Fallout: New Vegas - Old World Blues Review
If you're looking for smart, funny, exciting new gameplay this summer, you don't have to run down to GameStop to find it. Get on Steam, PSN, or Xbox Live Arcade and pick up the Old World Blues DLC for Obsidian Entertainment's Fallout: New Vegas. Paid DLC gets a bad reputation pretty often, especially from PC gamers, but it's important to point out that if we didn't have it, we wouldn't get wonderful, smart, themed addons like Old World Blues. The price is a rather reasonable ten bucks, and for that you get hours of brilliant writing, off-beat characters, spot-on voice acting, and more RPG choices and action in the style of the already great New Vegas.
As with previous addons, players will load up their ongoing savegame, now with Old World Blues installed, and get invited to check out a small, new location in the Mojave Wasteland. When you do, your character is whisked away to an entirely new area that's cut off from the rest of the outside world. This is Big Mountain, a research facility that went into strange enough science that they set off an explosion big enough to blow the mountain away and leave behind only a crater - and this was before the Great War. Luckily, most of the research stations were left intact, so they kept working through the apocalypse, and by the time you show up, the place is little more than a ruined shadow of itself.
Players will quickly learn that upon arrival, their character's brain, heart, and spine have been replaced by cybernetic equivalents, but that's far from the strangest thing that happens in this addon. The initial quest is simply to get your body parts back into your body, but the five scientists in charge of the place are clearly past their prime, so you'll have to do quite a few things for them first. The researchers' bodies have long decayed and died, but they've implanted their own brains into robots in order to continue their research. There's an intricate plot to unwind that involves recent visitors to Big Mountain (connecting a plot together with New Vegas' other DLCs) as well as some of the Mojave Wasteland's more mundane creatures, and as players progress through Old World Blues, they get to learn a bit more about the Think Tank's scientists when they were a little more... human.
In the isolated crater you'll be unlocking secrets, gaining new abilities via special implants, acquiring and upgrading fun gear, and putting it all together to take on Dr. Mobius, the sixth scientist that has isolated himself away from the others and become Big Mountain's supervillain. Your headquarters is The Sink, a strange little apartment with all kinds of computer-driven personality profiles. I don't want to spoil any of the surprises, but these little guys, along with the five main researchers, are some of the most charming and amusing characters I've seen in the Fallout universe since Bethesda resurrected the franchise in 2008.
Combat is generally geared towards player characters that have melee and energy weapons skills, as there just isn't a lot of new gear available for those using Guns or Explosives, and the only significant new armor is geared towards stealth. Speaking of that - stealth is useful, but only against some enemies; one new type of robo-enemy seemed able to immediately discover and fire at me from nearly any distance in any situation, even with 100 Sneak skill.
Big Mountain isn't all underground research stations and radioactive goo pits, even if that's the majority of its locations; you'll also find a couple of off-the-wall places, including one quiet little area that lets you learn more about the primary scientists before they implanted their brains into robots. Admittedly, Big Mountain is still generally combat-heavy and you won't have many opportunities to talk your way out of fights, but you can find a few tricks to make a few fights easier. You'll also have some ongoing scavenger hunts you can take part in to, well, "reprocess" many mundane Fallout items into more useful components. And when you complete Old World Blues' main quest, you'll be able to re-visit Big Mountain and can realistically make The Sink your home for the remainder of your New Vegas adventures.
I want to point out that while there were some bugs with activating and starting up the Honest Hearts DLC, the recent patch Obsidian put out seems to fix not only those bugs, but quite a few more little issues all around the base game as well. This is a nice change, considering that Bethesda's later patches for Fallout 3 only prepared the game for new DLC and did nothing to deal with outstanding issues that plague the game even today. (I have heard of a few bugs related to issues with Old World Blues, but they seem to mostly center around the use of mods on the PC version of the game. I played on PC and use quite a few mods, but haven't found any issues yet.)
For someone like me who plays these RPGs as a pretty serious completionist, eight or more hours can be squeezed out of Old World Blues in exploring, looting, completing quests, and killing. And while the previous add-on, Honest Hearts, couldn't have been more different in its look and atmosphere, many of the best parts of that DLC are also represented here - the history, the interesting characters, and fun choices make this at least as good as Obsidian's previous DLC pack. You might even prefer the more traditional Fallout-like setting here over the more nature-oriented Honest Hearts. Admittedly, you'll also still be stuck with that sort of wonky-feeling combat that we've all gotten used to in the Gamebryo engine, but Obsidian can't do much about that at this point. Despite the limitations, this is probably the best DLC addon for Fallout period.
Bethesda has announced one final DLC add-on for New Vegas that will complete the Courier's story, and that'll be it. Let's hope that the success of the game overall - even if it was never a big runaway hit - prompts Bethesda to bring Obsidian back to work on future installment of Fallout in a few years, hopefully on a new game engine. id Tech 5 seems like a pretty good fit, don't you think?