Review: Fallout: New Vegas

War never changes. Those same words that fans heard at the beginning of previous Fallout titles echo through the introduction of Fallout New Vegas as well. Not only does that saying provide excellent commentary to the nature of mankind, but also to the nature of Fallout New Vegas. That is, not much has changed since Fallout 3. While all of the spectacular visual and gameplay based elements remain from the previous title in the franchise, it is, in fact, a double-edged sword.

The game takes place in a different location altogether, but it certainly has that trademark Fallout feel to it. The world looks desolate; scoured by nuclear war and all but conquered by gang members. Without a doubt, this trademark is the defining aspect of the franchise, so while it might feel repetitive and taken from previous iterations, the Fallout franchise knows how to create a mood better than any other series out there.

With the environment really being the biggest difference between this title and Fallout 3, it really means that the environment in Fallout: New Vegas needs to step it up a lot in order to differentiate itself from that of its critically acclaimed older brother. As far as the environment is concerned, the setting can be hit or miss. At times, it can feel like you're playing an apocalyptic version of Red Dead Redemption, since much of the game's setting takes place in the desert, but other times, such as when you go through towns and such, you'll see the life that helped make Fallout 3 not seem as empty as you thought at first glance.

Unfortunately, these interactions are more spaced out than in Fallout 3, so you can go a long time without talking to anyone if you so choose. Once you do meet up with individuals, however, the title uses the same style of conversation trees found in Fallout 3. Most of the time this method works, though sometimes glitches will occur and certain options will not be selectable. We'll get into the glitches of this title later on, however.

One of the huge disadvantages this game has when compared to Fallout 3 is that you aren't provided with as much back story for your character when you are cast into the role. In Fallout 3, you literally controlled your character from birth. You learned about what a big deal leaving the vault was, you learned about how important your device, the Pip-Boy, was, but most importantly, you learned to be emotionally invested in your character.

In Fallout: New Vegas, you start out as an adult that is left for dead in a shallow grave. While the introduction to New Vegas is much more cinematic than the introduction to Fallout 3, it takes much longer to feel that same connection to your character, if you ever achieve that connection at all. While we didn't expect Bethesda or Obsidian to take the same route of Fallout 3 and recycle it for New Vegas, it is certainly worth pointing out.

Another theme that has been migrated over from Fallout 3 is exploration. This game, and this franchise really, is almost 100% about exploration. There is little linearity in the title, unless you are trying to simply play through the story mode, at which point, you will experience the expected linear plotlines. What is great about this title is that, like its predecessor, Fallout New Vegas allows the player to complete side missions in any order. If you want to take your level 1 character with terrible weapons out into the area that has Deathclaw, the most fearsome enemy in the wild, colonies and take them on, you have that option. We can tell you from experience that this is a bad idea, but if you feel so inclined, go take on the Deathclaw Alpha Male with your handgun.

While often times we feel that open-world games really tend to give you a false sense of freedom to make the game seem longer, in special games, like the Fallout, Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption franchises, open-world sandbox type of design is perfected to the point that you will enjoy your exploration of the known world more than you will enjoy the story itself. This is why we can't encourage you enough to try to explore every nook and cranny in this title. Just like in Fallout 3, there are some serious "WTF" moments that will make you either laugh or groan audibly.

The gameplay is still the same style as the previous title. You can choose to play as third or first person perspective, but we prefer first person. In the third person mode, the game has always felt a little clunky to us. With first person, the gunplay is not nearly as accurate as it is in shooters like Halo or Call of Duty, but it is easier than when in third person. If you still don't like the aiming mechanics, you can utilize the V.A.T.S. system, which will calculate your chances of hitting the specific part of the target by factoring in several variables, such as distance, the character's proficiency with his/her current weapon, accuracy of the current weapon, angle of the targeted area, and even the size of the targeted area. All of these factors will give you a percent of how likely you are to hit the area before actually pulling the trigger, so if you want to go for the headshot, but you only have a 23% chance of hitting the head, you might want to aim for the leg or chest if those areas have a higher percentage.

In addition to the missions and exploration, players can also participate in side games that includes utilizing the various features found in the casinos, such as Blackjack and Caravan, which can net you serious money, or end your run at riches, just as they can in real life.

Fallout: New Vegas is certainly a large enough title to warrant being a standalone retail game, rather than DLC for Fallout 3, but the features might not quite back that up. The game is built on the exact same engine that was used for Fallout 3, so the differences are fairly negligible when it comes to the core experience. There are a few new features, such as being able to recruit multiple companions to assist you with a mission, rather than just the one that you could recruit in Fallout 3, but other than that, the features list doesn't really impress all that much.

The only major issue with Fallout: New Vegas is really the amount of glitches found in the title. While it's true that most of the glitches are minor and not game breaking, we've heard reports of players defeating the final boss by having him stuck behind a rock, as well as reports of players being unable to load saved games. Even the non-game breaking glitches have the potential to ruin the experience for one reason: immersive-ness.

The title really builds upon the notion that the game has a setting that the player will be able to find themselves completely immersed in. While this works most of the time, when you see an enemy run into the corner and stand facing that corner while you unload on him with a revolver, it kind of takes you out of the experience. Issues with not being able to advance in the title or being able to skip over missions altogether due to the conversation options being glitched have also been reported. Luckily, Bethesda has released one patch already and is working on another that will hit "soon".

Fallout: New Vegas is directed at those fans that played through Fallout 3 and couldn't get enough of the story arc. The title will definitely please those fans, but may leave many disappointed. With its spectacularly open environment, players could play the title for hours without ever completing a main mission. While everything good about Fallout 3 was migrated over, everything bad, like glitches and sometimes poorly structured missions, were as well. Fallout: New Vegas doesn't live up to the lofty expectations set forth by its predecessor, Fallout 3, but it is definitely a worthy title for those looking to dive back into the post-apocalyptic United States.