Welcome to “Gaming Under $20″! This is a new weekly column that will have us diving through the bargain bins of our local game stores to find you the best gaming bang for your buck! Since this is new to all of us, I’ll try to explain what these reviews are all about. Unlike our reviews of New Releases, we’ll be taking a more relaxed approach to these reviews. Instead of breaking down each aspect of the game and rating it on a five point scale, we’ll focus more on whether or not this game is worth your money and time. Since this is a column about bargain gaming, not every game we review will be a hidden gem. Sometimes we’ll have to play through six hours of crap, but we do it for you! We suffer so that you can skip that crappy game. We’re sort of like heroes….I just need a cape….and a mustache….anyway, I hope you all enjoy this review and the content to come. In this economy, we could all use some “Under $20 Games”. On to the review!
Fallout: New Vegas leaves the dreary Wasteland of Washington, D.C. and heads to Sin City. Along with the change of scenery comes the introduction of a new protagonist, new weapons, and new quests. You play as “The Courier”, who (after getting shot in the head) takes on the major powers controlling New Vegas and seeks to bring peace to the Mojave. Instead of saving the Wasteland, you’ll be more involved with joining certain factions (or being a one-man wolf pack). You travel from town to town around the outskirts of New Vegas, meeting plenty of interesting people along the way. As you progress through the story, you venture into the Vegas Strip and take part in a war that has been building for decades. Fallout: New Vegas introduces the New California Republic (NCR), Caesar’s Legion, and Mr. House. These major factions influence how your story plays out. With new characters, settings, and four different endings, the story of Fallout: New Vegas will satisfy the most thorough of gamers.
The gameplay in Fallout: New Vegas doesn’t stray far from its roots in Fallout 3. As far as controls and gameplay are concerned, the only noticeable difference between the two is an advanced command menu for your followers. While you could say that it was lame of them to use the exact same frame from Fallout 3 for the sequel, you have to remember, “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It”. Also, take a look at Call of Duty: World At War, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. (Getting my point?) Now, Fallout: New Vegas has also added quite a few gambling mini-games, including: Black Jack, Slots, Roulette, and an original card game, Caravan. While these little games obviously won’t be your focus, they become a great way to blow off stress in the Mojave, instead of ‘Rage Quitting’ and tossing your controller.
Another new addition to the Fallout franchise is “Hardcore Mode”. Hardcore mode takes on a more realistic approach to surviving the Mojave, forcing you to eat, sleep, and drink water. If you deprive yourself of these basic needs, your character will suffer penalties and eventually die. In addition to the added stress of Hardcore Mode, ammunition is also given weight and healing items will only heal your character over time, instead of instantaneously. So, no more shooting up stimpacks to heal your crippled face – only doctors or a good night’s rest will fix that…just like real life. While Hardcore Mode does offer another way to squeeze replay value out of Fallout: New Vegas, it isn’t going to be something you actively engage in playing. The game even warns you when turning Hardcore Mode on, telling you that your campaign will be filled with tears and frustration.
There is definitely a dark side Fallout: New Vegas, which riddles the entire game: it’s buggy as hell. Whether you’re getting trapped in mountains, falling through floors, or being haunted by rag-doll monstrosities, you’re going to have to put up with it through the entire game. Far too many times have I killed an enemy, only for him to start flying around the world with his limbs stretching in every direction. Assuming the radiation from The Great War wasn’t THAT damn powerful, this probably shouldn’t be normal. Now you might be wondering, “This game has been out for a while, I’m sure they’ve patched those pesky bugs!”, but, unfortunately no. No, they haven’t. I suppose the developers decided that, like art, it should be left to wallow in glory and flaws. I mean, it’s the flaws that make it beautiful, right? Seriously, though, the bugs can reach a massively frustrating level. Not to mention the loading times! My God, there were times that I thought I had just spent $60 on a series of loading screens, with gameplay in between. Now, this is one problem they seem to have fixed. Where as you used to sit for six minutes to load a new building, now it is down to a more manageable half-minute or so.
When I first bought this game, I played it for about five hours straight. Being a huge fan of Fallout 3, I had to dedicate myself to its sequel. Then, I realized that I hated it. The quests seemed jumbled and confusing, I was unfamiliar with the entire setting, and the main map had invisible walls. I mean, it’s 2011 and they have invisible walls! After leaving it to collect dust for a couple of months, I decided to give it another try. This led to me beating the game five times, having a complete change of heart on my opinion of it, and buying all of the DLC. While Fallout: New Vegas may not be as long as Fallout 3, it makes all of that slack up with replay value. Each faction that you can join in the main story has a unique take on the important quests, such as either killing the president or saving him from assassins. The ability to play completely different campaigns each time really encouraged me to give each side a chance, spending way too much of my life on this game.
I think that Fallout: New Vegas really makes its mark with the list of achievements that accompany it, having the perfect mix of difficult and attainable goals. Personally, as an Achievement
Whore Enthusiast, Fallout: New Vegas created the perfect list to keep me playing, without making me resent it. The achievements encourage you to play the game in different ways and styles, while making it fun to explore the depth of the game. For example, my original playthrough focused on firearms, medicine, and avoiding any major factions. While that seemed to be more suited to my personality, the internal drive for achievements made me change up how I played the game. On my second playthrough, I became an evil, bulky son of a bitch. I wandered the Mojave, using only clubs and swords to complete the quests from the (questionably) evil Caesar. Conan the Barbarian would have bowed to the splendor of my badassery. I owe all of this enjoyment to the achievement list of Fallout: New Vegas. With enough time and patience, it is easy to attain the full gamerscore (including DLC).
Speaking of DLC, Fallout: New Vegas has plenty to go around. With 5 DLC packs, there is plenty of content to explore after beating the main campaign. To be honest, not all of them are that great. But, they do have some easy achievements and offer a good variety on the settings of Fallout: New Vegas. The first DLC, Dead Money, takes you to a hidden casino that has become more of a myth than a place. The home of untold fortunes, it is heavily guarded by evil zombie people and stinky poison gas. The Second DLC, Honest Hearts, lets the player travel to the mystical land of…Utah. Here, you get to explore some of the back story of Caesar’s Legion and settle a major dispute between the warring tribes that settled in Utah. The Third DLC, Old World Blues, forces your player to become a lab rat in the strange experiments in an old, run down science facility. While this is easily the strangest DLC, it does add a multitude of useful equipment for you to throw at your main game. The Fourth DLC, Lonesome Road, sends you to the devastated region known as, “The Divide”. You meet with the Courier who originally was in your position in the beginning of the game, allowing you to find out why he turned the opportunity down. Also, “The Divide” is one of the more fascinating settings in Fallout: New Vegas, with constant storms and unsettling enemies.
The Fifth DLC, unlike the rest, is a poor excuse for DLC. Called The Gun Runners’ Arsenal and Courier’s Stash, it adds no new additional story or quests. It only unlocks the pre-order DLC and opens up new challenges for some unique weapons. Normally, I would be fine with DLC like this, if it didn’t have achievements. The achievements in this DLC are some of the most annoying in the game, requiring you to grind out kills. Ugh.
While all of this DLC may be daunting, is easy to handle in small chunks. Unfortunately, the DLC does bump this title above $20, but it isn’t required to enjoy the game. Also, you can score the Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition for about $35. This bundles all of the DLC onto one disc, allowing you to get it all at once. Personally, I just played the core game and got the DLC at my own pace, allowing me to spend my hard earned cash as I pleased.
Fallout: New Vegas isn’t anywhere near as perfect as Fallout 3, but, like Las Vegas, you’ve got to take the good with the bad. The bugs and lack of differentiation from the original can be frustrating, but the fascinating setting and replay value easily make up for the flaws. If you’re looking for value in a game, you can’t look much further than Fallout: New Vegas. With four different ways to play and DLC to keep you playing afterwards, it delivers a fantastic gaming experience for a low cost.
I happily award Fallout: New Vegas as “Worth It!”
By Blake Edwards