The original two Fallout games were stokes of genius in the RPG realm and really helped popularize western RPGs throughout the world.  They gave you a sense of freedom and the ability to solve quests in any way you wanted.  They gave you a destroyed post-apocalyptic Earth to travel around instead of the typical “D&D/anime” setting that eastern RPGs had been providing.  They also help popularize the quest based method of advancing the game which made a huge impact on the way that many games today are played out.  Above all, they were fresh and original, and also very funny at times.

In 2008 Bethesda Game Studios, famous for their mastery of open world RPGs such as The Elder Scrolls series, took the torch from the original Fallout developers Interplay and gave the series a reboot that was never to be forgotten.  They scrapped the overhead map layout of the first games and brought it into a first-person perspective, they expanded the Fallout universe by creating a giant sandbox based on a post-apocalyptic Washington D.C and surrounding areas.  They were able to take a drab brown and grey color palette and create an aesthetic that was visually pleasing to look at with the 1950’s “World of Tomorrow” ideas of the future being realized throughout the game, and they created a super fun game mechanic know as VATS Targeting where you can stop the action of the action of the game, take aim at a specific area of an enemy and then unleash slo-mo bloody mayhem.  And then there was the story, literally beginning with your characters birth, that tackled subjects such as nuclear war, religious fanaticism, and governmental power mongering and dictatorship.  Mix this with the near unlimited freedom that the game gave you, Fallout 3 was an epic win.

Come 2010, Bethesda releases their follow-up to Fallout 3 in the form of Fallout: New Vegas.  And as the title suggests, this time we get to explore the wastelands of Las Vegas and its surrounding areas.  Sounds cool huh, gambling, whoring, guns, mutants, lasers, and bright flashy lights all mixed with all the other great stuff that made Fallout 3 great.  Well, when I reached the end of the game I found this trip to the wasteland rather anticlimactic, boring, bug ridden, and a rather large letdown.  That’s not to say that I didn’t find parts of the game engaging or enjoyable or I wouldn’t have put 50 hours into finishing the game.

Returning to the game is the VATS targeting system, and largely because of this fun mechanic along with the vast array of weapons the game gives you I kept playing on to ensue all different kinds of devastation upon my foes.  That was a bloody good time.  Another thing that sucked me into the world of New Vegas was a Perk(enhancements to your character you can choose every other experience level) that you can choose at the early stages of the game that makes crazy and unexpected and funny things happen around the wasteland, such as a group of grannies trying to murder you with rolling pin or encountering a group of enemies lacking pants.

There were also a handful of NPCs that were enjoyable and personality filled such as the gang that goes by the name of The Kings, a group of thugs that discovered an Elvis Presley impersonation school and figured that he was a King.  They all don Elvis’ clothing and speak with his accent, I found myself doing everything I could to be in their good graces and eventually their leader let me have his hound dog.  There’s also a robot named Fisto, he’s a pleasure model robot, ’nuff said.

There’s a flip side to the NPCs throughout New Vegas, while many are fun, interesting, and enjoyable, there are many more that are just plain boring, lacking in personality, and leave you with no want to do anything to help them out or listen to them(the voice acting took a huge hit this time around, ranging from really well done ala The Kings, to more grating than a Japanese anime character breathing helium).  Luckily the characters that annoyed me or bored me made for good practice of dropping live grenades into their unsuspecting back pockets, so in the end there is some fun to be had, albeit, I had to make it myself.

The narrative sucked me into New Vegas‘ world at the beginning.  You play as a courier that has been commissioned to deliver a platinum gambling chip and you are intercepted on your journey and are robbed of you chip, shot in the head, and left in a shallow grave.  A robot named Victor finds you and brings you to the nearest doctor and in the end you survive, but are left with amnesia(why give up on the classic narrative mover?) and a thirst for revenge.  From there you reconstruct you face to your liking and then go on a journey to find the man that put a bullet in you head as well as helping/hindering/showing indifference to/maiming/killing different NPCs you meet along your way.

As I found myself digging deeper into the games narrative forging my own story as I went along, I ended up reaching a point where the narrative just lost its steam and ceased to seem interesting to me mainly due to overly cliche’ and overly used story mechanics.  Mostly all the choices I was presented with were black or white, unlike Fallout 3, there was really no grey area, you can be good or you can be evil.  After a while I stopped worrying about my karma rating(which shows your level of goodness or badness, and again unlike Fallout 3, didn’t really seem to affect gameplay much) and just chose the path that was more humorous and led to more killing.  And by the time I reached the where I had to choose where I wanted the narrative to end, I was presented with options that didn’t fit my liking, nor did I really want to put the effort into creating the ending that I wanted.  Let’s just say by the end of the game I went from being a super nice helpful slightly aged balding nice guy to a tyrannical drug addled bastard that lures kids to his van with tasty candy and has a sick obsession with putting live grenades in peoples pants.  It wasn’t the ending I was going for(I like playing as the nice guy hero in these type of games), but in the end at least I got a couple laughs out of being homicidal psycho(there can never be enough grenades).

Then there’s the problem of bugs.  This game has more bugs than a crackhouse on a hot summer day.  While at times they can be kinda funny(a dog head replacing a human head), they are for the most part infuriating and almost render the game unplayable at parts, and this is after I patched the game.  My companions would get stuck in the walls or in a box when I needed them most, my character would have his foot melded into a rock and be unable to move, the game would get stuck in VATS, and worst of all the game liked to freeze up very often forcing me to save the game every couple of minutes in anticipation for the next freeze(and no, it’s not my XBOX, other games ran perfectly fine).  These bugs are seriously unacceptable, especially a release on this big of a scale.  I couldn’t imagine how broken the game was before the patch and feel a sympathy for those that purchased it and don’t have internet access to update their game.

Graphically Fallout:New Vegas is acceptable.  It’s not pushing any technological achievements and the models are a bit stiff, but the aesthetic of what the world would look like if those 1950’s “World of Tomorrow” ideas and ideals were realized in the 2200’s and then blown up by atomic bombs works really well and brings the world to life.  The soundtrack also helps the aesthetic by complimenting the 1950’s theme with some tunes that sound reminiscent of that era and place, think Robert Goulet and Frank Sinatra.  The abstract soundtrack also works well when roaming the wasteland with its melancholy minimalist violin sounds.

In the end, I did find Fallout: New Vegas enjoyable at times, especially the first half of the game and the various clever ways I murdered different NPCs, I honestly can not recommend this game to anyone other than big fans of Fallout 3 or people who really enjoy the choose your own adventure style RPGs or would be willing to spend money on a putting a grenade in someones pocket simulator.  While there are games out there that are much worse and buggier than this, given the pedigree that it comes from it’s a huge letdown.

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