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Fallout: New Vegas

An ambitious mutation of Fallout 3 hamstrung by outdated tech

Order PSM3 issue 133 here, and have it delivered straight to your door, for a 10-page GT5 launch special and the definitive pre-launch verdict on Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Have you played Fallout 3? If so, then you've played Fallout: New Vegas.

The writing is better, there's more to do and a lot has been improved, but the actual minute-to-minute experience of playing it is identical - flaws and all.

So while there are more weapons and ways to customise your character, combat is still flimsy and inconsistent. The story and dialogue are better, but the characters remain impossibly ugly and stiffly animated.

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Hell, NPCs still occasionally sit beside chairs rather than on them - just one of a hundred dumb (but not game-breaking) glitches that have marred Bethesda's engine since it was first used in Oblivion four years ago. Four years.

But none of this is Obsidian's fault. Considering what they've had to work with - ie. one of the most notoriously buggy game engines in the world - they've done a brilliant job breathing new life into Fallout's heavily stylised, post-apocalyptic America. The gameplay may be the same, but thematically this is a very different beast to Fallout 3.

CLEAR SKIES
The biggest change is to the wasteland itself. DC was mercilessly gloomy, veiled by grey clouds and dotted with pools of radiation. In comparison, the Mojave wasteland is relatively cheery, with piercing blue skies and vegetation peeking through golden sands.

It's still dangerous, of course - there are plenty of mercs and mutated animals running wild - but there's more to distract the eye as you trek through it.

It's a world ruled by factions. The biggest is the New California Republic, who have become the defacto government of the Mojave wastes. This means that, unlike Fallout 3 where the world was pocketed by disparate groups of struggling survivors, Mojave's population is part of an almost stable civilisation.

Their greatest rival is Caesar's Legion, whose hobbies include dressing like Roman soldiers and crucifying people. And you'll get to work for, or against, both - as well as other groups, including the iconic Brotherhood Of Steel...

How you interact with each faction determines your standing with them, from main players such as the NCR to small groups of mercenaries.

Betray them and you'll become their enemy, meaning they'll hunt you down or attack you when you enter their settlements. Help them and you'll curry their favour, opening up new quest opportunities.

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Deciding who you work with and who you work against is one of the game's most entertaining features. You can also disguise yourself as a faction by wearing their uniform, but be careful; we strolled into an NCR camp forgetting we were wearing Legion armour and were instantly killed.

POKER FACE
There's one thing the factions all have in common: the desire to own and control the New Vegas Strip. Even rushing through the main story quests, it'll take you ten hours to get there. It's the centrepiece of the game whose bright lights you can see glimmering enticingly on the horizon at night, wherever you are in the wasteland.

But when you finally get inside, you feel overwhelming disappointment. Because of the constraints of the technology (yeah, that again), the Strip doesn't feel like the bustling metropolis you've been promised - it's a series of wide, empty streets, littered with the odd NPC wandering around aimlessly.

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