I’ve been let down by a couple of games recently due to bugs. We borrowed Fable 3 from a friend, and I just could not get into it the way I could Fable 2. I’m going to give it another go soon and try to play it, hoping that it gets better after the first 5 hours or so, but I’m not a big fan. My son however, loved Fable 2 and 3 (though he enjoyed 2 a lot more). Problem is, he had a game-killing bug in Fable 3 that does not allow his character to move from the spot he’s in now. It’s fully patched and updated, but he put at least 20 hours into the game, and now it’s basically flushed, so he’s upset.
Why am I telling that story? Because like Fable 3, Fallout: New Vegas was horribly bug-riddled when it first came out. Obsidian did a decent job of fixing some of the bugs, but it still has some technical issues and I managed upon a bug that broke the game’s main storyline for me as well. After doing research on several forums, I’m not alone in this – my options are:
1) start over
2) load a save before that event that broke my play through (which would take me back about 6 1/2 hours)
3) or give up on it.
I chose #3. I borrowed the game from a friend at work and let him have it back today. These two events really frustrated me, as both were franchises I have been very fond of in the past, and felt like both of them let me (or my son) down in their current states. But, I did log over 30 hours of game time into Fallout: New Vegas, so I’m going to share my impressions of it – the good and the bad.
In previous Fallout games, you were someone who lived in a vault and for one reason or another, came to the surface to see a world after nuclear fallout changed everything about it. There’s mutants, destruction and violence as far as the eye can see. Places of beauty and safety are few and far between. It’s an action/rpg hybrid, with first and 3rd person views. You gain experience and levels, and there’s a lot of customization in how your character develops. There are a good number of conversational options as well. Combat is mostly real-time. Mostly because New Vegas kept the VATS system (sort of a pause-and-select system where you target specific parts of an opponent in exchange for slowly regenerating action points) that Fallout 3 introduced. I’ll come out and say Fallout 3 was easily one of my favorite games when it came out. I had played the original Fallout on my computer, and while some of the themes are pretty similar, the games are nothing alike. I bought all of the expansions for Fallout 3 – something I almost never bother with. So it’s safe to say expectations were high for Fallout: New Vegas.
Graphics – 7:
The engine looked a lot better when Fallout 3 released a couple of years ago. There really is not much improvement in the overall graphics, I the framerate was stuttering far too often for a game that just does not feel like a graphical powerhouse. The human characters look stiff and awkward moving, and their expressions are okay, but far from great. The actual world looks pretty cool at times, and I’ve always been a sucker for post-apocalyptic themes in games and movies, so that helps. Be prepared though – the color schemes are generally pretty bland, though it’s an intentional choice that fits the theme of the game.
Sound & Music – 8:
There’s really very little music to be had, which works for this game. There’s often a sense of lonely isolation as you traverse the wastelands. You do have a radio that can be used to pick up specific radio stations if you get within range, and while they add a bit of flavor to the proceedings, they grow repetitive over the course of this large game.
Sound effects are pretty solid across the board. You can hear gunshots in the distance, the sounds of mutant creatures approaching you from behind and even the weapons have a fair amount of variety to how they sound when firing off. Additionally the voice acting is very good, and that is a blessing since so much of the game and its narrative is told through conversation with other NPC’s in the game.
Gameplay – 7:
The game plays a lot like Fallout 3, which is a good thing. Character progression is handled well, the VATS system is fun (I like going for headshots) and there is a ton of gear to collect, modify, repair and sell. There are a lot of side missions as well, and these are generally pretty interesting and fit into the overall world nicely. They also added the ability to look down sites in this game (Fallout 3 lacked this) and that helps the combat out quite a bit. Companions are handled a bit better as well overall, than in Fallout 3, with a bit more control over them and the ability to converse with them. Some technical problems do hold the game back though on this front. There are a lot of pause times as you walk around the environment – a lot of them. Sometimes as often as every 30-60 seconds. They’re short pauses, a half second or so – but enough to become very annoying. I’ve heard that on the 360 it is very bad, but that installing the entire game to your hard drive fixes it. I consider that a horrible solution – I have less than 3 gbs of space on my hard drive, I shouldn’t have to dump an entire game onto it just to make it run smoothly. Also, I’m on the PS3 with my version, and did the install, and the problem never went away for me.
Intangibles – 2:
I’m killing the game on this one. When it released, it had an absolute boat load of bugs. It was borderline unplayable in certain places. Obsidian released patches and it got better, but I wound up in a state where I can no longer finish the game. At one point you have to recover something from someone – and you can do it a few different ways. I went with the guns-blazing route, and got that item (I’m trying not to spoil any storyline here). Quite some time later, after doing a bunch of side quests and investing 6-7 hours more into the game, I decided to get back ‘on track’ with the main storyline. I returned the item to the owner, and he instructed me to go use the item to unlock something and progress the storyline. Problem is, he didn’t return me the item in question. I looked it up online, thinking maybe I had missed something, but it’s happened to a ton of other people too. You cannot complete the primary storyline at this point – I spent at least another hour trying to, and could not advance it. Even if they patched the game now, it would not help my situation I’m sure.
Let me be fair and say these games are huge in scale. There are so many side quests, so many variables and so many things you can do. But I’ve also helped design games. If you break a core mechanic or storyline partway through, and people cannot complete the game and have no recourse to get around the issue, it’s a deal-breaker for me. There’s really no other way for me to look at it.
There are still gobs of other issues as well I’ve seen. Your companions frequently get lost or stuck, and you wind up having to go back to find them. One quest, I was told to go talk to a group of people and they would forgive me for my past transgressions. It was an integral part of the storyline. I went to them as instructed, and they began firing on me at will. I found several hugely exploitable bugs too, like one faction’s camp – if you kill everyone, gather what you need, leave and sell it all – you can come back and re-loot their bodies again. And you can do that to your heart’s content.
Load times are another annoyance for me. The constant pause/skip issue was bad, but there’s a load scene every time you enter or exit a building, or use fast travel. You do those things a lot. Sometimes you get them while moving around in the building from one floor to the next. I realize there are a lot of things the game keeps track of, but it just seemed like a lot.
Also the game was freezing for me somewhat regularly – as in locking up my PS3 and forcing me to cycle down the power by holding down the power button. It did not happen a ton – maybe every hour, but enough that it was really annoying. I looked around online and checked with my buddy I borrowed it from, and they had seen all of these issues too.
It’s a shame really, because there is a very good game in here (though the storyline was not nearly as interesting to me as Fallout 3’s was), but it’s lost among so much technical debt that it started to become a bit more of a chore to play. There were improvements made to the successful Fallout 3 formula, and while Fallout 3 was not without issues, they were never quite as glaring to me as this. Then when the storyline came to a premature end to the game were lost to me due to another bug, Fallout: New Vegas just did me in. I know a lot of other people have rated the game well, and plenty of others have finished the game. I can’t rate their experiences though, only mine – and mine was very disappointing in the end.