You could say a lot about this game. It’s fairly glitchy, but one of those games that rises above that, and it’s also a helluva lot bigger and bolder than Fallout 3. In fact, most of what can be said about Fallout New Vegas comes down to comparisons between it and its immediate predecessor.

The game world is three times bigger and very different. The Mojave Wasteland is a more civilized place, with many influential factions vying for control. That said, the area is on the brink of a major war. This does sound a bit like Fallout 3 but because of heavy player involvement, these elements are fare more tangible in Obsidian’s game. You can help or hinder an assortment of groups, towns, and factions or ignore them all in favor of just one. Someone has actually beat this game as a complete pacifist, using dialogue options to dance around thorny confrontations. This is a return to the old school of American PC RPG’s and the roots of the Fallout series.

Fallout 3 followed a decidedly linear core narrative. It had a pithy morality system, leveraging the only possible reason to replay the game besides missed content. Few choices in Fallout 3 are given to the players or impact the game world very much. New Vegas utterly trounces this and feels more like one of Bioware’s recent games in terms of player impact on the persistent world around them. The sheer breadth of choices, factions, and content in New Vegas makes it the most exhaustively replayable game since Dragon Age: Origins and that is daunting almost as much as it is laudable if only because each playthrough of it is probably going to take more than 50 hours. Mine took 70 and I’m not slow. I also completely ignored minor content and one major faction except as an enemy.

Aside from the setting itself, New Vegas also adds in hundreds of new items, weapons, a robust (if ignorable) crafting system. The other major mechanics change is that VATS is no longer as necessary (or cheaply powerful) as it was, and weapons now have natural ironsight aiming to offset the smaller emphasis on VATS. There are new and altered perks, as well as a return to the optional Traits of earlier Fallout games. And then there’s Hardcore mode, which is a novelty more than anything, but really adds to the immersion. In Hardcore, you must eat and sleep and drink water or receive negative effects. This accrues too slowly to be more than a minor annoyance. It’s the fact that bullets add weight and that companions, a major element of the game, stay dead if they are shot down, that really make Hardcore Mode worthwhile.

Overall, Fallout New Vegas is a flawed masterpiece that people should be playing. With patch support even on the 360, the many technical issues are mostly being ironed out. Just be prepared to devote a lot of time to this one.

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