Amongst those of us who play video games, the conversation about the best video game of all time will often come up. Regarding such a hotly debated topic there will never be consensus, and that’s not what I’m here to offer today. I don’t consider myself well versed enough in video game culture to definitively say what the best game of all time might be, instead I want to present what I consider to be perhaps the greatest game I have ever played — Obsidian Entertainments masterpiece Fallout: New Vegas.
Launched in 2010 and developed by Obsidian Entertainment, Fallout: New Vegas is an action role-playing game set in a post-apocalyptic retro-futuristic version of the United States of America. In this alternate version of our own world history, the world pretty much ended in nuclear fire on October 23rd, 2077, when the United States and communist China, after a decade of war, annihilated each other by means of nuclear weapons in mutually assured destruction. Whilst something like this would usually be considered the end of the story, it was just the beginning and humanity survived, preserved in hidden bunkers or remote corners of the world untouched by the bombs.
The story of the game starts in the year 2281, over 200 years after the bombs were dropped. You play as Courier 6, a delivery man or woman working for the Mojave Express, tasked with delivering a mysterious package to the rebuilt New Vegas strip when things take a turn for the worse. Having been captured by a mysterious man in a checkered suit, you narrowly survive execution by a combination of dumb luck and poor marksmanship. Nursed back to health by a friendly doctor in the small town of Goodsprings, the stage is set for your mission of revenge against the man who shot you — and perhaps to figure out more about the package you were carrying, valuable enough to kill for.
With some of the background out of the way, let’s get into why I consider this game great. The thing I love most about Fallout: New Vegas is the choices the game allows you to make. You aren’t playing a morally black or white character — you’re not the destined hero of the Wasteland nor its prophesied destroyer, you’re simply a person trying to make the best of a bad situation. Nowhere is this better exemplified in the town where you start the game, the isolated community of Goodsprings, which at the start of the game is facing a crisis. A young trader named Ringo has taken shelter in the town after his caravan got attacked by the Powder Gangers, a group of escaped prisoners from a local prison. Unlike a lot of other games, Fallout: New Vegas presents the player with several options to deal with the situation. You could, for starters, simply leave town, claiming that it’s not your problem and letting things take their “natural” course. For those who feel obliged to help Ringo, whether for a promise of pay or for simple moral reasons, the game presents you with two options. Either you face the bandits on your own, a tough fight so early in the game, or you could (if your character has the right skills) convince the townsfolk of Goodsprings to band together in an impromptu militia to drive the bandits out of the town. But these are not your only options for dealing with the situation. If you on the other hand decide that the bandit way of life is something for you, you can approach the leader of the Powder Gang and offer to work together to take over Goodsprings — and once again the game will present you with multiple options. You could simply march into town, killing anyone who stands up to you and take over, but if you have the right skills, you can alternatively intimidate or convince key town figures to support your takeover, leading to a much more bloodless seizure of power.
The key thing about all this is, in my opinion, that nowhere does the game force you into any of these choices. It doesn’t read your characters data and simply says “ah, you’re the bad guy so you have to go down the bad guy path” — it’s always up to you to handle any given encounter or quest. The only real limitation is your character’s skills, or rather, your choice of skills. It’s an approach Fallout: New Vegas takes all the way to the endgame, leading to a game experience that can be hand crafted to your exact wishes, and making Fallout: New Vegas one of extremely few games that you can complete without killing a single person — throughout the entire game.
This element of personal choice, combined with a rich and interconnected game world where your actions can have unforeseen and interesting consequences is what, in my humble opinion, makes Fallout: New Vegas one of the best games ever made. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a deep and exciting role-playing game to sink their teeth into.