Why I Gave Up On Fallout:New Vegas

7 Feb

I gave up on Fallout: New Vegas, just stopped playing it altogether after sinking around 20 hours into it. The game was my most anticipated of 2010 by some distance. Fallout 3 is one of the best games ever made as far as I’m concerned, and more of the same was very welcome. The problem was, it wasn’t more of the same. It was the same engine, but with a yellowish brown hue. That was ok, the desert theme made sense and while I disliked the setting because of what Las Vegas is in reality, in a post-apocalyptic wasteland it would hardly be the same, right?

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Las Vegas is everywhere, seeping in where it has no place. It’s there in the adolescent sexual humour, in the pointless gambling, in the worst minigame I’ve ever played (Caravan), in the organised crime clichés. It influences all of the mission names, characters and on and on to the point that if I hear anyone mention ‘Vegas’ again, I am no longer responsible for my actions.

'What happens in Vegas' wins 'tired phrase of the decade' award

It’s not even a bad game, not by a long shot. It just falls so short of the legacy laid out by Fallout 3. Following up a game with a cold, satirical take on politics and war with a classless attempt to inject humour through missions involving recruiting prostitutes for a brothel is crass. Fallout 3 may have even handled it well, made it a darkly comic take on the economic realities of the wasteland, but in New Vegas it’s just another shoddy attempt at humour derived from a robot called ‘Fisto’. Weren’t Obsidian meant to have great writers?

The faction concept, with you offered the chance to choose sides in the battle for New Vegas, should have been great, but any ambiguity about the intentions and righteousness of the NCR (the good guys) is destroyed by the fact that Caesar’s Legion (the bad guys) are about as ambiguous as a kick in the face. They crucify people, the make women slaves, they don’t allow their followers to use medicine, etc, etc. It’s by the numbers writing, choose a historical figure/empire and mix them with Nazi Germany. Worse, it’s the same tired morality system, ultimate good versus ultimate evil.

The first robot you meet is so annoying that all robots must die

Playing the game though, is about exploring the desert and finding those hidden stories that tell more than the main quest. In 3 this was achieved brilliantly in places like Little Lamplight and the Republic of Dave, but again, New Vegas just goes for the facile option, one evil mutant settlement, one that exemplifies goodness and kindness. At least it seems to play as well as its predecessor, for a while. The area around Las Vegas is large and full of settlements and the like, but it soon becomes very clear there is only one direction. You must follow the main story and reach Las Vegas. Other routes mean either certain death, which I could live with knowing I’ll return later as the Terminator mixed with Rambo with enough guns to keep an army happy, but there are also invisible walls, invisible walls in a game which is supposed to be an adventure, an epic quest, not a corridor. It’s extremely lazy design and hugely disappointing.

The worst is yet to come though, and before I get to it I’ll point out that I was playing the PS3 edition. New Vegas has more bugs than an entomology lab. It’s as if a plague of virtual locusts hit Obsidian’s offices during development. The game needed to be held back, but was clearly pushed through for a Christmas release, safe in the knowledge that a patch would cure all. Well not everyone has an internet connection for starters, but even then it would be nice to play a working game on release day, not a month or so later.

Aesthetically it's nowhere near as interesting as Fallout 3

It started with freezing, which escalated into full on crashes. Corrupted save games became commonplace and no fix arrived. Quests would end inexplicably, or be impossible to finish. I currently have three that I can do nothing to complete. I’m in the right place, talking to the right person, yet they refuse to speak to me for one. In another the character I need to find has disappeared. Frankly, it’s insulting that a game was actually released in that state.

So I quit. Between the juvenile humour, the lazy writing, the even lazier development and apparent lack of any testing, this was a quest I’d never complete. If the game had been mechanically sound it would have been quite good. A lot worse than 3 but still a fun adventure, but adding invisible walls, quests that can’t be finished and creating a game world that was basically a long rectangle, with random impassable obstacles, made this an exercise in futility, a game which does little to engage and when it does it freezes. If there is to be a Fallout 4 I would hope Bethesda either know better than to let someone else make it, or at least give it to the Obsidian team who worked on the far more impressive Alpha Protocol.

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