12 years later, I ruined my Fallout: New Vegas replay before I even started it

Fallout: New Vegas
(Image credit: Bethesda)

One very specific moment holds firm in my memory of my first playthrough of Fallout: New Vegas. In the ruins of some forgotten town, I crouched behind some rubble as a group of raiders stalked towards me. With little health to rely on, barely any ammo remaining, and my heart rate rising, all I had to rely on was a rarely-used shotgun and a smattering of shells.

The moment the first raider rounded the corner of my hiding spot, I hit VATS, desperate to get an early shot away. As it turns out, I needn't have worried - my vantage point placed me right next to my opponents. With the barrel of my gun almost touching the raider's ribcage, the first shot turned them into a fine mist. With one ally down, I turned the fight in my favor, and would eventually go on to find enough ammo to help me face down Caesar's Legion.

The scrimping and saving of every shell, Stimpak, or squirrel-on-a-stick is part of what makes the start of any Fallout game so special. While Bethesda's other RPGs place you in a world of relative plenty, The Courier and their peers start with almost nothing to their names. Every cap, every morsel, every bullet feels like it could be the difference between life and death. You aren't some Chosen Hero, you're just another poor schmuck trying to survive in these hostile worlds, using whatever random assortment of weapons and ammo you can scrounge together, and that's what makes Fallout feel like its own, unique RPG.

Fallout: New Game Plus

Fallout New Vegas

(Image credit: Bethesda)

New Vegas was my first Fallout game, and I rinsed it for all it was worth. My Courier trod every meter of the Mojave, dallied with every endgame faction, and even struck out beyond the bounds of the desert in the game's DLC. But eventually, having beaten Skyrim and Fallout 3, I began to tire of Bethesda's formula. I returned for Fallout 4, but it would take a long time until I got back to New Vegas.

War, war never changes

Fallout still featuring Walton Goggins

(Image credit: Prime Video)

The Fallout show feels like an adaptation of a game that doesn't exist

Almost exactly eight years have passed since I last left the desert, but like many others I was drawn back to the series by the Fallout TV show. New Vegas remains my favorite, an obvious candidate for a replay even as it struggled to live up to the technical jump from my janky old laptop to my new ultrawide PC setup. As the brass section rang out over its iconic theme, I was ready to retread my steps through the Mojave as if I'd never left, scratching an existence out of Goodsprings on my way to Primm, Nipton, and New Vegas itself.

So you can imagine my surprise upon leaving Doc Mitchell's house, my character freshly-created, when I found my screen flooded with pop-ups. Armor, weapons, Stimpaks, buffs, resources, a grenade launcher, all of these and more were automatically inserted into my inventory. The rusty Varmint Rifle and Vault 21 I was handed in the tutorial were suddenly among the worst items I owned, usurped by an arsenal I wouldn't have had at my disposal 40 hours into my original playthrough.

Old World Blues 

Fallout: New Vegas

(Image credit: Obsidian Games)

The culprit behind these ill-gotten gains? The Fallout: New Vegas DLC bundle that I bought after I reached the endgame all the way back in 2012. As well as four story DLCs (each of which also increases your max level, though that's an issue for much further down the line), those add-ons included Courier's Stash, which offered players a chance to buy New Vegas' pre-order bonus. That bonus was an absolute haul of weapons, armor, and consumables, from the melee-themed 'Tribal' pack to the aggressive, explosive 'Mercenary' pack.

The thing is, I normally avoid these kinds of things like the plague. The tendency to offer players a load of bonus items right at the start of the game is a growing trend, one that The Last of Us and Pokémon have fallen into in recent years, but it strikes me as a way to all-but ruin the experience. The power curve is a hugely important part of any game, and handing players all of the tools they need to blast their way thoughtlessly through the first act is a sure-fire way to bust that curve wide open. When I originally bought the DLC, I was in the endgame - max level,, and looking for a challenge that meant a 10mm pistol and 50 bullets was hardly going to leave a scratch on any enemy I came across. But with all that and far, far more stuffed into my inventory almost before I could see straight, I'm sitting in my new playthrough trying desperately not to completely ruin it for myself.

I don't really want to use these things, and I don't really want to sell them either - the influx of caps that I'd get for doing so would do almost as much damage as just wielding the weapons. To make matters worse, even getting rid of them isn't easy - I could have dropped them the moment they came in, but having failed to do that I'm now sitting with a bunch of Stimpaks that I gathered organically from the Wasteland and a bunch that were handed to me simply for starting up the game. 

Right now, my only real option is to be very, very picky about what I wield - Sonny Smiles' trusty, rusty rifle has been doing an awful lot of heavy lifting for me through the first few hours. I'm planning to revisit Fallout 3, and perhaps 4, once I've had my fill of New Vegas, and thankfully I don't own similar packs in those games yet, but it's a shame to have had the experience of coming back to one of my favorite-ever RPGs inadvertently sullied, even if it is all my fault.

See our thoughts on the series in our Fallout TV show review

Ali Jones
News Editor

I'm GamesRadar's news editor, working with the team to deliver breaking news from across the industry. I started my journalistic career while getting my degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick, where I also worked as Games Editor on the student newspaper, The Boar. Since then, I've run the news sections at PCGamesN and Kotaku UK, and also regularly contributed to PC Gamer. As you might be able to tell, PC is my platform of choice, so you can regularly find me playing League of Legends or Steam's latest indie hit.