Monday, 3 January 2011

First and second impressions of Fallout: New Vegas

I have played Fallout: New Vegas now for a total of, let's say, 16 hours. I haven't even gotten to Novac yet, so my views on the game at this point are limited, but I have managed to burp up a few mental notes about the game already.

Let me get this over with first: New Vegas is NOT a direct copy of Fallout 3. I've read a couple of (amateur) reviews of New Vegas while looking for some information about the game and some have stated that supposedly New Vegas is a new setting in name only, and that all it does to differentiate itself from Fallout 3 is adding a few new weapons and armor and the Hardcore mode. What the flippin' fuck is wrong you guys? Are you dense? Do you want to be a professional critic so bad that you criticise just about everything in new games without scrutiny?
Back when I was young, and I still am only pushing 22, long-running video game series worked like this: first game set the base mechanics and to a slightly lesser extent introduced the story, the setting and the characters. The sequels would then retain the base mechanics, the whole reason why people could safely purchase the new games knowing they'd still like them, and only change a certain few things about how the game is played in each new entry while mainly focusing on continuing the overall narrative and/or the... I don't know what it's called, the "soul" of the game? The thing that can make completely different games seem related, you figure out the correct word.
If the series suddenly and drastically changed between two games there was a more or less valid reason for it, for example the evolution/change between platforms, change of developing studio, or simply just the artistical incentive when the sudden change in gameplay was to further drive in the significance of the drastic changes in the story. In some rare cases the people behind the games may have even wanted to conquer new audiences and drop the "dying" fanbase. (Some examples of changes: GTA2-GTA3, Fallout2-Fallout3, Spyro3-Spyrowhatever, Jak & Daxter-Jak2). In fact, games most often get criticised when they fail to stay loyal to the series as they piss off the original fanbase even if the change isn't for the worse. Remember the cries when they showed footage of the first Splinter Cell Conviction? That game didn't look too much like shit, it was just completely different (and had stupid distraction methods. Stealing phones in a crowd to divert guards, what?) and so the studio SCRAPPED THE WHOLE PLAN and remade Conviction from scratch, final product being the thing they released last year. You could say Splinter Cell series has been the same game over and over again, but the skulking in shadows and the trademark moves are exactly why people continued following the series.
Don't look like no DC ruins from here

My point here is, the crucial differences in games are more often than not very small in the larger context if you really think about them, and New Vegas changes almost everything it possibly can from Fallout 3 without risking alienation of a large group of fans. So far the game looks completely different, with the setting being far closer to that of a classic wild west where people are rebuilding life than the grim post-apocalyptic rubble-filled hole of DC where life just sucked until you died. I recall Fallout 3's base colors being gray and worn brown, New Vegas has so far been sun scorched yellow and sky blue.
The story (main quest), at least so far, seems more cinematic, better paced as the main thread to follow and more importantly it's definitely the most fresh set up for open adventure the entire Fallout series has seen so far.
Fallout set you up as a guy from a vault, a closed community, sent out to find a water chip to save the vault while at the same time fighting with the BoS against the rising army of super mutants. Fallout 2 set you up as a guy from a small village, a somewhat closed community, sent out to find the G.E.C.K. to save the village while at the same time fighting a little less with the BoS against the rising threat of the Enclave. Fallout 3 set you up as a guy from a vault, a closed community, on a mission to find a G.E.C.K. to save DC while fighting with the BoS against the rising threat of the Enclave. Tactics set you up as some guy from BoS fighting some new rising threat of something, and in Brotherhood of Steel, the shunned PS2 game I never got my mittens on, I'm guessing you were a BoS recruit set out to fight some rising threat in the wasteland. Again. Don't correct me if I'm wrong.
New Vegas sets you up as a courier who has lived outside and at least starts out with the mission of getting payback against people who shot you in the face and stole your package that you are still responsible for, while the NCR is fighting the rising threat of the Legion. See the pattern and how it changes in New Vegas?
Ok, I haven't played that far yet and maybe soon I end up fighting with NCR to defeat the Legion and the contents of the package is the key to saving the wasteland, but the beginning of the story at least has been far more interesting than what Fallout games have come up with in the past. New Vegas also has faction status system that would seem to allow me to befriend "the enemy" if I so wished, something no Fallout game has done to this extent before.

At this point, while writing the post, I took a break and watched Murder on the Orient Express as it was on TV, so I lost some of my original points regarding New Vegas' originality, but you get my drift anyway. The game is different, has new content and several things regarding the game mechanics have been tweaked for the better, but what made Fallout 3 Fallout 3 and a good game can also be found in New Vegas, the good stuff has just gotten slightly fatter. Saying that New Vegas is a copy of Fallout 3 is only about two notches less insane than saying Fallout 3 is just Oblivion with guns, but still stupid and neglectful. So, a large RPG is played from first-person viewpoint, alright, but what else was same about Oblivion and Fallout 3, huh? What? Yeah, didn't think you had an answer either. New Vegas is, by my standards, only as close to Fallout 3 in terms of content as a sequel should be. It's new, but familiar.
Of course, if the rest of the game quickly takes a turn for the worse and it's just Fallout 3 all over again I promise I'll put someone's feet in my mouth, but until then you better come up with examples of the things you would've changed about New Vegas if you want to make me believe New Vegas is just more of the same.
And besides, even if it was, it's still good. I mean, look at Fallout and Fallout 2, or Thief 1 and Thief 2, or Spyro 1 and Spyro 2 and Spyro 3, or Jak 2 and Jak 3, or.. well, any game that backs me up, really (but none that contradict my point).

Sometimes I just like to sit here for hours,
watching the hardworking ants... well, work hard
Anyway, I love Fallout: New Vegas so far. I like the feeling of a western the game has had up till now, I like how the main quest leads me onward while constantly giving me the chance of completing other quests without having to illogically break the pacing, I like Hardcore mode and how it gives some real use for the normally useless food items and how it doesn't allow me to carry 5000 bullets for a gun I never use, and I like the ability to really play a role and choose sides and have good as well as bad results for my actions, even being able to fail quests.
I like being able to mod a rifle with a silencer to actually have a silenced gun that doesn't completely suck ass. I like not having to pray to God that the game drops me another gun of my chosen weapon type just so I can repair the little piece of broken shit, as I now have weapon repair kits that I can use on any weapon. I also like being able to craft the weapon repair kits myself, because now I have even more reason to sift through random junk instead of just the old caps, ammo, guns and stimpaks. I like how I can create ammunition for my chosen guns if I can gather the necessary parts, as it allows me to use one type of weapon a little more and not constantly be afraid of running out of ammunition before I can reach the next merchant. Basically I just like to tinker, and New Vegas lets me tinker, which I like.
I like how the world seems more like a living place , where animals and gangs seem to have much more of their own territiories and occupy certain spawn points of the map more realistically, as animals seem to have their own "nests" that they defend. I like how ants for example don't attack unless you get too close to their home or attack first, and only hiss at you when you're getting too close, making the world more... realistically inhabited. I like seeing different critters of the world battle each other more often, so it doesn't seem like everyone's just plotting against me. I like being able to jump gangs that I have just witnessed surviving a rough battle with radscorpions, and start taking potshots at them from a good vantage point so I can collect the loot. I also like the crows that appear everywhere, and I like how they blow up into little red bits when shot.
I have accidentally aggravated these nature's little wonders
and must now make a hasty retreat to avoid upsetting
the delicate balance of the ecosystem
I also like the card game Caravan, although I still don't fully grasp it's rules and can't understand why it's supposed to be challenging if you have a good enough collection of cards.
All I can really say is that Fallout: New Vegas is like a mixture of the various good bits from Fallout 3, Fallout 2 and Red Dead Redemption, and some.

But, alas, the game also follows Black Isle's and Bethesda's Fallout series tradition, being badly broken at it's current state. After only 16 hours of gameplay and with the latest patch installed it has managed to cause me enough headaches to partly negate all my perhaps much too positive first thoughts and hurt my excitement.
First of all, the most noticeable problem is that game has continuous hiccups. It stops for a brief half a second every 10 seconds or so when running about, as if it was loading something. Why? Does it really load something? Shouldn't it be able to load without getting stuck constantly? Am I asking too much when I expect it to play smoothly? It's not the end of the world, but it is indeed very annoying, and I don't particularly enjoy getting annoyed when playing games.
There's also problems with visuals. Creatures in some cases, when appearing, appear as giants and only shrink once they get close. More of a funny occurence than  a problem and as far as I am concerned this relatively rare bug doesn't even need a fix, but still...
Items appear from nowhere a lot more than they ever did in... any game I can remember, really. GTA Vice City Stories for PS2 suffered a lot from this problem (well, all 3D GTA games did to some extent), but not as much as New Vegas does, large objects just... pop in and pop out like I was hallucinating. Just aiming can reveal a large wall of crap infront of me that I am unable to see again once I release the L1 button.
Meet Jacklyn, my packass. She came on to me,
so I laid her on the ground and stuffed her with my junk
Items and people also disappear. Corpses vanish in some cases within a minute if you don't stare at them and even if you DO stare at them, which I witnessed especially close when using the corpse of Jacklyn to transport several hundred pounds of goods (as dragging a corpse is faster than walking overburdened or making several trips), but some have yet to disappear although I killed them first thing when I started the game. I've lost lots of loot from dead raiders this way.
I've also witnessed several objects like armor and weapons turn invisible, yet still have their names pop up when I point the crosshair to where I last saw them.
In some cases enemies are able to shoot through walls.
Often I supposedly miss clean shots 20 times a row in situations where it is impossible for that to happen even if there was a considerable spread. I know you think I just suck and make excuses, but just take my word for it sometimes the gun just doesn't seem to fire. Although, this reminded me of another point I actually like about the game: using the crosshair and iron sights is truly the preferable method of aiming in New Vegas as V.A.T.S. isn't as accurate and bullet spread is lesser than in Fallout 3, where V.A.T.S. was just king. I do still use V.A.T.S. but only when dealing with fast, more deadly enemies at closer range.
Anyway, back to the glitches I was talking about before my train of thought was derailed by the realization that New Vegas also has good things to counter the many technical problems. The game doesn't always notice that you have taken off your faction armor, so people like the NCR that like me may start shooting without provocation as the game thinks I'm still dressed in Legion armor even though I'm wearing a Sheriff's Duster.
In aiming mode, the gun may completely disappear and not let you aim with it in first person, although you can quickly fix this by switching weapons, aiming, and switching back. Annoying in battle anyway.
I forgot some glitches since there really are many, but for the last, my second session ended because Fallout: New Vegas froze permanently and I had to turn off my machine. Freezing once every 16 hours is better than what Fallout 3 did unpatched, but come on, this is patched AND it still has a dozen other problems. Now me and my brethren are eagerly anticipating whether the developers drop the DLC stuff for a second and release another fix, and whether it'll do anything good. According to reviews I've read, installing the patch after having started the game actually fucked up the save games for some users.
It's hard being a PS3 gamer as we are at the mercy of game companies. PC gamers have PC gaming communities and their fine people who provide unofficial fixes for games fast, doing the developers' work for them. Unpaid.

I don't care who that is, he gunna get it!
So far there are very few things about the game I dislike that aren't glitches, but one of them is how the trait "Four Eyes" isn't clearly explained at the beginning. The traits normally have both a positive and a negative effect, so when the game told me that with "Four Eyes" a character has -1 perception without glasses but +1 perception when wearing glasses, I understood it as getting a +1 effect on top of my original base Perception value along with the regular eyewear bonus, and since I thought my character called Punisher Blues, a vengeful vigilante on a mission from God, would eventually start wearing sunglasses at all times I'd get a free bonus point to perception.
What the trait does in reality, however, is lower your base perception value by one instead of it being only an effect -1, and then give you +2 perception effect with glasses. So because my base value originally was 6, with the trait the game counts it as being 5 and makes me ineligible for certain aiming related perks that I would've gotten without the trait, but I also don't get any bonus to compensate for the loss as the +1 effect only covers the originally lost base point, meaning that although I have perception of 8(=5+3) I would've had perception of 8(=6+2) anyway without the trait. So in reality, this trait just gives you TWO disadvantages and no advantages: having to keep the relatively rare eyewear at good condition at all times (because if it breaks you can't wear it) and not being able to get certain perks you'd normally get with the stats you have.
Sucks, and it's a good thing I'm playing a role here and just have to accept whatever shitty disadvantages I get or I'd go murder me some more devs. Hey, I punch doors and throw controllers in fits of madness, you don't want to mess with me!
I'm actually contemplating starting from scratch while I still can without screwing majority of the experience. I think I'll flip a coin when I start playing again tomorrow or something.

He dun gotten it! Just like his buddy,
who died due to lack of head five days prior.
Hey, I undressed that guy only to check his pulse!
Anyway, in the end it's true what some professional critic once said, although I can't remember which one or what the exact words were: Fallout: New Vegas is both an incredible experience you shouldn't miss out on but it's also bugged up the rearshaft like nobody's bloody business. The various technical problems aren't reason enough for you to pass up on this awesome game if you have any reason to believe you'll like it, but you shouldn't expect a bumpless ride. Buy it and play it, but get ready for some painful crap.

Note, however, that I have no fucking idea what the game is like beyond the first hours and few starting quests, so don't take any of the words above seriously. In fact, just forget everything I said for now. Alright?


  1. WHOA!! I thought the 2nd paragraph was just you taking the piss by using super long words no one understands but it seems you really wish to get that degree in literature (is that how you spell it?)

    For a moment, I thought the pictures were off RDR2, you still haven't left the 'wild west' phase I see.

    Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed New Vegas and I'm sure you'll remain to prefer it over Fallout 3.

    - Derek

    If you ever do an LP of this, will it be hardcore?

  2. I agree with Derek, I was actually wondering if you had confused the two games (RDR2 and Fallout). As always, a stellar least for the first bit of the game ;).

    By the way, if you ever do an LP of better be hardcore :D


  3. Certainly Hardcore. I don't understand how someone could even play Fallout: New Vegas on casual mode.

  4. The thing is hardcore isn't even fuckin' hard. They should've gotten rid of a difficulty system and made the whole 'looking after your character' feature compulsary to whatever mode you played on.

    - Derek