At Quakecon 2010, I sat down with the associate producer of Obsidian Entertainment, Theresa Treadwell, to take a look at the company’s latest build of their high-profile title, Fallout: New Vegas.
In the world of Fallout, Las Vegas, unlike Washington D. C., has managed to escape a direct nuking in the holocaust on which the game series’ atmosphere depends. The Hoover dam is also intact to supply the metropolis with power, so you basically have a functional oasis of sin in the middle of the classic desolate wasteland for which fallout is known. Obsidian actually took the topographical information for the Las Vegas region and used it as a template for producing the in-game scenery, so expect to see vistas similar to what you would see if you ran off from the actual Strip and into the desert (which you should do). The Strip itself is modeled after the Vegas of the 50’s era, much like the rest of the game.
The build that I got to spend an hour with at Quakecon is actually the latest version of the game’s story mode, and I must say that while the ambiance of Fallout holds strong, Obsidian has certainly added some artistic and mechanical changes that should help to craft a unique experience for this entry in the franchise. Please note that I will spoil the beginning of the game if I have any hope of embellishing on said changes.
Unlike the rather transcendental birth scene that kicked off the experience of Fallout 3, you begin New Vegas as a fully developed adult who is about to be shot in the face. You have been working with a delivery company as a courier, and a shady job with an enigmatic package has lead to a mysterious man in a nice suit carrying out a morally questionable mafia-style execution of your face, along with the rest of you. The End.
But wait! There is one thing that, even after getting toootally shot in the face, keeps you clawing at life: you are the Player Character! You must be a GAME PERSON for people to play with! With a strong plot point having raked a hole through your noggin, you awake in the house of a crazy old man, who is basically the movement and character creation tutorial in a calm, wrinkly, well-voice-acted package. As a former vault-dweller, the man supply’s you with a Pipboy and a vault jumpsuit before kicking you into the Vegas desert right outside of the nearest county, Primm, a little town built for those who can’t gamble in Vegas. Unfortunately for the wide-eyed Primmites, Primm lacks even the most basic tenets of law enforcement, so there’s plenty to do for the needy, sparse populace of the backwater town if you want to, or you can go ahead and look for the guy that shot you in the face and the package that you were couriering. It’s up to you, man.
Returning to the mechanics of the game, I explored the most intriguing option that Obsidian has added to the franchise: a “hardcore” mode that can be activated when the game begins. If health and radiation levels are not enough for you, dehydration and exhaustion in the wilderness, along with weighted ammo and stimpaks that gradually recover health are some of the features you can expect with this new difficulty level. Hardcore mode can be switched off at any time during the game, but those who can stay hardcore to the end will be given a special “reward”: hopefully something better than a few extra gamer points. I’m very cautious, so I avoided hardcore like the plague.
Pfff of COURSE I turned on hardcore mode. I only had an hour with the game, and the demo was lackluster at best when it came to portraying the game’s new mechanics (one hour + starting a new game in Fallout = not enough time to do shit) but I did get to experience the gradualized stimpak effect, and it forced me into a more cautious playstyle—to an extent. The health bar seemed unchanged, so I was still able to be slightly nonchalant about combat.
Another mechanic that many PC users will be happy to see is iron sight aiming. I tested some shooting from the shoulder in my time with the game, and I have to say the controls felt tight and performed well as any other high-profile tactical FPS title out there. Obviously the RPG elements of Fallout limit the rewards of accurate reticle aiming in the earlier stages of the game, but blowing someone away still felt satisfying, and for those PC gamers who want that hands-on feel of iron sight with the cinematic display of VATS, the final kill of any alerted enemy will result in a dramatic, VATS-like slow motion death cinematic as you watch the final corpse keel to the ground.
Along with the more upbeat nature of the Populace in New Vegas, the plants appear to be a bit spunkier—and more useful—than anything you found in D. C.. Players can collect several types of clearly discernible plants which can be used at campfires strategically placed across the wasteland to produce life-giving elixirs and death-granting poisons, amongst other useful things.
While the karma system is still going strong in New Vegas, another mechanic for making choices is taking center stage: factions which have begun to form in the Nevada wasteland are taking control of different areas, and its up to you to give them the finger or hold their hand and make sweet love to their child sacrifices, or whatever it is you will be doing to garner favor or hatred from them. I discussed with Theresa aobut the dynamics of this faction system in conjunction with the karma system, and based on what she told me handling diplomacy with factions will be the number one priority for players.
Unfortunately, with the short time I had with the title, I couldn’t get any further than the very beginnings of the plot, but I will certainly be picking up this game when it comes out in October. The game has the same desolate ambiance that Fallout fans love, and Obsidian has done a wonderful job staying true to their roots their debut title in the series. It will be great to sit down with the final game and play it as much as I’d like to.
Raised by a pack of wolves in North Texas suburbia, Derek Sommer has become a consummate writer, gamer, artist, and party fiend. Find him at the nearest whirling epicenter of fun to Lewisville, TX.
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