Fallout: New Vegas brings us back to post-apocalyptic America to travel the vast wastelands once again. The story begins with you awaking in a room to discover you’ve just gone through surgery after being found shot and left for dead.

You immediately are given the option to design your character. The options here are very limited – you are forced to start from a small number of presets with little room for change. Trying to create a character resembling you is nigh on impossible or at the very least extremely time consuming. Next you choose what style of character you wish to be by varying your stats, skills and perks. There is an extensive array of choices for what style you want to use: a confident speaker, an agile thief, a technological expert or a raging semi-automatic wielding gunman. The possibilities really are endless and I feel this is an integral part of the game.

This whole chapter of the game is essential. It very quickly closes off doors you may wish to follow in the future – you can’t be a heavy-gunner shooting down every enemy in sight whilst charismatically charming your way into massive discounts at stores. The vast amount of choices you have makes New Vegas feel unapproachable. You must play to your characters strengths and it’s impossible to fulfil every role in one playing of the game. This can, of course, be considered a positive as you can return to the game hundreds of times, each playthrough ending up with a completely different character.

Gameplay will easily be recognised by experienced Fallout players yet is also easy to pick up for newcomers. The tutorial teaches you all the basics and is very easy to follow, and thankfully it’s possible to skip if you’re a veteran Fallout player. While you can carry straight on to the main story, the game allows you to explore for yourself and find the quests that interest you. I personally love the fact that I can wander through the wasteland exploring new areas without feeling pressured to stick to the main plot, which can often be a problem in modern games.

It is easy to see that the game shows many similarities to the earlier Fallout 3, for example: the combat, with the same VATS (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) allowing you to target limbs or gun arms to cripple the enemy’s ability to fight back. The aesthetic follows the same idea of crumbling buildings and vast amounts of dusty wasteland with the occasional shrubs and ruins giving a glance into a happier past. The PIP-Boy still organises all your weapons, armour, quests and allows you to see the map. The theme remains in a 50s style with many old songs which give an eerie atmosphere to the game as you wander the far-reaching wasteland. The bizarre mixture of futuristic laser guns along with old themed clothes and music gives the game a very surreal atmosphere.

New Vegas is, however, a very different game from it’s predecessor and that’s due to how well it’s written

New Vegas is, however, a very different game from it’s predecessor and that’s due to how well it’s written. The writers understand that sometimes morality is not just black or white, that there is ambiguity and that it can be subjective which I feel is a great addition to role playing games. You are forced to make awful decisions for a greater good or to decide the better of two horrific options. The central conflict between the New California Republic (NCR) and Caesar’s Legion sometimes hides this morality, and although it may seem like a simple fight between lawmakers and barbarians, it is impossible to say that either is a force for good and in the entirety of the game you quite easily see the worst of both factions.

Black humour is very prevalent in New Vegas. On one corner of the map NCR Rangers are slowly changing into Ghouls due to overexposure to radiation without noticing. The absolute preposterousness of the situation forces you to laugh despite the darker undertone running beneath it. The game leaves the depression of the apocalypse to express itself via the ruins and the landscape, which the writers play to their advantage to bring a more realistic feeling from the characters. They don’t portray their depression through their words but through their actions. This gives room for much darker characters to develop.

The greatest part of Fallout: New Vegas, as with Fallout 3, is that you are never forced to follow the main story line. It is possible to play the game for hours whilst completing only side quests. The immeasurable wastelands give you 400 locations to visit with 163 individual quests to complete. The Mojave Wasteland, where the game takes place, is incredibly realistic and not only through the impressive graphics. It’s a continuous mystery with so many unexpected turns. Unprompted by the main storyline you may stumble across a terrible event that it would have been easy to miss. Merely a side story in the game, and yet so striking. Simply by exploring the ruins of Nevada you might find the most interesting part of the game despite it not being part of the main quests. The pure attention to detail of the smallest characters and the areas to explore keeps the player interested throughout. The clever dialogue returns along with great writing and quest design. Characters are desperate, deceitful, suave, crude, or a mixture of all these features. This produces a more in depth story and a much more relatable game. The voice acting has also improved allowing you to connect to the game’s hundreds of interlocking stories.

You will end up collapsing onto whatever roadside mattress you can find, lapping dirty water from toilet bowls and going through every bin and abandoned building to find scraps of food just to survive

The new hardcore mode forces you to become a true wastelander. You must follow a normal sleep pattern, keep hydrated and fight off hunger. You will end up collapsing onto whatever roadside mattress you can find, lapping dirty water from toilet bowls and going through every bin and abandoned building to find scraps of food just to survive. Skills which you would normally ignore, such as Unarmed and Survival, end up being a necessity. It’s not like a ‘Hard mode’ which ends up giving your enemies vast amounts of ammo and infinite hit points – it changes the way you play the game. Ammunition has weight giving you more reason to explore the improved variety of melee weapons. Stimpaks (the health packs) heal over time rather than immediately and crippled limbs can only be healed by doctors. Instead of focusing on your next quest you are forced to hunt for water, food, a bed, or a ‘doctor bag’ to fix your wounded appendages. This is a great new idea for the game and I thoroughly enjoyed it as it forces you to think outside the box in order to complete even the most basic of quests.

The combination of realistic graphics, great storyline, in-depth characters and massive variety of choices make Fallout: New Vegas an impressive game. It would easily be possible to play hundreds of times over without getting bored, especially with the new hardcore mode. Despite the similarities to Fallout 3 the game reinvents itself with the style of writing and clever quests. If you enjoyed Fallout 3 then Fallout: New Vegas is definitely a game for you. Anyone who hasn’t played Fallout before, I suggest that you start now!