Game Journal (week one) – Fallout: New Vegas

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The first time I began playing Fallout: New Vegas it was beleaguered by glitches that rendered it literally nonfunctional, primarily in stuttering to a halt during combat.  While Bethesda is not adorned with praise for bug-free launches this was the worst I’d experienced to date (this would soon give way to Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops, which now holds my highest rank among unfinished, unplayable, and generally disastrous launch titles).  I was pleased to start playing F:NV to find that its performance issues had been corrected, though the Steam management of the client launcher causes execution errors that can only be resolved by running the executable directly.  That, I suppose, is a complaint for another journal more appropriate to addressing the myriad problems associated with Steam installation and client management.  I digress.

The game opens, unlike its predecessor, with a generic introduction centered on an amnesic protagonist (namely, you) waking to an interface.  Here you will define your name and facial features, followed by the allocation of points to the Bethesda attribute system (strength, endurance, et al, each governing different player factors).  In a short interview with the doctor that revives you traits and special skills are selected by way of psychoanalytic interview.  If none of the skills that result from your answer are to your liking, there is an immediate option to manually choose your character set.

Compared to Fallout III this introduction feels forced and uninspired, coming across as a heavy-handed push to simply get character creation out of the way and dump you into the game world.  The former’s introduction began with your birth (to patriarchal Liam Neeson, no less) and subsequent rearing, brief adolescent memories, and eventual placement exam as a burgeoning adult.  While it was obvious that a character generation and tutorial mechanic was unfolding it was deeply enjoyable, and further it created a sense of attachment to the protagonist.  It can likely be argued that waking with amnesia is a tactical choice meant to wedge a certain separation between player and protagonist, sharing in each other’s confusion.  Unfortunately it stumbles, and within minutes of waking up you find yourself walking out the door hunting the men that shot you with little to no reason or understanding.

I would feel that I were treated honestly if the tutorial instructions read, “Hurry up and go outside and wander, none of this is integral,” as I had naturally come to that feeling upon setting outdoors.  Once outside I was reminded of what defines next-generation Fallout titles with a single look at the expansive, detailed, polished landscape; a war-ravaged desert that we will begin exploring in the following weeks.

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