What is surprising is that Bethesda has tapped Obsidian Entertainment to handle the next installment. With the likes of Feargus Urquhart, Chris Avellone, Josh Sawyer, Chris Parker, Scott Everts, and Brian Menze helming its development, Fallout: New Vegas is without question the game I'm looking forward to most this year. As such, it was the very first game that I checked out at last week's E3, and it ended up being the game I spent the most hands-on time with at the show. And thanks to the interview I had set up with him prior to the event, the one-and-only Chris Avellone took the time to guide me through the wasteland.
You probably know all about the two slugs in the protagonist's head, the package that was stolen from you, and how being patched up by Goodsprings' own Doc Mitchell turns into a clever character creation routine, so I'll try to keep things a little more specific. Obsidian has made some significant strides in improving New Vegas' gameplay over its predecessor, with the most important addition (in my Alpha Protocol-loving opinion) being the reputation system. There are a handful of different factions in the game, including the notorious New California Republic, the slavers of Caesar's Legion, the New Vegas families/gangs, and, I'd venture to guess, the Brotherhood of Steel and Enclave (though neither have been confirmed). Every deed you commit for or against a faction alters your reputation with them (or others), meaning that reprecussions aren't far behind. Where would any RPG worth its salt be without choice and consequence?
Despite its slightly irradiated condition, the Las Vegas Strip is still rife with gambling. The Tops Casino was the establishment available for exploration in the E3 build, and stepping foot inside required me to check my guns at the door. This isn't as unreasonable as it sounds, especially since you can sneak in a number of concealable weapons (brass knuckles, switchblades, straight razors, or even a silenced .22 pistol) in case things get less-than-friendly while you're inside (in fact, there's a guy by the name of "Mister Holdout" that sells such weapons on The Strip). Refusing to comply doesn't get you anywhere, as the entire casino will immediately turn hostile. Your weapons are safely stored during your visit and are immediately returned to your inventory when you exit the casino.
Gambling consists of four mini-games (slots, roullette, blackjack, and a Caravan card game that Avellone describes as being created by caravan wastelanders), all of which were headed up by Obsidian programmer Jonathan Burke whose prior development experience includes gambling-style video games. As a result, they play just as you'd expect them to, and are seamlessly integrated into the game (there are no immersion-breaking loading screens, as we saw with Fable II's Pub Games). I spent a good 10 minutes trying out the first three gambling minigames, during which time I was comped some vodka, food items, and even a "High Roller's Suite Key" by one of the casino's staffers. Winning consecutive bets prompts you with a "You are lucky..." message, and Chris explained that your character's luck attribute slightly affects the outcome of your gambling. I can't say that I noticed any favoritism despite having a higher-than-average luck score, though I definitely won more money than I lost. You won't be able to earn an infinite amount of caps gambling, however, as Chris tells me that you can actually "break the bank" at each of the casinos if you're able to win enough. The team is also implementing some sort of "inconvenience" to curb players from simply saving their game before gambling and loading upon a loss, though Chris wouldn't provide specifics on what exactly this entailed.
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