New Vegas Travel Guide: The First 5 Hours

"Off to a Bloody Start"

Bob is a courier. Bob was shot in the head by a few New Vegas thugs just for doing his job. Bob, a simple man (but by no means dumb -- he knows a thing or two about mechanics and survival techniques), was rescued by a cowboy robot and fixed up by a small town doctor in the Mojave Wasteland. This doctor even asked Bob what some inkblots looked like, just to make sure Bob's brain hadn't been fried during surgery. One of those inky stains looked a lot like a vagina, but Bob, the last modest soul in a cruel world, was too embarrassed to say so. One did remind him of a mushroom cloud, though.

And that's how Fallout: New Vegas began for my avatar, Bob the Courier. While every character has to go through the psychological evaluations and distribute their S.P.E.C.I.A.L. points using a machine that resembles a 1920s arcade game, each character's life will be unique after leaving Doc Mitchell's house in Goodsprings. Significant decisions and paths open up in the first hour alone. Some might track down the men who shot them while others will begin looting -- or "prospecting" -- throughout the Mojave Wasteland. Bob didn't do either. Instead, I decided that Bob needed to find some sunglasses. See, Bob's a four-eyes, a trait I tacked on when creating his character. Without glasses Bob has a minus one point to his perception skill; with them his perception increases by one.

On his humble quest for eye-wear Bob became the patron savior of Goodsprings, declared war on the Powder Gang, saved a deputy and stormed into a prison compound controlled by inmates in revolt. Bob also broke his legs four times, nearly died from dehydration twice and ran away from the same raging pack of radscorpions on a dozen separate occasions.

Such is life in Fallout: New Vegas' Hardcore mode.

The first stop on my quest to bequeath Bob with snazzy shades was the local saloon in Goodsprings, the town your Fallout courier wakes up in after he, or she, was left for dead. It's not much to look at, which is disappointing compared with the impressive first steps taken into Fallout 3's Capital Wasteland.

Bob talked to some locals, learned how to shoot using iron sights, and discovered that the recently formed Powder Gang was threatening his new hometown. It was a typical introductory quest, one where the good or bad paths meant either protecting or attacking the town. What wasn't expected were the influence points Bob immediately gained after killing the Powder Gang's leader. For his heroic efforts, the town soon "idolized" Bob, meaning my courier will receive significant discounts from Goodspring's merchants. On the other hand, the Powder Gangers weren't exactly pleased with this newcomer's do-good attitude. New Vegas' faction system can greatly change the way characters interact with the world around them. Entire quest lines will disappear just by associating with a particular crowd.

After searching high and low for glasses in a one-brahmin town and coming up empty handed, Bob decided to move on. His path through the desert brought Bob to the brink of death. Forgetting to bring fresh water along, Bob made the mistake of sleeping in an abandoned trailer overnight, and woke up dehydrated in the morning. His vision blurred, Bob managed to find a bottle of dirty water in a nearby box. Thirst quenched for the time being, Bob pressed on to Primm, a town split in half by bloodthirsty convicts and its defenders, the New California Republic. Bob managed to disarm the mines blocking the way into the heart of Primm, stabbing a few enemies along the way. Melee seems to be very effective in New Vegas, even on Hardcore. Limbs are more frequently hacked off, and some melee weapons give bonuses to arm and leg-based damage.

Deep in a rundown hotel was the last lawman of Primm, taken hostage by the escaped prisoners and tied up for ransom. The deputy needed a hand to escape from his prison, and Bob was happy to help. This act of good will lead to a new quest, and perhaps Bob's best chance at finding his much-needed spectacles. Primm's sheriff was hacked to pieces by the invading criminals, and now that the town was safe the important task of bringing law back to its remaining inhabitants fell to Bob. The deputy mentioned that a former sheriff was serving time in the New California Republic's prison to the northeast -- which was now swarming with the Powder Gang. Fairly certain that he could kill a few bad guys who were trying to look cool by wearing sunglasses, Bob set out to find his treasure.

After "infiltrating" the prison by throwing 10 sticks of dynamite at a group of enemies herded into the pen at the entrance gate, Bob went inside and, to his great surprise, found a pair of aviators on the corpse of a prospector, a dead man locked up in a cell full of giant mutant mantises. It took a lot of firepower to make it that far -- two gang leaders and their cronies managed to cripple Bob's limbs, and the poor courier had to hobble around while scavenging the bodies. Despite the hardships, Bob's goal had been achieved. Combined with the deceased sheriff of Primm's cowboy hat, Bob looked pretty damn good. And yes, it really took five hours to find those sunglasses. Recruiting the ex-sheriff would have to wait for another time.

My attempts at narration aside, New Vegas has made a distinct impression so far. The Hardcore mode is only as difficult as a player's memory is poor. It's not hard to find water sources and food, and your character doesn't have to eat or drink as much as I initially expected. What's most frustrating about playing with Hardcore rules is the reduced effectiveness of the healing items. Instead of an instant gain of hitpoints, all healing aids will only restore health over time, making it pretty difficult to fight a deathclaw one-on-one.

New Vegas is much bigger than I expected, and I haven't even started to peel away its outermost layers in these first five hours. I've yet to see the Vegas strip, which is something I hope to discuss in the next entry. That will just depend on the amount of time I continue to spend outfitting Bob.

What clothing item should Bob hunt down next? Leave your suggestions, questions and anything else that strikes your fancy about the format of this article in the comments. I look forward to reading your feedback. So does Bob.