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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Moment You've All Been Waiting For Has Arrived

I beat Fallout: New Vegas!


Open-world Bethesda epics are almost their own genre and I love them like they were my kids (although I couldn't tell you what box I shoved Morrowind into...)

But New Vegas is special. After playing Morrowind, Oblivion and Fallout 3 (same shit, different textures) I can honestly say that in a lot of ways New Vegas is the best of this lineup.

But in every other way it's the worst.

Playing games isn't the same for me as when I was a little guy. I've got a larger selection to choose from and a much greater level of discretion than I ever did when I was ten. If a game doesn't appeal to me, if it treats me wrong, then that's it. We're done. The relationship is over.

But New Vegas treated me horribly and I never left until the credits.

You just experienced half the game.

All the horror stories you've heard about New Vegas are true. The glitches are everywhere and they can break the game, but it's the load times that killed me.

The New Vegas Strip alone is divided into four sections. Four load screens. Each section has its own buildings. More load screens. Each building has different floors and even different areas of the floors are sometimes divided by load screens. Want to sell something at a store? Load screen. Want to leave the store? Load screen. Want to leave the district the store was in? Load screen.

And these aren't short load screens, either. I swear the game is re-loading every file it has.

But here's the kicker, the bee in the bonnet. Listen to this: the game has a leak, a memory leak, so after a little play you'll be waiting around three minutes every time you load up a new area. The only way to fix the problem is to restart the game.

But the game itself? It's excellent. I've never seen so much character in a game. The town of Novac alone is worth the price of admission (the money price, not the soul-crushing load times). Oh god, the load times. I'm pretty sure that channeling the Saidin half of the One Power and playing Fallout: New Vegas are pretty-much the same experience.

New Vegas, I love you. Just please stop hitting me.

There's a design philosophy here that I completely disagree with and you'll find this problem in all of Bethesda's epics. These games are built for immersion, right? Then ask yourself what's more important for immersion: high quality textures or transparent load times?

For Bethesda it's always been the presentation. There have always been load-time barriers placed between interiors and exteriors, and every time I'm greeted by a load screen I get pulled right out of their little world; and I have to sit there and look the other way, pretending that nothing's wrong with my game.
But it is wrong. It's all very, very wrong.

This whole experience scares me because, come November, I'm going to be travelling to Skyrim and I'm not yet sure if every village hut I enter is going to invoke a three-minute load screen (Oh, come on, Justin, you know there's going to be load screens everywhere). This scares me because I'm still going to play the game. Eventually my nerdy joy will sour and turn bitter and I'll hate every minute of it, but my desire for an open-world fantasy adventure overrides any common sense I have. Given the marathon sessions I've had with these games they probably override my sense of self-preservation as well.

Bethesda, be good to me. Please. I love you so much. I just want to be loved back.

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