“Fallout: New Vegas” opens with a bang, literally, as the protagonist gets shot by a smug bastard, content to deliver a semi-badass one-liner before he puts you down. And though this seems to promise an exciting chapter in the main character’s life, he may never know — the game freezes during the next loading screen. After a reboot, the game might just make it past the same screen, and the hero is finally unleashed in the Nevada wasteland.

“Fallout: New Vegas”

Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Bethesda Softworks

Once past the glitches, players will find that gameplay in “New Vegas” remains largely unchanged from “Fallout 3.” While presented like a shooter, the game is an RPG at heart. With a variety of skill allocations to choose as your character levels up, the game can be played with a wide array of styles and strategies. With a high Science skill, you might hack into a computer to turn automated turrets against the guards of a fortress, while a high Sneak skill might let you slip through situations undetected. Subsequent playthroughs are enhanced through the different approaches available. A tactical mode called VATS is central to the game’s action and original to “Fallout 3” and “New Vegas.” It lets you freeze the game and make a limited number of calculated moves, which can turn the tide of a firefight.

The story has a very promising lead, but what begins as an exciting and complex set of events turn out to be a simple plug for your character to join the overplayed “good” and “bad” factions. This dichotomy — present in almost all modern RPGs — just isn’t interesting anymore. Their idiosyncrasies seem to promise original developments, but they both fall into their banal roles: save this village for the good guys or destroy it for the bad guys.

The real strength of this game is the environment of post-war Nevada, which has an almost unlimited amount of content to offer. Long overland journeys are full of encounters with struggling settlers looking for help and gunfights between rival factions. There is no shortage of quests or buildings to explore, with only a few scraps of evidence describing the demise of the departed or mutated inhabitants. A survivor of the nuclear holocaust, New Vegas is booming with lights, people and casinos in full swing with a variety of gambling minigames to play; it’s a bright speck in the middle of the chaos. Simply existing in this nuanced world is satisfying enough, and that alone is a remarkable achievement.

Unfortunately, the nuclear wasteland of Nevada shares a similarity with its software: massive bugs. The game often drops to extremely low frame rates and eventually freezes. This usually requires a full reboot, causing a loss of large chunks of playtime that must be gruelingly repeated. With the variety of options available for quest completion, the game sometimes fails to recognize when quests have been completed. It’s very frustrating to get to the bottom of a crime only to have nobody recognize the results.

Apparently these bugs are a widespread problem that Bethesda is working to fix, but their most recent patch fixes nothing. The game has a lot to offer, and the good definitely outweighs the bad. So for a totally immersive and lengthy RPG experience, check out this game. Just wait a few weeks for Bethesda to exterminate the bugs.

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