E3 2010: Fallout: New Vegas PreviewBy Stephen Johnson - Posted Jun 17, 2010
What We Know:
Fallout: New Vegas is a semi-sequel to Bethesda’s massive action RPG hit Fallout 3. Although set in the Fallout Universe, none of the storylines or characters from Fallout 3 appear in Fallout: New Vegas. Another key difference: New Vegas was developed by Obsidian, not by Bethesda Softworks as the first game was, so there are bound to be some stylistic differences.
What We're Seeing Now:
This was among the first press showings of New Vegas, and the demo gave a healthy taste of some of the environments and characters gamers will meet when we immerse ourselves in the game this fall. Obsidian's rep at E3 2010 told me New Vegas’ world is equal in size and scope to the world of Fallout 3, (IE: Frickin’ huge) but will feature even more characters and side-quests.
Vegas has not been directly hit with nukes like D.C. in Fallout 3, so buildings are still standing, and the devastation is more subtle. Survivors are not war-ravaged wrecks: They wear nice clothing, and some are even on vacation. Although walking down the brightly lit Strip and talking to a few locals reveals that, nukes or not, there’s something rotten in New Vegas. Businessmen run amuck are ruling the city with an iron fist (kind of like real life). The face of oppression comes in the form of ubiquitous police bots that patrol the Vegas streets and make sure you don't go on a killing spree or forget to cut their bosses in on any profits you might make. Overall, the city feels alive, with a lot more NPCs than Fallout 3 featured.
The Hoover dam is still operating in Fallout’s world, providing power to the lights of New Vegas’ four major casinos. The big operations in town feature blackjack, roulette, slot machines and other games of chance (PRO TIP: Max out your “Luck” trait!). Vegas even features shows like dancing girls, an insult comic and more; not bad for a post apocalyptic world! If you prefer less conventional gambling dens, there are other, smaller and more ramshackle card-houses in the outskirts.
The demo level lets you visit The Tops, a casino themed after the old-school, Rat-Pack style 1960s gambling houses, complete with a swingin’ host, and a stage showed based on Dean and Franks’ legendary Vegas revues. Ring-a-ding-ding, baby. Fallout’s subtle, retro humor is in full effect here, from the loading screens featuring cheesy picture postcards to colorful characters haunting the gaming floor and Vegas streets.
Leaving the neon confines of Vegas provides a much more hardcore experience. Out in the Nevada countryside, life isn’t about card games and show girls. There’s a grim war in progress. Two factions are fighting over the Hoover Dam and the control of the power it provides. I don't know for sure, but I imagine you're going to be in the middle of that conflict. If that wasn't enough, there's a whole slew of radiation mutations onhand to ruin your day. The demo featured fearsome fire geckos -- gigantic lizards who will char you to cinders if you're not careful -- and super-mutants, ghouls and raiders will be around to fill you full of lead.
Gameplay-wise, Obsidian seems to have taken the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” motto to heart. New Vegas plays very much like Fallout 3. Everything will be familiar to you. You’ll have your PIP Boy to organize items and navigate the world, and the VATS system is still in effect, so no learning curve at all.
Which isn’t to say there are no improvements from the last game. Along with subte tweaks -- third-person view looks more realistic, for example-- your system of interacting with your companions has been enhanced with the companion wheel, an easy-to-use interface that allows a variety of commands, making companions less like pack mules and more like pals. Close-combat has been fixed too. Fallout 3’s boring, “swing at a guy” system has been replaced with close-up weapons that have special abilities, so a golf-club might knock an opponent down. Of course there are a ton of new weapons, both mêlée and distance, to play around with too.
Obviously a 100-plus hour RPG lives and dies on the strength of its story, and it was impossible to get more than a brief glimpse in the 20 minutes or so I had to play it, but if you are anxious for (a lot!) more Fallout, you’ll want to move to New Vegas when it comes out on October 19.