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Fallout meets Vice City

To risk or not to risk my life to recover the body of a soldier’s husband? To steal or not to steal from that gun cabinet to make a little extra cash? To seek or not to seek visceral vengeance against those who shot me and left me for dead? The

To risk or not to risk my life to recover the body of a soldier’s husband? To steal or not to steal from that gun cabinet to make a little extra cash? To seek or not to seek visceral vengeance against those who shot me and left me for dead?

These questions plagued both Hamlet — see Shakespeare’s “Director’s Cut” — and the duality that is Fallout: New Vegas. This game was massive beyond comprehension but was also stretched so thin it often lost its momentum.

There were times where the hours melted away as I dug deeper and deeper into the layers of plot and subplot, pondering the potential outcomes of my actions through a maelstrom of morality.

Also deeply entrenched in more than 100 hours of gameplay was a battle for dominance over the region. Eventually, one must take sides — fight alongside the NCR, a militia with the morality to bring about peace but also the inevitable self-destruction that left the landscape destitute from nuclear fire years before. Or align with Caesar, a Marlon Brando-like character who used ancient Rome as a template to bring strength and unity to mankind. And then there’s Mr. House, a cold-calculating Wizard of Oz computer whose knowledge of human nature and whose application of logic for the betterment of all is difficult to deny. Whatever side I chose, I knew that it would shape my place in the game and the fate of the people.

And these finely tuned sociological implications, combined with the mirroring of humanity’s greatest strengths and weaknesses through its key characters added a breadth to the game that was lacking in its older brother. Let’s face it — any game that can use terms like Hegelian Dialectics deserves recognition.

Developer Obsidian, taking the reins of the Fallout series from Bethesda, has kept everything that made the last Fallout a classic. Some will complain that New Vegas lacks novelty and ingenuity. I say it was attention to detail that made Fallout 3 incredible and kudos to Obsidian for keeping what worked, maintaining quality and simply increasing the complexity of the gameplay.

New Vegas does have plenty to offer, regardless of whether you played Fallout 3. There’s more to see and do, a massive map to explore, the VATS combat system that picks enemies apart piece by grizzly piece and a rich plot that has a life all its own. It’s all here rendered in visual brilliance.

There is one element, however, that has plagued both its predecessor and this new iteration. No, it’s not the banal, expressionless faces of its characters, though there are hundreds of examples roaming this virtual landscape. The problem is pacing.

There are times when the story is enthrallingly deep and the action intense, but there are also countless times when the pace slowed to crawl, waiting ad nauseam to traipse across endless miles of mountainous desert. And then there are the load screens, which arrive with painful frequency. The tedium swelled to the point where I started folding laundry, having finished both the dishes and the book I was reading. Now that’s boredom you can’t put a price on. And yet I still returned to New Vegas, day after day, hour after hour with many a good night’s sleep sacrificed by, “I just want to do this one more thing.”

With more sides to it than a craps die, New Vegas is another masterpiece in the Fallout series. And though the endless walking and load screens kept me reeling in frustration, I couldn’t pull myself away nor give it anything less than a resounding review.

When he’s not teaching junior high, St. Albert Catholic High alumnus Derek Mitchell spends his spare time connected to a video game console.

Fallout: New Vegas

Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360<br />Genre: RPG<br />Online: None<br />Rating: M (Mature)