Fallout 3

This Real Fallout 3 Shotgun Will Make You Yearn For An Apocalyptic WashingtonHarrison Krix, aka Volpin Props, is continuing on his never-ending quest to bring video game equipment to life. And he's doing one hell of a job.

His latest job is this Terrible Shotgun from Fallout 3, which as you can see (in these pics by Dan Almasy) is about as far from terrible as something can possibly be. Forget what it's called in the game, this thing should be called the Wonderful Shotgun.

The piece was made with more than just eye-candy in mind; it was minted for web series Nuka Break, which as you may remember was pretty damn good.

Terrible Shotgun [Dan Almasy]
Combat Shotgun (Fallout 3) [Volpin Props]

This Real Fallout 3 Shotgun Will Make You Yearn For An Apocalyptic Washington This Real Fallout 3 Shotgun Will Make You Yearn For An Apocalyptic Washington This Real Fallout 3 Shotgun Will Make You Yearn For An Apocalyptic Washington This Real Fallout 3 Shotgun Will Make You Yearn For An Apocalyptic Washington This Real Fallout 3 Shotgun Will Make You Yearn For An Apocalyptic Washington This Real Fallout 3 Shotgun Will Make You Yearn For An Apocalyptic Washington This Real Fallout 3 Shotgun Will Make You Yearn For An Apocalyptic Washington This Real Fallout 3 Shotgun Will Make You Yearn For An Apocalyptic Washington This Real Fallout 3 Shotgun Will Make You Yearn For An Apocalyptic Washington

Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game

Return To New Vegas: Social Experiments Bring Out The Worst In People One of the most fascinating things about the Fallout franchise is the history of the vaults. Before United States was destroyed via atomic bombs, the government ordered the Vault-Tec corporation to build a number of underground safehouses. To the public, these vaults were supposed to help ensure the survival of the American populace after nuclear annihilation.

They didn't build nearly enough of them. Not to justify what Vault-Tec did, but in a way, building enough vaults to house an entire country is kind of crazy. So instead they only built 122 vaults—which, okay, still better than nothing. The issue is that the true purpose of the vaults is a nefarious one.

You know how most of the social experiments we hear about show that humanity is kind of screwed up? There's the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, for instance, where normal everyday men pretended to run a prison. Half of them became guards, half became prisoners. They didn't leave any detail out—prisoners got "arrested," the guards were given batons, and so on. It didn't take long before they all forgot it wasn't real, and the results were disturbing. The guards hazed and abused the prisoners, and the prisoners would have breakdowns. The experiment was canceled before it ran its course out of fear of what would happen otherwise.

There are other social experiments like it, in that they are testaments to our humanity—from how far we'd go to hurt others, to how long it takes us to go to someone's aid (if at all).

So it should come as no surprise that the vaults themselves weren't meant to help people.

Many would argue that social experiments are inherently immoral and wrong. At the very least, if someone does something "as a social experiment" to get away with amoral behavior, we'd likely think that person is an ass.

While the war ramped up in Fallout, Vault-Tec became very powerful—practically another branch of the government. As cliche as it might be, that power corrupted them. They'd go on to research how to evolve humans with the FEV virus, along with a slew of other questionable weaponry and tech.

So it should come as no surprise that the vaults themselves weren't meant to help people. Actually, they were large-scale social experiments. Each vault tested certain conditions, often absurd and ridiculous, sometimes completely disturbing. Most of the vault-dwellers would never know this, save for the overseer, who had to make sure that everything in the experiment went according to plan. The purpose of these experiments was to test out how the population would react to certain conditions, and then to judge how the subjects go about repopulating the country.

In Fallout 1, we saw an issue with Vault 13 that was actually common amongst a good number of the vaults: the water chip was defective, and that's the reason your vault sends you on a quest. Nothing too crazy. Other vaults would have ludicrous conditions like "all women and only a single male." In Fallout 3, the infamous Tranquility Lane is a part of Vault 112, where residents are trapped in a virtual simulation that was maintained by the creator of the GECK.

Fallout: New Vegas, like all Fallout games before it, has vaults in it. Two are of particular note: Vault 21 and Vault 11. If you thought that a vault built in Las Vegas absolutely had to be themed around gambling, you'd be right—that's exactly what Vault 21 is, the gambling vault.

Return To New Vegas: Social Experiments Bring Out The Worst In People

When you enter the strip, Vault 21 is nothing but a glorified gift shop maintained by Mr. House. But if you delve into its history, you find out that it was originally inhabited by only gambling addicts. The idea was to make the vault as "equal" as possible, and this meant that everything in the vault was left up to games of chance. The vault would be emptied by Mr. House after winning a bet against the residents of Vault 21, but you can't be too sad for them or anything. They left the vault for another gambling nirvana, New Vegas itself.

Vault 21 has one of the more amusing premises for a vault in New Vegas; Vault 11, meanwhile, is one of the more disturbing vaults. Here, the vault residents are told that they have to sacrifice a person from the population every year or else everyone will die. What they don't know: they're supposed to defy the decree, and if they do, the vault would tell them that they did good. Guess what: they don't figure it out until it's too late, and almost everyone is dead.

The story leading up to the downfall of Vault 11 is a tragic one. After the first batch of vault dwellers find out that the overseer knew about the twisted purpose of the vault, they elect the overseer as the sacrifice. The vault then adopts this as tradition, where all of its overseers are sacrificed after their term ends. It's funny, in a twisted way, to think that elections are typically characterized by a candidate's desire to be elected—but you'd imagine that in this case, people would campaign so that someone other than themselves would be given the overseer title, regardless of what power came with it.

Eventually a woman named Katherine Stone is told that if she doesn't have sex with a certain group of people, they'll elect her husband as overseer. She complies, only to find out that they intend to elect her husband anyway. She then starts killing those people off, supposing that at best they lose their majority and her husband is safe, or at worst she is elected overseer instead of her husband. She is right, and her first act as overseer is to abolish the election and to have the sacrifice be determined at random.

Return To New Vegas: Social Experiments Bring Out The Worst In People

Naturally this upsets people, notably those who think that Stone's actions will destabilize the already-established power relations in the vault. This, in turn, catalyzes a war that leaves only a handful of people alive. Fate is cruel, and the last remaining vault dwellers find out the truth about the vault. They are so aghast with what they learn that they kill themselves... though even these final moments are filled with tension over what should be done. The only remaining evidence about these events are the audiologs that you find when you explore the vault years later.

You get the feeling that these social experiments were done because the government wasn't really interested in saving anyone that wasn't "important," (i.e., themselves) and this is reinforced by how the Enclave treats everyone on the wasteland as something other than human in almost all the games. Regardless, it's difficult to point fingers and be judgmental about it all, because this vault plot twist is exactly what makes them so fascinating. I know that whenever I play a new Fallout, I'm excited to see what new vaults the designers have thought up. My hope is that the Fallout in question features a good mix of funny vaults alongside upsetting ones.

Maybe we're just all awful human beings—that's what all these social experiments say, anyway. Consider this though: the Enclave might be the ones that set up the experiments, but we're the ones practically eating popcorn while we read the results.

Fallout 3

Return To New Vegas: Kleptomaniacal Ethics On The WastelandWhen I play Bethesda's open-world role-playing games, I steal. A lot. I know I'm not alone in this—in fact, I'd wager that almost every single human who has played Fallout 3 or Morrowind or Skyrim has stolen something or other.

After playing so many hours of Skyrim over the past year, I've noticed something odd during my extended return to Fallout: New Vegas—the Karma System. It changes everything.

I noticed immediately how every time I stole some (necessary! important!) piece of ammo or health kit, the game would play that oh-so-disappointed "You've lost karma!" sound effect, and I'd feel bad about myself. Even when I was robbing someone like The Silver Rush, the one place in New Vegas that absolutely demands robbery. It's run by a crime family, and they're all assholes. But nope, Karma lost.

I'm not the only one who feels that way—in this thoughtful essay over at Extra Credits, Daniel Starkey recently posted about how New Vegas' predecessor Fallout 3 made him confront his real-life stealing. Upon meeting and interacting with the hardscrabble survivors on around the Capital Wastes, Starkey realized that he felt bad about depriving them of their much-needed supplies.

In Fallout, as I encountered different enclaves of people with their own strategies for survival, I was asked to critically consider their lifestyle, understand their perspective and finally judge the rectitude of their actions. It forces us to answer, both from observation and through play, how far we'd be willing to go to survive in the wastes. Fallout: New Vegas takes that core narrative one step further, with more nuanced mechanics and a greater number of "morally gray" agents, the questions posed are both more realistic and more disconcerting.

Who we are isn't always easy to understand. I stopped stealing long before I played Fallout 3, but I only did so to save face. It wasn't until I experienced, in a very real way, the effects of my own actions, that I was able to truly come to terms with what I had done. And in 2008, I began to apologize to all the people I stole from.

An interesting analysis, to be sure. I wonder, though, how much it the Karma system factors into this sort of thing, consciously or unconsciously? In Skyrim, I steal until I'm blue in the face (or rather, red in the hand), and as long as I'm not spotted, no one cares. I do enjoy that kind of loose moral approach, as it makes it much easier to change playstyles halfway through the game.

But then, Karma has been a part of Fallout for as long as the series has existed, and it'll doubtless always play a role. Surely I'm not the only one wandering around New Vegas at this point, so I'm curious if any of you guys think twice about stealing from some folks in this game, or if anything goes? And if you do have second thoughts, does the Karma system play into that?

Games are falling fast and hard this time of year, but there's always time for a little bit more wasteland wandering. We'll have more Return to New Vegas posts up this week.

Grand Theft Auto IV Trailer

Virtual Tourism Has Never Felt More Real There's this small problem I'm having with Assassin's Creed III. It's nothing to do with the game itself, actually, and everything to do with me. The problem is this:

Assassin's Creed III is turning me into a kind of obnoxious person.

I've developed this running commentary while the game goes on. It has nothing to do with the game's themes, or characters. It's unrelated to the gameplay and more or less completely unconnected to anything meaningful inside the game. It sounds like this:

"I used to work about a block away from there."
"They haven't changed out those cobblestones since 1773 and they're murder on nice shoes."
"That hill is the Back Bay now."
"That river is the Back Bay now. They put the hill in it."
"Lexington Common looks different when it's full of cows."
"A beacon? On Beacon Hill? I didn't see that one coming."

I grew up in and around Boston, making my home well inside of Route 128 from birth until striking out down the coast for New York City shortly before turning 25. While previous Assassin's Creed games have claimed high fidelity in recreating Damascus, Rome, and Istanbul, the basic fact of the matter is that those cities aren't my home. Boston is.

AC3 certainly doesn't represent the Boston or New England of the 21st century, of course. But the late 18th century setting of the game, a scant 230-odd years in the past, retains much more immediacy than the Italian Renaissance or the Crusades. The creatively imagined Boston-that-was is close enough to my Boston-that-is to give me a sense of familiarity both comprehensible and misplaced.

Games occupy this strange place in memory, where we so clearly go places and explore worlds that never actually existed. Experiences like To the Moon explicitly address this dissonance, but it's true of every game. I can remember how to get around a space station as well as I can remember how to get around my local mall, but my body's only been to one of the two. The mall is real; the Citadel is not.

When game spaces represent real-world spaces, the strange sense of memory gets ever-stranger. I moved to Washington, DC the year that Fallout 3 came out. Controversial advertising sprang up through the city's Metro system depicting a post-apocalyptic Capital, but it wasn't until after the game came out that I felt the full weight of investigating my own ruined city.

Virtual Tourism Has Never Felt More Real

The general size and scale of the virtual DC is of course a mismatch to the real one—spaces in games were ever thus—but the details are devilishly familiar. In particular, the ruined Metro that provides the Lone Wanderer a route for getting around a city full of toppled buildings, nuclear waste, and super mutants is uncannily, frighteningly similar to the Metro that federal commuters use every day.

At first, while playing Fallout 3, I'd wander through the game comparing its locations to ones I knew from daily life. But after fifty or so hours of Fallout, a funny thing happened. Instead of comparing game-play time to real-world experience, I began to relate the other way around. While waiting to change trains at Metro Center in the mornings, I'd see a bench in the shadows and think, "That's good cover for avoiding the super mutants," or I'd see a door and think, "Didn't I pick that lock yesterday?"

Two Kotaku colleagues not based in New York reflected that the Grand Theft Auto games had inspired similar deja vu in them. They had played the games first, and then visited the city. On visiting, they handily identified and remembered places they hadn't actually been. As someone who lived a block away from Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza the first time she came to the neighborhood around Outlook Park in-game, I could sympathize. On that memorable occasion, I'd blurted aloud, "I can see my house from here!"

Virtual Tourism Has Never Felt More Real

I can, of course, visit the real Boston—or New York, or Washington DC—at more or less any time, weather and cost permitting. I don't need to see them in a game in order to explore them to their fullest—and even when I do use a game, it's not the kind I can put in the PS3. Exploring a real space, and digitally navigating an imagined space, are never the same thing.

Sometimes, though... sometimes, when game spaces represent real spaces, the uncanny and the real cross over in a very strange way. Through the games I've played, I remember the cities of my heart as places I've never actually known them to be. The tall ships of Connor's era are long since replaced with ugly motorboats, but the next time I stand on Long Wharf, part of me will remember seeing Haytham sail in on the Providence even so.

(Original top photo: via Boston Event Planning)
(Center photo: via PublicDomanPictures )
(Bottom photo: via GTAVision )
Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game

Return To New Vegas: The Most Refreshing Video Game Sex I’ve Ever Had My first brush with homosexuality was at age ten—and it happened thanks to Fallout 2. Imagine my surprise—being a girl with ultra religious parents—when I saw that given high enough charisma, my female character could flirt and then sleep with a woman named Miria in an early town. Before that I hadn't even considered the possibility of a woman loving another woman. My family never talked about such things.

But then! Should you sleep with Miria in Fallout 2, her father catches you and forces you to marry his daughter. Unless you manage to talk your way out of it, or unless you kill him, you are then stuck with his daughter for the rest of the game. Yes, even if you didn't want to get married. If you're an awful person, you can fix this "problem" by selling her to slavers later. Alternatively, there's always divorce—which you can do in the city of New Reno for the price of one bottle of alcohol. Then you can go wash all that down by becoming a pornstar in the same town.

Sex, gay marriage, divorce—twelve years after the release of the game, California—the state Fallout 2 takes place in—still hasn't legalized gay marriage, and homosexuals are still the scornful subject of the hyper-religious.

In this way, the Fallout franchise has always been progressive, and 2010's Fallout: New Vegas is no exception.

Character-building-wise, you're free to take up the confirmed bachelor or cherchez la femme perks. These allow you to pursue aggressive same-sex special options in dialogue and combat—the results of which make these perks a fan favorite. Return To New Vegas: The Most Refreshing Video Game Sex I’ve Ever Had

Once out in the world, you meet a number of people who are gay, bisexual or more on the 'sexually liberated' side. JE Sawyer, lead gameplay designer of New Vegas, once went on record regarding the inclusion of such characters, "Represent marginalized groups when sensible. Diversity helps broaden the appeal of our media, can add interesting dimensions to thematic exploration, and in some cases may even generate themes that would otherwise go unexplored." Sawyer wrote this on his blog following the ruckus game websites made about Arcade Gannon—one of the recruitable companions, a doctor that you find aiding the Followers of the Apocalypse. A doctor who happens to be gay.

The argument was that Arcade was a great gay character because of how downplayed the "gay aspect" of his personality is. When depictions of gay characters in media likes to err toward the exaggerated, it becomes easy to commend Obsidian for how Arcade handles himself in the game. At best, you have just a few lines that give a nod about his sexuality, and they're not particularly explicit.

Perhaps the best we can do is to make sure these characters are written by people who identify with the backgrounds depicted—because beyond that, what the hell are a bunch of straight people doing arguing about how to write a gay character?

But as Sawyer wrote on this blog, it's difficult to nail characters like Arcade. You can't make everyone happy. Some people criticized the idea that the only good gay was one that wasn't in your face about it. Perhaps the best we can do is to make sure these characters are written by people who identify with the backgrounds depicted—because beyond that, what the hell are a bunch of straight people doing arguing about how to write a gay character? Or, more applicably to everyone, how can we possibly postulate the idea of a "correct" way to depict a gay person? Like they're all the same or something? Uh, no.

This stuff is complicated, but that's identity politics for you.

Arcade overshadowed the other companions who also weren't heterosexual—Veronica and Cass. I never met the former during my playthroughs (somehow), but her background story revolves around her sexuality. Being a Brotherhood of Steel member meant that her attraction to women wasn't welcome—the BoS is scarce, and they frown upon relationships that don't allow for procreation. Veronica's lover ended up leaving the Brotherhood as a result, while Veronica was shunned by the community.

The discussion of Arcade made me uncomfortable in that he became defined entirely through his barely noticeable sexuality—as if no other aspects of him existed—and with Veronica, that focus felt less like a circus act. You can't get to truly know her without learning about her struggle.

Cass, meanwhile, is a caravan owner who finds herself in a pickle. You find out about her sexuality in passing much like Arcade, but only if you happen to be a woman with the cherchez la femme perk. She tells you that once she's had enough to drink, she doesn't care who she ends up in bed with. And, if you try to recruit her despite having no room for a companion, she says "Not in the mood for a threesome," shortly following that up with "...today" under her breath. My reaction to that line? Damn.

The frisky business can get more explicit, but what do you expect in Vegas? There's Gomorrah, a casino where debauchery rules supreme and players can help a sex worker escape. In Freeside, if the player goes into the Atomic Wrangler, they can start a quest chain called Wang Dang Atomic Tango. This is the quest where one of the Wrangler's proprietors asks you to find special escorts for his customers. If you take it on, you'll meet a number of escort candidates, including a sexbot called FISTO (whose function I hope is...evident, but if not, hey. The game allows you to test it.) You can sleep with all these characters—if you have the caps. Though I'm not sure I'd brave FISTO given the drill sounds that reverberate in the darkness as you test him. Yikes.

The interesting thing about that quest is how it treats fetishes. While it could be argued that New Vegas doesn't take fetishes seriously, it struck me as more of the tongue-in-cheek, ridiculous post-apocalyptic wasteland shenanigans. At the same time, I wouldn't blame anyone for reading this scenario as almost like, "Hey! Wow! Look at how wacky we are! Look at these fetishes, haha! Fetishes, amirite?"

Ultimately none of these things stuck with me as much as Betsy, a sniper with the NCR who suffers from sexual assault PTSD. As a means of coping, the game argues, not only is she in denial of what happened, but she also becomes alarmingly predatory with other female characters. Like, she can't stop talking about how much she wants women, even ones belonging to the faction that raped her. This is a dark situation, and it's not often that you see a game depict rape without it acting as something that builds character for women, depressingly.

What bothers me about how rape is treated in New Vegas is that it doesn't help with a common belief surrounding lesbianism: that those that turn to it must be victims of rape who need a way to cope.

And yet for all the criticisms I have of what New Vegas depicts when it comes to gender and sexuality, I can't help but stand in awe that it dares to include so many of these things, period. It doesn't get everything right, and I don't think it should get a pass simply for trying. But damn if New Vegas isn't ballsy.


Return To New Vegas: The Absolute Weirdest Way To Play Fallout: New VegasOver the past couple of weeks, I've been returning to Fallout: New Vegas, using the game to patch up downtime between the big releases of the fall. I've got a bunch of mods installed, but nothing particularly crazy.

But if you DO want crazy, you could always follow Youpi's lead and make the game well and truly bananas. In a crazy "let's play" series of videos and images, we are taken through the wild, wooly, modded world of New Vegas, weirder than I've ever seen it.

Some images from the LP:

Return To New Vegas: The Absolute Weirdest Way To Play Fallout: New Vegas

Return To New Vegas: The Absolute Weirdest Way To Play Fallout: New Vegas

Return To New Vegas: The Absolute Weirdest Way To Play Fallout: New Vegas

Return To New Vegas: The Absolute Weirdest Way To Play Fallout: New Vegas

And of course, one that's probably most common:

Return To New Vegas: The Absolute Weirdest Way To Play Fallout: New Vegas

Heh. Check out the whole thing at Selectbutton, though be warned: there are a lot of images and videos in the post, and they can slow your machine down. You can see a full list of the mods Youpi has installed here:

Return To New Vegas: The Absolute Weirdest Way To Play Fallout: New Vegas

Holy shitballs.

Anyone out there play with Wild Wasteland turned on? Would you ever download this many mods and hope to have the game actually run in a reasonable way? Is it only a matter of time before this same kind of thing is possible with Skyrim?

Man. I like modding, but I feel like if I installed all of these, my PC would actually throw up on the carpet. Doesn't mean it's not fun to watch them, though. We'll be back with more random stuff from the Mojave Wastes as my (and maybe some other writers'!) return to New Vegas continues.

Let's Play Wild Wasteland [SelectButton.net]

Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game

Return To New Vegas: God Bless V.A.T.S."Necessity is the mother of invention," the old saying goes. If you've got a problem that must be solved but no proven way to solve it, you're going to have to get creative.

Fortunately for Bethesda, fixing Fallout 3's shooting didn't require a new invention—in fact, it required them to look to the past. When they sat down to make Fallout 3 (the precursor to Fallout: New Vegas), someone at the table must have pointed out the obvious: The current tech that Bethesda was using, a combination of the aging Gamebryo engine, Havok Physics, and other middleware in varying states of decrepitude, was simply not up to supporting an enjoyable first-person shooter. And yet if Fallout 3 was to be a first-person game, it was going to involve guns, and shooting. What to do?

The answer was written right into Fallout's DNA: V.A.T.S., or, the "Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System," wound up being the perfect solution to Bethesda's shooter problem. It's also the system that largely defines both Fallout 3 and Obsidian's Bethesda-published sequel, Fallout: New Vegas.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been returning to New Vegas and writing about it. I played twelve or fifteen hours of the game back when it first came out in 2010, but never truly got "into" it. Given that there's no vast open-world RPG this fall, I figured New Vegas might provide a good counterpoint to all the shooting, driving, stealthing and tactics-ing I was doing in other games. I was right.

It's amazing, really, just how well V.A.T.S. works. The action and shooting in New Vegas is remarkably bad; ancient feeling, crusty to a "free demo of off-brand 1994 FPS that came with PC Gamer" degree. Enemies float across the terrain, hovering left and right and shooting you. Your character slowly meanders backwards as your gun's huge iron sights pop up and obscure everything in your path, making it impossible to aim. A couple of melee enemies make a beeline towards you, swinging and yelling, and in about three seconds, you're dogmeat. Non-V.A.T.S. firefights in New Vegas feel jagged, shouty, disconnected, and altogether strange.

Whoops, you've been flanked by a flamethrower-wielding lady you missed the first time around! Better freeze time again.

And yet with V.A.T.S., battles become distinctive, satisfying, tactical, and even humorous. If only more first-person games had some sort of option that let you freeze time with a button and ponder your options! (Okay I guess they do... the pause button. But that's not what I mean. And bullet-time, while similar, doesn't count—I'm talking freeze time here.) "Okay, this guy charging me needs to be dealt with, so I'll shoot him a couple of times, then I'll have to unfreeze time and reposition over behind that dumpster..."

Double-tap into the dude in slow mo, then make your next planned move, dodging fire as your action points recharge. Whoops, you've been flanked by a flamethrower-wielding lady you missed the first time around! Better freeze time again.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a single system so effectively flip a game from bad to good. Imagine if Fallout 3 hadn't had V.A.T.S., if it had featured real-time combat like Oblivion and Morrowind before it. Oh, the overall game probably would have been fine—the vast wastes, the hidden environmental storytelling, the crusty, lonesome wonder of it all; none of that would have gone anywhere. But it wouldn't have been anywhere near as fun.

Return To New Vegas: God Bless V.A.T.S.

In fact, V.A.T.S. makes it a bit tough to go back to Skyrim. I've been picking my way through that game's first downloadable content, Dawnguard, and after a weekend with New Vegas, I regularly found myself hitting RB to trigger V.A.T.S., only to accidentally unleash a fireball on the air in front of my character.

It's a shame, really, that there's not yet a V.A.T.S. mod for Skyrim. Despite plenty of expressed interest over at The Skyrim Nexus, no modders, however industrious, have made it a reality. As much as Skyrim's combat improves over Oblivion, I would devour a V.A.T.S. archery system in the game. Those slow-mo kill-cams even feel like V.A.T.S.—why not just go ahead and build in the rest of the system? Hey modders, you're amazing. Can you put this sucker together? The world will thank you.

Truly, for my energy-weapon totin', headshottin' badass wasteland chick, V.A.T.S. is the alpha and the omega. It's the entire reason she's able to own the battlefield, and it lets me keep the initiative instead of constantly just backpedaling and holding down the trigger.

The "Project Nevada" mod I've got installed ostensibly makes the game more like a first-person shooter, but while it does feel a bit smoother, it still has that janky action-figure feel that makes shooting in Fallout so generally unfun. V.A.T.S. singlehandedly makes Fallout: New Vegas fun.

In fact, V.A.T.S. makes it a bit tough to go back to Skyrim.

On top of that, V.A.T.S. makes for great stories. These days, I avoid the "Bloody Mess" perk, because I like the randomness of the aftermath of a V.A.T.S. attack. I fight with energy weapons, so critical strikes often vaporize my enemies. I have to admit, I've always been a bit disappointed by this, since I get a sick kick out of the many goofy ways enemies blow apart in Fallout games. All the same, V.A.T.S. opens up all sorts of humorous and tactical options, given that you can actually effectively target an enemy's various parts. (I do wish, however, that the camera weren't so finnicky and selective—there are far too many times where I'll just be unable to get the damned camera to focus on an enemy's head, to the point where I'll have to pop out and back into V.A.T.S. to make it work.)

So now I'll pause for a second and imagine the future: Can you imagine if the next Fallout, let's just call it Fallout 4, had combat that was actually good on its own? Enemies who use the environment intelligently and are animated smoothly, whose A.I. has gradations and whom you can hide from, re-ambush, and confuse? Imagine an aiming and shooting feel that felt closer to, say, Borderlands 2. Okay, now imagine that on top of all that, you also had V.A.T.S. Suddenly, the system would feel less like a band-aid and more like a garnish. Considering how enjoyable V.A.T.S. already is, I'd welcome that with open arms.

How about you? Any games you think would do well with a V.A.T.S.-like system? Also: I never play as a melee character, but how is that with V.A.T.S.? Does it bug you how using explosives with V.A.T.S. almost never works, since enemies run right past your grenade? Share your V.A.T.S. stories here, folks.

I'll be playing a lot of Need For Speed this weekend, but I bet I'll break it up by continuing my treks across the Mojave Wastes. I'll have more Return to New Vegas posts up next week.

(Top image via /The New Vegas Nexus)

Return To New Vegas: The One Place You Just Had To RobOver the past couple of weeks, I've been getting my open-world RPG fix with Fallout: New Vegas. Yesterday I talked about how to mod the game to look nice and pretty, and from here on in I'm going to share some things I've noticed while playing the game.

So here's a thing: The Silver Rush. I tend to play Fallout games as an energy weapon specialist. And energy weapons are scarce, especially in Fallout 3. I remember when I finally figured out that the Enclave had plasma weapons, I'd farm their locations just to have enough plasma rifles to keep mine repaired.

So in New Vegas, I was happy to find that energy weapons were easier to come across in the early goings than they had been in Fallout 3. But then… the Silver Rush happens. And it almost breaks the game.

This store, run by a shady organized crime family, is on a corner in Freeside. The minute I walked in, I thought the same thing that I bet every single other person who played this game thought: I am going to steal every mother-lovin thing in this store.

The inside of the Silver Rush is an orgy of energy weaponry. Laser rifles lie next to beautiful rows of microfusion cells and energy cells, plasma pistols lie next to a plasma defender (!) a tri-beam laser rifle (!!) and a massive, all-destroying plasma caster (!!!). There are enough plasma grenades, pulse mines, and other weaponry to equip an army. And thanks to Bethesda's notoriously weird sneaking system, you can steal it all.

It's so easy. You just walk up to the table and crouch. At some point, you'll become "hidden," and then you can just… grab every single thing on the table. This happened the first time I played New Vegas, and this time around, I was waiting for it. I walked out of Silver Rush with enough plasma weaponry to last me the entire rest of the game. I even sold back some of the stuff I sold to get some mods for my weapons.

Was this on purpose? Did Obsidian intend for energy weapon players to find a ridiculous explosion of armaments to use? We may never know. All I know is that there's no way I'm the only one who robbed the Silver Rush blind. So come on, fess up. It's okay, you're in good company.


Return To New Vegas: How To Mod The Wasteland Pretty AgainThere are so many good games out this fall. So, so many. There's a type of video game for just about every type of video game player. But there is one thing missing: There's no vast, open-world role-playing game.

Bethesda, scions of the vast open-world RPG, have dedicated this year to the fantastic but decidedly not-open-world Dishonored. I had to go somewhere to get my fix of wandering, leveling, and exploring. And so I decided to return to Fallout: New Vegas.

Over the past couple of years, I've heard a lot of people rave about the underratedness and overlookedness of Obsidian's take on Bethesda's first-person reinvention of the Fallout universe. I actually played a big chunk of New Vegas when it first came out, but I never finished it. I just sort of ran out of steam not too long after I'd arrived on the strip.

Two years later, with a healthy gaming PC and a new appreciation for how much modding can improve these types of games, I thought I'd dig back in. After so, so many hours in Skyrim, I'm increasingly hungry to return to the darker and, frankly, more interesting Fallout universe. (That's a mouthful! But you get it, right? Obsidian made New Vegas, Bethesda just published it.) I've also heard nothing but good things about the New Vegas DLC, which is now so cheap that I couldn't help but download all of it.

I'll be writing a few articles about my time in New Vegas—it's a crazy time of year, and I can't guarantee that I'll be able to play the game all the way through or anything, but I've already put in a big chunk of time and have noticed a lot of interesting stuff while doing so.

For the first post, I thought I'd write about how I've modded the game to get it looking as good as possible. I haven't gone nearly as overboard with mods as I did with Skyrim; lots of New Vegas mods make the game unstable, and seeing as how it's already pretty crash-y, I wanted to stick with the biggest cosmetic upgrades and not much else.

So, here's what I've got installed. These mods, coupled with my solid gaming PC (I'm running an i5 2.8GHz with 8GB of RAM and a GeForce 660Ti) certainly make New Vegas a better-looking, more tweakable, and more interesting game than it was when I played it on Xbox in 2010.

I've downloaded all of these mods from The Nexusmods Site for New Vegas, and most have been installed using the Nexus Mod Manager. I've made a note of the mods that require manual installation. Here goes:

Return To New Vegas: How To Mod The Wasteland Pretty Again

Project Nevada

Project Nevada is the only overhaul-ish mod I'm using, but it's a heck of an overhaul. It adds all kinds of crap to the game—hotkeys for grenades, a sprint button, bullet-time, stealth modes, cybernetic implants… honestly, it makes New Vegas feel like a much different—and much better—game. I particularly like the cybernetic implants—my sneaky fast-talker now has a stealth mod installed in her chest, and with a press of the "X" button, I can activate a stealth field akin to a Stealth Boy. This is great, since I always hoarded stealth boys in the original game and never used them.

To get Project Nevada to work, you'll have to install the latest version of the New Vegas Script Extender, which is very easy to do. Just follow the directions at the site. You'll also have to check the boxes for the four .esm files in the "Plugins" tab in the Nexus Mod Manager.

Centered Third Person Camera

This one does just what it sounds like—it centers the third-person camera. Very nice, as the up-close third person camera is weird and claustrophobic. It's especially good for those early hours when you need to run/jump away from radscorpions to get where you're going. It's much easier to see when one of the little biters is right on your heels.

Return To New Vegas: How To Mod The Wasteland Pretty Again

Fellout NV

Fellout is a mod that, just like the previous version for Fallout 3, removes the orange tint that the game previously had. It, in combination with a couple of other mods, makes the game a much more welcoming-looking thing, and makes daytime in the desert a more arid, clear affair. I dig it.

NMC's Texture Pack

NMC's texture overhaul for New Vegas is definitely the biggest graphical boost you can give the game, though it can also be a bit persnickety. You can't use the mod manager, and have to extract the archives straight into your New Vegas directory. That's no sweat, but after installing the large version of the pack, my game became hugely unstable. You'll also want to install the 4GB New Vegas Mod, which allows the game to use 4GB of virtual memory. Unfortunately, even with that mod installed, the texture pack caused constant crashes.

I downgraded to the medium texture pack, and things are much, much more stable now. The game still looks great, and while it does crash every hour or two, I'm A) not certain the crashes are due to the textures and B) can live with it.

Return To New Vegas: How To Mod The Wasteland Pretty Again

Nevada Skies

Nevada Skies adds a bunch of new weather effects and sky textures to the game, and makes everything that much prettier.

FNV Enhanced Shaders

This is another big one—I've actually installed the lite version of this mod, since the most recent one forces me to turn off AA and also slows my framerate down. The lite version still looks nice though, and adds a lot of good lighting effects. I generally turn it off when I'm in dungeons, however, as it just makes things too dark. Fortunately, you can turn it off with a simple keystroke at any time.

Return To New Vegas: How To Mod The Wasteland Pretty Again

And that's that. There are, of course, a ton of other mods I could install, but I don't want to change the core experience too much—I'm interested in looking back at how the game feels a few years after it came out, and Project Nevada brings enough changes to keep me happy.

I've been playing the game sort of casually between other big fall releases, but I've already noticed a lot of things that are interesting, particularly after spending so much time playing Skyrim (and so much more time theorizing about Bethesda's presumed Fallout follow-up). I'll have some more articles throughout the week about New Vegas, and hey, if you've got any free time between the alien-blasting and stealth-stabbing, download some mods and join in.

Fallout 3

Get All the Fallout 3 Terminal Hacking Action You Want, When You Want ItIf your Science skill was too low, or if you just enjoyed the LSAT problem of trying to figure out how to brute force hack your way into a terminal in Fallout 3 then this flash game is for you. And look, no need to back out of the terminal before making your final attempt!

Complete with authentic keyboard-clacking and power-switch whoomphing, from mitchellthompson.net is this flash timewaster based on the good ol Robco Industries security protocol. I haven't gone to GameFAQs or my strat guide (yes, I bought one) to see if it's using real passwords or not—I don't think it is. I can't even tell if it has a correct answer or just one chosen at random. Anyway, here you go, drive yourself nuts.

Fallout 3 Terminal [MitchellThompson.net. h/t leonsbuddydave2]


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