First look at Fallout: New Vegas

Working alongside Bethesda’s internal team, Obsidian has built a Fallout world of the same scale as Fallout 3, with twice as many guns, and some new gameplay additions to address weaknesses of the previous game. “It’s more fun to work with an engine than on an engine,” says Obsidian.

New Vegas’ tweaks are small but significant to anyone who played Fallout 3 and kept a list of issues they’d love to see worked out. First among the additions is upgraded real-time shooting. VATS (Fallout 3’s pause, select, and shoot system) is still fully-functional for those who like it, but regular bullet-slinging has been polished. Down-sight aim brings more accuracy, and an optional kill cam brings the visual flare that was originally only offered with VATS kills. And those who wanted more variety from Fallout 3 will be happy to find double the weapons, and new weapon mods to make things more interesting. We witnessed scopes, extended clips, and high-speed kits being attached to weapons. You really have to see a grenade machinegun firing at full speed – a blinding white light fills the screen, and whatever was alive before is no longer.

Above: A 9mm with extended mag and scope

VATS has received tweaks as well, including special moves for melee weapons. You may have already seen the maneuver we saw, “Fore,” which liberated a bandit’s head from his shoulders with a surprisingly-sturdy nine iron.

The RPG elements have been tweaked as well. New Vegas contains more companions, and a new command wheel which aids in control. Plus, on top of the Karma system, which rates your goodness or badness, a reputation system keeps a more detailed record of your interactions with the game’s factions. What you do to please one faction may piss off another, and your decisions in that regard will affect your progression.

Above: …It’s up to you to decide how to use Helios One, and who should benefit from it

Possibly the most significant of Obsidian’s additions is Hardcore Mode, which they say would have “just been the game,” had they not wanted to alienate those used to, and expecting, the same experience and difficulty of Fallout 3. Everything is more difficult in Hardcore Mode. Ammo is weighted, and dehydration won’t be tolerated, but if you play the whole game with the increased challenge, you’ll be given a “special reward.”

New Vegas’ environment is full of landmarks to help navigate, and isn’t just Vegas – it’s the whole surrounding area. A California-Nevada border town with a famous rollercoaster (which you can run around on), a cheesy giant Dinosaur, Helios One, and the Vegas strip itself are some of the highlights. We didn’t get to see the strip, which, at the time of our demo, was “still under construction, both literally and figuratively.” We did get a few hints as to its content, though. It won’t contain any real-world casinos, but will contain properly-themed ‘50s establishments, and gambling is available both on and off the strip.

Above: “Dinky the Dinosaur” makes for a great sniper nest

The strip will “be Vegas,” said Obsidian, so take that however you like for now. We were also told that the game’s cast is on par with Fallout 3’s, and that licensed music will be “appropriate to the setting,” and may contain, at least partially, a selection of Country Western songs.

What we saw gave us no doubt that New Vegas will be an experience as vast and satisfying as Fallout 3. Despite the identical look and feel, the game isn’t just an expansion – it’s as new as its post-war Vegas, and we’re massively eager play with all its high-speed, mutant-exploding toys.

May 4, 2010

Associate Editor, Digital at PC Gamer