Fallout: New Vegas, like its predecessors, takes place in an alternate timeline where a war over resources sprouts up in the 1950s and ultimately culminates in a nuclear apocalypse. The game is set in the wastes of Nevada, surrounding the city of New Vegas, the successor of the old Las Vegas, a gambling paradise seemingly untouched by nuclear devastation. A war is brewing in this territory between the NCR (New California Republic) and various tribes of raiders, including the Great Khans and Caesar’s Legionnaires. The NCR is a group that wishes to preserve ancient weaponry as well as bring law and order to the wastes, no matter at what price.
The player takes on the role of a courier who is assigned to deliver a package to the mysterious and enigmatic Mr. House, the owner of New Vegas. However, once the package finds its way to its destination, a man in a checkered shirt and a pair of thugs intercept the courier and begin to dig an open grave. The courier is shot, buried, and left for dead, but is later dug up and brought to a doctor in a nearby town by a robot who saw the events transpire. The protagonist must now find out who tried to kill him/her, and why.
Gameplay primarily resembles its immediate predecessor, Fallout 3, utilizing the same engine, interface, and most features. Like the previous game, Fallout: New Vegas is open-ended and focuses on exploration. Although each game begins essentially the same, once the player has molded the protagonist’s base stats, traits, sex, and appearance, the game progresses in a largely non-linear fashion. The player can pursue the main quest, or explore the wastes and take up side-quests from various NPCs. The main character will level up as he or she gains experience by completing quests, doing unique actions and defeating foes.
There are new gameplay elements as well. There is a larger variety of weaponry, and the player can now aim down the sights with guns, as well as change the type of ammo the gun uses. Different types of ammo have different effects on enemies. The player can also use workbenches, campfires, and reload benches to craft unique items, consumables, and ammunition respectively. There is an influence system in the protagonist’s standing with various towns and factions. The influence rating will determine whether or not that faction or town is friendly to the protagonist or not, and his affiliation to some groups may affect this as well. The player can also try and fool enemy factions by dressing up as a member of that faction, but must use stealth to avoid guards as guards may see past the disguise.
There is also a new mode of play known as “Hardcore” mode. Hardcore mode is an extreme difficulty setting that alters the gameplay to make a much larger focus on survival. The changes in hardcore mode are as follows:
- Stimpaks will not heal the protagonist immediately, but over a period of time, and they cannot heal crippled limbs. Only a doctor bag can heal a crippled limb.
- Similarly, the RadAway chem does not remove radiation sickness immediately, but rather over a period of time.
- The protagonist must eat food, drink water, and sleep on a regular basis, or he/she will die.
- Ammo adds weight and encumbers the protagonist.
- Companions can be killed in battle.
As in Fallout 3, the protagonist levels up, gains perks (although perks now come every other level and instead of starting with a perk, the player starts with two special traits), and can use functions such as fast traveling, waiting or sleeping to adjust the time of day, and fight foes in action combat using the traditional first-person control scheme (although the third-person camera is still an option), or the V.A.T.S. targeting system, which allows the player to pause the game and target specific parts of the enemy’s body.