Like many others, my first glimpse of the stark post-apocalyptic wasteland came courtesy of George Miller. Both 1982’s The Road Warrior (and its predecessor, 1979’s Mad Max) depicted a barbaric, junkyard-cobbled landscape were violence and looting were the norm. For a young viewer, the films reflected a contextualized recreation of the savage schoolyard, where bloodied noses and blackened eyes were the currency of the bullies in power. However- unlike reality, Miller’s films offered unlikely escapism where seemingly insurmountable foes and environments could be conquered without a trip to the vice-principal’s office.
With the advancement of technology, game developers have been able to create increasingly immersive simulations of Max’s nihilistic environment. From early attempts at creating a persistent world in 1988’s Wasteland to depicting crumbling three-dimensional topographies in 2008’s Fallout 3, each new post-nuclear title has inched toward the ambition of generating a seamless, fastidiously-detailed world for players to explore. Recent release Fallout New Vegas ups the ante on its predecessor by eliminating much of the moral artificiality, sharpening the game’s dialog, and adding a few Death Valley-deep nuances to engage players. It wouldn’t be exaggeration to say that Vegas is one of the most absorbing and exhaustively detailed role-playing games of the current hardware generation- the title’s scope even trumps it’s robust precursor. Yet, this carefully crafted sense of immersion can sporadically unravel when the game’s glitches sporadically emerge, not unlike the sputtering second act of Miller’s series finale- Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
Whereas Fallout 3‘s Enclave and Brotherhood of Steel factions presented an straightforward dichotomy, Vegas’ misguided peacekeepers- the New Californian Republic(NCR), and barbaric dissenters- Caesar’s Legion, are both sullied in their own ways. Not only does this modification increase the complexity of decision making, but it partially conceals the game’s future decisions and the trajectory of the story. Fortunately, your alliance with any of these, returning and new coalitions is displayed in-game. Oddly, the game’s stats belie this carefully crafted moral ambiguity- I took a karma hit whenever I killed an agent of the NCR.
Obsidian Entertainment’s time with Alpha Protocol appears to have paid dividends, as both side missions and dialog braches emerged (or disappeared) during separate playthroughs. Sadly, this flexibility does not carry over to the game’s perk and skill sets; at times, a mission’s completion begged for a specific level of scientific or lock-picking expertise. To circumnavigate these hurdles, Vegas’ brings back the magazines which act as temporary stat boosts. Although this mechanic elevates inventory management, it makes little sense outside the context of a game.
My previous expedition through the Capital Wasteland was disoriented by Fallout 3’s intricate side missions. As the nested subroutines of quests became perceptible to players, the game’s appeal became tarnished. Worse, the inertia driving me to complete the title’s meta-mission became exhausted by all the minutiae; I have to admit the game was shelved before completion. While New Vegas carries a similar amount of objectives, the ability to pursue the main objectives rarely becomes obscured despite the game’s alluring slot and blackjacks diversions. Players can even speculate on Caravan- the title’s own card-collecting mini-game. Although the Fallout franchise has been a typically morose affair, a healthy heaping of dark wit complements the game’s once swingin’ setting.
Despite Vegas‘ lofty aspirations, a number of blemishes are bound of dampen player’s excursion though the Mojave wasteland. Even with an installation to the 360’s harddrive, extended load times slowed the flow of the game. Specifically, intense gun battles which went from inside structures to exteriors were interrupted by a inconvenient interruption. Of less significance were the occasional graphical glitches: floating NPCs, flickering triangles, and a sputtering framerate near one of the towns. While none of these bugs breaks the game, when taken collectively they convey the sense of abbreviated QA testing.
Nevertheless, some players will be able to overlook Vegas‘ imperfections on account of its mesmerizing supplements. Hardcore mode’s masochistic simulation of bodily requirements is sure to spark a few cases of achievement envy. The game’s crafting system- which allows players to formulate their own sundries or ammo at campfires and workbenches opens up an additional layer of depth. Gamers with an inclination for pacifism will appreciate the title’s clothing system, which can allow cunning participants to slip past a faction undetected.
Players able to peer past Fallout New Vegas‘ visual hitches will find one of the most rewarding and intricate console experiences of the current generation. Like its predecessor, Vegas is more than a game- it’s a intricately detailed, mesmerizing world which manages to fit on a single DVD. With a patch or so, the title’s ambitions may be able to shine as bright as the iridescent glow emitted from the old strip itself.