Fallout: New Vegas: a post-nuclear Western (?)

  • Fallout: New Vegas: a post-nuclear Western (?)
Howdy Pardner
Howdy Pardner

 

(With apologies to every writer, director, and star of the Wild West)

 

EXT. THE MOJAVE DESERT

 

The one-horse town of Goodsprings bakes, silent, in the Nevada heat. One after the other, we see several POWDER GANG BANDITS approach, cradling baseball bats and crude firearms. The Powder Gangers are in high spirits, looking forward to the plunder of the town.

 

 

POWDER GANGER #1: Pardner, I do reckon that there town be as easy as liquor flowing at the saloon.

 

POWDER GANGER #2: Yee-haw!

 

The Powder Gangers laugh, twirl their moustaches. Suddenly, they hear a yell.

 

An armoured figure – not one of the townspeople, but our hero, THE COURIER – charges out from between two houses. The Courier winds back his arm and for a moment, time seems to freeze. When it flows again, something red and fizzing has landed at the Powder Gangers’ feet.

 

POWDER GANGER #1: … Is that… dynamite?

 

FADE TO WHITE.

 

I’m ten hours into Fallout: New Vegas, the most unique-feeling entry in the venerable Fallout line of RPGs. Its predecessors (#1 and #3 in particular) revelled in their post-apocalyptic setting: their mohawked raiders could have come straight out of a Mad Max movie, and their civilisation was a precarious, hardscrabble thing – ersatz Bartertowns scattered around the wastes, each surviving as best as it could.

 

The New California Republic is thinly stretched, trying to protect Nevada.
The New California Republic is thinly stretched, trying to protect Nevada.

 

New Vegas is a different beast. It patterns itself on the Western, with an aesthetic thatwould make The Man With No Name feel at home – check out the saloon and general store in the screenshot at the top! – and country music playing over every radio. But if we dig deeper, there’s an interesting twist. The Wild West of myth is every inch as anarchistic as, well, Fallout 1 and 3; its outlaws have an entire continent between them and the authorities out east. Not the West of New Vegas! There are not one but two Leviathans pushing into Nevada: the New California Republic, benevolent but bureaucratic and overstretched; and Caesar’s Legion, which makes its historic namesake look kind and gentle.

 

This combination works on several levels. Aesthetically, it’s a breath of fresh air: how many Wild West games have we seen? Offhand, I can only think of a handful, and only one really notable: Red Dead Redemption. Then we mix in the factions. The NCR vs Legion war provides conflict, which both spices up the world and gives the player something to do. The NCR being the force of law and order, meanwhile, allows the game to offer an interesting depiction of the emergence – or arrival – of a Hobbesian state. Various characters grumble about having to pay NCR taxes and toe NCR laws… but given what life would be like without those laws, they’re content to go along. And lastly, there’s the NCR itself. In Fallout 1, the capital of the future NCR is a tiny farming village, terrorised by raiders. The NCR’s future founding mother is a hostage. The player’s actions in Fallout 1 changed that, set the NCR on its road to greatness. Every khaki-clad NCR soldier in New Vegas is a reminder of that past triumph, and a nice homage to the earlier games in the series.

 

As for the Courier, he’s finally made it out of the desert and into the outskirts of the city of New Vegas. What will he encounter there? I look forward to finding out.

 

The townspeople give me their thoughts on an NCR garrison.
The townspeople give me their thoughts on an NCR garrison.

 

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7 Responses to Fallout: New Vegas: a post-nuclear Western (?)

  1. Carl V. says:

    So excited that you are playing this and enjoying it so much. After all the hours spent with Fallout 3 I was craving more and lost myself for many more hundreds of hours in New Vegas. It was a brilliant decision to move the action to another part of the country, thus creating a different landscape and a different feel while retaining so many fun nods to the previous game(s). I’ve been reading a decent amount of post-apocalyptic SF lately and that always gets me in the Fallout mood. In fact after reading Wool last month I fired up Fallout 3 and spend some time wandering around the wasteland, listening to the music and killing whatever got in my way. I am not sure I’ve enjoyed any game worlds as much as these. Enjoy, you have a great deal of fun ahead of you and I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts to this point.

    • Peter Sahui says:

      Thanks for the comment! I love these games and their worlds, too; I even loved Fallout 3’s much-maligned main plot. So far, this game is living up to all that promise.

      I still need to read Wool – I snagged it during a kindle sale some time ago. I’ve heard many good things about it. :D

      • Carl V. says:

        I have come across MANY people who loved Wool who are not gamers so I suspect you would like it anyway, but loving Fallout 3 gave me a little extra connection with the book that I enjoyed.

        Not sure if you utilize Pandora, but someone created a Fallout 3 channel that has some music from the game but mostly music by the same or similar artists. It is an awesome music channel.

        I think the story in both games is just fine. I prefer the open ended nature of the games and the fact that there is enough of a story to keep me moving forward but one that allows me to do so at my own pace.

        • Peter Sahui says:

          Thanks for the Pandora tip! I just checked whether it’s available here (Australia) and, as of December, it is. Might take a look…

        • Peter Sahui says:

          “I prefer the open ended nature of the games and the fact that there is enough of a story to keep me moving forward but one that allows me to do so at my own pace.”

          I think this is a good way to describe it. It’s a little hard to explain – and honestly, this is pretty subjective – but I do find the overarching story in Fallout 3/NV more effective than in the typical Bioware game. The Bioware games are a little _too_ episodic to be my cup of tea, if that makes sense? It feels like I’m collecting plot coupons with no strong motivation leading me from one to the next, or no theme joining each episode.

          (Disclaimer: I haven’t played a Bioware game since the original ME/DA. I couldn’t really get into them, but I respect the opinions of all their many, many fans!)

          • Carl V. says:

            “episodic” is a good description and I do understand what you mean. For me the very nature of wanting to complete a game is what compels me forward and there is enough of a story that I want to find out how the main quest will end. I like that I don’t feel pressured, I guess, by the main quest line to have to stay with it as I get the most bang for my buck out of games where I can wander around and do what I want. That being said I enjoy the Mass Effect and Dragon Age games which are much more linear and much more restrictive in that they do have some side missions but you don’t have the same level of freedom to explore.

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