Fallout: New Vegas sees us scrabbling for survival in Nevada, a state slightly less devastated than that of Fallout 3’s Washington DC. Flora still remain, skies are a lovely shade of blue and some buildings actually manage not to look like something in a Red Faction battle. Fitting then, that we’re in Vegas baby, a place that’s always loved to revel in its brightly-lit, well-presented, razzle-dazzle splendor.
While the scenery may be familiar in some parts to players of Fallout 3 (at times sandy), the desert itself seems somehow more alive, and despite some pretty awful stuff going on (a thriving slave trade for instance). The locations certainly somehow demonstrate more organization amongst their inhabitants.
The Vegas strip is open for a start, complete with a recreation of the still-standing Stratosphere looming over the desert, tempting nearby residents and adventurers inside. I say inside as the strip is protected from undesirables via a wall and the quite terrifying, retro-futuristic Securitrons-police bots that boast single wheels and monitors with cartoon cops on their bellies.
Our demo at E3 finds us wandering into The Tops, a casino found in the strip that boasts slot machines, roulette and blackjack tables. The gamblers amongst you will be pleased to know that these are all playable, providing you don’t do too well anyway. Apparently a particularly lucky winning streak can anger the casino’s manager and prompt an early exit.
You won’t do too well trying to bring in guns either, as a couple of Securitrons guard the entrance making sure you enter without weaponry. Luckily though, there’s a shady character by the name of Mr. Holdout who’ll sell you sneakable killing tools if you’re after doing a bit of funny business inside.
We also have a chance to wander around the Mojave wasteland, which is, you’ll be pleased to know, built to a similar scale as the DC Wasteland and littered with base camps and downtrodden real-life locations.
While wandering the plains you’ll encounter a bunch of different factions, all tied up in fighting for their respective causes. We run into the NCR (or New Californian Republic), a large and democratic bunch who have achieved some quite commendable success in terms of economy, structure, recruitment and occupation.
New Vegas features a reputation system that’s a little like the Fallout 2’s, though considerably more complex. To put it simply: perform favors in the form of quests for factions and your reputation will increase with them, kill members of a faction and they’ll probably be a little less keen on you (which, this being post-apocalypse will, when your rep’s bad enough, lead to members attacking you on sight).
It’s even possible to have reputations in specific locations, which can either prove to be a blessing or a burden depending on player choice. Balancing your reputation amongst different factions will be a key element to shaping your path through the game and ultimately affect your ending.
You will be able to pick up companions once more, but this will again depend on faction loyalty. One buddy we’re told about, Boon, is an ex-NCR sniper and still attaches credibility and personal feelings towards the faction so you’ll need to make sure you aren’t killing too may of his old friends when playing through.
We gain his trust on our quick play through and get a quick feel for the companion wheel, which allows for quick access to options involving combat, inventory and suchlike. It’s possible to use your friends as handy mules, request they waffle on about their lives and change their combat style amongst other stuff.
We decide to have a bit of a play to test the mechanics and see what items we can grab, and after killing a member of Caesar's Legion are treated a lovely leftover spear. A bit of VATS later and the spear’s hurtling an impressively long way towards an enemy, all in the slow-motion cinematic styling as seen in Fallout 3.
A little more play and we happen across a couple more melee weapons in the form of a metal gauntlet and a nine-iron, quickly testing their secondary attacks. The golf club, for instance boasts a “Fore” attack that’s a little more powerful than the average hit while the gauntlet allows for an attack in the nether-regions on top of its standard attack.
We also get a look at a mightily powerful incendiary grenade, which sets NPCs alight and then blasts them to teensy weensy bits. Excellent in VATS.
All in all Fallout: New Vegas feels significantly different while being familiar enough to mean getting stuck in to what could be a vast game doesn’t take too long. With such a mix of talents in the bag and some old hands on deck it looks like this could bring something to the table for generations of Fallout fans old and new alike.