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Published: 12/15/2010

Game On: Fallout New Vegas * * * 1/2

Post-apocalyptic madness.

That's the best description of Fallout New Vegas from Bethesda Softworks.

Much like its predecessor Fallout 3, the game captures the feel of a nuclear aftermath.

Fear, helplessness, and desperation hang thick in the atmosphere and danger lurks.

The Nevada landscape, littered with the debris of a fallen age, offers a harsh and cruel setting as you carve your path through a wasteland of distrustful locals, bandits, rival security forces and mutant creatures straight out of the lakes of Chernobyl.

It's all of the fears of a modern age bottled up into one big worst-case-post-nuclear tonic.

The setting takes place just nine years after the events in Fallout 3 and roughly 200 years after the Great War that ended in disaster for the planet. The Mojave Wasteland, a territory including parts of California, Arizona, and Nevada is now a battleground to gain control over the Hoover Dam and Las Vegas, one of the cities that escaped physical devastation during the war and has since been rebuilt in a sort of Mafioso style playground called New Vegas.

Control New Vegas and the Hoover Dam and control the Mojave Wasteland.

Three main factions are in direct competition for control of the region. The NCR or New California Republic, first introduced in Fallout 2, is a sort of fledgling society with its own military and generally keeps the order in the area. The highways are safer for travelers because of NCR. Caesar's Legion is a Roman style organization whose rule is tyrannical and cruel.

Then there's Mr. House, the founder of New Vegas and someone who takes a mysterious interest in your welfare. Of course lesser threats such as gangs, bandits, crooks and mutants will hinder your progress along the way as well.

You start the game as a courier who has failed to deliver his package. You are kidnapped, robbed, shot and left for dead. By some mad miracle a rogue robot named Victor finds you and takes you to a doctor in a little town called Good Springs. This is the start of the game proper. The player gets to decide what type of Mad Max he wants to be. You build your character's strength, skill levels, intelligence levels, and even looks. The character you build will have an effect on how you are perceived by other people you encounter. That's the joy of a good role-playing-game, you can play it over and over getting a different experience every time.

The gameplay is essentially the same as Fallout 3. The PipBoy returns as the system with which you interact with your avatar, adjusting attire, using objects, eating, and drinking, etc. The Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System or VATS also makes a comeback, allowing you to target your enemies in stop motion and giving you an analytical breakdown of your chances of hitting the bad guy and even the percentages of each body part.

New to the game is the addition of a reputation. In New Vegas your reputation will play a big role in how others interact with you and there just isn't any way to please everyone. At some point your actions will give you a good reputation with one group only to garner serious ire from its opposing faction. You will have enemies, you can bet on that.

Visually the game is a gem to behold. The environments lend a great deal to the overall feel of desolation. Burned out vehicles, busted asphalt and sparsely populated ghost towns are all rendered with intensity and realism. The game isn't without its glitches however. Many times you will walk on top of objects that should require a bit of a jump. At other times you can't jump on a street curb or walk through shrubbery. But none of that takes too much away from the overall experience.

For RPG aficionados New Vegas is going to be a great apocalyptic adventure. It's kind of a Mad Max meets the Wild West. For fans of the Fallout series the game will no doubt be one of their favorites, second only to its predecessor.

Contact Tom Fisher at tfisher@theblade.com or 419-724-6113



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