Fallout: New Vegas
The moral undercurrent of the Fallout: New Vegas experience is that if you’re going to murder someone in cold blood, in an anarchic dystopia where life is cheap, make sure you do it properly. Double-tap their torso, don’t eulogise about the situation while they’re still alive, and for the sake of not standing out like a Wall Street banker in a refugee camp, don’t wear a gaudy chequered suit while you’re about it.
That’s our last image as the muzzle of a conspicuously attired gangster’s pistol flashes in our face and the world goes black. It’s more or less the entire brief introduction to this new Fallout game, leaving the player none the wiser as to why a seemingly innocuous delivery would turn into the murder of the courier.
We’re guessing that killing you is cold pragmatism on the part of mister chessboard-for-clothes, as the item you were responsible for clearly has some significance in the balance of power in this post-apocalyptic vision of the Mojave Desert.
Your motives, then, as your vision swims back into view, are just as clear-cut: find who attempted to kill you and then kill them, with the discovery of why and what you were killed for considered a distant secondary objective… at least, for the time being. Your saviour is the scavenging robot Victor, who pulls you out of the ground and, having realised that you’re still alive, carries you to Doc Mitchell, who does a miraculous job of pulling the lead out of your head and stitching your skull back together.
You’re obviously a little addled by a bullet to the brain, so the Doc runs you through a few tests, including a stint on the ‘Vigor’ machine and a Rorschach test, all of which contribute to your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. and skill point distribution. Skills and attributes will be familiar enough to Fallout players, with a few exceptions that have been adopted from the first two Fallout games rather than Fallout 3. There’s a Survival skill for a start, a sort of SAS-style ability that gives you bonus hit points for eating or drinking and allows you to create consumables around a campfire – more on that later.
Then there are traits, innate abilities that give you a bonus in one area and penalise you in another. If you’re a bit of a pacifist and want to boost your sciences, speechcraft and medicine, for example, you can take a hit to your Guns skill by opting for the ‘Good Natured’ trait. Our eye was drawn to the ‘Wild Wasteland’ option, which exaggerates all the wild and silly elements of a radioactive wasteland and should provide some interesting and challenging encounters in combination with New Vegas’s Hardcore mode.
Traits are permanent, cannot be modified, and up to two can be chosen at the character creation stage, though you don’t have to equip any at all. Then, having repaid the good doctor’s generosity by stripping his house of anything of value – this is an RPG, after all – we stepped out into Goodsprings for our first taste of the New Vegas environment.
Having completed a Gecko-slaying tutorial mission with local gun-slinging hussy Sunny Smiles and attempted a game of Caravan in the local casino – for which you need to collect 30 Caravan cards, apparently – we left Goodsprings and moved on to Primm, stopping only to defend ourselves from a group of Powder Gangers, a hostile bandit faction in the area that has a liking for using dynamite and mines to take out their targets in the most explosive way possible.
It’s very Fallout 3, as you might expect from a sequel that uses virtually the same engine and underlying technology as Bethesda’s masterful series revival, but the similarities between the radioactive Mojave and the Capital Wasteland are comparable with those of a highway ghost town and any West Coast desert. The view to the yellowish hills on the horizon is brighter, more sparsely populated and desiccated, with a sprouting desert flower or two begging to be picked and stored for use in some concoction or other that you’ll undoubtedly whip up later on.
And despite focusing on the same anarchy and fractured human communities of Fallout’s post-holocaust canon, New Vegas has an obvious backdrop of avarice and corruption that only Tenpenny Tower came close to in Fallout 3. Perhaps this will mean a darker and more ambiguous mission for our new protagonist?