QuakeCon 2010: Fallout: New Vegas Extended Hands-On Preview
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 03:13pm 18/08/10 | Comments
At this year's QuakeCon, AusGamers had an extended amount of time to get hands-on with Fallout: New Vegas. Read on for more...
At this year's E3, I had 10 minutes (probably less, actually) with Fallout: New Vegas which is, for anyone who knows a Bethesda game, not nearly long enough to really get a feel for what to expect - especially where Fallout is involved.
So I threatened Bethesda in some unspeakable manner to send me to QuakeCon almost exclusively so I could get more time with Fallout: New Vegas. Which I did. And then some.
Actually the truth is, I managed to hijack the game a day earlier than I was supposed to so I could get the most out of what was on offer, which was essentially the game's beginning, and then full access to one of the earlier areas, Freeside.
"War. War never changes," echos the familiar, haunting Ron Perlman-narrated statement made popular through all Fallouts. It's a very poignant moment for Fallout 3 veterans though, when picking this up for the first time; a reminder that this is indeed a new, modern age for the Fallout franchise, and while there are key members working at Obsidian who helped form Fallouts 1 and 2, Fallout: New Vegas is very much Bethesda's baby, nurtured by Obsidian. That isn't to say there aren't touches of the classic games here, neither is it to say this is simply expansion material for Fallout 3, it's just that there's a serious amount of investment that has clearly gone into reviving Fallout as a franchise, and Bethesda want you to remember that.
After familiarity though, New Vegas takes a turn for the good. A pre-rendered cut-scene sets up your initial demise as we're introduced to you, as the main character, caught out in the Mojave desert at gun-point, kneeling next to a freshly dug shallow grave. "... the truth is, the game was rigged from the start," says the owner of the gun, seconds before pulling the trigger and turning off the lights in your head.
The game begins proper as we're then introduced to Doc Mitchell, the guy who somehow brought you back to life. Resting in his quaint little post-apocalyptic abode, he questions you as if to work out the sort of person you are. This sequence replaces being born and growing as a child in Vault 101 from Fallout 3, but serves the same purpose - as with all RPGs of this deep nature, character customisation comes in the form of choosing how you look, what attributes you want, what sort of demeanour you'll have, what your strongest skills are, and so on.
The context here is excellent though, and it's the first indication of one of the major changes between Fallout 3 and New Vegas, and that's in the game's speech system. While Bethesda might never have wanted to admit it, much of the speech in Fallout 3 was pretty simple with a massive lack of complexity or overall dynamism. Obsidian, however, are well known for how far they dive into their narratives, and we're being promised a much more consistent and ever-changing flow of dialogue and dialogue choices.
The first initial example comes in the form of a word association game, that actually helps determine how your character is going to turn out. This is also alongside utilising a "skill tester" machine to work out your skills and attributes. It's all far quicker than how you dealt with GOATS in Fallout 3, and before you know it, you're free to shoot Doc Mitchell in the head, steal his stuff and step out into the great sunny state of California.
I didn't do any of that last bit. I don't play Fallout like that. But you can - that certainly hasn't changed. Although now there are further reaching consequences for every action you perform in the game, and resonance of them to you is much more jarring (at least from my experience and perspective). Towns and settlements now have an indicator on your map as to how they feel about you, whether you're liked, disliked or if they're simply filthy neutrals, and you can layer this throughout your journey which means it can become quite complex - especially when you have missions that move from one town to the next where you're accepted in one place, and shot on-sight in another.
The factions stuff is another layer to this, though I barely touched on that in my time. A few new pieces of information I actually pulled from my extended hands-on though, include the addition of a new Hardcore mode, which is basically designed for the not-so-feint-of-heart. Accepting to play this way means you'll be fatigued (so you need to sleep), you get hungry (so you need to eat), Stimpacks will only heal over a period of time, dehydration is a constant factor in the hot desert sun, you can't immediately fix broken bones and ammo adds weight. There's no information as to what benefits you'll get when playing through this mode other than the satisfaction of knowing that if the end of the world is nigh, you'll have the skills to handle it, but some exclusive Achievements or Trophies might be nice.
The actual game-world is a much more accessible place than Fallout 3. It's sunny, for one. There's vegetation, for another (you can even pick certain plants or veggies, though I'm unaware of their use currently). You can hear birds chirping happily in the distance, oblivious to the decaying world at hand while there seems to be less likely a chance you'll face only good or bad guys with no middle ground in your travels. The faction system and your social status between various settlements, towns and encampments, again, layers the complexity of interaction and your place within the world, and it's already an infinitely more rewarding experience as a result.
A great example of this is the first time I set foot in the gated town of Freeside, which is home to a prostitution ring, and a gang of thugs calling themselves the "Kings". I was motioned by an NPC to follow him around the corner - his garb was that of your average Wastelander, so I didn't think much of it. Rounding the corner and speaking to him, he pointed towards a dead body lying between two skips, then suggested I'd be next if I didn't pay up. The sheer fact he didn't just outright attack me, made the extension of disbelief that much more engaging, and moreover, once I refused and laid waste to him, his buddies apologised and ran away - meaning you don't just have to take out the trash, so to speak, but make real progress based on your overall impact and interaction with the game-world.
There are familiar animals and mutations in New Vegas, but a host of new ones as well. Giant Mantis Nymphs prove pretty pesky, as do Nightstalkers (created by combining coyote and rattlesnake DNA we're told) and other mutated abominations. Bighorners are docile creatures, similar to Brahman, but can also buck the living shit out of you if cornered - but they flesh out the game, which as you may have guessed from the above, is seemingly teaming with life.
Other new additions come in the idea that surely Nuka-Cola didn't hold a full monopoly in the soft-drink market. Sunset Sarsparilla can be found everywhere, accompanied by familiar Fallout-style advertising. You can collect other items too, such as a weapon repair kit, which means you don't always need to rely on your repair skill to keep all the new additions to your arsenal on offer in tip top condition. The game really is full of so much more.
There's a Level 30 cap right out of the box, too. And XP can be jointly earned by your companions (though I didn't have the luxury in my hands-on to get acquainted with anyone), so the full RPG experience is definitely sitting there waiting to be exploited. Familiarity returns in the form of VATS, perks, buffs, acquired knowledge (books, etc) and more. It's Fallout as we know and love it, just perhaps with a bit more love than we remember.
Freeside also offered me up a large number of quests to play with, and each of these seemed to have an adverse effect on how the town itself ran. I rounded up specialist prostitutes for a house of the night (someone out there has a 'thing' for ghouls dressed as cowboys - I kid you not), forged fake passports for access to 'The Strip' and even went on the hunt for a Sexbot. There's no denying that while Fallout 3 was a mature game to the nines, New Vegas will ensure that "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas", and that's more than okay with us.
So after almost two hours with a game I'm clearly going to reap 100+ hours out of, I can honestly say this isn't just Fallout 3 expanded, it's the Fallout world in a new light, ready to experienced anew once again. There's no element of "expansion" here - it's the real deal, a game all of its own, and from my short time with it, maybe even the best of the series yet.
Stay tuned for a full interview direct from QuakeCon shortly.