Review: Fallout New Vegas: Ultimate Edition
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Released: October 2010 (FNV); March 2012 (UE)
The first Fallout game I ever played was Fallout 3. I didn’t get to experience the joy that was Fallout, Fallout 2 or Fallout: Tactics, despite my attempts to procure . Then I even got a hold of the GOTY edition. When news of Fallout New Vegas came along, I was really excited as was the case with most people. Ones of the reasons is because it was being developed by Obsidian, and Obsidian is comprised of people who worked on the original games as part of Black Isle Studios. So even those who might have felt that Fallout 3 wasn’t so good, were given a shred of hope that perhaps this might be the modern Fallout experience they were hoping for. Fallout Trilogy
I played New Vegas as well, and despite its technical flaws and shedload of bugs, I still enjoyed it immensely – probably even more so than Fallout 3. So now to get around to Fallout New Vegas: Ultimate Edition. This includes Fallout New Vegas, plus the four DLCs and two bonus DLCs: Dead Money, Honest Hearts, Old World Blues, Lonesome Road, Courier’s Stash and Gun Runners Arsenal. And it also has the pre-order bonuses like the Tribal Pack, Caravan Pack, etc. Personally I’m glad they called it Ultimate Edition, because it’s still a lot less pretentious than “Game of the Year” or even “Gold” or “Platinum”.
The DLCs add new quests, plus a whole shed-load of new weapons and ammo types, and more.
Seeing as I am still one of those types who prefers to buy games in retail stores and not pay for titles online and then use up inordinate amounts of data downloading DLCs, I picked it up and decided I would travel one more time in to the Mojave Wasteland.
Old World Blues
You might be forgiven for thinking that the music in the game is composed by Jeremy Soule, famous for his work on the Elder Scrolls titles like Skyrim, but this isn’t the case. Inon Zur once again does the soundtrack for the game, much like he did with Fallout 3 and Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel before it. There are a few reused tracks from Fallout 2, composed by Mark Morgan.
It sounds quite fitting for the most part, and definitely has that sort of desolate feel to it that you would expect to find in a small town in the modern Wild West complete with tumbleweeds and harmonicas. It likely takes inspiration from classic films like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and other westerns. It does a good job of switching from passive exploration mode and exploding in to dynamic attack mode. The game’s soundtrack also has old classics like “Blue Moon” or “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” which can often be heard playing on the radio in places or through your Pip Boy’s built-in radio.
The game starts off in the year 2281, over two hundred years after the Great War, which involved a nuclear attack, brought on by China, which destroyed most of the US. You, a courier, having been ambushed, your package stolen, are then shot in the head and left for dead in a shallow grave.
After being woken up by a robot named Victor who saw the events unfold and then nursed back to health by Doctor Mitchell who lives in the nearby town of Goodsprings, you get to customise your looks, choose your major skills, and pick your perks. Then you are sent out in to the desert under the blazing hot sun where you have to survive, and try your best to find out who it was who wronged you and get revenge – the plot fits with practically every Western film you’ve seen.
Here in Goodsprings, a relatively peaceful place, you’ll meet a few people, like Sunny Smiles, who will show you the ropes, and let you get to grips with the game’s mechanics and new features. There will be some target practice and light combat. You are also introduced to cooking food found in the game and making medicines and the like from plants. There are several new additions such as these in Fallout New Vegas which enrich the experience and make it that much harder to break away from.
In fact it’s one of the best parts of the game, and often is with any RPG: the beginning. Scavenging in order to survive; taking small quests and the like from townsfolk which gains you reputation points and if you’re lucky some caps (the in-game currency); searching for food and supplies, and buying and selling things you find to the local store. But it doesn’t end there, if this is beginning to sound all too familiar to Fallout 3. The game not only has different difficulty settings to make things more challenging, but now features a hardcore mode too. In hardcore mode you have to sleep every once in a while; you have to eat and drink to satiate your hunger and quench your thirst, otherwise you’ll get sick, suffer from decreasing abilities, and eventually die. Health isn’t replenished instantly when you receive medical treatment. These are just a few things you’re introduced to for the very first time in the series, and make the game all that more realistic and engrossing.
The guns in the games, while plentiful, are not correct in calibre, much like Fallout 3. One of the handguns in the game is modelled on a Colt M1911, and yet is chambered with 9mm ammunition. M1911s are typically chambered with .45 rounds and only take 7 rounds, not 13 as in the game (20 with the extended magazine mod). Then again, in the Honest Hearts DLC for FNV, you do get .45 auto pistols which actually are Colt M1911s and have 7 rounds in a magazine.
You can also find the 45. auto submachine gun in Honest Hearts, which is modeled on the Thompson M1A1 submachine gun. The only thing they got wrong is that the M1A1 model is not designed to take drums, unlike earlier models, but you can do in the game by purchasing mods and fitting them.
The Automatic rifle, found in Dead Money, is based on a Browning Automatic Rifle. It takes .308 rounds when it should really take .30-06 Springfield rounds.
The assault carbine, which is supposedly an M16 derivative, takes 5 mm rounds – shared with the minigun, when it should really be 5.56 mm rounds like the service rifle or marksman, more in line with most typical American-manufactured assault rifles.
Some weapons even make a come back in FNV. The 9mm submachine gun is modelled on the M3A1 greasegun, which saw service in World War II, mainly used by paratroopers because it was compact and paratroopers could clutch it to their chests on the drop instead of putting it in their leg bag, which often got lost during the jump or upon landing. It was also cheaper to manufacture than the Thompson M1A1 submachine gun. Grease guns also take .45 rounds.
The handgun in the game called “That Gun” which takes 5.56 mm rounds is modelled after the gun Deckhard (played by Harrison Ford) uses in Blade Runner. It also looks similar to the sidearm used in Doom 3. This weapon first appeared in Fallout.
Eventually you’ll come across the first “bad guy” in the game, and he belongs to a group called the Powder Gangers, escaped convicts who choose to settle inside the prison they were once kept in behind bars. Except now they are running the place. They like using powder charges as booby traps to eliminate anyone who gets too close to their base or camps littered around parts of the Mojave Wasteland, which covers parts of not only Nevada, but California and Arizona too. It’s a huge map, just as big as Fallout 3. Locations vary, from little towns to bandit camps, to the big city complete with slums, to underground vaults and caves. Displayed most prominently in the city is a retro-futuristic theme, with cars, art, billboards and posters from the mid-20th century. Even the way characters dress and talk sounds like its from that era – the 50’s. This, complemented with decay, bashed up buildings, broken down bridges and exploded roads, and the vast desert that surrounds everything makes for an intriguing setting.
There are several factions you’ll come across in the game, and none of them is truly good or bad – but more often than not you will have to pick a side, and once you do, the other factions won’t take to you too kindly. Reputation plays a major role in the game, and influences not only relationships with factions, but even the outcome; the ending of the game. The Powder Gangers are small time however – the three biggest factions in the game are the NCR (The New California Republic) – basically a local militia force; Caesar's Legion – Roman-style slavers, and Mr House, a mysterious individual who controls New Vegas itself with an army of Securitron robots. Other smaller factions include the Brotherhood of Steel – the remnants of the US military, Boomers – vault dwellers who have a serious obsession with armaments and wish to keep everyone outside of their territory by shelling anyone who approaches to hell and gone, and the Great Khans. Then not to mention you have bandit factions and other groups inspired by everything you saw in the Mad Max series of films. It’s not uncommon to be held up by gangs on roads and even in the city.
Seeing as New Vegas was spared a lot of the destruction that the rest of the US suffered, you won’t find as many ghouls or super mutants in New Vegas – only really in little pockets throughout the map. But there are other new enemies that crop up like the Nightkin which feature heavily in the game, which are like super super mutants who can cloak themselves with the help of Stealth boys that they carry.
Then there’s the local wildlife, a lot of which is mutated due to the fallout from the nuclear blast. You’ll come across giant ants, giant scorpions, and wild bighorners, which are basically mutated bulls or buffalo. Some of these animals will leave you alone for the most part but others are aggressive and will attack. Once taken down you can usually take their meat and cook it to eat, so nothing goes to waste. It’s all about survival.
Then there’s Karma, which isn’t all that important but does have a few impacts apart from giving you little names like “terror of the wastes”. It can also influence companion relationships. If you are too naughty, they may not want anything to do with you. Likewise if you are too good. Companions play a big role in FNV. You can recruit two companions (one human and one non-human – either a mutant, robot, or animal) at any time. You don’t even have to talk to them much unless you want to find out more about them or be given access to a special side quest, which will upgrade them if completed. You can command them by using a Companion Wheel, which will give you different commands you can issue them with, such as being able to change their combat tactics or stance, or you can make them share the weight of all the stuff you’re carrying.
Did you know?
Mr Robert Edwin House is based on the real life character of Howard Hughes, a genius inventor, entrepreneur and playboy who lived in the mid 20th century. He became extremely paranoid and was driven to near insanity likely as a result of several head injuries sustained throughout the course of his life. Mr House also bears a remarkable similarity to Tony Stark’s character in the recent Iron Man films and The Avengers, played by Robert Downey Jnr. House is inspired by both characters.
Other than dispatching people you meet in the game world, often hostiles encountered outside of towns and cities, you can talk with most of the NPCs inside towns and cities too. There are many quests on offer and are obtained 90 % of the time by talking to people. And I must say some of the quests on offer are of amazing quality due to some exceptional writing. I’d say hands down one of the best quests in the game, if not the best, is to be found inside the walls of New Vegas, in one of the casinos. That’s as much as I’ll say. Quests certainly are more varied than “go here, kill this, get that”, like you’d encounter in Borderlands. There’s an element of humanity and depth involved, and quests are non-linear. You can finish them in more than one way.
There’s also tons of information to be gained from characters, from small talk to gossip, that might lead you in the right direction when trying to find someone or something. And it doesn’t hurt to have one or a few zany characters that inject some humour in to an otherwise bleak, morose world. I recommend chatting with No-Bark Noonan in Novac to see what I’m on about.
Combat works thusly: you can engage enemies in real-time combat. One way is to shoot from the hip, and the other way is to use the iron sights – this will lead to a much more accurate shot which will potentially do more damage. Some weapons may have a scope. You can’t use iron sights or scopes with melee weapons, but some melee weapons have special functions, like the golf club. Even the third person view has been enhanced so you have a better over-the-shoulder view, so you can still see the crosshairs and engage enemies more accurately.
You can also employ the use of V.A.T.S (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) – this is taken from Fallout 3, and replaces the turn based combat mechanics of the original Fallout games. V.A.T.S uses up action points, and the amount of action points depends on a number of things: your level of character, skills and perks you have, what weapon you’re using, and more. The trade off is you will take more damage while using V.A.T.S than you will in real-time combat. So you should use it with caution. It’s not uncommon to end up with a lot less health after exiting V.A.T.S or even be killed.
Did you know?
The game takes heavy inspiration from the cancelled Van Buren project, which was supposed to be Fallout 3, and was being developed by Black Isle.
The project lead on Fallout New Vegas was J.E. Sawyer, one of the lead designers on Van Buren. There's even a mod called Sawyer's Mod, which introduces things that Sawyer wanted in the game, but weren't put in the game before release.
Character deaths are shown off via a slow motion kill cam straight out of Max Payne, which is now even available outside of V.A.T.S (it can be toggled on and off and usually only occurs when the last enemy in a group is dispatched). So you can watch the physics handled enemies flip and flop about in all their gory glory.
Critical hit bonuses are granted when you use certain weapons, and especially if you sneak up on an enemy. Here it is not uncommon for them to go down with one shot.
Enemies might be resistant to a weapon too, though. To the point where you have to change between different weapons until you find one that does the job. A lot of this has to do with damage threshold, and this further has to do with a gun’s condition which degrades as you use it. Guns at 50% condition or less can easily be resisted by an enemy’s DT. It might also have to do with the current ammunition you’re using. You can swap out one type of ammo for a different type, like hollow points or armour piercing bullets with regular firearms.
Failure to improve a gun’s condition can result in it being practically unusable. The gun will jam, or won’t reload properly. However, you needn’t discard a gun just because it’s broken, unlike Far Cry 2 and more like System Shock 2. Guns can be repaired so that their condition improves. You can do this in one of a few ways: you can either collect more of that type, or a similar type of gun and then use parts from one gun to fix the other, or some characters in-game can repair items for you for a fee. You can also buy or otherwise obtain weapon repair kits.
Another critical thing in the game is ammunition. You have to have enough otherwise the gun is effectively useless. You can buy ammunition, just like guns, or there’s plenty to find out in the game world – too much actually. A new addition in the game is being able to make ammunition at a reloading bench. You do this by breaking down rounds or finding them in a separated state. Rounds are made up of primers, leads, cases, and powder. You can then manufacture your own ammunition. The only thing is, these home-made rounds are inferior to ones that are bought or found in-game, and won’t do as much damage. In hardcore mode, ammunition also has weight, so you can only carry so much at a time, which brings yet more strategy and realism to the game.
Fallout New Vegas features celebrity talent who provide voice overs, including Ron Perlman as the narrator and Wayne Newton as radio DJ "Mr. New Vegas". Also in the credits: Matthew Perry, Zachary Levi, Kris Kristofferson, Danny Trejo, Michael Dorn and Felicia Day.
There are many more guns to be found in FNV than F3 – from pistols to shotguns, assault rifles to much bigger guns like grenade launchers and flamethrowers – even laser weapons. There are also unique versions of particular firearms to be found in the game. Take the Marksman, which is essentially an M4 carbine. There’s the All-American which is a jacked up version of this gun and even has a nice camouflage paint job to boot. Here’s the thing: just like S.T.A.L.K.E.R, the guns, while identical, have names that are different to their real-life counterparts. There probably is a mod that can change this though. And if there isn’t please make one, somebody. Because while it's cutesy, it does take that much away from the sense of realism.
Speaking of which, there are modifications for firearms that can be bought or found – from suppressors to laser sights, to scopes, to extended magazines. Add to this that you can also make your own weapons too, at weapon benches. Practically anything you think is junk can be recycled, combined, and turned in to a weapon of sorts. The results range from the silly to the down right lethal.
It’s not all guns and ammo. Items can be found out in the open, or in trash cans, dumpsters, and even vending machines, in addition to being on corpses you happen to search. The practice of going through areas to find these items is called “prospecting”. You also get safes which usually have to be cracked or the lock picked in order to access the contents. Items don’t regenerate or replenish themselves. You can also use these storage devices to stash your own goods. They’ll stay there given the storage devices are not owned by anyone else. If they are, then your items will not be saved and will disappear. You can make it easier by renting your own rooms, and then you have ownership over everything inside.This makes it much more convenient to hoard unlike in Diablo II where you only have one private stash to put everything, which is nowhere near big enough.
Among some of the items you can carry are clothes and armour. These will help prevent you from getting holes in your delicate hide but may also provide skill bonuses or even bonuses to your S.P.E.C.I.A.L (strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence, agility, and luck) abilities.
Other ways to obtain skill bonuses include magazines, which grant large albeit temporary skill bonuses, or books which grant smaller but permanent bonuses. Of course the best way to progress in skill is to gain more experience as you play the game. You gain experience by taking down enemies, completing quests, discovering new locations, and unlocking achievements like repairing your own items or picking locks so many times. Then at some point once enough experience points have been accrued, your character levels up and you can then upgrade their skills. It’s best to just focus on a few. Take one combat skill, seeing as you will need it as the game is very combat focused, and then two useful ones like lockpicking and science, or medicine and repair. These should be the skills you tag early on in the game. Once they’ve been maxed out you can worry about some of the others later.
You also get perks which are different from skills. Perks can be temporary or permanent. You get to choose two one-time initial perks at the start of the game that last throughout, and one perk every two levels you advance. You can also gain perks in the game that are given to you by certain characters, NPCs, and companions will grant you temporary perks that will last as long as they accompany you through the wastes.
What's the Score?
+ Great story, quests and characters
+ Lots of weapons!
+ Support for mods
- Graphics aren’t much of an improvement from Fallout 3
- Install issues
Overall score 9.0/10
Fallout New Vegas on its release was one of the buggiest games I’ve ever played. What with floating NPCs, hangs, freezes, and random crashes to the desktop, but also some rather game breaking situations like quests that can’t be finished, disappearing companions and corrupted save games – it was a nightmare, and it’s a wonder I got anywhere at all. Luckily the Ultimate Edition not only has all DLC packs, but it is patched up to the latest version as well. The Ultimate edition as a result has less bugs, and less random crashes. It still has a few problems though such as levitating objects. But fortunately I found the experience to be much better this time round. The game still has a problem with the occasional lengthy load times that make me think the game has frozen, and just as I reach for the restart button, the game initialises. There’s also the occasional lag, but nothing really that serious. I also don’t like it when the game takes forever to exit V.A.T.S. mode all the while I’m being murdered by another enemy, sort of similar to Jagged Alliance 2 and its “bullet ricochet” bug.
One persistent issue that I’ve had with practically every game that has come out of Bethesda (I know this one technically isn’t) or at least uses the aging gamebryo engine is the control system. It does feel responsive enough – no problem there most of the time. But that’s as far as the mouse look (with the PC version) goes. But there is a lack of what I might refer to as environmental manipulation. You can’t climb ladders or jump over objects. You have to go around them, or access new areas by travelling to them by pressing the use key when prompted. You can’t scale walls, or vault over objects like fences easily. The player is never that agile. This makes traversing terrain a pain at times. The game has set routes to reach a certain place, and you can’t even overcome a slight boulder or go up a steep hill to reach it, which is just ridiculous, and not only takes away from the immersion, but makes the game engine feel that much older, masquerading as something new. This is also evident when looking at the dated graphics and sometimes ridiculous character animations.
Despite its flaws, and it has many, Fallout New Vegas however does the job when it comes to creating a sufficiently engrossing experience that I would say makes it one of the best post-apocalyptic themed shooters I’ve played to date. Can it be improved? Certainly, and there are many mods that set out to achieve just that. And just like the developers listened to the fans when asked how to improve the experience that was Fallout 3, I have no doubt in my mind that the next Fallout, whenever it surfaces, should do the same. I think it will only get better, and this is due in no small part to the final demise of the gamebryo engine which has surely had its day.
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© 2012 ANDR01D
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