Glitches may give you a few minor fits, but the PC version of Fallout: New Vegas is not in the same rough technical shape as its console counterparts, possibly thanks to a sizeable patch delivered a day after its release. That doesn't mean there aren't problems here. We encountered some bugs, such as a friendly quest giver inexplicably attacking us, even though he didn't show as an enemy on the directional radar. Characters might still randomly freak out as if you're about to attack for no discernible reason, only to return to their normal locations a moment later and act as if nothing had happened. But we encountered only a few scripting problems, and the game never crashed. Most complex role-playing games suffer from technical hitches, and this one is no exception. However, the oddities in this version aren't exceptionally disruptive, which makes it easy to stay invested.
Hacking is one way to solve your problems, but if you aren't good at it, there's probably another way. Or three.
If you played Fallout 3 or The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which used the same game engine as Fallout: New Vegas, then you won't be surprised by some of the other minor foibles, although many of them seem exacerbated here. Characters get easily stuck on the environment and run in place, for example. There are also occasional pauses as you explore this gigantic world, and the frame rate tends to drop somewhat when there are multiple characters on the screen at once. Nevertheless, striking lighting, smoother edges, better overall performance, and shorter loading times than on consoles make Fallout: New Vegas on the PC stand tall. The game evokes a great sense of place in which the postapocalyptic future meets the recent past. Your first glimpse of the neon-lit Strip at night will have you pausing to take it all in, after all those hours of traversing the bleak wastelands. This isn't a pretty game, exactly, but it delivers a world you can believe in and is consistent with Fallout lore. Swirling dust storms cloud your view, crumbling edifices demand to be scavenged for simple treasures, and spore-spewing monsters hide in tufts of green overgrowth. When you see an interesting building or installation in the distance, you're always inspired to check it out, and more often than not, there's something interesting awaiting you.
The audio also contributes to the grimness of your travels, though it shares some idiosyncrasies with Fallout 3. There are radio stations to listen to, and while the toe-tapping tunes evoke Vegas through and through, hearing the same small selection of songs gets old fast. The main soundtrack is improved over Fallout 3's, using twisted twangs to summon images of cowboys roaming the blighted wilderness, driving two-headed Brahman instead of traditional cattle. Many of the symphonic swells, on the other hand, would have been more appropriate in a fantasy game. But the sound effects usually scratch the proper itch, especially where combat is concerned. A sawed-off shotgun produces a lot of oomph, and the satisfying thwacks of a rebar club make it a satisfying go-to weapon. But while the guns and sledgehammers make a big impression, subtler effects, such as the deep rumbles that indicate a quest completed, are just as satisfying.
And to think, all she wanted was to give you a fist bump.
The muffled splats you hear when you activate the Vault-Tec Automated Targeting System (aka VATS) also make an impression. Though you can aim down your iron sights, slow controls and stiff animations still make for slightly awkward real-time gunplay. Luckily, entering VATS and targeting your enemy's limbs leads to all the same rewarding, slow-motion splatters of blood and irradiated goo that made Fallout 3 such a brutal blast. The returning "bloody mess" perk may not have much gameplay significance, but it does result in limbs, heads, and other viscera flying through the air, which is often both gratifying and hysterical. Many of your creepy returning opponents are the usual suspects: supermutants, radscorpions, and the like. Others are new but equally enjoyable to fight, such as the nightkins, which are hideous mutants that cloak themselves using stealth-boy devices. You fight a lot of human enemies as well. Those battles might affect your standing with one faction or another and often pit you against named characters that might have had quests to offer or dialogue to deliver had you aligned yourself differently. As a result, some skirmishes have more impact than Fallout 3's less meaningful encounters versus nameless brigands.
When you aren't out fighting foes or questing for the greater good (or to the detriment of all humanity), you might want to try your hand at a bit of gambling. Outside of the casinos, you can play a fun little card game called Caravan with various individuals, which takes a bit of time to learn but might get you addicted to purchasing cards to add to your deck. Once you make it to Vegas proper, you can cash in bottle caps or faction-specific currency for chips and play some blackjack or roulette or maybe plunk a few coins into the slot machines. These games are much as you'd expect, but the slick presentation makes them enjoyable and addictive all the same. If you'd rather stay focused on more traditional role-playing tasks, you could always head to a work bench to create some ammo from raw materials or apply a weapon upgrade. Or perhaps you'd rather use a campfire to cook up some healthful items from the monster bits you've gathered. It's nice that the game gives recipe enthusiasts something to do, though the prevalence of weapons, armor, and aid items mean you can safely ignore these elements if you prefer.
All these years later, and Vegas is still an important tourist destination.
Fallout: New Vegas is an expansive and complicated RPG that encourages you to see and do as much as you can. This is an explorer's game, always lavishing new and interesting quests on you and giving you a lot of flexibility in how you approach many of them. It builds upon Fallout 3's mechanics in interesting and esoteric ways, making it a comfortable evolution to one of 2008's best games. A few glitches and performance issues occasionally let it down, yet Fallout: New Vegas is periodically awesome and often compelling. If you crave an expansive and flexible adventure in which your choices actually matter, this is one gamble that will pay off.