"Are you familiar with Fallout?" asks my preview guide at the Bethesda booth. "I logged over 150 hours with Fallout 3," I tell her with a wry smile thinking to myself "now leave me be to explore the demo as I see fit."
Thankfully she doesn't go anywhere, and guides me through the main changes between Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. It's definitely familiar territory but Fallout isn't a game you can really get to grips with in a quick five or 10 minute play session, and the demo Obsidian and Bethesda have put together for us at E3 has been designed with that play-time in mind, and with some E3-specific examples of new gameplay additions. So her presence, while emasculating to my Fallout prowess, was both warranted and welcome.
So the big changes. Fallout: New Vegas is obviously set on the West Coast, and more specifically, Las Vegas, Nevada. It's sunnier out here, with desert stretching as far as the eye can see. Life has blossomed here though, even more so than in Fallout 3 with a full casino-built town replete with pretty, flashing lights, scantily clad ladies and lots and lots of gambling. I'm told there are actually three types of currency in New Vegas, doing away with singular Caps as the main bread and butter, and much of this has to do with the casinos and who's specifically running them. Actually, this is a grounding factor in differentiating the two games - NPC factions.
We talk a little about this in my interview with Obsidian's Larry Liberty (yep, that's his real name), but instead of playing to a karma system (which does still exist), the game employs you to invest time in working with factions, of which there are varying types throughout, and how you are perceived with each of them remains largely up to actions you take against or for them.
It's a robust set of mechanics that dynamically shift your weight between each faction, and you can pretty much play them all off against each other, Clint Eastwood's The Man With No Name style, but you will have to manage your stance carefully, as word still spreads throughout the game-world regarding your actions. The new character tag-alongs will also affect how you work and interact with factions as each of them carries their own backstory and may or may not be affiliated, in some way, shape or form, with a faction. It's a precarious system, and one I'm told will have farther reaching end-game consequences based on how you play them out. As with Fallout 3, you'll wind up locking certain quests off from yourself for specific decisions and dynamic outcomes based on all of the above.
Of course, no fallout game would be complete with varying side dillydallies to play with, and in the case of having a virtual Vegas, gambling is offered aplenty. You'll be asked to give up any weapons you have upon entering any one of the casinos and there's a full "Vegas Strip" of gaming dens to play in, some slightly modelled off the real thing (there's New Vegas styled Stratosphere, for example). You can choose to buy weapons you can hide from your casino keepers too, such as switchblades and the like, which obviously opens up a bit of the underhandedness of what you could do in the first game, sitting as even more of a tantalising reason to play.
The casinos are all functional, with slot machines and various tables replete with roulette, craps, blackjack, poker and more. There's even a card game designed specifically for Fallout: New Vegas called Caravan I unfortunately never had the privilege of checking out, but I was told the game is played throughout the new game-world, and that your Luck would have an adverse affect on your ability to play any of these games which in turn affects your standing at the establishments - win too often and you're out on your arse.
Everything here has been built using the same engine as Fallout 3, so it all looks very familiar, though much brighter and even with a bit more vegetation thrown in. I asked about dynamic weather, as I felt that was something sorely lacking in the last game, but was met with an "I don't know" face and shrug. It would be great to see even a bit of rain (even though I know it barely rains in California, it would be good and we're spoilt by the likes of Red Dead Redemption and its incredible weather system - so it should be the norm for games where you'll be essentially 'living' a virtual life).
Weapons and control are all pretty much just as you remember: You have your PipBoy, VATS targeting and a variety of weapons to cater to your style of play. There are a host of new weapon types such as a Vega-like claw and a golf-club. You can also utilise new buffs for weapons, though I didn't really have much of a chance to check that out either.
Finally, I asked about DLC in both my hands-on and interview, to which I was met with a positive nod and agreement that Obsidian want to support the game post-release, and that they were currently "talking about it", but that's all that could be revealed at this stage.
So far it's all looking peachy for Fallout fans. A new location, a new character, a revamped buddy system and the new factions along with new weapons and casinos to boot - I can definitely see myself losing a retarded bunch of hours in New Vegas. It's not Fallout reinvented, but it's Fallout many of us love, and for now, that's good enough for me. Bring on October!
Stay tuned for our video interview coming soon.