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XBox 360 Review: Fallout: New Vegas

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Fallout: New Vegas, the new RPG from Obsidian Entertainment and Bethesda Softworks, is a worthy new entry into the Fallout series of console games. Although Fallout: New Vegas contains many similar gameplay elements as its predecessors, it is not an official sequel and can be played and enjoyed even if you are unfamiliar with what came before.

As the story opens, it is the year 2281, four years after the events of Fallout 3. This is a post-apocalyptic world in which buildings have crumbled and mutated creatures roam the Mojave Wasteland. The sensibilities have reverted back to that surreal pre-1960s Cold War America, where patriotism ruled the land.

As you travel across The Wasteland, you will discover small, ruined towns. Las Vegas, however, has been left pretty much untouched.

The world is divided into two opposing factions: the New California Republic and Caesar’s Legion, which fashions itself after armies of the Roman empire. It will eventually be up to you to choose where your sympathies lie. This will determine how the factions relate to you. For this reason, the replay value of Fallout: New Vegas is high.

As the game begins, your character, the Courier (whom you will be able to rename later), is carrying a package containing a platinum poker chip and New California Republic war documents. A shot rings out and you are left for dead. Your would-be assassin is Benny Gecko, a dapper Don Draper-type clad in a black and white checked suit, who is accompanied by his thuggish cronies. No, you haven’t finished the game before you’ve started. You are rescued by a robot named Victor, who delivers you to Doc Mitchell in the town of Goodsprings. There, you are patched up and given the opportunity to choose the attributes for your character (name, age, gender, appearance, etc.). After that, you are sent on your way to explore the Wasteland, attempt to find your stolen package and get answers to the many questions you have.

You carry with you at all times your Pip-Boy 3000, a PDA-like piece of equipment which compiles your stats and abilities; your inventory; and your data, which includes maps, quest info, notes, and access to any radio signals you are able to pick up. The radio broadcasts a lot of “good ol’ boy” tunes and great for some comic relief.

It is easy to get sidetracked in the game. Like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, another Bethesda game which Fallout closely resembles, there are side missions galore. You can either accept these jobs and get a deeper, more intense look at this world, or stay on track and stick to the main story. Either way, there is a lot to see and an abundance of things to do.

In combat you are aided by the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System or V.A.T.S., which is an unique way of doing battle. During the fights, you can stop the action and use the V.A.T.S. to determine which enemy body part is most vulnerable and target it. Using the system is not a requirement, but it does give you an edge. I found that the fights are not nearly as intense or challenging when you stop and start them this way. It also depends how daunting your opponent is in addition to your weapon’s condition and your character’s physical status at the time of the altercation.

Karma plays an enormous factor in how other characters relate to you. Certain actions like stealing or killing indiscriminately cause you to lose Karma and alter the way others deal with you.

Many seemingly useless objects you will come across, such as plants and scrap metal, should not be casually dismissed as junk. Along the way you’ll find campfires or workbenches on which to meld these items to create more potent weapons or mightier health boosters. In this game it helps to scrutinize everything.

Your missions don’t necessarily have to be solitary pursuits either. As you wander the Wastelands you will meet friendly characters who can, if you like, accompany you on your journey. The rewards associated with joining up with these characters can benefit you greatly. If you choose to welcome them as companions, know that they, too, have storylines, which will be followed as you make your way through the game. These companions are controlled with the Companion Wheel, where you can issue commands such as Be Aggressive/Be Passive, Wait Here, and Talk To.

With so much to explore and innumerable complexities to deal with, trial and error is a must. You can save your game anywhere you like and not have to worry about reaching checkpoints. For this reason I found the frustration level to be quite low and the gameplay itself remained not only challenging but fun.

Since Vegas is a gambling town, you will find many ways to lose your hard earned ‘caps’ (bottlecaps are used as currency in this world) including Blackjack, Roulette, and Slot Machines. In the Wasteland, a card game called Caravan is played. The game is loosely based on Blackjack and Hearts, and every so often, a bartender or bored soldier will ask you to join them in a hand. The game took me some time to learn but it wasn’t too difficult once I got the hang of it.

For those who like to “kick it up a notch,” a Hardcore mode is available. Playing the game this way will offer you a more strategic experience, which is geared for the more experienced Fallout players. This mode is reality based. You need to keep hydrated; any serious injuries to your limbs must be healed by a Doctor’s Bag or a visit to a physician. Items that do not have weight in standard mode take on weight here, which forces you to keep an even closer eye on your inventory. You may toggle between Hardcore and standard modes during the course of the game. However, in order to earn the Hardcore achievement, you must play the entire game in this mode.

The voice acting is strong throughout, which is no surprise with actors like Matthew Perry, Felicia Day, Alex Rocco, Michael Dorn, Kris Kristofferson, and Ron Perlman on board. Wayne Newton even makes an appearance as Mr. New Vegas!

Fallout: New Vegas is a worthy addition to the Fallout series. If you like your games unpredictable, complex, and intriguing, it is one you are sure to enjoy.

Fallout: New Vegas is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and gore, intense violence, sexual content, strong language, use of drugs. This game can also be found on: Windows PC and PS3.

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