Robots HATE cowboys.
  • Bethesda Softworks
  • Robots HATE cowboys.

The Fallout series has some scary dedicated fans. I should know, I'm one of them.

Above Mario, above Zelda, above Halo and Metal Gear; Fallout is my favorite series of all time. Endless stretches of wasteland scorched by nuclear fire just feels comfortable for me.

That's why there's a bottle of Nuka Cola sitting on my dresser. A Vault-Tec Industries handbook on my shelf, and a Fallout Boy tattoo carved into my flesh before Mr. Ashlee Simpson started a band and gave the term an altogether less awesome meaning.

It's also why this review is appearing four days after Fallout: New Vegas went on sale. I could lie and say I've been sick, or I had a ton of other work to do, but the real truth is that I simply couldn't be bothered to stop playing the game. I've stopped eating, bathing, speaking to my family, I even call Cat by her given name instead of an adorably stupid nom de kittehbutt.

So how's about, before this game actually kills me, I lay out a wall of text on why Fallout: New Vegas has apparently become my new girlfriend?

Tom. His name is Tom. Now stop asking.

Fallout: New Vegas
Available Now on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Developed by Obsidian Entertainment
Published by Bethesda Softworks

Let me start with a bit of history. Fallout 3 was released in 2008 to much critical acclaim. Gaming journalists were falling all over themselves to throw perfect scores at Bethesda Softworks alongside words like "mind-blowing," "amazing," and "I've forsaken my Christian god to worship at the altar of the game disc."

If anyone dare to go against the flow he was met with sharp criticism. This being the Internet, of course I mean dozens of teenage boys questioning his competency, parentage and heterosexuality.

Again, this is something I know because I was That Guy.

I was one of the first media folk invited to play the game, during E3 2008, and instead of verbally fellating it, I wrote a preview for Wired (which is now bizarrely attributed to some dude named "admin") that said the game's writing "feels like someone wrote a fanfic based on the Fallout universe and somehow got the funding to create a game based on it." My eventual review (which, more bizarrely seems to have disappeared but is still cited by Gamsutra) gave it an 8 out of 10 and said that F3 "is not the game that hard-core, longtime Fallout fans are hoping for," while also saying that the developers ditched the series' trademark dark humor in favor of "a decidedly more serious tone." At one point I think I even referred to it as "Oblivion with guns."

To the surprise of no one, the Internet went fucking nutso. I'd expected to be slammed by the plebians who live their lives inside comment fields, but I was also taking shots from professional entities like Kotaku and BoingBoing.

All this because I did my job, gave the game a very favorable score, and yet still managed to mention the game's flaws in sentences that were apparently supposed to cover the erection I got while shooting Super Mutants in slow motion.

My bad.

Meh. Ive seen bigger.

Alright, history lesson over. Why did I kick things off this way? First, because if I didn't give Graham a reason to bitch in the comments, he might start stabbing puppies or telling teenage girls that they look fat.

Second? Because I want to warn all of you that my review of Fallout: New Vegas, despite the hyperbole before the jump, is going to mention its flaws. Here at Blogtown we like giving you villagers enough time to light a few armfuls of torches before you storm the castle. You're welcome.

Now, on to the show.

Fallout: New Vegas, is the game I was hoping for when I first played Fallout 3 at E3 2008.
Actually, scratch that, it's everything I hoped for, and a bunch of things I didn't realize were possible until I spent 100+ hours in F3's expansive nuclear wasteland.

Since F:NV was developed by a number of the people responsible for creating the first two Fallout entries at Black Isle Studios it brings back a lot of that old school dark humor to complement the horrors of Neo Nevada. It doesn't dethrone either of the original two games in the race for "best Fallout ever," but it addresses the largest complaints I had with F3 (making that game almost obsolete in the process).

The developers of F:NV essentially cherry picked the best attributes of its nearly two decades of predecessors. Returning from F3 are the expansive world, first person combat system and familiar menus, and returning from F1 and F2 are those games' clever writing, more interconnected personalities and overall "feel."

I hate to use a word like "feel," it being nearly (and ironically) an intangible, but fans who've been through the entire series will get a sense of what I mean only a few hours into the new game. Especially if they've spent time in F3 recently. That game lacked the abundant Fallout "feel," you get from F:NV.

Those are teeth.

Of course, those are just the broad strokes. There are tons of smaller bits that return from the older games as well. F:NV borrows many weapon, character and object models directly from F3, along with its UI and conversation system, while it brings back a number of concepts and people from the first two games, like the giant Geckos, and a certain underground steel bunker. Fans of both old and new Fallout will get nostalgic tingles.

Then, once that bedrock of classic touches is established, it adds all new bits, like the improved AI. Enemies will flee more readily when frightened (I find that blowing off an arm with a hollow point round proves plenty scary), and group combat actually works this time. F3 lined up groups of characters and had them fire at each other until a pre-determined side was dead, but New Vegas actually has realistic advancing and retreating from both allies and foes, that hinges heavily on your actions during the fight.

Also, though it may seem a small change on paper, the developers of Fallout: New Vegas went back and added so much to the crafting system that now it's nearly impossible to find an object in the wasteland that doesn't have some use, somewhere. You can build weapons, medicine, ammo, and repair nearly anything that runs on electricity. Sure, you have to learn the skills to do so, and learning how to make everything will take forever, but having the option is incredibly welcome.

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His name is also Tom. Its a common name.

Sadly, New Vegas also borrows flaws from Fallout 3. Items, people and enemies will occasionally walk through walls, fall through the floor or disappear altogether. Even worse, the game intermittently freezes, a problem that only worsens the longer you play it.

I was getting single-second pauses in the first hour of play which seemed to increase in frequency over time, until after 9 hours of killing raiders and roaming the sands, the game froze on a black screen while loading a new area. This wouldn't have been a big issue since F:NV auto-saves constantly — a very welcome feature — except that the freeze also managed to corrupt my auto-save, setting me back a good hour and a half.

Moral of the story? Never trust a machine, and save often.

Still, like I said, this is the game I wish Fallout 3 had been. It's gorgeous, it's huge, the story is alternately scary, clever, funny, bizarre and thought-provoking, and given Bethesda's history with DLC in Fallout 3, even after you finish the game's 50+ hour story, you're going to have a ton of downloadable content to play through.

The more I read through my three pages of notes and rack my brain trying to remember salient details to include in this review, the more I realize that I hate writing this thing. This game is a definite buy for any of you with even the slightest interest, but when I think about how I'd rather be sitting in an irradiated casino, having a drink and listening to Ol' Blue Eyes, or sneaking through the desert sands, only occasionally pausing to obliterate a Radscorpion, well, I just can't care about any of you.

Maybe the wasteland breeds nihilism. Let's call that another point for New Vegas.