Your first day in Fallout: New Vegas starts badly as you recover from being shot in the head, left for dead in a post-nuclear wasteland and apparently so worse for wear the town doctor can barely put you back together.
Obsidian Entertainment's newest contribution to the Fallout universe—the developer was born from the ashes of Black Isle Studios, developer of Fallout and Fallout 2—starts as "an inversion" of Fallout 3. You're not a Vault dweller born and raised to your specifications, you're a courier, ambushed for your cargo and given a blank slate courtesy of a bullet.
You awake in Goodsprings, a tiny town in the Mojave wasteland. Doc Mitchell, Goodsprings' local medical talent explains your unfortunate situation, hoping that he's patched you up to your original condition. The good doctor helps you get your bearings, a bit of rehabilitation that helps justify your character creation and customization with Doc Mitchell's Vit-o-matic Vigor Tester and Reflectron machines, plus some word association tests.
The whole process is a rather elegant, inventive and humorous way of helping to determine your play style.
Doc Mitchell outfits you with a spare Pip Boy, one sharp-looking Vault jumpsuit and weapons you showed up with—you're given the choice to opt-in to Fallout: New Vegas' Hardcore Mode here—sending you on your way to the wasteland.
The pleasant sounding Sunny Smiles becomes your next best friend in Fallout: New Vegas. You'll meet up with her at the Prospector Saloon and she'll show you around town, introducing you to some of the local flora and fauna, like irradiated giant geckos and the Big Horners, mutated big horn sheep. The Big Horners are docile, but the geckos aren't. They're also one of Obsidian's favorite beasts from Fallout 2, a game that was mentioned often during our preview of New Vegas.
Your interactions with the people of Goodsprings range from the friendly (Victor the robot) to hostile (Joe Cobb and his crew). While trying to make friends and forge alliances, you'll gain an understanding of the impact your character's customized skills have on your dialog choices. For example, while trying to score some dynamite, a chat with Easy Pete at the saloon went swimmingly, thanks to the demo character's high explosive skills. Similar success came from a chat with Chet, which capitalized on the barter skill.
Not long after rounding up a makeshift posse and securing the dynamite, we got a look at Fallout: New Vegas in combat. As previously noted, the VATS system from Fallout 3 hasn't been greatly changed, with the exception of adding in melee attacks, which Obsidian demonstrated with the help of a 9 iron golf club. Queuing up the "fore" attack in VATS, our hero sliced the head off one bad guy, lobbing dynamite and unloading a modified pistol at others.
This was our first look at Fallout: New Vegas' weapon mod system.
Players now have the option to add onto and customize their firearms, an addition based on one of the more popular user created mods for Fallout 3. The system also allows for specialized ammo, like armor piercing rounds and heavy slugs for shotguns. The 9mm pistol used in the demo was tricked out with an extended magazine and a scope. Some of the available mods can be seen in the gallery below.
After laying waste to Joe Cobb's gang—the guys on the receiving end of that dynamite—and making pals with the Goodsprings locals—Obsidian moved around the outskirts of New Vegas, showing us the sights. Like the real world ghost town the Goodsprings is based upon, much of Fallout: New Vegas' locals are rooted in reality.
Like the town of Primm, which sits near the California-Nevada border. It's notable for having a big roller coaster, which makes an appearance in the game. Instead of an amusement park ride, however, it served as a platform for a vicious gun battle. Obsidian showed off more of Fallout: New Vegas' arsenal, including the Caravan Gun—a double barrel shotgun—and a grenade launcher, which Obsidian described as "a hoot" to use.
From Primm, we traveled to Novac, home to Dinky the Dinosaur, the local gift shop and defensive stronghold. From Dinky's mouth, we got a far-reaching view of New Vegas' landscape, including the home to the Caesar's Legion faction. Caesar's Legion a slaving organization, Obsidian says, is one half of the game's central conflict, with the New California Republic representing the other half.
From Dinky, we could also see Black Mountain and Helios One, our next two destinations.
Black Mountain gave us our first run in with the Super Mutants of Fallout: New Vegas, based on the creatures from Fallout and Fallout 2—and a look at some intense VATS combat. Neil, a sympathetic Super Mutant under the thumb of the evil Tabitha, agrees to help take down the ruler of Black Mountain, if the player can get past the powerful Nightkin between the player and Tabitha.
Nightkin are pretty tough, elite commandos in the Master's Army. They're not only big, strong and fast, they can cloak themselves, making them difficult to use VATS targeting. For the purposes of our demo, an anti-material 50 caliber rifle modded with a high-speed motor and that handy grenade machine gun helped to even the odds.
We won't spoil the secret of Tabitha here, but in addition to having pretty powerful weapons, Obsidian took advantage of smart dialog choices and a high speech skill to win part of the battle. Tabitha was successfully convinced that a mutiny was underway, pitting Nightkin against Super Mutant and saving the player some ammo.
After leaving Black Mountain, the demo moved to Helios One, a pre-war solar energy plant/super destructive secret weapon built by Poseidon Energy. It's under the control of the overly bureaucratic New California Republic, and to get in, you'll need a solid reputation with the faction. Conveniently, the player had one. Without it, a player can also sneak his or her way in.
After a meeting with the bumbling idiot running Helios One, Obsidian decided to have a little fun with the secret weapon portion of the structure. Since the various New Vegas factions are all hungry for Helios One's energy, distributing that power to certain regions and factions can win you better reputation ratings. Instead, all power was diverted to the Archimedes II, an incredibly destructive laser weapon that laid waste to much of the NCR barracks and infantry.
The demo ended with a bang, not with a trip to the Vegas Strip. Obsidian and Bethesda are keeping the contents of that area under wraps for now. Expect it to be loaded with fictional casinos with late 1950s styling, but Bethesda wouldn't reveal what other trappings from the Strip would make an appearance.
Fallout: New Vegas is looking like a familiar post-apocalyptic romp through unfamiliar territory. Obsidian is clearly bringing its experience (and personal preferences) from the original Fallout games to the follow-up to Fallout 3, an opportunity to add to the gameplay of Bethesda's take on the universe Black Isle created. The promise of proven gameplay with classic Fallout know-how, combined with the allure of a post-nuclear Vegas Strip, might overcome some of that all-too-familiar feeling.
Make sure to check some of the game's new features from our recent Fallout: New Vegas coverage.