Fallout: New Vegas PC Review
Charisma and speech skills have been given a bigger role to play too, which is especially gratifying considering how minor they were in Fallout 3. There's a greater variety of companions that you can recruit as followers, each of which brings a unique perk as long as they remain in your party. Unfortunately, the amount of control you can wield over NPC tactics is fairly minimal and the AI has a tendency to wander through your line of fire, but it's balanced out by overall combat effectiveness.
We just wish the animations were a bit better as, while graphics are always trumped by gameplay, there's no getting away from how dated and clunky New Vegas looks.
Where New Vegas starts to fall down is when it comes to actually creating a real cast of characters that you actually care about or which have any real personality. There are a few stand-out exceptions, such as the recruitable, recalcitrant sniper, Boone, but most are terribly transparent and obviously exist only to spout essential fetch quest information as economically as possible. The limited variety of dialogue options doesn't help either and, while it sounds like a small thing, the console-friendly interface which only displays three dialogue options at once is a factor in this too. It makes all conversations feel incredibly restrained.
The Tiger Woods perk lets you club bullets out of the air
In fact, pretty much all of the interface could be improved The Pipboy returns as your main hub for character management and it's frankly baffling to see that it hasn't been tweaked or updated at all, especially considering how incongruous it is rendered by the Vault-less opening scene. Likewise, while the new crafting and weapon modding systems are great expansions (provided you can stop weapons decaying long enough to improve them) there's only so much information we're willing to read via neon green text. This is why the first mods for both Oblivion and Fallout 3 focused on making the UI more tolerable for PC users.
Obsidian seems to have recognised that as it has introduced a new companion wheel interface for managing allies, but by making it a radial menu its ensured it's only an improvement for those playing with gamepads. Again, it's a relatively small issue, but over the course of such a massive game it really starts to grate.
Thankfully, there are lots of small improvements
too; special attacks unique to certain weapons, in-game challenges and a wider array of radio stations that you might actually want to listen to, for example. The addition of ironsights to all weapons, as well as greater support for stealth characters contributes a lot to the feel of the game even if the reality is that you use VATS mode in every fight. In fact, ironsights are only ever worth using if you're playing on a higher difficulty or in Hardcore mode, where every shot counts.
Hardcore mode is itself one of the new additions to Fallout: New Vegas too, and without a doubt also the best, as it fundamentally changes the way you play the game, rather than just upping the amount of damage you receive. In Hardcore mode you're forced to eat, drink and sleep regularly in order to survive, while many of the niceties of the game are dispensed with at the same time. Every bullet will count towards your inventory weight and crippled limbs, which occur more regularly, are harder to heal.
Boxing gloves? Badass.
Enabling Hardcore mode is just a single button press, but the effect it has is dramatic, almost making New Vegas closer to a survival game than a shooter and making things such as radiation and drug addiction, which are other mostly a non-issue, feel like a bigger part of the game. Even the ability to disguise yourself, which is of negligible use and more often than not involves you forgetting you're posing as an outlaw when you stroll into a Ranger base, becomes useful. Many of the new features are only really required on Hardcore mode in fact, giving the impression that it should be the default difficulty option.
What really makes Hardcore mode so important though is it complements the world as a whole, which flicks alternately – almost schizophrenically – between being brutal and deadly
or colourful and alive. Even the area itself expresses that mix, with the bleak Mojave desert contrasting brilliantly with the fully-functioning New Vegas strip where players can play cards. Much of the humour is derived from these contradictions – the futuristic cowboy robots in a world of such inhumanity is proof of that. Hardcore mode fits perfectly with that, bringing micromanagement to a game otherwise about epic scale and creating a breeding ground for those previously mentioned moments where Obsidian's vision shines through the limits of what they have to work with.
Unfortunately, while there are rays of light that manage to break through, the clouds still make up the majority if the view. Tonally and conceptually New Vegas feels like a return to form, but the tone isn't always consistent and the execution is sadly lacking, grounding New Vegas closer to Fallout 3 than the Fallout 4 it could have been.