Sunday, October 31, 2010

X360 Look - Fallout: New Vegas

One of the great tragedies of being human is that prospering is never enough. Rather than settle for mere survival the seeking of power defines far too many of our kind, bringing ourselves to extend beyond our means. Eventually we go to war, many of us die, and the remnants re-align their borders, draw up charts, and prepare for war again. Somehow through this bitter cycle we continue to survive. The Fallout series tells the tales of how even the end of the world doesn’t change our way of life. In New Vegas the player find themselves at one of these critical points, where their decisions will ultimately decide the balance of power…for at least awhile.

In this game the player is known as The Courier, a man (or woman) who was put in the grave over an innocuous platinum chip. From the simple town of Goodsprings the player finds their way back to New Vegas for answers, though there are more than enough ways to get side-tracked, as there are over a hundred locations to visit and many quests to take on. Most of these quests can also be influenced by the player’s karma as well as the faction they wish to gain favor with. This time it isn’t enough to do good deeds or satisfy selfish desires, now the player can also do quests for a number of factions located throughout New Vegas.

The New California Republic is the sole military presence in New Vegas, with their main goal in protecting the Hoover Dam and surrounding lands from the Legion. The Legion enjoys reveling in Greco-Roman pretention, slavery, and pretty much everything that is generally considered evil. There are a number of minor factions that still carry some influence as well. The Brotherhood of Steel is in hiding but still tech-hungry and ran by knob-heads. The Boomers are a threat provided they never run out of ammo. There are also the Great Khans who like to sell drugs and live in trailers. The player has something to gain from assisting these and other factions but it doesn’t seem to work out the way it should.

While I would have preferred not to discuss this unfortunate aspect it is something that can not be ignored. This game is a bit of a mess. In the past I thought I could get all of that talk out of my system as every other reviewer discussed it at length. New Vegas has so many brilliantly inept glitches that I really have to say something about it or I can’t say I wrote a complete review. Take the faction system for example. At many points I had just met a new faction when they decided to idolize me. My sole contribution to their society may have been knocking the head off one of their leaders with a giant hammer but whatever I guess that’s not really important. I’ve also had frequent issues just trying to maintain some sort of presence in other factions despite doing tons of missions for them.

Moving on for someone who poured over a hundred hours into Fallout 3 this game feels much too familiar. Aside from the aforementioned faction system there are other new elements like additional ammo types which are all tend to be superfluous, a hardcore mode that turns eating, drinking, and sleeping into a chore, and many revamps in terms of skill and level progression. This part of the game is something that annoys me the most. Obsidian really didn’t put any thought into developing clever or even really useful perks. Sure it’s balanced far better than Fallout 3’s “get practically unlimited points in VATS” but most of the time the useful bonuses end up being stuff like an extra 10% of damage or something along those lines. I’d rather see those rewards being doled out for completing quests as well as getting some really neat perks through leveling that really change how I play the game. At the very least someone could have dumped those terribly useless perks that let me access locks I may have jammed or computer terminals I goofed up on.

Furthermore for all of the work Obsidian did to balance the skill system they forgot to extend that same effort towards encounters. Being able to fight more enemies at a time makes things a bit more entertaining but when the fights themselves involve creatures like Cazadors, Death-claws, or anyone that is heavily-armored and using some high-powered melee weapon it all becomes very one-dimensional. Basically the solution in these fights is to use a high-powered sniper rifle as it’s the only way to effectively punch through armor. Using most anything else may as well be suicide as the player will be surrounded and slaughtered. These battles represent the most numerous when wandering around as well as some of the most critical. Considering the options available in a post-apocalyptic environment I’d like to think being bum-rushed by half a dozen guys with advanced fisting-technology is not in anyway clever.

The partners have been revamped for this installment as they’re easier to work with and don’t die when they lose all their health (instead they fall asleep for the remainder of the fight). It’s a shame that on hardcore they actually do get killed but eh that just saves me the trouble of spending any real time on that mode. In the end all that means is more time spent sitting in front of a loading screen. It’d be somewhat different if the partners didn’t crumble like crackers whenever they got punched. These companions tend to come with their own quests if you annoy them enough but the rewards don’t seem to help all that much. At one point my partner got upgraded weapons but after awhile it decided to stop shooting things altogether. That was probably another bug though so oh well.

Still there is satisfaction in killing as the fleshier foes tend to go down easily. However the mechanics still aren’t very sound as many weapons still lack the punch that they deserve. At times a head will fly off not because I blasted it with a riot shotgun but because it got tired of the body it was stuck to. Then again maybe it’s just inconsistent as my favorite weapon is a sledgehammer that goes by the name of “Oh Baby!” This fine weapon has a habit of sending things flying very far. Couple this with a perk where a Vegas Dancer randomly appears to inexplicably throw people farther than any rifle could send them and well who cares if it makes sense I love it. Towards the end of my play-through I got sick of performing fetch-quests and merely smashed everyone’s heads in until my superiors got sick of it and shoved me off to complete the final tasks.

The writing is a fair bit better than the previous Fallout game. At times it can also be as clever as the likes of Fallout 2. Still I think that game knew how to pace itself as New Vegas just tends to be far too talkative. It seems that more often than not I find myself trudging back and forth dealing with objectives that border on the inane. If the reward was something besides experience and money it would potentially at least be worthwhile but usually what it comes down to is that I should just feel satisfied knowing that I got the “full story”. Yeah I may not be one to talk but all I see is a story about a bunch of people that are full of themselves. Still somewhere in the hundred or so locations and the approximately same number of quests there are a few nuggets of gold as far as the writing is concerned and almost every cave no matter how meaningless-sounding might just hold a unique weapon that’s totally worth the trouble. The main story could stand at least some condensing. Essentially the last few quests involve dealing with neighboring factions in any number of ways and that’s about when I went with the hammer-smacking. Sure I may have missed out on some great bit of wisdom or some funny joke but eh it’s just not worth the trouble.

The most disappointing aspect is how there’s hardly any new toys to play around with. I’m talking things such as weapons and armor. There are a few more clothing options and I’m especially fond of the prostitute outfit with the pasties but in terms of stuff that helps me kill there’s not much of anything new. Okay maybe there’s some new rifles and some new types of armor but even the poster-boy armor (y’know that guy on the cover of the game?) is so rare that I didn’t get a set until the very last moment of the game. I hear other players had better luck but come on. The weapons are even more disappointing as I’m still messing around with stuff like the Sniper Rifle, the Gauss Rifle, and they’re all just boring. Even the newer additions are merely weapons from Fallout 2 which really lessens the impact of finding them.

How can I ever forget about the bugs either? Sure there are enough of those in the form of mantises and cazadors but throughout the entire game I feel that I am under the constant eye of millions of bugs. They sit there in-between the seams of the game, waiting for the right moment to strike and cost me un-told seconds of game-time. Yeah sorry I’m not the type willing to put myself at risk by not saving every few minutes. I’ve done all sorts of fun things like fall inside of rocks, become unable to jump off of cliffs no matter their height, and enjoy the countless moments of Havok doing what it does best, spazzing out. This is all minor stuff as I’m sure there have been other bugs that have kept me from getting whatever truly wonderful rewards that came from being idolized by a faction. At times I wished that I had actually gotten hit with the save-corruption bug as at least then I could quit the game. Sure Obsidian has been rolling out the patches but seriously, this is the sort of stuff that should have been squashed before the game even shipped.

Still what it all comes down to is that I like the game. No really at times I can overlook the wealth of issues and waste the days away in the Wasteland. I haven’t quite pinned down what that says about me and my interests but since I’ve always been a fan of level-ups and finding neat stuff I guess it’s natural. There are also those moments where it feels like the writers aren’t trying too hard and it leads to some surprising and wonderful discoveries. These are few and far between but they serve the purpose of keeping me interested in those times where I’m sure I could play other games for my leveling and looting fix. It’s still a waste of money in its current state. My recommendation is that anyone interested in this game should just wait for the Game of The Year edition. I’m not quite sure how New Vegas will achieve that with the reviews it has been getting but eh I’m sure it’ll work out somehow.

Game Rating – 1 out of 5

Originally the plan was to give this game a zero which stands for “not even a game” but New Vegas is at least competent in just enough areas to slide on over. Still it’s all buried under a surplus of issues and I avoid pushing the game whenever possible as I feel it’ll just fall over and break.

My Rating – 3 out of 5

No matter how broken a game is it’s all rendered irrelevant depending on my enjoyment of it. Aside from the obvious stuff like hitting people over the head and raising hell whenever possible I have a fondness for dressing in strange outfits and dumping corpses into swimming pools. Sometimes I get drunk and stuff a plasma grenade in the face of anyone who mouths off of me. Then I limp off with two broken legs, take a nap on bit of cardboard, and resume my antics as fresh as a spring breeze. I’m not sure what this all has to do about the unchanging of War and survival but maybe I’ll just ask the opinion of the headless corpse I’ve been wandering around the Mojave with for the past several weeks.

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