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Fallout: New Vegas Review

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Apocalypse kapow

★★★★

For sci-fi swashbucklers who still get dewy-eyed over 2008’s majestic Fallout 3, this opportunity to step back into the series’ grim, post-apocalyptic landscape is an invitation too enticing to miss. But while New Vegas is an epic and genuinely engrossing adventure that hurls players into a world where there are countless chances to step off the beaten path and make your own fun, it’s mired by the same awkward bugs that plagued its predecessor, and doesn’t feel like a dramatic step forward for the series.

Offering the same delicate balance of action and role-playing as Fallout 3, New Vegas’ biggest change is its setting. Unlike the unpredictable, lawless wasteland of its forbear, the game is set in and around Las Vegas, a city which survived the nuclear onslaught that destroyed most of humanity and is steered by a governmental system that gives the neon-bathed streets a greater sense of realism and cohesion. Of course, the endless sprawl of Mojave Desert that surrounds the city is still a hive of scum and villainy like the original game’s Washington DC where you can flirt with the paths of good or evil, but nonetheless looks and feels different to Fallout 3 as the land can support scrawny plant life, which can be harvested to boost your health and welfare.

Like in the previous game, the intense joy of playing Fallout comes from a strong central story that drives the plot forward, but with hundreds of side-missions that allow players to explore the monumental game world and discover hidden treasures, creating a delirious sense of freedom that’s missing in most adventure games. And as the decisions you make along the way can have far-reaching effects – many of which come back to haunt you the most inopportune moments – playing New Vegas creates a sense that you’re having an experience uniquely your own, and that everyone who enters New Vegas will forge a completely different path to the one you’ve chosen.

But despite its ample charms, New Vegas falls short of the instant classic status so effortlessly achieved by Fallout 3. Like in the previous game, a sense of immersion is constantly shattered by comrades who need babysitting and lack the intelligence to follow you when a barrier gets in their way, gawky animations that are at odds with the imaginative landscapes, and loading times so long you’ll wonder if your console has crashed while accessing the next level. And while these issues are only minor annoyances that would be overlooked in many lesser games, they’re issues the developers had every opportunity to address as Fallout 3 fans were so vocal about their grudges on online forums, and which now taint an otherwise immaculate quest and make New Vegas feel like an add-on mission pack rather than a completely new game.