We got some hands-on time with Fallout New Vegas, as each of us applied our respective talents to various aspects of the game: Jordan did the talking, Derek did the looting, and I smacked a dude with a five-iron. Obsidian’s Chris Avellone was on hand to answer questions about things we didn’t have time to test.
A preset save point started us on the Vegas strip, as Jordan poked around and talked shop with the locals. Unlike the Capitol Wasteland, it seems not every source of water in Vegas is irradiated. Jordan took the liberty of splashing around in a fountain before moving on to a casino, where he was accosted by a well-dressed fellow. He advised us that casinos frowned on taking weapons into them; a not unreasonable stance, though impractical for RPG heroes. Through the door, we had the option of shooting past the bouncer, turning all our weapons in, or sneaking certain weapons by while giving up the rest.
During the conversation, certain options were tagged with skills, indicating the player’s abilities would open up new lines. In this case, having a high sneak skill meant Dapper Dan would sell us special equipment we could sneak by the door. While not a new feature per se, it appears this will be more prevalent throughout New Vegas. Jordan went on to play a few rounds of blackjack, earning a small amount of cash before we moved on to a combat demo.
In the next segment, I took control as part of a planned assault by the New California Republic. They were conducting a raid on a position held by Caesar’s Legion – goons in Roman legionnaire getup likely inspired by Caesar’s Palace – and wanted me to direct the attack. For demonstration purposes my character was kitted out with a substantial selection of weapons. I opted for the trusty lever-action rifle and led the charge, though at the urging of my companions I switched to a golf club and tried out the new VATS melee attack; for the club, it was aptly named as ‘Fore!’
A good swing knocked the legionnaire down, and my character immediately followed up with two proper golf swings to the body. Suffice it to say he wasn’t getting up anytime soon. During combat, we saw notifications atop the screen of faction reputation adjustments. Since us and the NCR guys were making short work of Caesar’s men, our rep with that faction was going down. Fallout 3 veterans may recall the always-hostile raiders; it appears groups here won’t immediately hate you.
At this point I passed the controller to Derek, our stalwart post-apocalyptic janitor, and got the chance to ask Mr. Avellone a few questions. He confirmed that armor wasn’t just about damage resistance this time, that players could deck themselves out in an enemy uniform and bypass the grunts of a hostile faction. Certain enemies, particularly dogs and officers in that faction, would not be fooled and might detect you if you get too close. This makes stealth a more viable path beyond simply hitting a toggle and staying out of sight, and it was stressed that stealth, action, and dialog will all be viable means of problem-solving.
As Derek cleaned house in a Legion camp, Avellone discussed the vast differences between programming options in Fallout 2 and Fallout 3. Any game with NPC interaction becomes all the more complicated when a player is allowed to lie to someone – to say one thing and then do another – and an open world means town and faction allegiances can factor into play at any time. It was confirmed that New Vegas takes place four years after Fallout 3, and obviously it draws its background from the second game (particularly regarding the NCR). However, Vegas is to be a stand-alone story with no direct ties or references to events in other games.
Out of curiosity, I asked if the game bore any ties to Wasteland, Fallout‘s spiritual predecessor which also centered around Las Vegas; Avellone replied that he was not aware of any, at least none that didn’t apply to the Fallout universe in general (post-nuclear theme, multiple options for puzzles, etc.) When asked about downloadable content, Avellone could not comment, leaving the question essentially open. He did confirm, however, that the game ended after clearing the main questline, and that the game would warn players when they approached the point of no return.
In spite of a bullet from an anti-material rifle bouncing harmlessly off a tree branch – a VATS glitch familiar to Fallout 3 veterans – New Vegas boasted noticeable improvements on the Fallout 3 engine. In particular, animation appeared smoother and crisper, and the game appeared to handle large numbers of NPCs more easily; the NCR-Legion battle featured a good eight or so NCR rangers assaulting multiple Legion defenders. Whether this is a one-off scripted event or more common throughout the game is not clear, though the Vegas strip was also well populated.
It’s been a long time since the people behind Fallout and Fallout 2 got another turn at bat, and it’s a safe bet anyone who played and enjoyed Fallout 3 is already chomping at the bit for New Vegas. Our impression, as far as this humble Vault Dweller is concerned, only solidified this opinion.