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Fallout: New Vegas Impressions
Edited by Brother None and Incognito

The No Mutants Allowed review of Fallout: New Vegas is still a ways off, to be written - like the Fallout 3 review was - by Vince D. Weller.
But meanwhile, NMA staff members have been pouring hours into this game, and are at least ready to share some impressions. Each writer covers one or two different topics and the opinions on New Vegas are quite diverse, and hopefully this will help our readers along on any remaining purchasing decisions, or just in providing more food for discussion.

Sound and graphics - WorstUsernameEver
If I had to sum up my impressions on New Vegas' visuals in one word, that word would be "dated". Simply put, Bethesda's implementation of Gamebryo is showing its limits more and more in 2010. Lack of environmental shadows, low resolution textures, stiff animations do little to make the game visually appealing. To their credit, Obsidian tried to improve them and succeeded, unfortunately they still look unnatural and clunky to an extent. Occasionally the game can look quite beautiful (looking at New Vegas on the horizon at night is quite a sight) but those instances are few and far between, and mostly just caused by a rather strong art direction.

It's a whole different story when it comes to the sound. The voice acting, while somewhat hampered by a small cast, ranges from decent to outstanding (Kris Kristofferson's performance as Chief Hanlon), the new guns sound effects are good as is the ambiance in general. The soundtrack is fairly strong too, nicely blending new pieces (composed by a surprisingly inspired Inon Zur) with old pieces (both from Mark Morgan and Inon Zur). It doesn't always feel completely appropriate (the militaristic pieces, in particular, are far too grandiose for a setting like Fallout), and could feel a little repetitive considering the size of the game, but it's nice to listen and rarely, if ever, jarring.

Combat and gameplay - WorstUsernameEver
While I personally would have liked to see stats and skills matter more in the gameplay, I was pleasantly surprised by seeing the game favoring different builds – if only to a certain degree – as well as by how difficult it is for me to find a skill that I could call useless. The game's crafting system and the possibility of modifying your weapons are designed in such a way that they never really feel necessary but can be extremely satisfying if you decide to delve into them.

On the matter of the much advertised Hardcore Mode, two things must be said: first, it doesn't really feel 'hardcore', its survival elements are more akin to flavor than something challenging; second, the fact that – in Hardcore – stimpaks take time to heal you forces you to play a little bit more tactically, avoiding the typical 'rush to the enemy and then open Pip-boy and heal yourself' tactic.

New Vegas' primary gameplay element is combat. There's a certain basic degree of tactics to it, with enemies using different strategies, weapons (and weapon categories and ammo types) serving different tactical purposes (the main difference being that between high DPS and high DAM weapons), the control feel decently responsive and the enemies AI routines varied. Unfortunately, it's not always enough, the AI still feels rough around the edges and even with a maxed weapon skill and meeting the strength requirements, the 'feel' of the combat is somewhat off. Overall, provided that you can accept the departure from the original Fallout's design philosophy, Fallout: New Vegas' gameplay is fun.

Story - The Dutch Ghost
Fallout: New Vegas recycles a lot of elements from Black Isle Studios' Van Buren project, but it is not Van Buren in a different form, telling that game's storyline. It does, however, follow up on the Fallout 1 and 2 storylines to an extent, and narratively is more of a sequel to those games than Fallout 3 was.

The basic premise of playing a courier trying to find out who shot you in the head and why might not sound that thrilling, but it's interesting that where Fallout 1 and 2 were all about saving a community, New Vegas feels a lot more personal. The player doesn't start out with a larger than life goal but rather on a personal one.

The early game is structured to be more linear, with a clearly preferred path, which might bother some players as taking away the freedom of other Fallout games, but it serves well to make sure the player is introduced into the region and its powers before entering New Vegas and being called upon to start making decisions.

Those decisions are important, with a freedom offered to set your own agenda based on your opinion of the existing options. That said, the promised moral gray areas are a bit lacking, and decisions are often more black and white than pre-game press would've had you believe. Another flaw I found to be the scale of the region, feeling compressed as Fallout 3 did.

While I like the story, I find that while it is clearly a significant story to be told, it lacks the grandiose build up we saw in the first two games. The discovery of the Master's plans, the Enclave's plans or even Dr Presper's plans in Van Buren were set up more carefully in the narrative, while New Vegas lacks such an arc.

Writing and companions - 13pm
Comparisons are inevitable when we talk about Fallout: New Vegas’ writing. It is undeniably better than that of Fallout 3, sometimes reaching the levels of Fallout 1 and 2 and overall being quite good for the majority of the game. But it also has its bad moments.

Here and there in the conversations you’ll run into one-option replies which are absolutely unjustified. For example, a bouncer at one of the casinos asks you “What the fuck are you staring at?” and the only thing you can answer is something like “Nothing, I’m leaving”. These things happen in the middle of dialogs too. Furthermore, the “BioWare disease” is present as well: different dialog options sometimes lead to the same result. It is very noticeable in the end of the game, offering a fake freedom of choice.

The companions vary from interesting to not-so-interesting. Most of them have triggers spread throughout the game unlocking more dialog and background information. Thing is, you can’t always figure out where the triggers are. As you can take only one human and one non-human follower, discovering all their backgrounds will probably take more than one playthrough. The most annoying issues with the companions are the AI and bugs. They easily get lost somewhere, die and sometimes turn into immobile dummies. Nevertheless, taking companions with you makes the game more interesting.

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