This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Obsidian Games and Bethesda's post-apocalyptic adventure game Fallout: New Vegas, which reviews describe as "effortlessly, shamelessly entertaining." New Vegas currently earns a score of 84 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.
Eurogamer's Dan Whitehead scores New Vegas at 9 out of 10. "New Vegas may jump across America for its setting, and forward several years in the timeline, but it's a seamless continuation of what Bethesda set in motion in 2008 with Fallout 3," he explains.
"And you can put aside any concerns regarding the decision to hand over to Obsidian for development duties on this spin-off; while the studio stumbled with its fun-but-flawed espionage RPG, Alpha Protocol, there are enough former Black Isle people still roaming its halls to make New Vegas feel authentic, right down to the last detail."
"In fact, those who felt Fallout 3 deviated too far from the series' role-playing roots may even find they nod appreciatively at some of the deeper elements New Vegas reintroduces."
The storyline follows up on Fallout 3, taking place several years afterward. "This isn't the barren, blasted wasteland of Washington DC from the previous game," Whitehead says.
"There's plant life, some of it edible. There's a semblance of order, thanks to the soldiers of the New California Republic. Even the quaint bottle-cap currency has become slightly more official, vying for economic dominance with the banknotes of the NCR."
Whitehead highlights several key changes to New Vegas' gameplay. "Obsidian has reintroduced more RPG features, such as crafting," he writes. "You can still create some explosive devices at workbenches, but mostly you'll be putting together your own stimpacks and medical supplies. Camp fires allow you to take the raw ingredients found around the place and turn them into nutritious, stat-boosting meals, while you can even salvage, recycle and repack your ammo supply."
In addition: "You need to eat, drink and sleep: hunger, thirst and sleep deprivation will hinder, disorient and eventually kill you if you don't keep on top of them. Ammo has weight in Hardcore Mode, so you can't merrily stuff your pockets with every shell and bullet you find. Efficient inventory planning soon becomes a pressing requirement."
"Obsidian has created a totally compelling world and its frustrations pale into insignificance compared to the immersive, obsessive experience on offer," Whitehead praises. "Just like the scorched scenery that provides its epic backdrop, New Vegas is huge and sprawling, sometimes gaudy, even downright ugly at times – but always effortlessly, shamelessly entertaining."
Andrew Reiner at Game Informer rates New Vegas at 8.5 out of 10. "Although Obsidian Entertainment employs a number of Black Isle Studios refugees, Fallout: New Vegas is born of the same blueprint established by Bethesda Softworks," he notes. "The vision shared between these two creative teams is the same. As a result, Fallout: New Vegas shouldn't be viewed as a true successor or something new, but rather more Fallout 3. And that's not a bad designation to have."
New Vegas offers the same sort of branching narrative seen in previous Fallout titles. "The amount of interaction you have in this tale is the same as Fallout 3's, but many of the decisions you make come with severe consequences, much like the nuking of Megaton," Reiner explains. "If you agree to work for one of the factions in the world – be it Caesar's Legion, the New California Republic, the Brotherhood of Steel, the Great Khans, or a lovable robot named Yes Man – you may in turn close off missions offered by other factions.
Reiner finds that New Vegas offers an exceptional amount of content. "In just the missions and story, New Vegas offers a nearly unprecedented level of depth," he says. "When you throw in the weapon modifications, companion recruitment, and attribute sculpting for your character, it delivers a true sense of ownership over the experience and gives you thousands of reasons why you should come back and play it again and again."
"Now, the bad news. I was never once blown away by a single moment," Reiner admits. "Obsidian's writing is top notch (especially the dialogue), and I wanted to see more from most of the characters I met, but none of the scripted moments deliver the nuclear bang that Bethesda achieved. Nothing is on the same level as the black and white VR sequence or the communism-hating robot."
Glitches also hamper the experience. "Mid-battle a foe may suddenly plummet through the game world or get stuck on a rock, making for an easy kill," Reiner recalls. "The pathing for AI characters wandering the wastes often takes them into the side of buildings or parked vehicles. When enemies die, some of them will float a good five feet in the air. I even ran into a reoccurring bug where my gun wouldn't stop firing after a loading sequence. To top it off, I broke the last boss by hiding on a rock. He just stood there as I unloaded 300 bullets into him."
"But even with bugs, glitches, and mundane moments, Fallout: New Vegas is great fun," Reiner assures. "Maybe Obsidian's lack of familiarity with Bethesda's technology resulted in New Vegas' plateau. Maybe Bethesda barked orders to make it identical to Fallout 3. In any case, gamers should expect more of the same from this follow-up. If Fallout 3 holds a place among your top 10 games of this generation like it does for me, another rewarding 200-plus hours of survival awaits you."
Giant Bomb's Jeff Gerstmann gives New Vegas4 out of 5 stars. "It says a lot about the quality of Fallout: New Vegas' writing that, despite experiencing a list of incredibly annoying bugs that only got worse as I continued playing, I still think you should play it," he asserts. "When I reflect on the experience, I'll probably think about the times the game locked up on me or broke in a dozen other crazy ways first, before thinking about the great world and the objectives that fill it."
Gerstmann notes that technical problems were present throughout his time spent with the game. "Enemies clip into the ground with an alarming frequency, often making them impossible to shoot," he notes. "The game -- a retail disc running on a new-model Xbox 360 -- crashed on me about a dozen times over the 33 hours I spent playing, often taking a significant amount of progress with it. The load times and frame rate seemed to get randomly worse as I continued to play the game, with some simple scene transitions taking 20 seconds or more.
"The technical hurdles you'll have to make to stay interested in New Vegas are meaner and more frustrating than any Deathclaw or Nightkin you'll face in the game. If you're the type of person who likes to watch for a patch or two before settling into a game, know this now: you probably don't want to play Fallout: New Vegas right away."
"But if you can accept a partially broken game, Fallout: New Vegas is well-worth the trip," Gerstmann assures. "It also streamlines some of the rougher aspects of Fallout 3. Dealing with companions, for example, can be done via a wheel of options that pop up when you approach that companion and hit A. This way, you can access their inventory or tell them to heal up without having to work through a bunch of dialogue options first."
Other new features are less successful. "Unless you want to get married to a weapon and are willing to spend a significant amount of money keeping it in working order, weapon mods are a waste of time," Gerstmann writes. "The game also has a crafting system that lets you cook the animal meat you scavenge, reload bullets, concoct your own stimpacks, and so on. This might come down to how you want to play the game, but I didn't mess around with crafting very often and never ran low on supplies."
"It's not a surprise that Fallout: New Vegas sticks closely to Fallout 3's structure and style," Gerstmann concludes. "But if it weren't for the game's way-too-long list of technical issues, New Vegas would actually be better than its predecessor. Instead, it's a well-written game with so many issues that some of you might want to take a pass, at least until some of this nonsense gets fixed. Yet, for all its flaws, I'd consider taking a second run through it, if only to see how some of the game's finer points play out with different choices."