Author - Jerry Paxton

Fallout: New Vegas (PC) | Review

‘War. War Never Changes…’
Fallout: New Vegas is the latest chapter in the Fallout series, which started with the original Fallout back in 1997. After being brought into the first-person world with Bethesda Softworks’ Fallout 3, developer Obsidian Entertainment has created this latest chapter in the beloved series.

Unlike Fallout 3, where you begin life as a vault-dweller, the player starts as a mail courier who has stepped into the wrong place at the most wrong time possible. In fact, you kind of die. Kind of. Suffice it to say that, upon being brought back from near-death, you get to customize out your character in a fashion that will be familiar to Fallout 3 fans. Character customization is fairly straightforward and Obsidian has made some of the skills a lot easier to select. For example, no longer do you have various ‘Gun’ skills (small, heavy, etc). In New Vegas, you simply have a ‘Guns’ skill. Of course, there is still an Energy Weapons skill as well as Melee and Unarmed abilities, but at least most guns are now grouped together. This comes in handy as the land surrounding New Vegas is fraught with danger and you need to be able to handle weapons of opportunity, whether it be a rusty pistol or a shiny laser rifle.

The area of New Vegas is actually built over the leftovers of what was once known as Las Vegas. In fact, there are so many familiar settings in the game that it made this Southern California resident hungry for a trip up the I-15 to actually play some craps! For instance, I was pleasantly surprised to see the roller-coaster and ‘Buffalo Bill’s’ esque casino at Primm – not to mention towns like Searchlight, Jean, and Boulder City on the map. Unlike the D.C. Wasteland, the Mojave area was not directly hit by the nuclear warheads (well, not as many) so much of the ground water is rad-free and there is plenty of plant-life about… And animals.

The actual gameplay of Fallout: New Vegas is similar enough to Fallout 3 that no detailed review is needed of the system, suffice it to say that it still does work. Rather, the changes from that system are what truly matters in this case. For instance, some of the old gameplay issues remain, like a wonky cinematic camera as well as strange cinematic animations. However, Obsidian has made a few additions to the gameplay mechanics which add a lot to the overall experience. First of these enhancements is the new crafting system. No longer are you stuck just crafting various one-off weapons. Now you can craft ammo at reloading benches as well as new weapons, mods, and food at crafting stations and camp fires. There are a lot more component types out there to use in said stations as well. Going back to ammo, now you have various degrees of ammunition for each caliber of weapon. You can get armor piercing rounds of +P rounds even!

The next big addition to the game is the faction system. No longer do you have just one reputation gauge with which all NPCs in the game world judge you by. Now, you can earn and lose reputation with a multitude of in-game factions. From the roguish Powder Gangers to the New California Republic. Pissing off one side may increase your standing with another. Furthermore, altering your rep too much can cause some sides not to deal with you anymore, shutting off access to certain quests.

This allows for a lot more re-playability in New Vegas, as you can explore the benefits of each faction against the others. Also related to this faction system are disguises. If, for instance, you put on a Powder Ganger’s armor you will become disguised as one of them. This came in handy as I explored the correctional facility near Jean. I entered a cell block, eliminated the enemies in the area and donned some of their armor before leaving. The various enemies in the courtyard were not alarmed by me at all, even after repeating the process through several cell blocks.

Obsidian has also added a lot of new weapons to the game, from 9mm pistols to my personal favorite – the Light Machine Gun. Nothing says ‘fragged’ like a hail of 5.56mm rounds peppering an enemy target. There is even a laser-based sub-machine gun which will leave enemies burnt to a crisp in no-time flat. A big emphasis was placed on combat in this Fallout game, it is much more the Aliens to Fallout 3’s Alien.

The stories and quests of New Vegas are where this game really alters from its predecessor. In Fallout 3, your main storyline was VERY epic and all-consuming. In New Vegas, you are already born into the outside world and the main story feels like more of a guideline than a rule. At 18 hours in, I had yet to be in New Vegas and was instead doing all of the quests scattered across the landscape I could find. The game has an incredible amount to do and see. Its almost a post-apocalyptic life simulator than sci-fi game. This is not a negative by any means, it is actually rather refreshing.

Surprisingly, this Fallout game is plagues by bugs – including numerous crashes to the desktop. I have gotten into the habit of saving quite often just in case as these CTDs appear out of nowhere. These bugs are not just on the Windows PC version either, as many Xbox 360 gamers are complaining about similar issues (albeit not CTDs). One has to wonder how the Obsidian QA process contrasts from that of Bethesda’s in order to let these bugs hit retail shelves.

Visually, the graphics of Fallout: New Vegas look only slightly better than those in Fallout 3. They are good, but not great, and I was disappointed that the visual quality had not been increased further since the last game. Sound design is excellent, with the world of New Vegas and the Mojave area teeming with various ambient noises. Actors are all incredible, from Battlestar Galactica’s Michael Hogan to Friends’ Matthew Perry to Ron Perlman (like you need a reminder). Everyone does a terrific job at giving their characters vocal life.

Overall, Fallout: New Vegas is a great role-playing experience, whether you are new to the series or are experienced enough to remember when you heard Richard Dean Anderson in a Fallout game. Despite its bugs, the game will provide you with a tremendous amount of playtime, just go out and explore!

Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator Gameplay Video

Thom Robertson has released a new gameplay video of his spaceship bridge simulation, Artemis. In the game, players each use their own PC or laptop to simulate a bridge station and the ‘Captain’ makes commands as needed – as is the case in most of the sci-fi shows on television. The game demo is free to download and play, and looks to be a fun time if you could get your friends and the needed hardware together. The full version of the game costs $60 dollars.

The Thing (2011) Trailer – Captured from Halloween Horror Nights

Here is the trailer (hand-held capture) for the upcoming prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing. Known simply as The Thing, the film tells the story of the Norwegian expedition who discovers the alien organism buried in the Antarctic ice. The Thing is due out on April 29th, 2011.

This trailer was shot via iPhone 4 while on the tram at Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights King Kong 3D attraction. It is ONLY being shown at HHN for the time being.

Psychopath Pack Out Now for Dead Rising 2

Capcom has released the Psychopath theme pack for their new zombie-killing epic, Dead Rising 2. The psychopath pack features and ‘insane’ new look as well as new zombie-killing weapons such as cleavers. The pack retails for 160 Microsoft Points on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace and $1.99 on the PlayStation Network.

Checkout the theme pack trailer below!

Medal of Honor Released – Launch Trailer

Electronic Arts has released their new shooter, Medal of Honor, as well as its official launch trailer. The game puts players into the shoes of a special ‘Tier 1’ soldier over several levels of play promising a highly realistic experience.

Civilization V (PC) – A Review

Civilization has been a mainstay of the turn-based strategy genre on Windows PCs since 1991 with Sid Meier’s Civilization. This latest entry offers some incredible features for armchair Caesars, pharaohs, presidents – whatever you call yourself these days! For the uninitiated, Civilization has always been about turn-based, strategic development of a virtual empire from the stone age to the future colonization of Alpha Centauri. There are multiple ways of doing this, from cultural victories in which other nations of the world simply cannot resist turning to your way of life (with their cities declaring allegiance to your own), to the more standard domination victory which is where a nation simply conquers the rest in play.

Visually Civilization V takes advantage of the full-array of the latest PC technologies – including DirectX 11 effects. Thankfully, for those of you without those high-end GPUs, the game still fully-supports and takes advantage of DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 extensions.

In-game audio is adequate, although it is a tall order to recreate the sounds of an entire world. Instead, the developers focus on just playing sounds that are key to the actions taking place. When a unit moves, you hear marching – when it builds something, you hear the noise of construction. The game’s musical score is very clever – reflecting whichever nation/empire you choose to helm throughout the ages. Play as the American empire and you will hear Revolutionary War-style flutes early on, and more contemporary music later in the game.

The game’s diplomacy system has been enhanced quite a bit over its predecessors. Instead of being treated to a small window with the foreign leader’s face inside, you now get a full-screen window featuring the leader standing, waiting your audience. Some leaders, such as Montezuma, hover over elaborate set pieces. The new interface is not the only upgrade to the diplomacy system – now you have many more diplomatic options to pursue with foreign leaders. Options such as declaring secret pacts of cooperation against a particular enemy civilization. This is a pledge that both sides will do whatever is necessary to de-stabilize the target’s government without going as far as declaring war against them. Foreign leaders also now more realistically-react to your proposals.

Combat has also been tweaked for the better. Instead of being able to stack as many military units on top of one hex, now you can only support one per hex. While the military units in Civilization IV were visually denoted by about three of the particular unit standing next to each other in one hex (like three swordsmen or three warriors) – the military units now feature many more soldiers representing the unit. Coupled with only being able to place one military unit per square and it makes your armies look REALLY big at times, with them sprawled out over the territory.

Siege weapons, like catapults and ship-boar cannons, now feature a ‘ranged combat’ feature which allows them to engage enemy units from, well, range. Civilization V’s combat actually reminds me a lot of Panzer General, which is a plus as that game was incredibly fun. Also now taken more into account are unit experience and bonuses along with terrain modifiers – all making for a much more tactical game of combat.

By far, however, one of the most interesting new features of Civilization V is the nation-state. Nation-states are simply small, one-city empires that, while not able to do everything larger empires can, are instrumental in your course of world domination. Nation-states in Civ V act a whole lot like the ‘Minor Races’ did in Microprose’s 4X Star Trek title, Birth of the Federation. They can ally themselves with standard empires, fight in wars, and build units. For instance, in one long play-through of the game, I was acting as the Greek Empire and I had conquered one nation-state, thinking this was a good way of annexing a new city into the fold. I then proceeded to do this to two more nation-states… Apparently, they all shop at the same store or something as, in the next turn, all the remaining nation-states declared war on me at once. This unexpected turn of events made for a precariously-interesting situation as then all of the larger empires allied with them also declared war on me. Basically, in the course of two turns I had the entire world against me. Nation-states also have a very needy attitude, often-times announcing to the world something that they desire. If you satisfy the desire, which can be anything from obtaining a resource to the destruction of a rival nation-state, you gain faction with them.

The game also supports multiplayer gameplay, with players able to control their own empires – each vying for control on an AI-laden world. In fact, the only game mode that I would have liked to have seen in the game would be the April Fool’s Day ‘Extreme Diplomacy’ mode.

Overall, Civilization V is an incredible turn-based strategy title which perfectly blends the constructive, diplomatic, and combative elements from previous Civ titles, and amps them up to the Nth-degree. You owe it to yourself to try this game out as soon as possible.

(Extreme Diplomacy Mode in Would-be Action)

EA Sports NHL 11 – A Review (X360)

NHL 11 is EA Sports flagship hockey title for the year. While hockey is not the most popular sport in the United States, it still has a very large following and NHL 11 brings some really great (and not so great) features to the table for to enjoy.

While NHL 11 features a number of game modes, this edition of the NHL series is really built around the EASUHL, or, EA Sports Ultimate Hockey League. This online gameplay mode uses a trading card system for team building. Players receive a starter deck and gain new cards through in-game currency or real money purchases. Unfortunately, while this system is a lot of fun, the real money purchases makes competing online difficult unless you are willing to spend some cash on cards. Player cards can also be traded or put up for auction on the marketplace. In terms of overall gameplay, the other game modes like ‘Be A GM’, ‘Be A Pro’, ‘Playoff’, ‘Tournament’, and ‘Practice’ were, sadly, left largely unchanged.

A new real-time physics engine can create some very authentic inter-player hits and crashes. It also means shots and passes work like they do, pretty much, in reality. It also adds a level of unpredictability in where exactly that puck will end up. Sometimes a hit off the wall will result in a crazy deflection. This adds another element of fun to the game and helps keep things fresh.

Visually, NHL 10 looks and runs better overall than its predecessor, with the exception of some frame-rate hiccups in ‘Be A Pro’ mode. Players are realistically detailed and look like their real-world doppelgangers. The entire game has a TV sports broadcast-feel, although the instant replay system can sometimes choose wonky plays to bring up instead of the awesome one you just pulled off.

Game audio is excellent, surrounding you with the sounds of a hockey game from crowd chatter to skate ‘swooshes’. NHL 11 also features an in-game commentary by ESPN announcer Gary Thorne and former hockey-pro and analyst, Bill Clement, although sometimes their cues don’t seem to jive with what is actually happening on-screen. The game’s soundtrack rocks and features hits from bands like The Ramones to Europe and more.

EA Sports has overhauled the control scheme to allow for more in-depth moves and even allows for better more options during face-offs – from changing your grip on the stick or even trying to lift your opponent’s stick. Speaking of sticks – in this edition of NHL 11, you can even have player’s break their sticks! AI has been enhanced since NHL 10, with players acting in a more realistic and strategic manner, though even with these improvements, sometimes players held onto pucks a little longer than they should have or just plain missed the opportunity for a shot when they were wide open.

Overall, NHL 11 is EA Sports best entries into the NHL series yet with improvements in almost every area of play. Unfortunately, while the EASUHL is a lot of fun, it can put thrifty gamers at a disadvantage.

BRINK Dev Diary Showcases Sound Design

Splash Damage and Bethesda Softworks have released the fifth dev diary for their upcoming shooter, BRINK. This video dev doc focuses on sound design and just how the Splash Damage team revs up their creative juices. BRINK is due out next Spring.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock Megadeth Trailer

This new trailer for the upcoming Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, shows off some of the background action which takes place during a playthrough of a Megadeth favorite. Warriors of Rock will feature 93 tracks of epic metalness for your playing enjoyment, and is due out on September 28th.