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Fallout: New Vegas Gamescom 2010 Hands-On Preview

The reinvention of the Fallout franchise by Bethesda Softworks in 2008 breathed fresh new life into arguably the most memorable post-apocalyptic game series of all time. Following its release with a series of carefully crafted DLC packs only further cemented Fallout's place as one of the biggest role-playing games of the current generation. While the announcement of a sequel was not particularly surprising, the news that it would be taken on by the remnants of the original Fallout development team was something of a shock. GameOn were lucky enough to be given free reign with the title for an hour this week at gamescom where we settled down to some hardcore wasteland survival. This preview features descriptions of the opening of the game and its first quests, so be prepared for some minor spoilers.

Fallout New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas relocates the setting from the scorched, desolate expanse of The Capital Wasteland to the slightly different (read: less grey) scorched, desolate expanse of land around the city of Las Vegas. The gambling capital of the pre-war world managed to escape the worst of the bombing, leaving it as an eerie reminder of a long-gone era. However, while the city itself remained largely untouched by The Great War, the surrounding landscape still contains its fair share of mutants and psychopathic bandits.

 

The game opens with an overview of New Vegas and its surroundings which are being fought over by a number of different factions. The two principle groups battling for control are the forces of The New California Republic (NCR) and those from Caesar's Legion. During the game your actions and decisions from quests will influence how different factions act towards you and how your character is perceived in the different settlements. Hopefully juggling the different factions will be a meaningful and significant element especially given the developer's experience working on Fallout 2.

Fallout New Vegas

After this brief introduction to your environment, you're thrown straight in at the deep end as you find yourself restrained in the middle of the desert. Before you can get your bearings you're promptly shot in the head by a mysterious, suit-wearing individual. Fortunately the game doesn't end there and you're found and subsequently nursed back to health by a kindly doctor. Here you are free to choose your character's sex, appearance and gender alongside your three main skills which you can tag and raise by 15 points. From this point on, you are free to go and are let loose in the wasteland, which is similar in size to the game world of Fallout 3. All you remember is that you are a courier and the package you were meant to deliver has been stolen by the man who put a bullet in your skull.

Fallout New Vegas

Before choosing to follow the main story it is worth talking to the residents of the backwater town you find yourself stuck in. Many provide you with details about the surrounding landscape, the enemies that you'll face and information not to venture too far until your well equipped and more experienced. Talking to someone in the settlement's main shop yielded directions to a nearby town that hadn't been heard from for some time. Choosing to head over and investigate allowed me to test out some of Fallout: New Vegas' weapons and features.

Fallout New Vegas

Combat works in the same way as the previous title, allowing you to either attack in real time or pause the game and take advantage of VATS. The latter is as gory and satisfying as ever, with a single barrelled shotgun brutally dispatching the enemies unfortunate enough to stand in its way. It seems that the cinematic kill-camera from VATS is now triggered from any kill, rather than those done exclusively in the paused targeting mode. While it was unclear whether this would remain in the final version, it could potentially become frustrating if it is initiated for every single kill. While many of the weapons in Fallout: New Vegas were brand new, several of the weapons felt like re-skinned versions of Fallout 3 guns, but Obsidian Entertainment have promised that there will be a wide selection available.

Fallout New Vegas

Initially, it was hard to see what was different from Fallout: New Vegas' predecessor, with very similar graphics, weapons and a virtually identical inventory and menu system accessed through your PIP-Boy 3000. However, most of the new additions are more subtle such as the inclusion of new work benches which now have extra roles. In Fallout 3 these benches were used to construct custom weapons using schematics (which will return, though in smaller numbers). New Vegas introduces weapon benches which are used to create custom ammunition types and to modify and improve your existing firearms. Various different parts can be found on bodies and in containers throughout the wasteland which can improve the damage and abilities of each gun. Additionally medical benches can be used to create various chemicals to temporarily increase your stats, damage output and your action points for use in VATS.

Fallout New Vegas

Other small, but useful, new features are the inclusion of magazines which are similar to the skill books from both Fallout 3 and Oblivion. Instead of providing a permanent increase these act in a similar manner to Jet, Psycho and Buffout, giving a temporary boost to one of your skills. During the playthrough, these came in very useful with a Travelling Salesman magazine allowing me to raise my Speech skill and convince someone to give me some information much more readily. Oblivion Entertainment were also keen to emphasise the improvements they've made to followers, implementing a radial wheel which allows you to actively select what you want your companion to do.

Fallout New Vegas

However, the most prominent new feature to be included in Fallout: New Vegas is the inclusion of an optional "Hardcore Mode", which can be activated from the beginning of the game or via the options menu. This option will increase the difficulty significantly by making the experience more realistic, forcing the player to eat, drink and sleep regularly. Alongside this ammunition will no longer be weightless and medical supplies will be more difficult to use without appropriate skills and perks. Completing the game in this mode will yield special rewards, according to the game menu, though whether this is an achievement or something more substantial remains to be seen. The inclusion of this mode should provide much more of a challenge for fans of the series and should provide an interesting alternative to a standard playthrough.

Fallout: New Vegas certainly looks to have stuck very closely to the template laid out by Fallout 3. While there are some notable new additions, it remains to be seen whether or not fans will feel that Obsidian Entertainment have perhaps played it a little bit too safe. However, the brand new location and an expansive wilderness to explore will certainly provide plenty to keep fans occupied. A lot will certainly rest on the quality of the story and how it is told, but with a strong voice cast recently announced hopefully it will be an involving and complex journey. With the release date set for October 22nd on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 we won't have long to wait before we return to that scorched, desolate wasteland. Make sure to pack plenty of stimpacks, 5.56mm ammunition and your favourite assault cannon: you'll probably need them.

evilgiraffeman | 22nd August, 2010

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