Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Evoland [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Completed

Evoland is a game that literally changes styles as you play through it. Each time you obtain a new component the graphics and/or game play change a bit. I would have preferred more time spent in each gaming era with something that linked the changes with the game's story but instead the story provides very little motivation...

The number of game systems implemented for the game is impressive and leads me to believe the developer now has the ground work for a variety of type of games... Evoland 2 maybe?

Gut: Evoland is fun but has some long stretches where the changes are minimal. It's a quick game that is a nice flashback but nothing spectacular.

Tomb Raider [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Complete (100%)

Tomb Raider is certainly loaded with a lot more action than the previous games. Lara slays a small army in various brutal ways as you progress through the game. I was a bit surprised by the level of violence. The game flows through a few different types of gameplay:
  • Exploration - Much like the original series of games but with a cheat button to help you spot things. I actually felt the cheat button was perfectly fine to include -- there's still plenty of exploration required. This mode also includes animal hunting which was strangely fun...
  • Combat - The music changes, Lara draws her weapon... and Lara goes on a killing spree until the music dies down and she puts away her weapon.
  • Cinematic - Camera is in control and you move in various ways as to avoid dying while the world falls apart around you.
  • Quick Time Event - Press those buttons when you are told to! For whatever reason I kept missing what the actual expected button was...
While I found the story acceptable I wanted it to be darker in some places and lighter in others. The inevitable betrayal resulted in an outcome that would have been the same whether it took place or not.

Gut: The Tomb Raider reboot is fun and stands out as a unique experience. The quick time events were occasionally annoying but were spaced out as to not make me stop playing.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Deadlight [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Incomplete (played for 2+ hours according to Steam)

I could not bring myself to finish this game. The experience was simply infuriating and not really fun for me. For whatever reason I played the game in a few different sessions with a long time between each. This meant relearning the controls each time. Using a web search to figure out how to kick down a door was arguably embarrassing for both me and the game.

The art and presentation were fine but unfortunately I just realized I was not enjoying myself...

Gut: How I made it through Braid, VVVVVV, and other puzzle/control critical games is unbelievable... but somehow this one actually made me just give up.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Saints Row IV [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Entire game with just about every activity completed (might have missed gold on a few).

Saints Row IV takes the Saints Row series into an entirely different style of plot but continues and expands the standard sandbox gameplay of previous games. Now in addition to the standard run/gun/drive gameplay your character takes on ridiculous super-hero powers allowing you to run up buildings and glide through the air. This functionality was first seen in DLC for SR3 only to be expanded upon extensively for SR4.

The plot was a bit bizarre at first but seemed acceptable in its semi-serious homage to Mass Effect. Unfortunately as with the previous games the writing seems to leave a lot to be desired. It's not necessarily that things are weird and sometimes outlandish it's that so many decisions/characters just leave you confused and asking "why" -- it's primarily a problem of not really having a solid rulebook for given characters as they go through the plot of the games.

The game plays really well with tons of things going on at once. I was very impressed with the graphics as I flew through the city and leapt across the skyline. This is not to say the graphics themselves are always great but the performance certainly was. The activities were a lot less frustrating than in the previous games... but not always that much fun. Platform jumping and hurling colored items at targets seemed more like a demo for a Wii game than a Saints Row activity.

Gut: I really enjoyed the actual gameplay experience. The quick time events were limited and used appropriately. Much of the story was meh/fine but like its predecessors when it was bad it was really terrible. I definitely recommend Saints Row IV for the super-powered sandbox experience. (My Playthrough experience)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Resident Evil 5 [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Entire Game with my spouse.

Resident Evil 5 is a clunky 3rd person survival action game. The graphics are good and the imagery certainly is gruesome at times. As a cooperative game it is fun and at times teamwork can make things much easier. Unfortunately the controls really hamper the ability to feel like you are in direct control of your character. Instead you spend much of the game fighting the interface instead of the zombies/undead/infected/whatever.

The story is not exactly enticing but at least there is a narrative to an extent. Some of the game felt like a designer wanted to make a Tomb Raider game instead of a Resident Evil game. The quick time events in this game are just abusive. Not only does failure result in repetition but often quite a bit of repetition. I hate quick time events that appear over plot development as I want to pay close attention to the action and dialogue not random prompts that can appear up to and including 1 frame of game time (yea that's fair and balanced).

The biggest flaw/bug I saw was a prompt that indicated to hold a button down that was in fact intended to indicated to rapidly tap the button. To make things worse this occurs when battling the final boss. QA wins an award for not actually paying attention when testing the PC version (and possibly others too) in English. Congrats you did terribly!

Gut: Not exactly worth it... invalid instructions for quick time events aside... The experience is more infuriating than enjoyable. I hate most quick time events in just about any video game. This one relies on them too heavily and often requires you to fail to learn the key combinations ahead of time so you can press them within the given 1 frame window (I suggest pressing them before it even prompts you).

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Entire single player game

My review of this game is essentially the same as the review for Modern Warfare (1).

I think in the end... I was a bit disappointed. The game actually started out being a more fun than the first and felt larger-than-life but as the game came to a conclusion I was wishing for something more... grand. A number of the missions with America under siege felt almost open and less on rails than the rest of the game. Unfortunately this didn't continue and instead things were generally right back on fairly rigid rails.

There seemed to be a lot of "going to the well" when it comes to the main character becoming incapacitated or otherwise...

Gut: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a fine (mostly on rails) shooter. The story is nothing too exciting to me and the general gameplay is what I would expect of a shooter.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Walking Dead [Game] [PC]

Amount Completed: All 5 Episodes

The Walking Dead "adventure" game is definitely intriguing and entertaining. I wouldn't say it is exactly fun as it's not much of a game. There's a lot of cut-scenes and talking. The action sequences are mostly uninteresting and could have easily been skipped to make an even more casual television viewing experience.

I was impressed with the lack of a filter of some very sensitive topics, such as the death of child character. The game is not one of great joy and certainly can be quite depressing at times. As a grand adventure through the world of zombies I think the story fit and moved along reasonably well.

Not all of the episodes are created equally either... Some of the required activities and interactions can become repetitive very quickly.

Gut: The Walking Dead was an enjoyable choose you own adventure. I recommend it for the interesting story and choices. If there is a way remove all the "action" sequences I would recommend doing so.

Arrested Development Season 4 [Television]

Amount Viewed: Entire Season

As with just about every fan of the show I was looking forward to seeing more Arrested Development when I heard it was given a second life by Netflix. As the release date drew near I heard rumors of very character driven/focused episodes and then I started to realize what was happening. The ensemble would not be an ensemble.

So here are some major points that made season 4 difficult for me to enjoy:

  • No longer an ensemble where at least half the cast plays an active role in each episode
  • Michael is no longer the straight-man and anchor of the show -- instead he is now a lot like the rest of the characters in the family
  • The first episode I found to be tolerable the whole way through was Maeby's. (
  • I don't need to see every angle of a story through the eyes of every character.
  • Overload of stupid or unfunny

Gut: Unfortunate. "It just blue itself."

Monday, July 1, 2013

Red Faction: Guerrilla [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Entire single player game (and a lot of the side stuff)

I recalled playing the original Red Faction ages ago but never finished it. I decided I should take this one more seriously after playing it for an hour. The story is a basic uprising against an oppressive government plot. The rebels seek out an upper hand and you run around blasting stuff to bits and agitating the oppressors.

The fun of the game is the physics engine. Blasting buildings and more to shreds is a lot of fun. As you play you gain access to more tools of destruction that arguably make the experience more entertaining. Unfortunately a number of the side missions become tedious and work against the game. I became especially bored with rescuing prisoners as they had a way of getting themselves killed. The "return the car to a base" missions also became extremely frustrating as the vehicle controls left a lot to be desired.

While a lot of fun and interesting enough (story is fairly light) the game simply was too long. Near the end I was ready for it to be over.

In many ways I feel I was spoiled by Just Cause 2. In Red Faction Guerrilla you're glued to the ground and your survival relies heavily on finding cover! There are plenty of very capable enemies working hard to make you die.

Gut: Red Faction: Guerrilla is a very good sand box-like game. Some of the travel required seems to just eat up time instead of adding to the experience of the game. Definitely worth playing through.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Entire single player game

I sought out this game not because I thought it would be a great game but because of the negativity directed towards it. I was not surprised with what I found. I can see why there are a lot of complaints about how there isn't much in the way of choice as you play. It's a fairly rigid directed experience that runs you through the narrative and given events along the way.

The sequence that received a lot of criticism was the artillery shelling of a city where the lives of the targets are reduced to blips (hmm much like the lives of characters killed in video games). As a sarcastic/caustic reminder of what military actions are far from the front lines of battle I was not exactly offended. I was a bit disappointed that they called back to it for the ending credits... oh well.

The story did take an interesting route with dual plot lines. Not everything went perfectly so that was a nice break from most shooters where things are generally fine in the end. Unfortunately except for one event I hardly recall what else happened in the game.

Gut: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a fine shooter. The story is nothing too exciting to me and the general gameplay is what I would expect of a shooter.

Call of Duty: World at War [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Entire Single Player Game

Call of Duty: World at War is yet another first person shooter that takes place in World War 2. The experience is very much on rails and often times requires a whole lot of repetition to figure out exactly how to get through certain choke points. I felt I was playing a first person shooter equivalent to VVVVVV.

The game spans a few different plot lines but none of them feel like the main story. The switches between the plot every few missions was disruptive to the flow and occasionally caused me to lose track and or interest in the given storyline. There wasn't much depth and there was little of interest that happened to keep my attention.

As a general fan of the original 2 Call of Duty games this one was quite lackluster.

Gut: Call of Duty: World at War feels like a collection of DLC missions sets glued together to make a game. It was more frustrating than fun. It was a bit of slog.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sleeping Dogs [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Main storyline and most of the side missions (?)

Sleeping Dogs is definitely a welcome and worthy entrant to the arena of crime-city-sandbox games. GTA4 and Saints Row 3 each have their own positives. Sleeping Dogs brings a much richer hand-to-hand combat experience than the other two games and seemed to do a better job of giving reason to fetch or travel missions. While not perfect, the writing  and overall story were fitting. The missions supporting the police were an interesting aside the other two crime-heavy games lacked.

The game looks great and has a very fitting atmosphere. There is a lot to do and see. The characters have just enough depth to pass but in many cases deserved a bit more. The same could be argued for some of the plot points. A bit more time to play things out would have helped the overall experience.

Cheater racing invaded my gaming experience though. This is where the AI magically seems to always be ahead or able to surpass your own maximum speed for 90% of a race to keep you moving forward... and then at the end they drop off and you can pass them. I hate this. The (apparently DLC) Enduro motorcycle race required a good six minutes of near perfect driving to complete. While I finished it after a couple tries I was disappointed that the AI seemed to have such an easy edge.

Gut: Sleeping Dogs is awesome. It is well worth whatever price it is at now. I would have been happy to have paid full price for it at release.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Entire game multiple times as light/dark.

My most recent play through as a dark side character was my third. Revisiting Knights of the Old Republic was a bit of a slog due to my memory of the first planet (Taris) dragging on way too long. My save game confirmed my suspicion. It was 6+ hours when I finally left. Taris, while arguably a bit long, is actually fairly interesting. I just started exploring with a negative attitude (a bit like how I recalled Manaan as well). One major issue is that there are times where your experience is limited to just running around for minutes at a time. Even with quick loading between sections you are just running to/from various points.

Fortunately my memory had a few gaps from my previous experiences so I was surprised occasionally by events/locations within the game. In addition to not recalling story elements I actually forgot some other critical things: If you are a dark side player then using light side skills costs additional force. While understandable who is going to ignore critical light side force abilities like Cure/Heal?

The story and characters provide plenty of entertainment. It is especially humorous to see them react in horror after you make a terrible comment/decision. The opposite is not really true. As a light player the reactions of "negative" characters are not as interesting. HK-47 might be an exception as he becomes very disappointed in the meatbags.

While the combat is fun I find it to be a bit rough around the edges. After my first play through I decided that there is no point to making combat difficult so I just default to easy so I can continue through the story without too much concern for having to repeat battles (though some can still destroy you if you are too lazy). There are too many problems with characters becoming caught on walls/objects/enemies for combat to be taken too seriously. This is not a hard core combat-strategy game.

Gut: Knights of the Old Republic is a great adventure with entertaining combat, characters, music, and choices. I am sure the third is not my last play through.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dead Island [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Entire campaign with my spouse. (most, if not all side quests) 

This was the second cooperative-quest game I played through with my spouse. The first was Borderlands. Dead Island brought more of an edge and different survival experience than Borderlands.

The joy of decent teamwork and coordination of attacks was rewarding and challenging at times. When split up it was especially difficult. It really reminded me how critical a teammate in Dead Island can be. Just having another person watch your back (and the obvious pick you up when you are on your way to death) is very important! Zombies like to run from out of nowhere and chomp on you.

The lack of ammo (and/or ability to carry much) meant that this game was very heavy on melee combat. I was initially put off on the concept but as I played the game I found it worked well enough for me. The ammo problem was really stupid... you basically could take down a set (small) number of zombies and then you had to switch to melee. 

After many hours of trying weapon types I found only one that was reliable and not dangerous to my partner. Electrified one-handed weapons were the way to go. Anything else was too risky. 

The ongoing plot was a bit muddled by so many side quests. I literally lost track at one point... I did not even understand what was going on in the plot because we had done so many distractions and so much exploration.

Gut: A lot of fun! While it has a couple of issues related to easily tracking quest locations and occasional spawn point problems, all of them were forgivable as the experience was fun and kept us challenged.

Homefront [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Entire single player campaign.

I was reminded of the edginess attempted in Spec Ops: The Line when playing Homefront. Unfortunately I felt like it was a bit rammed in. North Korea taking over everything and invading the US... and you need to fight back and experience the atrocities of a horrible occupation first hand. It was a bit too heavy handed for me to take seriously at times.

The game plays like a standard on-rails FPS with lots of scripted events and activities along the way. While the campaign was short it does remain fairly interesting throughout. In many cases I felt the game required the Call of Duty style "rush ahead and everything will work out" game play. I can understand the design decision but I am not sure so much of it was required. The game really punished you whenever you were separated from your squad. In particular there was a sequence requiring you to enter a church to reach the bell tower. Without the squad around I died numerous times to memorize where the enemies were as I took each step. It was brutal to get through it. I could be terrible at this game... or I was too spoiled by my squad taking a lot of bullets for me.

Gut: Not bad. It's nothing too incredible. Everything is certainly not roses for the Americans for the sake of the plot. Unfortunately it came across a slight bit cheesy in comparison to Spec Ops: The Line. As the first in a likely series of games I have to say they did well for an original IP.

Warhammer 40k: Space Marine [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: Entire single player campaign. 

This is an awesome game.

30 minutes later...

This is getting old.

5 hours later...

This could be getting better... (this is when you stop fighting orcs as much)

1 hour later...

When does this end?!

Space Marine has fun combat marred by the inclusion of a heal method via slaying your enemy in awesome-dramatic-animation-slow mode. Unfortunately the rest of the game continues on so you might be covered in grenades and filled with holes by the time you get your heal from slaying the given enemy. The combat and running around gets old fast... the environments do look good, but they just were not all that interesting. The plot was acceptable but it was way too long. I would have enjoyed multiple small campaigns over one huge one.

Gut: Nope. Sorry this game was cool in concept but the campaign was a long slog.

Raising Hope [Television]

Amount Viewed: Everything just about up-to-date as of this entry. (late season three)

Initially I found Raising Hope intriguing in that it was a version of Modern Family with a more small town American stereotype feel to it. The plots were outrageous at times but it still felt grounded overall. This changed over time and everything became out of control and bizarre. The writers also often forget the title of the show. I guess you can't base a show on a baby after all... with such a cast of oddballs that provide more interesting characteristics.

Raising Hope deserves some credit for being first in line to parody and steal from other shows and/or forms of entertainment. While always fairly blatant in borrowing concepts it felt like the show was always mocking itself. It never took itself too seriously which mostly worked and produced some laughs and occasional endearing charm.

Gut: Slow long death. There is so much garbage to wade through in the later seasons. Having fun with the characters/world is "great and all" but it turns too far into stupid too often in the later episodes. I gave up because apparently the writers did too. It was fun, now let it go Fox. Bring on something better to cancel in half a season.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fallout: New Vegas DLC [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: All four DLC played in this order:
  1. Honest Hearts
  2. Dead Money
  3. Old World Blues
  4. Lonesome Road
Honest Hearts: This sequence of events in some lost canyon is sadly boring and did not entice me to explore much... *yawn*

Dead Money: Another fish-out-of-water DLC where you never seem to get a foothold/advantage over things. The enemies are tough and you can die around every corner. It was interesting enough but I never really felt like I knew what I should be doing... I just kind of ran forward and hoped it worked out.

Old World Blues: Plenty to explore and learn about. This was the most fun of the DLC though it had way too much voice acting... Exploring the wasteland of high tech was interesting enough with a ton of unique weapons/additions to be found.

Lonesome Road: This DLC is basically a point A to point B journey with a lot of melodramatic scratchy voiced guy criticizing and confusing you along the way. The activities were fun enough but I lost interest and was just hoping it would end about half way through. It does build out the story a bit so at least it has that going for it.

Gut: Fallout: New Vegas DLC is a mixed bag of fun/frustration/challenges and a lot of dialogue. I will narrow it down per DLC with a simple yes or no.

Honest Hearts: No
Dead Money: Yes
Old World blues: Yes
Lonesome Road: Yes

Parks and Recreation [Television]

Amount Viewed - Up-to-date as of this entry.

I ignored Parks and Recreation for the first four seasons. I only heard about it in passing. Eventually I decided to check it out and found the first season to be a mixed bag. There was a lot of potential in everything but the main character... who was a bit of a dopey moron. Fortunately the writers/producers/warlocks found that Leslie's character was not working out and was modified to be more intelligent but still ultra blindingly passionate about her beliefs.

Much of the fun of the show is the presentation of political views through different characters (main or episode specific). As the show targets a mostly left leaning audience it is humorous to see right leaning characters generally demonized (though not as badly as possible). The show has a bit of a propaganda edge to it though arguably subtle.

The main cast of actors/characters all bring something special to the show. The swap of actors/characters at the end of season 2 into season 3 actually worked out for the best. The Mark character was an alternative "normal" person which meant that he was actually second in line for the "normal" person to Ann. Everyone else has quirks that push them well out of the realm of normality (which is why the show is so fun).

Gut - Well worth watching even with a short-but-rough first season (only 6 episodes). The show shines best when it takes on issues, even when it's a single joke. Fortunately it also does well when it simply falls back on having the cast just interact in different pairings.

Gut Media Review Format Change

Previously reviews were written in a long form with a lot of details that were factual. In an effort to encourage me to actually write opinions from the gut I am going to shorten the reviews and concentrate on the elements that really impact my feelings toward a given topic.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Witcher [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: About an hour of the game. 

Note: It would be inappropriate for me to comment negatively on the art/sound/story with such a limited amount of time put into the game. There were no specific glaring issues in my experience.

Gameplay: The Witcher is a third person RPG with a massive inventory system, magic, and basic weapon combat. The Witcher uses a hybrid of pause-time combat with essentially a constant quick-time-event. After assigning the main character to battle a given enemy you have to follow up with subsequent clicks to improve the attack at an interval of time (required to generally survive the confrontation). This was so appalling to me that I quit the game shortly after clearing the fortress of enemies at the beginning of the game. Games like Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, Final Fantasy XII, and Dragon Age have a much more preferable combat systems without the need for extensive quick-time-event usage (I do not recall much if any). I do not like rhythm games and have a lot of disdain for playing games that use this kind of functionality extensively. The Witcher, unfortunately, bases the entire combat system around it.

Gut: I will not play this game until I like this type of combat in a game. While an unlikely scenario, I would not want to throw around the word "never."

Spec Ops: The Line [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: One play through failing to realize I had a choice at the end of the game (non-spoiler?).

Story: Spec Ops: The Line is about a three Delta Force operatives attempting to perform reconnaissance in a storm ravaged Dubai. Everything has been destroyed due to the cataclysmic sand storms that continue to ravage the area as you play through the game. You play as the main character and move the story forward by making minimal decisions and mostly just moving towards the next way point like a good little gamer. I make the sarcastic comment because the game forces you into decisions that you may not like the result of. The overall view is that war is a hellish mess in which people can easily make terrible decisions. Unfortunately there is little change in the game based on the decisions you make. You will be exposed to the horrors of war and witness things go from bad to worse.

Unfortunately the female gender is limited to evoking emotion in cut-scenes and civilians in the background. I am guessing they wanted to avoid stirring up even more controversy by having any actual female characters play a role. I think this could have worked well with my original thought that the game would be less guided and more open-ended about which factions you choose to support.

Art: The game looks great! There is a lot of extra detail in a few places with original art to remind the player that they are traveling through a high end metropolis that has been utterly devastated. Over the course of the game your character and his companions visually change providing some acknowledgement that they have had little to no rest, certainly don't wear a clean set of clothing, and aren't back to perfect unwounded shape every new step of the story.

Sound: The sound design of the game was critical due to the variety of events within the game. While I think they did very well I was very disappointed with the use of music. In a few sections of the game the "Radioman" uses his city-wide radio system to broadcast music providing a soundtrack to the various firefights throughout the game. Unfortunately they also had music during other firefights where it was generic and felt out of place with a game attempting to be realistic.

Gameplay: As someone who can actually recall the original Spec Ops games from the 90s (they were cool for the time) I think this is a very worthy sequel. You do not have multiple missions and are instead on one very guided roller coaster ride into the madness of war. The squad play is limited but works. You can help your companions if injured and request they go after targets as well.

As with many third-person shooters of late Spec Ops: The Line includes the use of cover by pressing a key to "attach" to a given wall/barrier. This works for the most part but is not always predictable due to angles and types of things to attach to. You cannot predict what you can attach to until you stand your character next to it and see if the context sensitive hint appears indicating you can attach.

One drawback of the game is that the controls on the PC keyboard just do not exactly work right. Grenades in particular require a lot of input and a bit of thought (especially if you want to cancel one). It is not that it is especially difficult it just seems like the number of situations where they could have been useful was cut down due to my lack of desire to fight so much with it. The grenade selection with the mouse wheel was also bizarre at best. It was like a game of roulette if I would get the grenade type I desired.

In a game where your choices and  consequences are generally apparent the concept of karma is lost in the "execution" option on wounded enemy combatants. By performing execution maneuvers you are rewarded with additional ammunition you would otherwise not receive. This flies in the face of the goal of the game and encourages you to take on further violent acts. I was very confused by the decision to include this (as it is both morally odd and nonsensical).

The aftermath of any gun violence pales in comparison to the aftermath in numerous of the cut-scenes or non-combat scenarios. Instead the enemies you face are reduced to video game fodder. Only once do I recall the radioman sarcastically pointing out that the soldier killed had a wife and children. The enemies do occasionally speak of other matters but never much in the way of reminding the player that they are in hell and wish to be out of war and back to just about anything else.

Gut: The game is fun to play. The game also contains a lot of disturbing content and may disgust some players. I was a bit disappointed that the story was so completely on rails. I was hoping for a bit more open ended where you have to deal with independent issues in a non-sequential order (faux player choice).

Afterthought: I was surprised to read such harsh criticism over the lack of alternate decisions to avoid the most horrific events. This game is not a choose-your-own adventure. The game is more like a regular book where the player is only responsible for making it through gunfights. I guess people wanted/expected Fallout 3.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Fallout: New Vegas [Game][PC]

Amount Completed: One play through the main storyline and many of the side quests (no DLC yet)

Story: The story of Fallout: New Vegas follows a courier that has been shot and assumed dead. Your journey is first to find out why and what exactly happened. Along the way there are plenty of distractions in the way of side-stories to be drawn into. For the most part the narrative is open ended in that you can make your own decision on how to proceed. There are multiple endings/outcomes related to the interactions you have with various groups of characters. You can also take along one robotic and one humanoid follower to help out in battle. On occasion the followers also impact your choices, but that can easily be averted by leaving them temporarily.

The major players in the game are two warring factions: The Legion and the NCR. Both groups are vying for control of Hoover Dam and potentially New Vegas itself. As you play through the game you are introduced to both groups and allowed to support, attack, or ignore them accordingly. Unfortunately there is little grey area when it comes to which side to support morally. The Legion is way too savage to be a viable option if you are trying to play through in a remotely "kind" way. The NCR comes across as a sad, corrupt democracy that is spineless and exhausted. While not a major player from the start, New Vegas itself also presents an option but it comes off as too ego-maniacal.

The story is really up to you to create. There are many groups to meet and events to play through. While I found the overall story experience more interesting than Fallout 3 I still felt a bit disappointed because by the time I made it to New Vegas (playing through many of the side missions) it turned out I was only a few steps from the end of the game! Once the roller coaster of a conclusion started things spiraled out of control and my choices were more limited than I would have liked.

One section of the plot in particular left me with no choice but to break out and force the failure of a number of missions. Shortly after entering New Vegas I was given the opportunity to travel to The Legion camp to perform a task (that The Legion could have done themselves in a heartbeat). They removed my weapons upon entry to the camp but then returned them when it was time to perform the task (avoiding the spoiler). At the time I had powerful weapons and allies and had the strong urge to simply destroy The Legion (as they had been less than nice to me previously). I did. I crushed/razed the Legion camp and Caesar (the leader) as well. This had almost no impact on the game but it felt like the right thing to do.

Art: Like Fallout 3 everything is dingy and gross. Even New Vegas looked nowhere near as nice as I would have expected. New Vegas should have looked even better to really remind the player just how awful the world outside is. 

Sound: The music for New Vegas (theme in particular) definitely got stuck in my head. I had to turn off the radio stations though because they were too repetitive. There were some problems with the audio for Boone (a follower). It would crackle and seemed like it wasn't recorded correctly.

Gameplay: The gameplay of New Vegas is exactly like Fallout 3. It seems like there were no changes made at all. You run around a huge wasteland exploring and collecting junk to buy more junk to make it easier to defeat people to get more junk and in turn finish missions. With a few exceptions you are always in a combat capable mode. If you so feel you can turn on the people who have no hostility towards you any time you want. Unfortunately the reverse is not true. It is a lot harder to convince people who want you dead to suddenly not want you dead.

I spent much of my time making supply runs because The Legion assassin squad attacks were so brutal and inventory filling. I racked up a lot of money from their failed attempts! After a while I realized that I would not need as much money as I was hoarding. I never really used the 65,000 caps I ended up saving.

The one follower I always made sure to keep with me was Ed-E (with the exception of when I took Rex to get a new brain). Ed-E is a floating eyeball that shoots lasers. Ed-E is awesome that way.

When a game allows it I always put as much attention on being able to have the most options in conversations. Speech/charisma was champion again like with Fallout 3. My experience was a bit less rocky and resulted in a lot fewer deaths thanks to talking through issues.

Gut: Fallout: New Vegas is fun. I liked it more than Fallout 3 primarily because I spent less time roaming the same looking 4 billion square miles of subway tunnels. I look forward to playing the DLC in the future and likely replaying the game with a bit more knowledge of what is to come (ie. better use of stats).