[BFG 2010] A Little 'New' from the Old Guard

Can Fallout: New Vegas live up to the lofty expectations of Fallout 3 with a new setting and a new developer? Yep.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: May 4, 2010
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Plenty of folks -- both industry types and gamers alike -- have been worrying aloud that the bottom is dropping out of games development. While it's true plenty of dev houses and publishers have bit the dust at an alarming rate in the past few years amid an economic downturn that finally hit home in our little hobby, it's not quite as hopeless as it might seem.

Take one of the bigger tragedies to hit back in the early turn of the century: the closure of Black Isle Studios, Interplay's prolific hotbed for western role-playing game development. Out of the ashes rose a handful of promising start-ups, not the least of which was Obsidian Entertainment, home to many of the folks that created the original Fallout and its sequels. Now, gifted with the task of converting their West Coast post-apocalyptic world into something in line with the recent East Coast adventure using the same engine, some of the original minds behind the turn-based classic are back in the saddle again.

Sometimes all it takes is, well, time.

Obsidian's task is daunting, sure. The relative distance both geographically and temporally between the last proper Black Isle Fallout, the tactical RPG Brotherhood of Steel and Fallout 3 meant Bethesda was able to essentially create their own continuation, sticking more to the tone and timeline of the original game while transplanting everything to the Washington DC area. In heading cross-country -- though not quite all the way -- Fallout: New Vegas has, in many ways, a much bigger hill to climb. This is hallowed ground for the Fallout faithful, a locale pregnant with nostalgic memories and more than a few bruised psyches after the series' shift to a more action-driven, Oblivion-esque style.

From the hour or so demo we got the first day we arrived in the very real Vegas for Bethesda's BFG 2010 event, it was rather evident that New Vegas was doing a valiant job of melding the two semi-disparate worlds. This was land rife with characters like The Master and the original Vault Dweller, and in a slightly timeline-bending change, New Vegas will carry on some bits and pieces of Fallout 2 despite being set only three years after the events of Fallout 3.

Still, thousands of miles of irradiated Wasteland haven't changed the core of the game all that much from the DC romp. The same basic interface with multiple dialogue choices, the VATS combat system and a heaping helping of things to scavage, build and loot are omnipresent here. That doesn't mean that Obsidian hasn't added their own particular flavor to things, however.

One of the most obvious changes will be the ability to equip mods for your weapons, adding things like alternate firepower, better stats and the like. Scopes, ammo clips and so on will be available to swap out at any time, making firefights a bit more dynamic. Married to this expansion of your options for pew-pew is a greater focus on melee combat. Even while using VATS to set up a swing with the new golf club, for instance, specific animations have been added to create a little more oomph when taking off a mutant's head. Changes to combat outside of VATS have given the real-time conflict a slightly more run-and-gun feel. This is still a game about careful planning and attacks, action points and scarcity of ammo, mind you, but you won't necessarily empty an entire clip into an enemy before they go down. Additional bits of armor and specialized ammo types that can penetrate enemy defenses also mean targeting more than the head in VATS has become an option.

Make no mistake, Fallout: New Vegas is very much a game about life after the bombs had dropped, but New Vegas itself was never actually hit (all hail the nuke-repelling power of huge boobs and even bigger jackpots, we suppose). This has left the city with its own power source, a live-and-kicking Strip... and a giant wall around the whole city keeping the denizens blissfully ignorant of life in the Mohave Wasteland -- itself far more blue-skied and less rubble-strewn than DC. Warring inside these Vegas walls are the New California Republic (which has taken over McCann Airport) and Caesar's Legion (which patrols what's left of The Strip). Though relatively untouched by nuclear arms, the internal conflict has nevertheless left the city nearly as battered and crumbling as any other city leveled by World War III.
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