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This page includes some jargon that hasn't been added to the site's glossary yet. I'll be around to fix this later, but sorry for the inconvenience in the meantime.

Review: Fallout: New Vegas

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: M - Mature Audiences
My Rating: Adults - 18+
Genre: First Person Shooter / RPG
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2010
Review Published On: May 13th, 2021
Played on: Thaddeus

Available from:

Gamer's Gate, Humble Store, Steam

Save System:

Instead of profiles or save slots, FO:NV simply makes a new saved game whenever you save and keeps a special saved game reserved for autosaved games.

You can save your game at any time, and the game automatically saves when you visit a new area or sleep.

To pause, view your Pip-Boy or bring up the pause menu by pressing ESC.

Summary of
Major Issues:

There's a LOT of things in this game that are unsettling or offensive, such as violence, gore, torture, sex, drugs, and gambling.

Ultimately though, many of this problems can be avoided through the use of mods or by choosing not to do them.

Screenshots

[view screenshot]
The Legion has been busy

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Howdy, Victor!

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An example of the VATS system



Game Overview

The Fallout series is a group of post-apocalyptic role playing games with an incredible amount of lore behind them. This can make it difficult for newcomers to get into the games, but fortunately, they usually explain the important details during their cinematic openings. A very short summary of the franchise's setting is that the Fallout universe exists in a timeline that was once our own, but then split off to go in its own direction shortly after the end of World War II. In their timeline, scientists continued to study and harness the power of the atom, resulting in a world where nuclear powered cars and household robots were the norm. But, this prosperity did not last, as resources became scarce. Wars over the remaining resources led to full scale nuclear war, destroying the Earth in an atomic holocaust. Those who managed to reach special emergency shelters, known as Vaults, were the only survivors. Now, over a century later, people are leaving the Vaults to try and rebuild some semblance of a living in the scarred and radioactive wasteland. In each game in this franchise, the player takes on the role of someone in the Wasteland; sometimes your character came from a Vault, sometimes they were just another drifter trying to make the best of it.

In Fallout: New Vegas, the player takes on the role of Courier Six, a glorified mailman (or mailwoman, if you so choose). While attempting to deliver a package, you were ambushed by a couple of thugs and a man in a fancy suit. This man took the package, shot you twice in the head, and left you for dead. Surprisingly, you survived, and the local doctor was able to bring you back around. It's a rough way to start an adventure in the Mojave, but it definitely draws players in.

The main storyline revolves around tracking down and confronting the man in the fancy suit. Along the way you'll find that by stealing the package from you, this man has inadvertently placed himself and you in the path of something much bigger than either of you could have known. Three major powers -- the New California Republic, Caesar's Legion, and the mysterious man known as Mr. House -- are vying for control of the Mojave territory, and that tiny package contained the key to their schemes.

However, as grand as that adventure is, it's not the primary draw for many of the fans. There is so much else going on in the Mojave that you could play this game for months without seeing everything. Exploring is not only highly encouraged, but also richly rewarded, as there are countless places to see and explore that aren't part of the main game. Many of these places even come complete with their own storylines and adventures!

Additionally, your choices matter a lot more than you'd expect. In fact, the entire game world evolves and changes as you make decisions. This is best seen at the end of the main story, the famous Battle for Hoover Dam. Every faction wants control of this landmark, as it's one of the very few ways of generating electricity left in this part of the world. Your role in this battle, as well as who is fighting here, is entirely determined by the friends you've made over the course of your journey. Are you fighting alongside the valiant NCR troops? Or maybe you're here to conquer the dam for Caesar? Perhaps you've cashed in your chips with Mr. House and his ambitions instead. Or maybe, just maybe, you're fighting against all three in a bit for your own glory.

I could go on for some length about the many other stories happening in this one game, but let's move on to the gameplay. This game isn't a normal First Person Shooter, as it's gameplay is very heavily inspired by the franchise's RPG origins. The original Fallout games were isometric turn-based RPGs, and many of their gameplay mechanics have been blended with the First Person Shooter model. For example, there are dozens of skills and abilities to tweak how your character performs, you become stronger by gaining experience and leveling up, and Fallout's classic S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stat system is still present.

Combat, on the other hand, is generally done in real time, like a normal First Person Shooter. The trick here is that you can use a special ability known as the Vault-Tech Assisted Targeting System (aka VATS) to pause the action and methodically aim your attacks like you were in a turn-based game. When you use VATS, your actions take a given amount of "Action Points". The number of Action Points you have determines how many actions you can take during that "turn". Melee weapons and slow firing guns take more action points per attack than machine guns, so plan carefully.

Unfortunately, a game this amazing does have some serious drawbacks. There's a lot of objectionable content, which makes it more than clear that this isn't something young children should be playing. But the biggest problem is that it's riddled with more bugs than a termite mound. You're pretty much required to mod the game, as fans have stepped in to fix most of these issues. On the plus side, installing mods is extremely easy, doesn't prevent you from earning achievements, and the modding community for this game is huge, even compared to Minecraft's modding community.

Seriously folks, check this one out. It's too good to miss, even if it is very rough around the edges.

Points of Interest

You can actually REASON with people
When you play First Person Shooters, you expect to tackle every situation with violence. Surprisingly enough, this is NOT the case for this game. Talking with people is actually presented as a viable solution to many confrontations, including several of the major battles. This makes your character's Speech skill one of the most important skills to develop, even over their fighting abilities. Of course, some of the people you'll encounter may need more than just a fancy speech to convince them, but there's frequently a way to resolve things with a boss character peacefully.

Run of the mill cannon fodder is still mainly just there for target practice, however.
DLCs add four additional campaigns
The main game is stuffed with things to see and do, but you'll definitely want to check out the DLCs, which add new places to explore and stories to experience. Here's a brief summary: Dead Money is about how greed destroyed lives in the past, and how it continues to ruin things today. Honest Hearts deals with two native tribes struggling to co-exist. Old World Blues looks at the (often unethical) science behind the series, and Lonesome Road focuses on the bitterness and wastefulness of revenge. And just like the main game, in all four cases, your actions determine if the story ends in redemption or tragedy.
All sorts of endings
Normally, when people say that a game features multiple endings, it's because there's two or three predetermined ways for the story to come to a conclusion. Since your actions can change the world in a multitude of ways, Fallout New Vegas handles its endings in a more complex manner. Basically, the ending sequence you'll be given is created by splicing together bits and pieces from your adventure, creating a unique ending for every playthrough!
Tons of replayability
Considering the points made so far about how you shape the story with your actions, this sort of goes without saying. But to elaborate, you'll need to play the game all the way through at least four times to see how each faction has their own spin on the main story. Many of the questlines can also be resolved in different ways, so seeing one path means losing out on what happens in the other storylines. And then there's the huge modding community, which is ensuring that there's always something new for players to see.
Massive amount of mod support
The vast majority of the modding community for the Fallout series is found over on Nexus Mods, aka "The Nexus". Mods can include almost anything: new weapons, new buildings, new storylines, and even a way to play Fallout 3 inside Fallout New Vegas can be found there. My personal favorite mod ended up being Crystalking52's gore removal mod, for somewhat obvious reasons.
As serious as you want
The tone of the Fallout franchise has a tendency to wavier between extremes, and Fallout New Vegas isn't an exception. There's a lot of serious stuff going on, but there's also a ridiculous amount of just plain goofy things to discover as well. Generally speaking, if you enjoy dark humor, you're probably going to find yourself laughing at a lot of things that happen in this game.

But, since there's a good portion of the playerbase that wants a serious adventure, some of the really crazy stuff is disabled by default. To unlock it, you need to give your character the Wild Wasteland trait during character creation. With that trait equipped, you'll be able to find many silly things during your adventure, such as a crashed UFO or Jimmy's skeleton at the bottom of an old well. I definitely recommend trying the Wild Wasteland trait out at least once.
Optional Hardcore mode
If you really want to make things "realistic", then you can enable the hardcore mode at the beginning of your adventure. This makes a lot of changes to the game, such as introducing physical needs (food, water, sleep) and removing convenient features like fast travel. Also, in this mode ammunition counts against how much you can carry and healing items don't work instantly. There's an achievement waiting for you if you manage to complete the game using this mode, though personally I didn't care for the added restrictions.
Steam community features
There aren't any Steam trading cards to earn, nor is there any Steam Workshop support, but there's a nice cache of 75 achievements up for grabs. There's usually an achievement for completing every major plot point (one per side of the conflict), and there's a number of achievements based around collecting or unlocking things.

With the Gun Runners DLC, there are Gun Runner Challenges in-game. These challenges are rated between one and three stars in difficulty, and earns you some in-game bonuses if you manage to pull them off. They're also pretty fun to attempt. For example, the challenge named "Historical Propriety" requires you to kill Caesar with a knife. Because... ya, know... that happened. These challenges aren't linked to your Steam profile, so you can complete them every time you play the game.
Unstable
One of the downsides to being an older game is that they don't always survive the test of time real well. This is one such case, as there's a slew of bugs just waiting to ruin your fun. And I don't mean cazadors or the giant radioactive scorpions. Fortunately, the modding community has created the New Vegas Script Extender and the New Vegas Anti-Crash mods, which when used together remove the majority of the problems that cause the game to crash or become corrupted. Still, you should save periodically just to be safe.

Concerns and Issues

Violent combat and gore
When it comes to violence and gore, this is fairly typical modern First Person Shooter. In other words, things are handled fairly realistically, with blood spatters, burns, or even dismemberment occurring. Some Perks, like "Bloody Mess", exist to make things significantly more graphic. Energy weapons are specifically worth mentioning here, as they can kill their targets in two unique ways. These weapons come in two flavors: plasma launchers that emit balls of highly energized particles, and your classic rayguns that fire laser beams. The former has a chance to randomly melt the target into a pile of glowing green goo, while the later can disintegrate the target, leaving behind a pile of hot ash.

Fighting isn't the only source of gore, however. Since people are just barely surviving in this world, the Wasteland is littered with dead bodies in various states of decay. Some of these bodies are leftovers from long ago, simply left to rot in the ruins of former civilization. And then there's Caesar's Legion. They are trying to rebuild civilization using the Roman Empire as a model, and this includes conquest, taking slaves, and crucifying people they don't like.

Just a friendly reminder here: you're going to need to install mods to play this game anyway, so if the gore bothers you, just add the gore removal mod (link provided earlier on this page) to your setup. This mod doesn't remove the crosses or the ability to disintegrate your foes, but it does make a big difference otherwise.
Some bad things can happen to dogs
Bit of a special note here. There are a few types of dogs living in the Mojave, including wild coyotes, half-snake half-dog hybrids called Nightstalkers, and regular everyday dogs. Pretty much anything mentioned on this page can happen to them as well as humans or other monsters. There is also an optional quest where you fetch a new brain for a cyberdog named Rex; it needs to come from a live donor.
Body Horror
Radiation is not good for living things. Most of the time, even in the fictional scifi world of Fallout, it simply kills people. When it doesn't, weird things happen. The most obvious example are ghouls. In this franchise, a "ghoul" was once a human being who suffered from prolonged exposure to high amounts of radioactivity. Instead of killing the person, they ended up becoming able to draw nourishment from the radioactive energy. The tradeoff is that most of their skin and hair rots away during the transformation. Many ghouls also become murderously insane, and these "feral ghouls" are out there still wandering around radiation sources today.

While the ghouls still look mostly human, centaurs are very very not. These abominations are disturbing constructs made from many different people, all reassembled together as some sort of quadrupedal freakshow. According to the fanbase, nobody forgets their first encounter with centaurs, and I can believe that. As an aside, since centaurs are part of the storyline of another Fallout game, they are very rare in this one.
Inhumane experiments
Sort of a continuation of the above points, there are a number of situations in this game that focus on somebody being used as a human guinea pig. This isn't surprising to veterans of this series, as it's a well established fact that many of the Vaults were created with the intent of subjecting their unsuspecting occupants to long-term experiments. This sometimes cause people to go insane. Sometimes it resulted in mutinies or infighting. And sometimes it just resulted in people turning into some sort of weird freaky human/plant hybrid.

The Old World Blues's storyline is all about this sort of thing, as the Think Tank (a group of scientists who are little more than brains in fancy cybernetic jars) likes to scoop people's brains out, fill the now empty skull with cybernetics, and watch the results. They also do this to the player character, which results in some really bizarre situations as their brain is entirely fine with living in its little jar. Their body also doesn't notice it missing, and the two can get into some really surreal conversations once they eventually meet.

Also, there's a spot in Big M.T. where you can perform some zany experiments of your own on humans, robots, and dogs if you want. This is depicted as flashing lights and the result of your experiment suddenly appearing, so it's a bit less graphic than Star Trek's teleporters.
Sexual content
For the most part, everybody is very modestly dressed. After all, when you live in a radioactive hellscape, it's generally important to wear thick armor that covers most of your body. However, there are some exceptions to this, as population centers provide enough protection from the elements to allow for other options. The most explicit outfits are going to be found in and around a casino on the New Vegas Strip. It's called Gomorrah, and yes, it's explicitly referencing Sodom's sister city, complete with an exclusive "Brimstone" lounge. The dancers and prostitutes here are almost completely nude; pasties and a skirt are about it. As this casino plays a key role in the main story, you can't exactly avoid it forever.

Speaking of prostitution, it is entirely possible to have sex with various characters. This actually includes Benny, aka the guy who tried to kill you at the beginning of the game. There are a couple of ways this can go, including murdering him in his sleep after you've done the deed, but it's generally considered to be one of the funniest things you can do in the entire game. That said, the sex scenes themselves are tastefully done, as they only involve the screen fading to black while "pleasurable sounds" are made.

Lastly, the members of the Think Tank have some interesting comments about your character. Keep in mind that they have gone more than a little crazy over the years, and their understanding of human anatomy has become somewhat impaired. This has resulted in them believing your hands and feet end in multiple prehensile penises. Most of the scientists are grossed out by this, though Dr. Dala finds this discovery very... err... fascinating.
Homosexual content
In addition to the sexual content mentioned in the previous point, it's possible for you to play as a homosexual. To enable this, you need to give them specific perks and traits when they are created or leveling up. Exactly which traits you need to choose depend on your character's gender. The primary feature of these perks are combat related advantages against enemies who are of a specific gender, but these also unlock some unique dialog options that allow you to flirt with various characters. These conversations are often pretty funny, as very few people you'll run across are expecting you to flirt with them.
Politics
AND HOW. The entire Fallout franchise is full of political and sociological commentary, and New Vegas is no exception. The political landscape of the Mojave in the year 2281 forms the bulk of this, though you'll find additional fictional comments on different ideologies if you explore the world enough. Thankfully, this is all handled with a reasonable amount of tact, so there's no preaching about real life politics in this game. Or to put it another way, various ideologies are examined through the actions of completely fictional characters instead of taking the more popular route of having the player fight a grand climatic battle against the God Emperor Ronald Drumpsky or Baroness Tiffany Clintson. This not only makes it more interesting, but it helps keep the game from growing outdated or becoming a political rant.
Drugs and Alcohol
All sorts of narcotics and booze exist in the Wasteland. Some of these drugs are just local plants that have medicinal or useful effects when ingested, but there are a few special cocktails that are treated like drugs in the traditional (ie, illegal) sense. Called things like Jet or Turbo, these substances can give you a temporary benefit, but they carry as risk: your character can become addicted to them if you use them too much. When this happens, you'll need to get a fix on a regular basis or your character will start to suffer from various penalties. You can either wait for the withdrawal symptoms to get better on their own (much like quitting cold turkey) or you can find a reputable doctor who will help you quit for a small fee.

Importantly, there isn't much of a distinction between alcohol and drugs: both boost your abilities temporarily, and both can cause addiction and withdrawal.

There are also non-player characters who are addicts of one sort or another, such as one of the people you can have join you on your adventures. "Whiskey Rose" Cassidy is an alcoholic, as she uses whiskey as an unhealthy way to cope with her lot in life. Unfortunately, while there's no way to cure her of her habit, you do have the option of encouraging and enabling her vice.
Participation in crime
You can pickpocket just about anybody you want, provided you're sneaky enough and willing to try. This can also be an unusual way to kill an enemy: slip a live grenade or stick of dynamite on their person when they aren't looking, and it'll sort itself out. But, pickpocketing is an optional activity; as you help the different factions active their goals, you'll end up getting involved with all sorts of criminal behavior, including arson and dealing in recreational drugs.
Gambling
Unsurprisingly, the player can gamble in the various casinos found throughout the game. This is generally limited to slot machines or blackjack, and you can be banned from a casino if you're winning too much. Interestingly enough, your character's Luck stat will affect the results, rigging the games. Another way to gamble in the Mojave is to find people who play Caravan, a popular card game. Many merchants and traders enjoy this game, so there are many opportunities to play it as you explore. Unlike most games, Caravan is played using customized decks of playing cards. The interface for it is a bit of a pain though.
Possible cultural issues
I've already mentioned the Legion a few times in this review, but it's more likely that people may have issues with three other groups. The Great Khans, despite the name, are depicted as a cultural mashup of a Native American tribe, Vikings, and trailer trash. They're also the group that's most involved with drugs, which paints an uncomfortable picture.

In the Honest Hearts DLC campaign, there are two more groups styled after Native Americans: One peaceful and one warlike. Both are fairly stereotyped, and there's even a "vision quest" for the player to undergo. This group's storyline is also resolved via the player and one of two Caucasians, which invokes the old and less than respected cliche of the "noble savage" who needs to be saved by the "civilized" white man.
Religious references
Speaking of the Honest Hearts DLC, both of the men involved with leading the natives are also 22nd-century Mormons. They both want to save the Dead Horses from the rampaging White Legs, but they disagree on how this should be done and draw their opinions from different passages in Scripture. In particular, Joshua Graham tends to use darker verses like Psalm 137:9, to support his almost genocidal views.

In a hilarious (if possibly worrisome) twist, there have been numerous incidents of unsuspecting Christians posting quotes from Joshua Graham on social media, apparently confusing this violent fictional character with actual evangelists.

On a different note, there is also a cult known as the Bright Followers. This religious group is entirely made up of friendly ghouls who wish to travel to another world, where they believe they will find Paradise. Their leader is convinced that your character is a fulfillment of some prophecy, a non-ghoul sent by the Creator to aid the Bright Followers in their hour of need.
Assassination of the President
The New California Republic is one of the factions trying to gain a foothold in the Mojave. Like the Legion, they want to restore civilization by using a older culture as a model. Unlike the Legion, the NCR selected the United States as their model, creating a military culture based around old world values. This has also led them to have a democratically elected President as the head of their government. Currently, this is President Kimball, and towards the end of the game he'll make an attempt to boost morale by giving a speech at Hoover Dam.

The Legion, sensing a tactical opportunity, will attempt to assassinate the President during the speech. Depending on which faction you've allied yourself with, you will be called upon to either prevent the assassination, help carry it out, or be allowed to ignore this mission entirely. Defending President Kimball is easily the hardest mission in the game, as the Legion has plans and backup plans to ensure things go in their favor.
Cannibalism
Ghouls were once human, but some of them have been driven insane by the radiation they've absorbed. Being feral beasts, they will prey on and eat people. Being little more than mindless animals, this behavior can be forgiven. This can not be said for the White Glove society, who casually dine on "exotic meats" in their fancy hall. If you want them as an ally, you'll need to assist with their dinner preparations.

If you really want to go this route, you can also turn your character into a cannibal via a specific perk that allows you to "consume" the bodies of your enemies for a quick health boost. Just don't make a habit of doing this in front of others, as witnessing this sort of behavior usually makes your companions rather upset.
Swearing
After everything else listed on this page, the occasional use of four letter words doesn't exactly seem all that important, but here we are. Living in a ruined world tends to bring the worst out of people. Sometimes literally; as mentioned above, your character might end up seeing their own brain in a jar. Not only can you converse with your own brain like it's a separate person, it may decide to swear at you.
And more...
Listing everything that can possibly be offensive in this game is a fool's errand, as there's just so many possibilities. I've already covered the issues that can be easily categorized, but there's whole lot more. Just looking at Big M.T. highlights two examples: there are remains of interment camps in the area, and then there's Muggy. Muggy is a cute little robot who exists for the sole purpose of cleaning mugs, cups, and dishes. However, the only people in Big M.T. are the Think Tank, who don't eat or drink. Years of being unable to perform his singular purpose in life hasn't been very kind to the poor guy's artificial mind.