Fallout: New Vegas or Failout: No Wages as I like to call it, is the worst sequel to any game I have ever played and it is clearly inferior to both it's predecessor and it's successor. Bethesda made a mistake when they handed over the golden gem that is the Fallout series to this group of nobodies and here is why:
The first thing that is absolutely unequivocally awful about this game is the dialogue. What's the problem with it you may ask? Well there is clearly too much of it. It has tons and tons of dialogue with everyone as if you care about the characters or the world. If you're a tad bit curious because you're a friendless virgin with no life, you might want to know about the details of a fictional world and what goes on in it. Well this game is the game for you asshole because these NPC's literally never seem to shut up. Any question you might have about the world or setting it's possible that somewhere somehow one of these NPC's can accommodate you with an answer. Who needs answers when I want to shoot random things in a subway? As if having a bunch of dialogue and characters to talk to wasn't a chore enough it also gives you a bunch of needless dialogue options. Fallout 4 fixed that for us. Dialogue wheels are for real men, needing 80% medical knowledge to heal a wound is for sissies who want to "roleplay." Roleplay me being a dominant top and you being my subordinate bottom. You know the hole only gets deeper for these hacks, because like older RPG's they actually make it so that verbal encounters and roleplaying are more important than combat. They even made the mistake of giving you this option more often than they give you straight action encounters. Hey losers it's not 1997 anymore take your Infinity Engine game script back and give me some corridor action sequences followed by some one liners or get the hell out of this industry already.
Also it doesn't have a villain. What kind of shitty game doesn't have a preset villain to hate? I mean it does have characters and factions you can side with but you have to actually think about what they represent and what repercussions they would have on the Mojave/Vegas area. I cant hate on Obshitian entirely here because Bethesda made this same mistake with their mostly forgettable and crappiest game The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
, but that is beside the point. It also didn't keep the importance of Bethesda's brilliant black and white morality system instead opting for a faction based system that relied more on your relations to certain characters or groups rather than a vague idea of morality. Which sucks because how am I supposed to know whether I'm a good person or not if the game doesn't give me good or bad points? It gets even worse when the characters and factions come to represent complex themes and ideas. You know like capitalism vs socialism, corrupt-democracies vs militaristic dictatorships, Keynsian economics (Bulls and Bears), Hegelian historical determinism represented by the conflict of factions vs the freewill of the player to change things... Boring is what I have to say to all that. I mean it would be bad enough if we only had to deal with these things in the main quest and the major three factions but we have to see themes and loaded ideas even in the most minor of factions. Like the Boomers who are militaristic isolationists, The Followers doctors and scientists who are neutral to every other faction and try to help the less fortunate, and The Brotherhood of Steel who aren't the cool armor clad action stars they're in the Bethesda games in this game they're just paranoid hoarders of technology... Lameeeeeeeeeeeee, why would any person or group want to keep a technological advantage over others in an environment where resources are scarce and people are desperate and hence prone to be more dangerous? There aren't any cool factions like people who want ears and fingers for no reason or a merc company that seems to have endless funds and no reason to exist like my favorite group Talon Company. Give me a mission where a giant robot kills other robots for no reason and I get to shoot things. Bethesda knows how to make an action-sci-fi game not like these talent less hacks. The game setting is also a war in a desert over resources, between a corrupt but modern democracy and a slightly less technologically advanced foe who is more determined to win out of desperation and fanaticism and between them is an opportunistic businessman who is reaping the benefits of their mutual folly. Who has ever heard of such fictional nonsense taking place in real life? I almost have to compliment their imagination because clearly this could never take place in a world called Earth. They're all fighting not for bitches, money or to see my dad Liam Neeson
like in my favorite game Fallout 3 but for a Dam... What is so important about a dam that gives you both water and electricity in a vast area? Fighting in the Mojave over resources almost makes me wish for a Bethesda Fallout game.
As a side note, in Mass Effect 3 you got these things called War Assets because you were fighting a war or at least that is what we were told. At the end of the game you didn't really see much of these war assets or their effect on the battle or even if they helped defend anything, but if my bros at BioWare
said they were there I'm sure that they were. We were also told all our actions throughout the two previous games and the third installment would culminate into drastically different endings... Anyway, something truly stupid that Obsidian did was at the end of Fallout New Vegas and each of it's expansions they actually told you how your choices effected the world and what consequences your actions had. Some individual quests you did with minor factions could have broad sweeping consequences on the ending and even if you skipped the quests of certain factions or people it could mean their doom in the long run. Helping certain factions even though you also helped a seemingly unrelated faction might also effect things negatively or positively for that faction(s). It's like these tactless nerds actually cared how you effected the games world or something, what a bunch of losers. As if that wasn't enough unlike BioWare
these absolute madmen actually took the time to show representatives and resources of the factions who you helped in the final battle of the game. Kind of pointless to add all that in if you ask me who would ever even notice they went through the effort to do that? I guess game journalists agreed with me, because they had my back on this one and they gave Mass Effect 3
the super high score that it deserved and gave Fallout: New Vegas a bad score to show people their disdain with such effort and attention to world building. Only entitled morons care about how their actions effect the world.
To top it all off, Those idiots at Obsidian went through the trouble of having people from the original Fallout games work on and write this one. Why not just get great minds like Todd "The Rod" Howard and Pete Hines to come up with great ideas like.... Ummmm, Super mutants that shouldn't exist on the east coast, or the Enclave which shouldn't quite exist to the extent that they do on the east coast or how about water that is radiated everywhere but an air craft carrier city which is already sensitive to rust can also endure decades of constant radiation you know with people living inside it all the while. With hardly any need for maintenance. Enough about Bethesda's brilliant decisions though, lets talk about the writers here. Tim Cain was the original creator of Fallout, he started working on Fallout 1 at Interplay as a side project that the executives at Interplay didn't have much faith in. They planned on cancelling it at least twice. In fact due to mismanagement Interplay had it's game division which would go on to make or have at least a part in the majority of games we now see as a PC RPG golden age in converted granary silos made to house the offices of Interplay staff while the company wasted the majority of it's money on other efforts like a console that never materialized and sports games no one remembers. The point is the whole Fallout franchise started as a passion project of one man in a dying company. Without Tim Cain there would be no Fallout anything. Tim Cain just so happens to work at Obsidian. So does Chris Avellone (no longer works there but did during NV), Feargus Urquhart, Darren Monahan, Chris Benson, Scott Everts, Brian Menze and my game making husbando Josh Sawyer. All of which worked at Interplay/Black Isle studios and had a part in Fallout 1, 2 or the proposed first sequel to those games "Van Buren." You might argue like me true blue Bethesd' bros that none of these has beens matter because Fallout 3 was clearly superior from a writing standpoint and I would agree of course. For the sake of argument though lets just consider that these people who worked on the original games just might have a slightly better handle on the themes and ideas therein. Just so we can truly show these Obsidiot's how wrong they are. I want to show them how wrong they're and who really go to the heart and spirit of the original fallout games. To test this lets analyze this games setting and themes a little bit more and another games later on.
We talked about some of the more boring aspects of the plot and setting, but lets talk about where those has beens really fucked up and I mean bad, the flavor details. The Fallout games have always drawn heavily from a sort of atomic-equivalent of steam-punk and cyber-punk. I personally like to call it atomic-punk but sometimes it's called diesel-punk by geeks with no life but it gives us an idea of what the Fallout universe at least in part aims to be like. I mean we also have the two original games and things like the first three Mad Max films which also alluded to real world conflicts over resources, the mirroring of post-apocalyptic factions as real world groups and big ideas and questions framed in a science-fiction/action setting. From my own personal reading and viewing experience I might also add things like 1950-60's science-fiction and horror and the overt love of atomic power in the writings of people in both fiction and real world documents. Completely boring and talent less writers like Isaac Asimov giving us a vision of an atomic future utopia that features as the backdrop placed over 1950's like era that was the precursor setting of the Fallout world before the bombs dropped. That shit is old and boring though who wants to play old games, read old books or watch old movies? Well if this lame ass game is any example apparently the people at Obsidian do because they tried to make New Vegas fit within the framework of all these influences and make sense within them. On top of all that shit I just laid out they also tried to make the game feel like a western and also capture some of the style and flair of historical Las Vegas. You might even say if you want to give them credit that they tried to work in the ideas of gambling, chance and luck into their bigger themes as stated in the paragraphs above. Giving the Vegas setting not just a small role as the location of the game but giving it a thematic importance within the framework of the broader story they were trying to tell. The city of Vegas, which we all know to be a boring setting. Who even likes people like the The Rat Pack
, Howard Hughes, the Mafia, old country music and the look and styling of old casinos? People who don't understand the beauty of rubble, that's who. Well if you do happen to like such nonsense, Obsidian seemed to go out of their way including all kinds of historic flavor details not just as part of the location or landmarks you visit but as core parts of the story. One of the first people you see before the game even starts is Benny in a cinematic. Benny is made to look and he is acted out like a real historical person named Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, A real life mafioso and figure of classic Hollywood who had a lot to do with Vegas becoming a resort town centered around "large" casinos as opposed to the small gas stop casinos that were there before. Benny is just the first character you see in the game but he is just the tip of iceberg when it comes to Vegas themed characters and historic references. House being the most important character I can think of in this vein. House is based on Howard Hughes in both look and personality, but well integrated into the story of Fallout with motives and wants all his own. That's all well and good Obsidiot's but, I don't care about people that are already dead, YAWN.
The supposedly "wild west" mostly existed as series of loose cities and territories that tried to impose local business owned government in lieu of the real thing due to historical circumstance and a young democracies lack of interest in the west until later in the century. You might say that the territory between the NCR's reverse manifest destiny eastward and the Legion's burgeoning Pax Romana reflects the same historical circumstance in an entirely different setting but with the people between the two states serving a similar function and having the same attitude of those in the wild west. The denizens of New Vegas in the smaller towns and areas are weary of both of the bigger super powers encroaching on their territory and want to be left alone. Much like the the romantic west they want to hold on to a fleeting lifestyle between the wars that they know will end but they're too attached to anyway to not want to keep. If you can take a hint and see past a few jokes you may have noticed earlier that I stated the circumstances of the game reflect the current circumstances of modern day times. Corrupt Democracies in the west face fanatical regimes in the Mideast in wars over resources while speculators and opportunists like Mr. House Reap all the benefits. Well while I do think that allegorical situation is their intended one, one can also say the circumstance between the warring factions reflect those of other conflicts like seeing things through the western setting, Cowboys and Indians. Obviously I don't mean that interpretation to be taken literally or even as the correct one, but merely to be seen as a possibility given the dense nature of the themes and the setting. This possible interpretation is reinforced slightly by an expansion Honest Hearts, but more on that later. Many of the quests and characters outside Vegas and one of the expansions I will talk about later are dedicated to the western themes and flavor the game tries to convey. That is to say it not merely tacked on to make you feel like a Clint Eastwood
style action star in the west. They thought about these themes what similarities they might have to the world they were creating and tried to lay them out accordingly. You may have asked yourself while playing this game why are there Roman cosplayers in my post-apocalyptic nuclear role playing game? The answer is easy when you consider the allegory above as New Vegas being a stand in for among other things middle eastern foibles. It was called the "Near East" in Roman times, but it ended their eastward expansion and caused problems that reverberated throughout the rest of the empire. Rome was a plunder and intimidate empire, their economy relied on plunder and constant expansion to keep the cash flow and resources needed to maintain its large size and relative prestige. This means that when they lost the various skirmishes in the mid east their options for plundering other states and empires large enough to be useful to them in terms of resource gain and wealth became rather short dooming the the economy to implode inward among a sea of other problems. What this all means in terms of the game is that NCR and Legion may seem different on the surface but their problems and faults mirror each other in certain historical lights and circumstances. The NCR's corrupt democracy is reminiscent of our own and the US's economy built on constant expansion is not just modeled on the Roman one of plundering resources at home and abroad but we also force countries to buy our products and use our currency. The US's empire also feels compelled to secure the middle east for resource gain and as a tactical fortress to further military excursions throughout other parts of the world. The point is the two factions are mirrored opposition empires who might fall due to a desert quagmire over resource distribution. All of this historical context is again used not just to make the game seem more "heady" but was actively used in constructing the world and characters the games constituent parts rely on. It would be one thing to add all this and just have them say this in large exposition dumps, but the makers of New Vegas found ways to merge it into as many areas of game play and setting as possible. They even gave the clothes in the game a western and Vegas feel. From Strip inspired suits to cattle rustler clothing. Because Obsidian seems to have a holistic design philosophy, building things from the setting outward even small or minor details seem to add to the games overall feel and themes. I can go and on about this or I can compare it to another game that, did things... Well, differently to say the least.
Now let me tell you about a company that did setting details right. The company is Bethesda and game is Fallout 4
. Now all jokes aside I was actually looking forward to a game set in Boston. I MEAN REAL FUCKING EXCITED. It seems like an interesting city with it's own unique history and it's not overdone in video games like a lot of American cities. I was even a little excited to hear that they were going to try and work a few Blade Runner
themes and ideas into the setting. Now put aside who made the game and reread those sentences like this: A Fallout game, set in Boston, with Blade Runner
mixed in. It sounds a lot less complicated than Fallout: New Vegas layered upon layered themes and setting and yet if you get a boner for old science-fiction and a unique city setting for them than like me you probably popped a big one over that description even with knowing that it was our heroes Bethesda making it. Well how did it turn out? I think about five or six characters sound like they're from Boston, a few of them even sound like a unique voice actor. But hey they totally nailed Boston's love of sports by having... Five or six references to it. Okay, they did have a city that was a baseball diamond, so the last one isn't completely lost but it's fucking Boston. I know very little about the city and even less about sports and I know they love sports there. Did it get right Boston's historical importance in revolutionary times and throughout American history? Well in Bethesda's slight defense they did at least try with this aspect of Boston there is a faction Called the Minutemen, historical sites are represented in the game and like with Fallout 3
you can find unique items and dialogue associated with these things. The problem is that it's all played a little to literally like with Nord as vikings in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
. In practice just having these things in a game is ok, the problem is that in a modern setting there is so much potential to use the symbolism and iconography of revolutionary times in a setting like this to get across rich themes and ideas instead of just using them as a joke or detail flavor. The attitude of the west was infused in the characters of New Vegas, but the revolutionary times mindset is not very present in the minutemen or even touched upon at all. It's very much modern men wearing costumes for no reason other than their name entails it. You know that thing people criticized the Legion for before this game came out? Their clothing also doesn't make much logical sense given the situation they're now in or why they would care about the spirit of a nation they don't know much about as far as canonical info goes, but they do so any way because they were dealt a bad role to play in the game. The quest involving these things are not very interesting in their own right either and serve mostly as fluff that seems indicative of a checklist of things they needed to accomplish rather than something they actually wanted to explore as game developer's constructing a fictional world. What about other things that have to do with Boston? Like it's strong Irish population? Mostly unrepresented or touched upon. It's sea centered trade/economy completely unrepresented. I didn't need a Wire level Frank Sobotka tale of depth and detail on this either, but it would have been nice to have a major port town, but having anything would be an improvement over nothing. It's strong university culture? I guess you can say the Institute helps represent this somewhat, but even then it seems far removed not just from the real life setting of Boston but it's own fictional setting of Fallout's Boston. The Institute and it's "leaders" motives seem very unrealistic and again not just from a real life perspective, but from the perspective of the Fallout universe itself. Why would a faction like the Institute not just comp stomp the whole east coast in a matter of days if they have superior firepower and they don't have to worry about casualties? We're told all throughout the main story the threat just one Synth can pose to human populations and yet their impact on the current world is relatively nonexistent and makes no sense given the scale of their technological achievement over other groups and populations in the wasteland. Through the Institute and a few other things here and there the tacked on Blade Runner ideas and technology don't do much to help the game or it's setting in fact they're so poorly integrated that they start to break my immersion the instant they're introduced. Aside from a few places here and there the denizens of Boston seem strangely aloof to larger threats in the area like the Institute and the BOS. Their attitude to them seems strangely detached and it feels further weird that towns and factions have static political structures and the majority of the struggles are inward even though they live in such a dangerous world. I'm not saying internal conflict is always bad, far from it, but that when done this way it more reflects a lazyness on the part of developers who don't want to go through the trouble of showing a world reflect broad changes and their consequences outward when it is much easier to show minor town changes like a character dying or two with no real consequences on that part of the world or else where. So in summary Bethesda did not really capitalize on the game's Fallout roots and all the things that inspired those therein, it did not make much use of Boston as a setting and despite the allusions to Blade Runner it did not really capitalize on that in any interesting ways either. They did not try for broad themes like Obsidian's game or to really have much of a story at all. In fact you might say that Fallout 4 is where Bethesda finally gave up on writing a story and tried to just fill it in with sandbox tasks and infinite quests with no real content in them. We all know setting details are for nerds anyway. Bro's... I have to be honest and say Bethesda didn't quite save gaming the way I thought it would with this awesome premise and setup. Oh well they gave us tons of radiant quests to do.
"A Fallout game, set in Boston, with Blade Runner
mixed in." Imagine that game as described but made by Obsidian. I cant say I know definitively they would make a better game. I know for sure though that the general themes, setting, plot and characters would be much stronger than what we got with Bethesda. If the two games described above are any indication Obsidian and the original writers from the Fallout games it contains within had a better grasp of the overall spirit of Fallout and ways to utilize large and small themes to help convey that spirit in new ways. A lot less of the amazing premise of Fallout 4 would be wasted and the story might bridge the gap between the premises in ways that seem distant at first but so logical in hindsight that it's a wonder no one ever made the connections before. Maybe you hate Obsidian like me though, so instead imagine that same starting premise but in a game made by CD Projekt Red
, classic era BioWare
, Interplay Entertainment
etc. Maybe they would all be crap, but maybe, just maybe they wouldn't waste as much potential as was wasted with Fallout 4. Like I said before though only dorks care about such things, time to move on.
You know what is really awful about this game and feels like a huge throwback to older games? The expansions, and I say expansions because unlike DLC which everyone loves, it felt like these idiots actually wasted time on this content trying to make it both fit the game but also feel distinct from it, while also giving you new lands to explore and people to talk to. You know like the way old PC game expansions used to feel. Before Bethesda saved us from this nerdy shit with Horse Armor DLC and Fallout 3: Operation: Anchorage
. The expansions made the mistake of exploring more of the world and the story rather than giving you a sandbox to fuck around with or an alien space ship unconnected to everything else to explore. They fucked these up bad mate, like with the absolute failure of an expansion that was Honest Heart's. You know if I pretend to be unbiased for a second I might be able to say that Honest Hearts had a great and beautiful Utah national park setting that expanded on the games already dense themes by adding more like faith, loss and issues of pride. Is land worth the slaughtering of a whole other horde of people? Is my faith right when it dictates that I flee or stand my ground? But lets stop pretending, we know questions like that are lame, just let me shoot the other tribe already you boring fucks. They even had a completely shit character in it named Joshua Graham... (Alright I cant even pretend for the sake of this joke review Joshua is bad ass and deserves his own game.) These fools even took the time to have a story nobody might read or follow up on involving a scout who took the same journey as you from Vegas to Zion and met an unfortunate fate to say the least without spoiling anything. Why would these morons even waste time on content people probably wont even see?
In the second expansion I'll talk about Old World Blues, they try to expand on the games 1950's science-fiction roots and even give the game a more humorous tone than it has in most other areas of the game. They went through the trouble of hiring people to do voice acting that are known to play mad scientists including a personal favorite of mine Rusty Venture (James Urbaniak
). I'm sure you can guess how disappointed I was to know he worked on this terrible game. The game doesn't need humor though because the joke was on Obsidian for making this shitty game this bad. They even tried to do something really dumb with Old World Blues well actually it was too dumb things, they tried to make a dumb one dimensional Bethesda type villain sympathetic in a realistic way while also using the arch of that story to build on the themes of their main game, but they also tried to tie in the stories of their expansions together starting with this one and working that story through the next two.
Which lead us to the third expansion Dead Money. They call it Dead Money because you will feel like you wasted your money and want to be dead after playing this. Anyway, in Dead Money like in the main game you're trying to gain entrance to a casino but this casino contains large amounts of treasure that happens to be guarded by poisonous fog and weird creatures that emerge from it. The Casino is called the Sierra Madre and much like the movie with Humphrey Bogart
it deals with themes of greed and regret while also playing like an old school survival horror game and a heist simulator at the same time. It's almost like these hacks got inspired by some of the best video games and movies while making this tripe, ahem. I don't want to spoil anymore of this expansion for anyone dumb enough to think that description sounds good but for what it's worth it ended up being my favorite of the four and that's saying a lot. I guess the hard part of moving on From Dead Money is letting go... But I will for the sake of this review, the last expansion is Lonesome Road.
Lonesome Road capitalizes on the western themes of the game more than any other area of New Vegas. It plays like an old style revenge western with lots of allusions to old world duels like the one that caused the nukes to drop, the duel between the NCR and the legion, the duel between the courier and Ulysses the possible antagonist of the expansion depending on your actions. It's a revenge story but it's not played like most revenge stories for one you're not the one seeking revenge you're the one being preyed upon for reasons that are unknown to the player but slowly become clear as the expansion unfolds. It might just be a coincidence but the person who wrote most of Lonesome Road also happened to be the person who wrote most of the game Planescape: Torment
and well the themes and look of Ulysses character call back a bit of that game's themes and the look of Planescape: Torment's main character. How lost history and actions that seem minor or small to you can have big consequences in someone's life through a series of minor connections. I'm not trying to give this expansion a compliment by comparing it to one of the best written video games of all time though, we all know Ulysses is just a shit character that shouts "BULLS AND BEARS" over and over. Also Bethesda makes much better DLC content packed full of content like... Well Point Lookout which is ok and then... Hmmmm.
Oh yeah and the cities in New Vegas. They're dull, filled with quests and things to do and their placement makes sense given the real life Mojave Desert/CalNeva locations the game is based on and settings details that reflect the needs of a real city. It's nothing cool like living next to an undetonated nuclear bomb or setting up a city next to some slavers in Paradise Falls, only the sensible denizens of Bethesda games would make good choices like that. You know it's funny I live in California and have on many occasion been on drives from southern California to Las Vegas and sometimes when I play this game I get these weird reminders of things I saw in real life because they actually tried to recreate the area around Vegas but bring it into Fallout in a way that made sense. I actually thought the Solar Plant that is part of a quest chain in this game was just some fake bullshit but I looked it up and they actually did build one near that area in Nevada. In fact you'll find that most of the buildings and areas in the game have some real life counterpart. Even three out of the four expansion areas are based on real places. Zion National Park is a real place that exists, Big Mt is like Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, the divide is based on a real areas of California and Nevada. In 4 you can build a city next to a mutant stronghold who wouldn't want to do that? The strip admittedly and I mean this for real, is a bit of a disappointment given it's real life counterpart, but given what we have in the game I would say each Casino offers a good few quests and different enough experiences to get over the fact that they couldn't quite finish up the Strip in the way perhaps these hacks may have wanted to. There is a somewhat famous video made by a nerd with no life, who cant understand the brilliance of Bethesda, where he says this game can answer tons of basic questions about it's setting just by looking at the details of each city and asking basic questions like "what do they eat." Well you can keep asking basic questions and getting answers, but me I'm gonna enjoy the grander things in life like needing a waterchip as the whole point of a game when basic filters throughout your sequel can purify anything. Look we all know these hacks at Obsidian are boring with their attention to detail but if you don't have a limegreen texture all over everything and trash everywhere how do we know nukes hit if people aren't living among filth and these obvious cues of radiation?
Are there any other problems with the game play you might ask? Absolutely. It gives you way too many weapon and customization options before you even install mods. What is the fucking point of a game that gives you options from the start? Bethesda knows not to make this mistake. They even put iron sights on the guns, lame... Just have us zoom in even if the gun doesn't have any piece of equipment to zoom in with fools. The game has more skills and perks and they seem to be more varied. As stated previously in the dialogue portion of this review they seem to matter a lot more in conversation and in interacting with the world. Dialogue is not only about who you talk to but also about what knowledge, skills and previous experience in the game world you have. People might think those additions are unimportant but the Fallout series is about role playing and as humans who rely on language to convey ideas the best way to roleplay and interact with a world is to engage with its denizens in dialogue, when a game makes these options more complex and reflective of your in game experiences and knowledge the more serious and immersive the role you can play. Am I saying dialogue is the only way an RPG can exist and constitute roleplaying status? No, two of my favorite games of all time are Diablo
and Dark Souls
some dialogue occurs but its not the main focus of the role playing aspect in those games. The point is in a traditional D&D/GURPS style adventure setting, combat is usually secondary to dialogue options and world exploration and the games that are precursors (gold boxed rpgs/Infinity Engine) to this game are evolutionary steps forward from that experience. Fallout's game play is not exemplified when you shoot the guns, that is a secondary aspect that you can choose in your own experience but in fallout New Vegas the fun is in exploring the views and concerns of the people in the world as much as it is exploring that physical world and shooting random shit. People might think I'm belaboring the point here about an aspect of game play most people probably think is a given but I think the dialogue being central to your enjoyment or lack there-of with Fallout New Vegas was a major missed factor in a lot of early reviews of it which tended to focus on less important aspects in my opinion. Fallout New Vegas was not trying to be a shooter with some RPG aspects like the Bethesda games are somewhat "evolving" towards it was a roleplaying game based on an earlier tradition of games where dialogue was the order of the day. There is a reason I started with the story and dialogue aspects of the game in this review and it's not because I'm one of those people who thinks a good story always trumps game play, I did so because this game is one of the few story centric games that found a way to integrate it's better aspects and story elements directly into the most important game play functions the dialogue options and did so in a way that was far more complex and reliant on skills and events most average gamers might never see. This is where New Vegas excels over the Bethesda games and to some extent I would say it overcomes it's even earlier predecessors Fallout 1 and 2 but more on those games later. The game play is mostly about dialogue, but the essential aspects of a shooter are adequate and don't have much complaints there. I think VATS while a nice homage to the earlier games and arguably one of the things that makes Fallout, "Fallout" I think it makes the game just a bit too easy. I also think that increase of importance on dialogue makes charisma and speech damn near essential skills rather than something you really have a choice with. On the one hand I understand that this is optimal way to enjoy the game, but I wish there was other work arounds or ways to get things done for people who want to roleplay less dialogue reliant characters.
I'd like to mention a small aspect of this game I really like that I'm not sure was intentional or not, but that I think is good anyway. I like that the majority of enemies don't respawn after dying. It seems like a small thing and some of them specifically the more animal like ones do respawn, but it gives me a feeling of accomplishment to know a lot of the areas with raiders, mutants etc are not going to just respawn in game next week again. It makes it feel directly, like I'm specifically making the New Vegas area a better place. Again I don't think this one thing would make the game better alone and I'm not sure it was intentional, but I want more future RPG's to follow this model rather than the constantly respawning humanoid enemies of Fallout 3 and 4.
The majority of the song choices also seem to either fit the setting or have an ironic twist given their inclusion in the game. It's almost like they sat and listened to the music and saw if it fit the setting rather than just picking a bunch of 30's and 40's music and hoping for the best like with Fallout 3 and 4. I like the soundtrack a lot and although I do miss the wholly original songs of Fallout 1 and 2, I'm glad at least that the ones they picked helped build on the atmosphere and themes. There is nothing like walking over a hill and having five Legion coming at you while Big Iron plays and you both start shooting. I love most of the voice acting and cant think of one performance I found particularly annoying or bad. There are plenty that deserve accolades I already mentioned James Urbaniak
and his small part above. I also think René Auberjonois
as House (Odo in Star Trek), Matthew Perry
as Benny, Keith Szarabajka
as Joshua Graham, Jocelyn Blue as Doctor Dala and Kris Kristofferson
as Chief Hanlon are standouts. I'll just add here as an adjunct to the voice acting that I loved the characterization in the game and it's hard for me to think of a comparable modern RPG with as many great main and side characters. The amount of distinct personalities and unique concerns of the denizens of the wasteland alone are remarkable. I don't have much to say about the sound in terms of everything else. The sound effects work to the extent that they need to.
It's funny that game journalist's had my back when I thought Bethesda's games were totally cool and radical and they praised Fallout 3's graphics, gameplay and overall programming optimization when I liked it. Like the true friend's that they're they continued to have my back when even though these things were mostly the same or slightly better in New Vegas, they agreed with me in hating them in this game because it was just a few years older or at least that is the reason they told us. It didn't even matter for instance that New Vegas felt more stylized and story appropriate in it's graphics. No we cant let video game developers get away with this rehash crap and the video games vanguard journalists were there to hold the line and say "None shall pass with this Gamebryo dogshit." Then again though, when The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
came out and it's resolution was slightly higher, particle effects somewhat prettier and bloom enhanced my journalist bros of course stayed consistent and promptly gave the game a 10 out of 10 despite the similarities between the gamebryo games and the fact that New Vegas brought enhancements to it that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
did not utilize. I guess Bethesda's enhancements just werk, amirite? I love having friends like these journalist's on my side who have my back no matter what crazy shit I believe. Heh Heh, we all know New Vegas really, really sucked though, because unlike Bethesda's games it was totally buggy. Ok it was buggy granted, but look up the term "bug's Bethesda games" in any search engine or "Tranquility Lane bug" to know that some people's Fallout 3 games are so bugged that even after fan made patches they still are unable to complete the game. Do people have a point in general that Gamebryo's graphics engine is a little dated? Yes, it doesn't do the best job of conveying everything in the game world or even do things that every other engine could do or can, but no game engine does that. I'm also not claiming people will be blown away by Fallout: New Vegas in the graphics department the game isn't Crysis
and it wasn't made by my heroes at Bethesda. I'm merely stating that a lot of the complaints everyday gamers had with the game at launch and in media reviews already existed in Bethesda's previous and subsequent games and very little if any attention was given to Obnsidian's attempts to make enhancements or corrections to it. You might say I'm giving these bottom feeder's at Obsidian a little fairness bone to nibble on here.
Just a little one though, even by their own admission there were parts of the game they would have liked to have fleshed out more like Caesar's Legions side of the Colorado river and the faction's presence in the world in general. They also wanted to do more with the New Vegas Strip and some of the surrounding cities. I think despite my love of Joshua Graham they should have made Daniel's case more compelling in Honest Hearts. I think there should have been more types of enemies in Dead Money. I think an edit or further elaboration of Ulysses motives and ideas could have helped more people connect with him and his expansion more. I think the game could have stood to add another faction in the northern areas of the map or at least expand Bitter Springs functionality and add more quest in that area specifically as it feels rather empty and unlike with other regions I never heard the creators say they had any further plans for that area. I criticized Bethesda for a lack of variation or thematic consistency for the voice acting when talking about flavor details specifically the lack of Bostonian voices. Vegas/Nevadans don't really have an accent distinct from other south-west states, but one problem I did notice in this game and Bethesda's that cant be easily explained is the inclusion of people with foreign accents. There is a Great Khan female with an Australian accent, I'm sure I heard more and I definitely heard more in the other games. Given the setting I think it's obvious why people with accents like this wouldn't make much sense without an in game explanation. I find it weird that there is no way to visit Mr. New Vegas and or have no quests associated with the radio stations at all. I'm aware that he is merely a computer/robot somewhere but it seems like a missed opportunity and even Bethesda usually capitalizes on this sort of thing. I really think it was a mistake to program Oliver Swanick to feel pain. The point is the game has some shortcomings and oversights, I'm not claiming it's perfect even where it's strongest.
Before I go into some of my closing statements in this already ungodly long review I'd like to address a few criticisms about the game or at least give my take on them from people who either like the Bethesda games more or like the original Interplay games more. Just for the sake of being thorough. The two biggest complaints about New Vegas from people whose primary reference is the Bethesda games is that it lacks atmosphere and "Rail Roads" you too much, meaning that unlike Fallout 3 or 4 the game seems to want you to take a designated path through its map rather than let you go "where ever" you want. First lets talk about atmosphere, as I said in my rather large paragraphs on flavor details, themes and settings I think Bethesda's games actually do a rather poor job of consistently conveying anything, but further than that atmosphere to me is primarily about building emotions/moods and holding those things in an intended way for the person imbibing the media. New Vegas's intended atmosphere was not to feel like the bombs dropped yesterday it was to feel the struggles of the wasteland and the burgeoning new civilizations that have made their presence known in this new landscape. Not have a limegreen mist over everything and rubble in your living room. I feel like and "feel" being the key word here that New Vegas consistently keeps an atmosphere of tension between people and groups. My decisions felt more real and weighty than most games because the build up and the people I met in the game mattered to me more than anything mattered in the Bethesda games. Nothing in Bethesda games ever feels immersive or atmospheric to me because nothing is of real significance or consequence and very little changes in the world that warrants attention or care. Playing a bethesda Fallout especially 4 in particular is like telling a little kid to go use his imagination in an empty warehouse. Its not really atmosphere that people like in Bethesda Fallout's it's what their preconceived notions of what a post-nuclear apocalyptic video game should look like and they enjoy the confirmation bias in their head that tells them radiation is green stuff and rubble everywhere. It is the set piece dressing they enjoy not something as nebulous as "atmosphere."
Rail roading is rather easy to address if my main concern is simply waiving off criticism. The fact of the matter is if you have certain skills and knowledge about the game on later play throughs it is rather easy to go North from Good Springs and take a different route. I think this criticism is rather bad in another way though in that fundamentally misunderstands the point of RPG's and specifically RPG's of the one New Vegas was intended to be like. In Fallout 2 just to leave the first area it was often very useful to have a certain set of skills and abilities to maneuver through the trials and get to actually exploring the outside world people didn't think of it as "rail roading" because RPG's weren't made with sandbox fuckery in mind. Instead people focused on constructing a world and setting that made logical sense and sometimes that meant areas that weren't very balanced or felt like "skill barriers" because the point is to make a world like our own where everything is not balanced and certain people with certain skills get more options and rewards for their troubles. New Vegas was made with the same old school RPG ideas in mind. Open World's are an overrated commodity if the trade off is a setting that seems unrealistic and relies on level scaling. Level scaling is a cancer that deserves a rant all it's own but I'll put that aside to move on.
People who prefer the Interplay/Black Isle Fallout's tend to have very different concerns. I think the biggest single knock or criticism coming from this camp is that the series jump from isometric game play to an FPS was wrong or somehow a shortcoming. We know for certain that had Interplay stuck to their original plan and released Van Buren Fallout still would have went in a drastically different visual direction from it's predecessors one that in my opinion if the unfinished demo is any indication may have been worse than the Gamebryo engine and it's admittedly many faults. It's hard to know Van Buren was never finished and a game can change drastically in development. We do know however that Interplay made two games that at least in my opinion are arguably worse or on par with fallout 3, Tactics and Brotherhood of Steel. Brotherhood of Steel being the Fallout game I think is the worst in the series. Given all this it seems unlikely that a better isometric Fallout: New Vegas would have existed in that route. In a funny twist of fate and as is said by Feargus Urquhart in an interview I'll link below Interplay/Black Isle was actually working on the precursor engine to Gamebryo to make their games before the companies collapse. So it seems like a Gamebryo Fallout was a likely occurrence no matter who got to work on it.
I'll also state that even during their heyday I found the movement/combat in most isometric RPG's to be clunky and unsatisfying. As I have said in this review I didn't see combat as the main function of those games or this particular one, but it's something to be noted. I'll also add that first person views are slightly more immersive than a top down perspective especially in a game where the protagonists identity is tied into your own decision making. There are things to be said in favor of isometric views for immersion, Obsidian made Tyranny recently and I think the isometric viewpoint actually enhanced it's narrative in a way if a pet theory of mine about the game world turns out to be true. Even if doesn't, the world is enhanced somewhat in it's despotic atmosphere by having the player take a gods eye view. In a general sense isometric games can convey emotions and atmospheric aspects of a setting more convincingly than first person settings. I guess we can argue the merits of either all day, but I'll just close by saying I think Obsidian did the best they could with the engine and time that they had.
In closing, summation, reprobation and intellectual masturbation I would like to ask a question that is on the minds of most people when they consider the last three Fallout games and that is the real core difference between true artists like Bethesda and hacks like Obsidian? Or maybe you think Fallout is shit and the differences are too minimal between the installments for you to care about anyway. Well I hear you but lets reckon the difference for the sake of argument. My bro of house bro, defender of the bro code Pete Hines had this to say about fictional worlds on twitter:
"...not interested in discussing how realistic things are in an alternate universe post-apoc game w/talking mutants and ghouls."
Now friends he has a point why should we care about realism and detail in an obviously fictional setting? Maybe just maybe, it's stupid to care if people get all the details wrong in a fictional world, if our immersion is constantly shattered by things that don't make sense by aspects of the games world, lore and story that butt up against their game play and application in game. Maybe all that matters is the generic experience we can create in someone's designated sandbox framework, maybe... Or and to be fair to Obsidian even though they don't deserve it, lets consider another possibility. What if and I know this is crazy but hear me out dudes. What if we engage in fictional universes because they offer a new experience from our own but that on a whole still follows it's own internal logic and has a consistency to it that rewards our immersion in the world? A story is a lot like a lie, the more far reaching and outlandish you make it the harder and harder it becomes for the recipient of said lie or story to believe and not feel rused by. They also are similar in that they offer an alternative history to the one reality actually offers us and the more a lie or a story connects or reflects real world events, places and things the more we can believe them. It might be crazy to ask that ghouls follow real life rules, but most people aren't asking that these things make sense in a wholly realistic way, they're asking the story teller to keep their own internal logic about ghouls and mutants consistent within the framework of their own story. The game universe made rules about ghouls and mutants and the original creators of those concepts followed them for better or worse. The real difference between Obsidian and Bethesda is that Obsidian sees an alternative world as an opportunity to explore real life possibilities while also trying to stay true to that fictional worlds rules and logic, where as Bethesda sees an alternative world as framework for people to fuck around in and shoot things and if the internal pre-established lore or logic might hurt the "fun" or their profit margins it has to be thrown out.
Do I think Bethesda is evil and failed at everything? No, there are certain ideas, characters, places and things in 3 and 4 that I can enjoy just fine. For instance despite my stickler for realism and my making fun of it earlier I kind of like the idea of Rivet City. It's highly unrealistic but had it been the only log in the turd punch bowl that is 3 I could get over it quick. I like the idea of an aircraft carrier becoming something akin to a modern castle against raiders/outside threats. I'm not one hundred percent against an unrealistic idea in a fictional setting if it can lead to a good payoff and has enough of an in universe explanation for it's existence. I like Liam Neeson
and Malcolm McDowell
even if I didn't particularly care for the characters they played. I liked Moira. As just bits of fluff I liked the quests about the Republic of Dave and Vault 108. I think most of Point Lookout was enjoyable, albeit not a great experience. Curie is my Fallout Waifu <3, second only to Tandi. Valentine was also a rare stroke of genius in the characterization department at Bethesda and one of the few callbacks to Blade Runner I really enjoyed. I think most of the companions were pretty good in 4, I only dislike a few and only hate one and I wont mention who. Well I'll give a hint her name starts with a P and ends with R. That travesty of human waste aside, I think companions were easily the one way Fallout 4 really improved over other Bethesda "RPGS." Note that I did not say they were better than the non-Bethesda Fallout's. I give Bethesda some credit for choosing Boston over a more obvious choice like New York, San Francisco, Chicago or Miami. If we speak only about the aesthetics of the wasteland and the fan service parts therein that call back to earlier Fallout's Bethesda succeeded as far as the "look" of those things went.... For the most part, don't think I'm one hundred percent satisfied with that or anything.
There are probably a lot of other small things I'm missing here, the point is I don't think everything they did was wrong or horrible, just that on a whole they missed the spirit of the Fallout franchise and missed it by a lot. My intention in bringing up Bethesda's fallout's in this review was not so much to hate on them but to point out what I thought Obsidian did right in comparison to what Bethesda did wrong. I'm not going to beat a dead horse here and for the record I'm probably never going to review them individually as I think I pretty much said everything about them I can say contained in this one review, but I'll just say this. As someone who waited a long time for a Fallout sequel after playing the first two and being Hyped for 3 before it came out especially considering it was being made by the people who did The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
, a game I still love quite a bit and Oblivion a game I like/d a lot despite obvious flaws, I couldn't have been more hyped for a Bethesda Fallout 3 at time. I didn't go into either of these games wanting to dislike them but then and now they seem like pale imitations of a Fallout game rather than the true sequel I had been waiting for all those years to 1 and 2.
You might say the first thing I really loved about New Vegas was it did feel like that continuation to the series I wanted. Not just in setting as it was taken back to it's west coast/desert roots but in almost every other way possible aside from not being made in the Infinity Engine. It was everything I wanted out of a sequel of the first two games, but also an amazing standalone experience. New Vegas is my favorite game of all time and might possibly be one of my favorite things that exists period. This might seem like a long review but believe me when I say the game deserves an even longer analysis and I could go on for days and days about it if I didn't limit myself. Some pieces of art or media just feel like a culmination of your own experiences and interests even though they were made by someone else. New Vegas was that for me in more ways than I'm sure you want to hear at this point.