The amount of times I climb a hill, turn a corner, and I’m confronted by some huge valley or mountain range on Fallout: New Vegas is frankly ridiculous. The best part of Fallout 3 was when you left the vault for the first time. You’re on this ridge, and when your eyes adjust to the sunlight you can see this vast, lonely wasteland.
Except it’s not that lonely, it’s fucking annoying and every five seconds you’re attacked by some generic raider, a crazy robot, or a couple of wild dildos.
The only thing I liked about Fallout 3 was the feel of the wasteland, when no one was around. It evokes an overwhelming loneliness, which can be affecting, but by having hostiles randomly strewn throughout the world it, like a premature ejaculation, ruined entirely the atmosphere it had going on.
New Vegas doesn’t make the same mistake. In this game it’s rare to encounter animals wandering aimlessly in the desert. Humans tend to gather around camps. Scorpions pick around the ruins of a gas station, ants have colonised an old barn. Shit like that makes it feel like the world of New Vegas is a living one.
However, the openness of New Vegas means there is often very little tension in your travels. There are moments, for example your initial approach to the Strip, where the environment works particularly well, but at other times journeying around can be tedious, and I find myself leaping from rock to rock, perilously trying to descend a radioactive cliff face to get somewhere ten seconds faster. It more or less depends on my mood how I feel about this. If you're feeling sort of ponderous, it's kind of cool, trudging through the desert. But, man, it’s almost always great when you turn a corner and there’s this freaky forest, or a massive lake that appears out of nowhere. I am in awe a little bit of those things when I see them.
New Vegas is also like a better version of Red Dead Redemption. I liked that game, but not because of any kind of message it tried to tell me. It felt like it was trying to make this point about revolution, the rise to power, the impact of which was lost because even though it is an open world game, you’re basically following a script, killing certain people at the times you’re told to.
New Vegas deals with that. In Fallout 3 you couldn’t kill certain characters, because it would mess up quests. New Vegas doesn’t give a fuck. Normally, you kill a character, it affects your standing, and what quests are available, with a faction. Different NPCs belong to different factions and all your actions affect how they see you, a bit like when you make one Sim kill another in The Sims and those red minus signs appear above their girlfriends head. I mean what did you do in The Sims?
This system increases the level of interactivity in the game, making it unique from, say, a film, and thousands of other games, and making it feel like your actions and decisions have actual resonance in a world that could feasibly exist (sort of). I didn’t hate Red Dead, I thought it was a good game. It’s just a lot of things you’d do in that didn’t seem to affect anything at all, even though the events themselves seemed like they were meant to have significance.
For a world to feel lived in, in games, the characters need to feel real. Mass Effect 2 is a good example of a game that does this really well, as is New Vegas. You get a feel for various characters through quests that don’t involve combat, where you sometimes have to deduce things, or you can talk your way out of a potential conflict. It is a subtlety missing from most games.
One character you meet, when you ask about her goals, wants a dress. She’s also some kind of technical whiz, and she probably just punched the head off a guy, but when you talk to her she feels like a real person, not just a single purpose tool, and is captivating as a result. Conversations with characters have actually made me laugh because they contain actual jokes.
Dungeons are absent from this game, by which I mean the shit dungeons from Fallout 3 are gone. I stopped giving the tiniest bit of a fuck about dungeons in Fallout 3 after my second dungeon. Here’s what would happen: I’d find a dungeon, go inside, discover the interior of every single building had been designed by the same architect, explore the whole thing, find nothing of any consequence, grab some stimpaks and bottle caps and call it a day. It was like trying to jerk off and abandoning it half way through. And you’re masturbating over a picture of some rusty tins.
In New Vegas the buildings, vaults and things you can enter in the wasteland relate to various quests. It feels like they were built, like buildings in real life, for an actual reason, and they’re worth exploring to discover another angle to a quest, or the world.
Without Fallout 3 we wouldn’t have New Vegas, probably. That is the closest Fallout 3 will ever get to being worthwhile. I don’t know why Gamespot thinks Fallout 3 is better. They probably got erections from reading the words rusty and tins.