In contrast to Fallout 3, New Vegas begins with your death explains Obsidian’s Chris Avellone. Whereas Bethesda’s last instalment in the Fallout series saw the player born and raised in The Vault, Obsidian’s New Vegas has the player shot twice in the head and dumped just outside of the town of Goodsprings, Nevada. Rescued by a benevolent robot known as Vegas Vic, you are taken into to town and left in the care of Doctor Mitchell who heals you before commencing the character creation process. Like in Fallout 3, this is where you define your characteristics like name and appearance but, as the game does not follow your story from birth, you are also able to set the age of your character. Are you a fresh-faced newbie or a battle-hardened veteran of Fallout’s wastelands?The character creation process is handled cleverly and, following a session on the Vigor Testing machine dealing with the SPECIAL stats, a Q&A with Doctor Mitchell allows the game to suggest some skill tags for you. While you don’t have to take the game’s advice, Avellone explains that you should choose these tags carefully as they will have implications throughout the game (more on that later).
It’s at this point that you can also choose whether you want to play through New Vegas in the all new Hardcore mode. As the title suggests, Hardcore mode makes things considerably more difficult for the player; health regenerates over time rather than immediately after you use a stim pack, ammo and equipment have weight and you’ll need to make sure you have water when you’re out exploring the desert to avoid dehydration. Hardcore mode is a response to the community says Avellone and once you choose it, you’ll have to stick with it for the entirety of the game.
The player is instructed to venture out into the town of Goodsprings, based on a real world Nevada location, to find local resident Sunny Smiles. And, stepping outside for the first time, it’s clear this a different game world than Fallout 3. One of the only areas not completely decimated by the nuclear holocaust, New Vegas has beautiful blue skies, vegetation and a richer colour palette than its predecessor. Meeting Sunny Smiles, we learn that she has a bit of a Gecko problem (in a nod to Fallout 2) and we’re introduced to the combat in New Vegas as we use the new Varmint Rifle to take care of the pest problem. “We’ve tried to shake up the combat”, says Avellone adding that the team has given the new weapons special abilities against certain enemy types which he demonstrates by aptly de-limbing a Gecko for us.
Next on the agenda is to speak to the Prospector’s Saloon owner Trudy and, entering the bar, we interrupt a dispute between her and gang member Joe Cobb. It seems he is looking for a man named Ringo who Trudy has been harbouring and, unless she tells him where Ringo is, Cobb will bring his Powder Gang and wreak havoc on the town. Trudy stands firm and after Cobb leaves we find Ringo hiding – a little creepily if we’re being honest – in the ladies bathroom and he implores us to help him sort out the bullying Cobb gang. As always in Fallout, you have a choice. Do you ignore Ringo and move along, help him out or, if you fancy being a complete bastard, find Cobb and help him lay waste to the town? For the purposes of the demonstration, Avellone chooses to help Ringo and we set about trying to round up some troops to help us. It’s here that the aforementioned skill tags come into play for the first time. For example, we need some explosives for the task at hand but local expert Easy Pete will not help you out unless you have the explosives tag which, luckily, we do. It’s a similar affair at the local store and, because of our bartering tag, we persuade the store keeper to kit out our town defenders with weapons and armour.
All tooled up and ready to go, our impromptu militia spots the approaching Cobb gang and, after a couple of enemy heads are popped with our scoped-pistol (you can now apply up to three modifications per weapon in another nod to community wishes), Avellone reveals that it’s time to see one of the new tools designed to “add a bit of spice to melee combat.” He’s referring to the 9 iron golf club we’re using, with extreme prejudice, against the noggins of the enemy and, it transpires, you’ll be able to unlock a special attack (known as “Fore”) when you reach the required level. Once the Cobb gang is defeated, Avellone explains that our reputation in the town has now increased and we’ll receive perks as a consequence.
We’re briefly shown two more locations from the New Vegas game world; a casino/rollercoaster setting which sees another run-in with the Powder Gang and Novac, which features a giant novelty dinosaur which serves as a great sniper spot. From there it’s onto Black Mountain, an area of New Vegas that wasn’t spared by the nuclear holocaust and, as such, has a bit of a mutant problem. The central hub of the area is a radio station under the control of a super-mutant called Tabitha. The station, ironically, still broadcasts warnings about the mutants. It’s here that Avellone reveals there are two generations of mutants in New Vegas – those created by the radiation and the super-mutants which originated in Fallout 2. Interestingly, there is also a hierarchy at play, with the super-mutants viewing the regular mutants as dumb and unevolved. The player can take advantage of this situation by playing them off against each other as we interrupt their comms and create dissent between them. An inter-faction fight ensues and, once we’ve rescued a chap called Raul and fired up the new minigun, we’re ready to indiscriminately slaughter everything in sight, including the deranged Tabitha who, for some reason, is wearing a peroxide blonde wig.
In the final section of the demo, we’re shown an area known as Helios One, a power facility now under the control of the New California Republic. Consisting of human survivors, the NCR is prone to promoting the wrong people to important positions, Avellone says, demonstrated by the introduction of the brilliantly-named Fantastic, a bone-headed chancer who is now in charge of running the power facility. We discover that we need to realign the power plant’s mirrors to get the plant running at more than one per cent efficiency. Once done, we’re faced with another option: do we reroute the power as per the NCR’s instructions, or do we choose where to send it? We opt for the latter and immediately incur the wrath of the NCR, forcing us to fight our way to the roof. Once there, Avellone demonstrates the power of the Orbital Laser which (after firing down a few tame-looking energy bolts) incinerates the enemies below with a fearsome column of energy from the sky. As I note down “Orbital laser – wow” the presentation ends. The presentation is an impressive introduction to New Vegas and, while Fallout fans should not expect a sea-change in Obsidian’s latest contribution to the series, the new gameplay features and storyline ought to pique your interest.