IRRESISTIBLE You can't take a step without stumbling upon some intriguing cave, bombed-out building, or rusted vault.
You have to wonder why anybody bothers buying new games these days. When Fallout: New Vegas was released in October 2010, sure, it was a sprawling, thematically rich role-playing game that promised dozens of hours of play.
It was also a buggy mess.
As the months went by, developer Obsidian released the inevitable patches to fix some of the most egregious flaws in the code. They also doled out huge portions of downloadable content, at about 10 bucks a pop. All told, if you'd felt the need to be the first kid on your block to get all the latest Fallout schwag, you'd have been out a 100 bucks. With a little patience, though, you could have gotten the all-inclusive Ultimate Edition for half the price.
Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition includes the gargantuan main game, all four of the downloadable mission packs, and two sets of bonus weapons and armor previously available as paid downloads. Even at the original price point, this is a lot of gaming bang for your buck, but at $50 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and $40 on PC, it starts to feel like you're getting away with something.
Set in the American southwest sometime after a nuclear apocalypse has wiped out most of humanity, New Vegas shows a world in the process of rebuilding. Mutated freaks stalk the desert, and radiation has rendered swaths of lands inhabitable, but civilization is making a comeback — which means, inevitably, that so is war. Several factions are vying for control of the Hoover Dam and the hydroelectric power it offers. As the player shuttles back and forth between warring tribes, each offers a compelling argument for its continued survival. What distinguishes New Vegas from other games of its ilk isn't how fantastical this all sounds, but how plausible.
Of course, the moment-to-moment play is not about the larger storyline at all, but about the smaller narratives that dot the world map. You can't take a step without stumbling upon some intriguing cave, bombed-out building, or rusting vault. Each one promises its own mini-quest, not to mention loot galore. You never know what you're going to find. The lure is irresistible. Even when your primary quest objective sounds urgent, it is impossible not to get sidetracked.
The downloadable content packs are more focused and self-contained and, as such, a bit more narratively cohesive. The highlight is the nightmarish Dead Money, a trip to a resort casino in the bowels of hell. Like the infamous Dungeons and Dragons module "Tomb of Horrors," Dead Money seems designed primarily to screw with players who have gotten too comfortable. In it, your character is fitted with an explosive collar, whose shoddy design is susceptible to interference from radio waves. The remainder— Honest Hearts, Old World Blues, and Lonesome Road — flesh out the mythology of the Mojave wasteland.
The sheer amount of content in New Vegas is staggering. More staggering is how diverse and thoughtfully constructed it all is. Yes, you'll explore your share of drab metal corridors, but you'll also meet heartsick lovers, delusional heroes, and megalomaniacs. You'll complete quests that are funny, tragic, and morally confounding. This is a world so full of life, it's a shame everyone seems intent on blowing it up again. ^
Be a specialist. Max out one or two skills; don't spread your skill points around.