This is the game I'm playing to prepare for Fallout season 2

fallout new vegas NCR ranger in front of the NCR flag
(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Like my colleague Ryan Epps, the release of the Fallout TV series on Amazon Prime Video spurred me into revisiting one of the Fallout games. But rather than heading into Fallout 3’s Capital Wasteland, I’m getting myself ready for the newly-confirmed second season by heading into the mean streets of New Vegas.

I’ve been meaning to go back for a while, because out of all the Bethesda-era Fallout games, it’s the one I neglected the most. I played through the main story back in 2010,  when I was regularly skipping class in college and had free time to waste. I headed back five years later, though that time I only managed to get to Primm before I shut off my Xbox and put the game away for good.

What We're Playing

Welcome! This column is part of a series in which members of the Tom's Guide staff share what they're playing and enjoying right now, with the goal of helping you find great games that you might want to play next. Be sure to check out our last entry, where we talked about Fallout 3 and how it's still a nostalgic force of wonder despite its faults.

Thankfully backwards compatibility meant that I could still dust off the original disc and play on the Xbox Series X without buying a brand new copy. Though I did need to buy all the DLC, but the Xbox Spring Sale meant this wasn’t exactly a bank-breaking purchase.

Of all the “modern” Fallout games, New Vegas is the one that’s held in the highest regard by fans, and there are a lot of things to love. The setting is closer to the original Fallout games than anything Bethesda made itself, there are a ridiculous number of quests to play through, unique weapon modification and crafting systems. Plus, some of the most unique and well-written followers in the series so far.

Alongside this, it's not exactly one for holding your hand while you play. If you trek off in the wrong direction you’ll find yourself woefully underprepared for some of the horrors the Mojave Wasteland can throw at you. Cazador venom is no joke, especially if you come across a swarm of the blasted things in an enclosed space.

There's no right side to the New Vegas conflicts

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(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Of course, New Vegas is very murky — both in terms of the landscape and its morals. While Fallout 3 had a definite sense of which side was right, and forced you along a linear quest path, New Vegas gives you a lot more freedom. On top of that, none of the factions can be described as good or bad. It’s all about shades of gray in this game, and there’s no “right answer” on which way you should go.

Though Caesar’s Legion is definitely more clear cut than the NCR or Mr House, there’s about as much goodness in that pack of crucification-loving slavers as a rotten durian fruit.

Even the quests themselves have different layers on them. I’ve only just hit level 11 on my new play through, but I have already started coming across quests that directly contradict one another — and no, I’m not talking about the main quest line either. Completing one task for one person means another person either starts disliking me or just straight-up dies.

It makes the completionist in me die a little inside, but that’s the nature of the game. It’s also one of the main ways New Vegas stands apart from Fallout 3, which featured very few quests with actual, lasting consequences. Destroying Megaton does have an impact on the game, but it’s not the kind of thing that makes you want to go back and replay the game to see what happens when you make a different decision.

New Vegas is showing its age

fallout new vegas screenshots

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Coming back to New Vegas after 9 years isn’t the most seamless of experiences, though. The game was released 14 years ago, in an engine that debuted two years earlier, and it definitely feels like it. The graphics are not great, they can mostly be forgiven. The animation, on the other hand, is absolutely dire — to the point where I can’t ever remember the game looking quite this bad.

I've spotted multiple characters more or less floating over the ground as they move, arms don’t actually seem to touch when characters cross them, and I’ve seen more accurate speech animation in episodes of South Park. I know I have to give New Vegas some slack, on account of its age and the fact it was an Xbox 360/PS3 era title, but it does get distracting at times.

It's enough to make me wish that Bethesda and/or Obsidian would remaster the game for current generation systems.

It’s particularly bad with Rex, the cyborg dog companion you end up adopting from a group of Elvis impersonators in the New Vegas outskirts. It’s almost as though he never actually touches the ground when running. Then again the circumstances of how you meet Rex are one of those things that makes Fallout New Vegas so great.

New Vegas is wild and unique in the best way

fallout new vegas screenshots

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Over 300 years, and a whole nuclear war after he died, Elvis still has such a massive impact on Vegas culture that there’s a gang who look and talk exactly like him. And those guys have a cyborg dog that can join you on your adventures.

Then there’s the super mutant that talks and acts as though the player is her grandson, a giant hollow dinosaur that's used as a sniper's nest, and a gang of violent grandmas straight out of a Monty Python sketch.

Absolute madness, but in the best way possible. I know damn well that I’m only just scratching the surface of the absolutely bonkers stuff hiding in this game. And that’s without picking up the Wild Wasteland perk.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.