I like Fallout 3. That game is still interesting to me and it's nearly two years removed. I could pop the disc in tomorrow and play it with the same budding excitement that I did when I first played the game. Hell, I could play that game from the start again without a hitch and still love every minute.
To say the least, Fallout 3 made an impression on me that has lasted for some time.
In comes new blood, Fallout: New Vegas, and the excitement is still there, but it's a bit different. Some things that were in Fallout 3 were improved and some things were not improved. One thing is for sure is that it's a different ballgame with this one.
Fallout: New Vegas retains most of what Fallout 3 has already done, for the most part. I'm not a cynical reviewer (unlike some others out there), so I prefer the old method of starting with the good and then going to the bad. Let's begin.
What happens in Vegas is good for Vegas
Fallout: New Vegas introduces you to some refined things. There is no better place to start then with the VATS. The Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (VATS) has been refined in a more balanced manner. I know for some people playing Fallout 3 and then playing Fallout: New Vegas is quite jarring when you're using VATS. Depending on the weapons you use determines how much damage you are going to do to your enemy. While this was technically the case in Fallout 3 there was some imbalance. For example, if I used the shotgun from a distance I would do some damage, when in actuality I should be doing almost no damage. If you think about the blast from a shotgun you know that it spreads out. In Fallout: New Vegas you get that sort of 'common sense' to the firing of weapons in VATS. If you're 40 feet away you have zero chance of killing/hurting whatever enemy you have targeted; this wasn't the case in Fallout 3. While you couldn't necessarily kill someone with a shotgun from a distance, you still could do some damage. Obsidian Entertainment tightened that a bit and now the weapons are somewhat more accurate when you're using VATS. Some people will argue that it isn't the case, but I would bet that people are probably frustrated from the accuracy (don't blame them, but don't take it personally).
Another good thing about VATS is that the AP meter replenishes a lot faster than in Fallout 3. That's not to say that you won't have to run backwards like a goon as you're being attacked to replenish it once in a while, but it is much faster than it use to be. Again, credit Obsidian Entertainment for that tweak, as it does create less frustrating battles in the game. You still have to go into battle thinking about which enemy to hit first before you go into VATS, but you will worry less about the AP meter needing replenishing during battle.
Anyway, that's my two bits on VATS. Let's move on to weapons, equipment, quests, story and looks.
The range of weapons and how much you can carry has also been improved in Fallout: New Vegas. You're limit on weight seems a lot more flexible than in Fallout 3. I can't tell you how many sad moments I had to go through in Fallout 3 when disposing of weapons because of weight limits. Again, credit Obsidian Entertainment for improving this portion of the game and allowing you to pack more weapons for travel. With the amount of enemies out there you're going to need more weapons and ammo. One of my favorite weapons, which I found in a secret beer making location, was called the Gauss Rifle. This sucker, when used up close and personal, pretty much took out people with one shot. There were occasions when I had to use two shots, but it wasn't often. Having the ability to carry a 12lb weapon like that with a stockpile of other weapons really was nice. It feels great carrying weapons and not having to make such decisive burdens about which one you're going to drop. Ultimately all of this leads into more exciting battles and plenty of options to get you out of hot spots.
Speaking of which, let's talk about armor. Much like everything above this, Obsidian Entertainment has made the different armor types considerably 'noticeable' in the game. What I mean by this is that the type of armor you wear really does affect how much damage you're going to take. A good defense always produces an effective offense, so it was nice to see the variation between good and bad armor. This is something I didn't immediately notice in Fallout 3 that, like the above things, has been tweaked and made noticeable in Fallout: New Vegas. For example, there is a quest where you're asked to go check on a town called Nipton. A faction has taken the town over, they are called the Legion, and they are tough to 'get rid of'. Once you do finally get rid of the folks you will get some pretty awesome armor. This armor can take a LOT of damage in the game before you need to repair it. It saved my ass when I got back to the New California Republic (NCR), who was hellbent on killing me. Now this brings up a secondary point about the armor, something that is new to me for this series; wearing particular armor can set off other factions. Staying with the NCR, I helped them on many occasions and even more so by taking out a major leader with the Legion. Because I was wearing the Legion's armor I instantly became an enemy in their eyes. So, even though you may get really good armor you must take into account what you look like in the game, so that you don't get attacked. That is some pretty cool, clever material there, folks. Even better material is when you decide to go shoot up the world. In Fallout 3 you would just run into opposition here and there, but with Fallout: New Vegas you will get hunted down by the NCR if your camera gets too low. Again, some other reviewers may not like it, but I thought it adds a bit more depth into what you look like and whom you are around.
Now, with all this said, one of the more fantastic features in Fallout: New Vegas is the ability to mod and repair. Unlike Fallout 3, you will run into more than enough instances where you will find plenty of parts to mod and repair your weapons. Hell, you'll run into a workbench in nearly every town you visit, which is completely plausible. In addition to this, you have more choices of modding in Fallout: New Vegas that you can activate and learn. You also have more opportunities to find material and guides to add to this very large list of choices. Essentially, you'll 'want' to mod your weapons and improve them, as Obsidian Entertainment makes it easy and accessible; something that Fallout 3 didn't set up very well. For me this was new and it was definitely an element that made the gameplay a lot more fun.
With all these little elements intact and improved you might ask, "How were the quests?" The quests were a lot more refined and there were plenty to play. The main quest was interesting, but not as much as Fallout 3. The need to find your wannabe murderer, Benny, starts a large storyline that will lead you to many wonderful, horrible places. The way the game starts out is interesting, but the payoff consists of a tough, sometimes repeating road. The use of star talent to make the trip more fun is a huge plus. Benny is played by Matthew Perry (from Friends), you also have actors like Kris Kristofferson, William Sadler, Felicia Day, Danny Trejo, Wayne Newton, Zachary Levi and Ron Perlman. They all help the story movie along and they're great every step of the way (especially Sadler, who is just a fun actor). The main quest is very good and it's entertaining, but it's not as emotionally involved as Fallout 3's main quest.
Side quests in Fallout: New Vegas will keep you consistently interested. Most of the quests are contained in the southwest region around Vegas. You won't have to travel a billion miles to get from point A to point B, like in Fallout 3. I always felt like the travel was tedious, but understood why you had to do that. It just feels a bit more contained; less time is wasted on travel in Fallout: New Vegas. The quests are a bit bigger in this game. You have no less than three things you must accomplish on each quest and each quest is pretty interesting in its own way. For example, there is a moment when you meet up with the NCR and they ask you if you're interested in taking out three particularly nasty fiends in the desert. Each fiend is tough and each fiend requires multiple steps before the mission is accomplished. The payoff after each mission is considerable and will help you when you're purchasing much-needed goods and weapons. The more money you have in the game the better you're going to be. Need another quest example? There is a moment where you're hired by a doctor to retrieve material from Vault 22. After agreeing and before you can leave to go on the quest you're stopped by his assistant, who warns you about the Vault. She also asks you to look for a ghoul named Keely who was also sent on the same quest. Once you discover what is exactly wrong in Vault 22 (prepare your nerves before you go in) and when you finally find Keely you have to make another decision. If you have downloaded the information and accomplished the mission you're asked by Keely to destroy the information because it's bad. If you destroy the info then you get rewarded. If you keep it then you're rewarded a different way. It's a deep quest and a moral one at that, but it's worth getting involved and there's enough intrigue/excitement to keep you going from beginning to end; most quests are like this.
Anyway, there is plenty to do with Fallout: New Vegas, so you won't be short on action and adventure.
So how does Fallout: New Vegas look? It's definitely more detailed than Fallout 3, though not by much. The characters are a bit more detailed and the immersion factor is a little higher. One thing that got me going in Fallout 3 was the D.C. environment. Having lived in Maryland for about three years, I understood what I was looking at when I played the game. My wife, who was raised in Maryland/D.C. area could identify certain spots in the game; it was pretty detailed. So what you're going to get with Fallout: New Vegas is a bit more bland, spreadout landscape. It's bigger than Fallout 3 in terms of visuals, but it has less on the land in comparison to the previous title. There's a whole bunch of desert, that's about all I can say about outside of Vegas. Inside of Vegas is a different story, as it's quite alive like the actual city and brimming with lights everywhere. Even when you're far outside of Vegas you can see the lights of Vegas from a mountain, which is a pretty cool sight.
As for character animation in the game it's about the same as Fallout 3. You get a bit more details in the faces and a bit more texture in the enemies. For example, you can see the changing facial structure of a wolf pretty well during an attack. You can see their eyes clearly and the viciousness they carry with them. You can also see other details like when someone gets irritated with you and wants to take you out. You can detect such things before you even target them. It's not a huge leap, but it's a more refined leap.
With that said, a minor improvement that needs to be mentioned is the music. You still get that familiar soundtrack that you had in Fallout 3, but you also get some Dean Martin while you're in Vegas. Ain't nothing wrong with a little Dean Martin! I like the old style music that was in Fallout 3 and really appreciate the small upgrade in Fallout: New Vegas.
So these are the goods with Fallout: New Vegas and I will concede I might have left some things out, but I feel like I have some of your main concerns addressed in the game.
Some of the lights were out in Vegas
I didn't have any problems with the gameplay elements in the game. Obsidian did what it could to either improve or keep the same in terms of controls, VATs, weapons, etc.; they did their best to make the experience just as good, if not better.
The real problem I had with this game is the sporadic issues that crippled or completely collapsed Fallout: New Vegas. For example, I was playing the game on Saturday and my screen went black. Checked the connections on the Playstation 3 and they were fine. Checked to make sure the disc was running, and it was. The game had simply stopped working. It sounds funny, but it wasn't funny because I hadn't saved in about an hour. Need another example? The game froze on a quest for no reason. There weren't any enemies around, the game just simply stopped. Thankfully, I had saved the game (about 50 times in a span of 8 hours) due to my previous example. Now, with all this said this wasn't the worst of the 'quirks'. On the Nipton Town quest I had a moment where I was in the midst of a fight and my gun wouldn't show up in my character's hands. They would reach for the weapon and come back holding empty. I tried accessing dynamite and got the same results; hands cradled like it was there, but nothing was there. I couldn't use the ghost weapon, which posed a problem and I instantly got killed. The situation got worse, though. After dying, I restarted at the same point in the fight and could actually hold a weapon. Well, the weapon fired once on its own and then refused to react when I pressed the PS3 controller button. The result of this was yet another death. That's not the worse part of this situation, though! Because the save point was where the fight began and because it essentially probably just caches that point in the game for a quicker loading time, the same issue of not being able to fire my weapon was continually there. I had to go back in and load the save point prior to that one and start the situation over again; very frustrating stuff.
This type of problem should have been beta tested by Obsidian Entertianment before releasing this game. Surprisingly, I had similar quirky issues with Alpha Protocol (where an enemy was constantly stuck in a door and easily disposed of and other issues of where the game would freeze).
The only reason this game is going to get a semi-low score is because of these continual problems. Fallout 3 had some issues, but nothing like this. For the most part Fallout 3 played well and it was a fun experience without much worry in mind. For Fallout: New Vegas these issues have to be addressed and stuff has to get patched soon because it's very unacceptable and it takes away from the experience.