Fallout: New Vegas Drops the Bomb on Sin City

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Fallout 3which Lev had a brief flirtation with–brought the storied Interplay sci-fi franchise back to full flower in 2008. Developed by Bethesda Softworks, it met with much acclaim and lots of Game of the Year awards.  Five DLC packs extended the experience, with the final being Mothership Zeta in August 2009, and millions of PIP Boys have lain silent since then.

The recently announced Fallout: New Vegas will be the reason those retro-futuristic PDAs flare back to life. New Vegas’ all-new story focuses on the fate of the communities that have cropped up in the Mojave Wasteland. It’s being developed by Obsidian and takes place three years after Fallout 3. New Vegas revisits much of the old-school lore from back-in-the-day Fallout games, but developers stressed that you wouldn’t have to know any of that stuff to appreciate the story.  Longtime fans will re-acquaint themsleves with the New California Republic and Caesar’s Legion and you’ll see revamped versions of bad guys like the Nightkin itching to beat you to a pulp.

Whereas in Fallout 3 character creation was done through re-enacting childhood, New Vegas puts layers through a battery of physical and psychological tests. You control a courier who was ambushed for his cargo, shot in the head and dumped in the desert. So, the questions you answer from a good Samaritan doctor literally help you get a sense of your self before you quest for vengeance starts. Responding to Doc Mitchell’s tests will determine your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. abilities –which stand for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, Luck.

Once you get underway, there’ll be twice as many weapons as in Fallout 3, including a new 9-iron golf club. This melee weapon can whack somebody’s head off and send it sailing clear across the screen. Another big change will be the weapon mods, which will let you change barrel sizes for more damage, add sights for better accuracy and use specialized ammo for unique strategies. Among the new weapons we got to see, the plasma caster and grenade machinegun will probably become favorites.

New Vegas aims to generate a post-apocalyptic Western vibe, which means you’ll be journeying to lots of different locations. Reputation is another new element that will change the way folks interact with you. Depending on how you craft a Reputation, by killing members of one faction and/or helping another group, certain allies and quests won’t be available to you.

For those who complained that VATS made Fallout 3 too easy, New Vegas will offer a Hardcore Mode. It doesn’t do away with VATS altogether but it changes the way your character heals and changes ammunition so it has weight, which of course affects how much firepower you can lug around with you. Stimpacks won’t instantly restore your health in Hardcore Mode; instead, you’ll regain it over time.

While New Vegas will share lots of gameplay DNA with Fallout 3, it’s already looking like the new game will have lots of significant differences from the last post-nuclear RPG. Fallout: New Vegas is slated to hit later in 2010 so stay tuned for more news on it.