The current heat wave sweeping the southwest makes evident just how brutal the Mojave Desert can be. Obsidian Entertainment did its best to convey that sense of hostility in their contribution to Bethesda’s post-apocalyptic game series with Fallout: New Vegas. They can’t send you sand and roiling heat, but they can subject you to treacherous territory rife with dangerous creatures and people, some never before seen in chapters past. The dystopian desert-themed action RPG was made available to Xbox One on June 23rd, arguably the most popular on a list of seven other games Microsoft added in its ongoing release of backwards compatible titles. You can download it to your Xbox One from the disc if you already own the game for Xbox 360, just as with previous releases. Otherwise, you can purchase Fallout: New Vegas from the Xbox Live Store for $15 (£11.99). The DLCs can also be loaded or purchased for $10 (about £7), each.
If you’ve been playing the latest from Bethesda Studios’ Fallout series, going back into the Mojave may seem like actual time travel with the stark difference in both graphics and gameplay. The experience can be jarring, but not wholly unpleasant. This is not a re-mastered version of the game, as is supposedly in store for a later date, but a chance to re-visit or be introduced to the winner of 2011’s Golden Joystick Award for RPG of the Year. Despite its bugs and glitches, New Vegas was and still is an enthralling game that puts you, “Courier Six,” in the middle of a territorial dispute between three main factions: the New California Republic (NCR), Caesar’s Legion, and the people of the New Vegas Strip, itself, under protection of the wizard of Oz-like Mr. House. The ever-present Brotherhood of Steel is downplayed here into near-obscurity but still fill their charmingly ironic roles as collectors and protectors of humanity’s more dangerous technologies. You’ll be met with the old familiar dialogue boxes and epic loading screen wait times of Fallout 3, but you’ll also be surprised to find that you are not leaving a Vault-Tec facility of any kind as you begin your journey of revenge and revelation across the Mojave Wasteland.
A different selection of creatures await in the searing desert: things that make hissing and rattling sounds, things that sting and poison you, and things that might be invisible right up until they start wailing on you with a club made from rebar. There are still the usual suspects with your enemies and friends, but they also occasionally come with a twist- try to sneak past a bunch of blind deathclaws and find out just how honed their other senses are, for example. Seeing a “cazadore” (Spanish for “hunter”) for the first time may inspire you to take a closer look at their beautiful wings, but you will regret ever sating that curiosity as they stab you to death with their giant stingers. You might be a true Fallout veteran or lore enthusiast and find a little joy in talking to a supermutant named “Marcus” found at a mountain lodge made home by other, ostensibly friendly supermutants of the “Nightkin” variety. One can also take a break from all the fighting and political banter by visiting various landmarks that pay tribute to their real-world-inspired counterparts (see “Dinky the Dinosaur” and then look up “Cabazon Dinosaurs”)- or go gamble away your hard-earned caps by playing the slots, roulette, and Black Jack at a handful of casinos on what remains of the Vegas strip.
Cameo voice-overs from a cadre of beloved actors makes for a fun experience, as well, with notable names such as: Matthew Perry (Friends), Felicia Day (The Guild, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Dave Foley (Kids In the Hall), Kris Kristofferson (Blade film series), Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica reboot), William Sadler (Roswell), Danny Trejo (Machete), Wayne Newton as the voice of “Mr. New Vegas,” and of course, Ron Perlman as the narrator. And, if that wasn’t enough nerd trivia for you, make sure to grab the “Wild Wasteland” perk in the beginning of the game; it adds a number of random encounters that occasionally make darkly humorous references to classic sci-fi, fantasy, and comedy favorites like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Monty Python’s Life of Brian. There’s even a pseudo self-referential nod back to the Mothership Zeta DLC from Bethesda Studios’ Fallout 3 Game of the Year Edition one can find a little ways north of The Strip. It’s not near old enough to be retro, but compared to what has been coming out in recent months, and what’s to come in the future, this sidebar to a best-selling series will feel relatively ancient as you spot the polygons on every face, every surface. That doesn’t make it any less an adventure though, so go put on your spurs, grab your best iron and get ready to (metaphorically) saddle up with Sunny Smiles and a Sunset Sarsaparilla, for old time’s sake, even if it’s for the first time.