Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thrawn Goes to Vegas - Defends Hardcore Mode

I wish I could tell you I went the REAL Vegas. I wish I would make some quip about "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," and then procees to drop a vague but carefully calculated hint about something that happened to set your imaginations running. I can't do that today. However, I CAN talk about my first 7 hours in the newest Fallout game, which is almost as good. (By the way, WTF is up with my penchant for referring to myself in the 3rd person in blog post titles?)

As I so often do, I broke one of my vows (the one about being done buying new games) and drove down to Walmart at midnight to pick up the game on release (and do a little grocery shopping. Everyone knows midnight is the ultimate time to shop. No lines at the registers, no crying babies, it's easy to park near the front...).

To get the obvious out of the way first, New Vegas is EXTREMELY similar to Fallout 3, but why reinvent the wheel when the core gameplay was so good to begin with? If you spent any time in the last Fallout, you'll know what you're doing here, but Obsidian has made some nice changes to the formula. The weapon mods make for more customization possibilities, there are a TON more perks to choose from when customizing a character, and there appear to be more structured quests (Will have to wait and see if the trend continues as the game unfolds).

I'm taking a slightly different approach to New Vegas than I did Fallout 3 in terms of character development. In the last game, I focused heavily on guns, heavy weapons, and heavy armor early on, but grew to learn later just how much I wanted lockpicking and speech, so those skills saw a rapid push in skill points during the midlevels. This time, I'm still strong on Guns from the start, but have forgone putting many skill points into other offensive disciplines, instead focusing on pumping my repair ability (which seems far more important now than in Fallout 3), medicine, speech, and lockpicking abilities. I'm going for a character who knows how to get through doors, talk people into doing what I want, and dish out some bullets, with the ability to more effectively heal up afterwords.

My playthrough is on Hardcore mode, and not just for the 100 point achievement. I WANT to be playing on Hardcore. I've read the esteemed jackanape's x360a review, and Hardcore mode is the only difference of opinion I have so far, though I understand where he's coming from. Hardcore mode seems to me to be about removing all the things that made Fallout 3 too easy, and making some forgotten elements of that game actually matter. In F3, there were food items and water bottles around, but they weren't worth picking up, and they didn't really do anything. Now, with hydration and food to think about, suddenly those junk items have relevance. Now, as I explore the Mojavie wasteland, I'm keeping an eye out for consumables, and making sure I have an ample stash. Yes, the physical act of maintaining healthy H20 and Food levels in boring - just go into the pip-boy and pick an item to consume to make the meter go down - but I enjoy that it's making me explore more carefully as I play the game.

Inventory management is an aspect of Hardcore mode that will make it more fun for some, less for others. Hardcore mode asserts more firmly the reality that there's only so much one person can carry, and ammo isn't exactly weightless. This forces players to think critically about the relative worth of each item they're taking along. It also means the days of carrying around 1,000,000 rounds for each of your weapons can't happen, either. I LIKE this, as it means I have to fight smarter, and don't have the luxury of unrealistic supplies of ammo. To quote Lee, "Couple in the fact that ammo now weighs you down, meaning you can carry much less death dealing equipment, and the whole thing makes it seem like a constant battle." Survival in the wasteland is hard baby, that's the whole point. I greatly prefer this feeling to the feeling of being D.C.'s Ultimate Killing Machine, which I felt like before level 10 in F3, and the Grim Reaper Spirit perk destroyed any remaining challenge at level 20.

"Other more noticeable issues in Hardcore mode are the fact that crippled limbs can only be healed by a doctor or with a certain piece of kit, and that healing items now work gradually rather than in one fell swoop." Again, I like the realism here. If I get f***ed up in a fight, falling asleep doesn't make it all better, nor would a night of sleep or an injection magically cure a broken arm. So, I got wounded in battle, and I need to pay the fee to fix that. I'm OK with that. I also like the fact that health is Heal Over Time. That has been a strong check on my Rambo tendencies, and makes combat tougher. I mean, would any shot INSTANTLY heal all the hurt of a gunfight? Come on? Insta-heals like that are another thing that made F3 too easy, and I appreciate Hardcore mode for doing away with.

While the idea behind Hardcore mode is a good one, it just serves to make things a lot less fun rather than a lot more interesting. I respect Lee's opinion (he is, after all, right more often than not) but disagree here. Hardcore mode won't be everyone's cup of tea, and is makes inventory management much more important, and makes life a lot harder for injured players. However, all that has made New Vegas a lot MORE fun for me, not less. Hardcore mode is probably the most devicive addition to Fallout, and I expect some people with think I'm nuts for loving it as much as I do, others will be with me 100%.

There is a caveat with Hardcore though - it is best enjoyed as a "plus" to whatever difficulty you would default to. I statred on Hard with Hardcore, then dropped to Normal with Hardcore, because I wasn't having fun on Hard. I was getting raped by enemies and depleting supplies way too quickly. I spent more time paying the price for failure than exploring and having fun. Once I dropped it back to normal, I've been pleased with the level of challenge. I don't feel like an ultimate killing machine, but at the same time I'm not running to the doctor and payin 50 caps to get my limbs fixed, either. So, my advice to anyone considering Hardcore mode would be to use it on your standard difficulty to intensify the challenge, but don't couple it with a step up in difficulty. Since I prefer my challenge to come from smart inventory management and battle planning rather than having to soak up more damage (as one would on Hard), the trade-ff has been all Win for me.

Has anyone else tried Hardcore mode in New Vegas yet? If so, what are your thoughts?

No comments:

Post a Comment