ludicrous stupidity in Fallout 3, and I think we can all agree that it’s all the worse for it. You have to keep humour in Fallout because otherwise it’s a post-apocalyptic depression-fest about everyone’s lives being fucking terrible because of the giant fucking nuclear war. We want a slightly brighter outlook.
The most annoying parts are: bad AI, annoying bugs that occasionally have your companion(s) get stuck in the scenery. There is a new ‘hardcore mode’, which makes things a bit more realistic, by making it such that you need to manage food/water/sleep as well as radiation, and healing items’ effects occur over several seconds, not instantly, but it’s still basically impossible to die, with the one exception that you might accidentally wander too close to a swarm of cazadors. Overall however, a huge improvement on Fallout3.
Basically, what I am trying to say is New Vegas is still limited by what is by modern standards a fairly substandard game engine, but it succeeds in the most important area that Fallout 3 did not: It has character.
Verdict: probably… 8/10.
Note: This is a game review, but when buying Fallout New Vegas you don’t just get a game, you get a product. The product has an artificial dependency on an annoying, intrusive and unnecessary piece of software called Steam. The ideology of Steam is that you must ask a computer in America whether or not you are ‘allowed’ to play the game you bought in a shop down the road, and you must obtain permission every time you want to play it. You can remove this dependency by using a third party (untrusted) fixed executable, which may be illegal if your country has have poorly designed computer crime or copyright legislation. Furthermore, I had to use a third party dll file to make the game run at any kind of usable speed on my hardware (Athlon x2 3000+, 4GB RAM, nVidia GTS 250), but after using it, it now runs fine at high resolution.
If I was reviewing it as a product – an amalgamation of the experience that follows directly from what you buy – I would give it 0/10.