Thursday, January 21, 2016

From the Vault – Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas was developed by Bethesda Softworks and Obsidian Entertainment in 2010.

Sources claim that Bethesda's highly anticipated video game title, Fallout 4, sold over 200% more copies on its first day of sales than its predecessor, Fallout: New Vegas. Taking into account the five years between releases and the people who probably purchased after launch day, my (admittedly questionable) math estimates that as many as 1 in 3 people who own Fallout 4 might not have even played New Vegas, let alone the number of gamers who have yet to even touch this brilliant franchise. This, friends, is a shame, and today I'm going to take a minute to implore you to backtrack and get acquainted with the game that gave Fallout 4 its deserved hype in the first place.

For the newbies: Developed by Bethesda Softworks and Obsidian Entertainment, Fallout: New Vegas (2010) is an open world RPG, in the vein of Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series (Oblivion, Skyrim), and the two franchises share an engine and look remarkably similar. While Elder Scrolls is a typical (but beloved) medieval fantasy series, the Fallout games are set in retro-futuristic, post-apocalyptic versions of American cities, crumbling around your character as a result of nuclear warfare.

New Vegas takes the player to, of course, none other than Las Vegas and its surrounding area where you play as "Courier 6," a delivery person who has been assassinated and buried alive during a delivery for The Mojave Express delivery service. What starts as a revenge story, as the Courier tries to track down the man who tried to kill him (or her, depending on player preferences), ultimately changes gears as the Courier gets caught up in a power struggle for New Vegas's most valuable resource, the Hoover Dam. So much happens in this game with such a wide variety of outcomes that analyzing the "plot" is virtually impossible. Instead, here are a few reasons to play this dated gem of a game:

1. You've always wanted to go to Vegas. If, like me, it'll probably be the apocalypse by the time you can afford to go anyway, you might as well just play the game. Fallout: New Vegas takes what is already an astoundingly weird city and somehow makes it weirder by rebuilding it as some Frankenstein's monster version of its former glory. The game's epicentre quest hub boasts museums, gangs, an Elvis impersonator school now home to a borderline religious order, and five casinos with varying themes, owned and operated by factions that usually hate each other. While Fallout 3 had cities, they were campsites compared to the dilapidated rockabilly glamour of New Vegas. The city and surrounding slums are so densely packed with quests, games, and people (a rare sight in the wasteland) that you could spend days questing there without ever leaving the city walls.

2. Abandoned Buildings. Who doesn't love abandoned buildings these days? Our tragic economy and a pervasive cultural sense of doom has rendered abandoned buildings trendy and fascinating to a large population, but if you're not willing to risk the trespassing charges or mortal danger to see them for yourself, New Vegas does a pretty good job of satisfying the craving for decay. From repurposing actual Nevada landmarks like airports, hotels, and Air Force bases to creating and destroying massive structures, leaving them littered with skeletons (or worse) and back stories abundant with hubris, double-dealing, and self-immolation, New Vegas has it all. Did I mention the looting? Not only are these levels well-designed and engaging, you can also find some excellent treasure inside.

3. Cannibals. No post-apocalyptic vision of the future would be complete without cannibals and New Vegas is no exception. The bougie, black-tie casino, The Ultra-Luxe, has a long and complicated quest line involving a secret society that wants to return to its cannibal routes. The quest is a stand out despite a couple glitches but, in fact, the majority of the game's quests are well-designed and dynamic. Eliminating tiresome grinding quests that are common among RPG's, Fallout: New Vegas manages to keep almost every quest feeling fresh and often includes multiple quest endings seasoned to each gamer's individual tastes.

4. Powerful Friends. Lastly, New Vegas takes the choose your own adventure spirit and runs with it, offering a wide range of possible endings based on an equally wide range of factions the Courier can befriend or offend. From the enigmatic Howard Hughes clone, Mr. House, to the brutal "Caesar's Legion" (a spoof on, you guessed it, Caesar's Palace), there are all kinds of different sides to be taken in the Mojave with drastically different outcomes. Best of all, the game offers hybrid options where you can pick a side and keep some other factions on your team – or destroy them – depending on how you feel! The result is a complex and unique game, customized to each player's journey.

While there are undoubtedly some flaws in any game (notably every character looks the same, some quests contain game-ending glitches, etc) there's a reason Fallout: New Vegas's legacy has longtime fans still badgering Obsidian to make another game, even though they weren't involved with Fallout 4 at all. For those of you who are still having a grand old time in Fallout 4's Commonwealth despite never playing this masterpiece of a game, I urge you to spend the $15 on a used copy next time you see one languishing in a clearance bin. And for anyone who's yet to experience Vault life at all, consider resisting the siren's song of Fallout 4's updated graphics and gameplay just a little bit longer so you too can leave your mark on the Mojave.

– Danny McMurray has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a minor in Anthropology from the University of Western Ontario. She is particularly enthusiastic about science fiction, horror movies, feminism, video games, books, opera, and good espresso – all of which she can find in spades in her home base of Toronto, Ontario.

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