Two enter, one leaves
I picked up the PC version of Fallout: New Vegas for $30 in late November of 2010. A few weeks later, I picked up Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360) for $30 during GameStop’s deal of the day.
I gave Fallout: New Vegas 21 hours (according to Steam) worth of my time. I called it quits as soon as I got my hands on Red Dead Redemption. I had enough of Fallout and their shitty — both thematically and mechanically — world. I didn’t want to go back and I still don’t. Even though I just finished Red Dead Redemption, I’m still itching to get back on my horse. I wish to return and continue exploring the wooded areas of Tall Trees and find all remaining “Stranger” quests and outfits. With New Vegas, I feel like I’ve had my fill.
How do you like your deserts?
New Vegas features many barren and lifeless deserts. It makes for a believable wasteland, but also a boring one. Redemption’s faux United States and Mexico featured similar deserts, but their’s was much more spontaneous and lively. All sorts of wildlife could be seen including deer, boars, skunks and even birds. There was also rain, snow, and signs of the wind blowing through the trees; the world felt alive and interesting. The change of weather offered different moods to existing landscapes which kept things fresh.
In New Vegas all I got was a sunrise and a sunset — which I felt Red Dead Redemption executed better anyway. Maybe I would stumble upon a handful of silly looking radioactive salamanders or some giant flies, but these encounters were far and few between.
To be fair, if I was to ignore all the nature and landscapes of Red Dead Redemption, finding something of significance could have taken awhile as well. But unlike within New Vegas, I can move faster than the pace of leisurely stroll. I can jog, I can run and I can even mount a horse and ride my way to just about any place in the world. I felt like a free spirit and not some kind of turtle in mud.
The result of these different modes of transportation was profound. With my trusty steed, I was continuously finding something new or different on my journey. I didn’t have to waste 5 minutes walking over to an abandon building only to find a bunch of useless junk and then spend another 5 minutes to make my way back to the main road. Exploration was rewarding and enjoyable in Red Dead Redemption and not a fruitless endeavor. Just about the only thing I could compliment New Vegas for was its slightly more efficient approach to fast traveling.
1080p60’s worth of ugly
Being able to run New Vegas on my PC at 1080p resolution and maintain a steady 60 frames per second is just about the most impressive thing I can say about this game’s tech. The engine is old, ugly and prone to a range of technical issues from freezing, hitching and flat out crashing. New Vegas’ characters simply looked lifeless as the desert they lived in.
I was far more impressed with what Rockstar San Diego’s tech gurus pulled off with Red Dead Redemption — even if it was running at a lower 720p resolution and (mostly) 30 frames per second framerate. Rockstar’s RAGE engine and its implementation of the Euphoria technology produced amazing results. From the way people walked to the manner in which they mount their horses; it was all incredibly life-like. And unlike other games and their ragdoll physics, when I downed a horse or a bear, its carcass was virtually immovable. As crazy as it sounds, giving weight to the dead made the world feel more alive.
But that wasn’t all.
In Red Dead Redemption, NPCs toppled over and held their wounded leg when they were shot. They tipped their hats and wished me well when I greeted them on the streets. They certainly weren’t walking around like stiff mannequins either. And they definitely did more than just stand and talk. They animated, they went places and carried those conversations along the way; the world didn’t suddenly freeze in place while we talked.
I wouldn’t do that
In New Vegas, I created my character. It was mine and her actions were my actions. I could choose to do things the way I wanted and how I wanted. The lives of people were in my hands and my decisions mattered in the grand scheme of things. I didn’t have such luxury with John Marston’s path in Dead Redemption. I could choose not to steal a wagon or choose whether or not spare the life of a treacherous wench, but any decision of significance was out of my control. This wouldn’t be much of a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that Mr. Marston chose to go along with many questionable and out-of-character acts.
It’s especially disappointing when you consider that I was able to make such key decisions in Grand Theft Auto IV. Red Dead Redemption isn’t the first game of its kind to force me down a path I didn’t much care for, but it’s one the rare games that feature a character that I had an interest in. I liked Mr. Marston, I liked what he was trying to achieve in his life after crime which was why I was put off when he chose to raze a town and other ruthless acts of that nature.
Where are we going with this?
I wasn’t motivated to push forward with New Vegas; that narrative string didn’t present itself to me. I just didn’t care for what was happening in the world and never developed any sort of connection to my character and her quest to find her shooter.
In contrast, I was able to keep with Red Dead Redemption and Mr. Marston’s quest to round up his former gang for the government. But Red Dead Redemption did more than tell the tale of single man. It also served as a Hollywood style depiction of the North American wild west and the early 1900’s.
Each major area shared themes and tales of encroaching government from the east, racial tensions between Americans and foreigners, racial tensions between Americans and Native Americans, the Mexican revolution, the hardships of the wilderness and — of course — the rule of gangs and other criminals. For a person who has never taken much interest in Westerns before, all of this was fascinating and kept me wanting more.
What did you learn?
Both developers had opportunities to learn from the predecessors’ mistakes. Rockstar San Diego streamlined the gunplay, got rid of annoyances like maintaining relationships and made mini-games worth a damn. I actually enjoyed Texas Hold’em and Liar’s Dice a lot.
What did Obsidian Entertainment learn?
They discovered the secrets to unlocking more technical issues from that old rickety engine powering New Vegas. And while they did include ironsights to the weapons, the shooting still felt awkward. Worse of all, they took out the ability to sprint. Why?! Why would they do this?
And why did Obsidian continue the tradition of an excruciatingly limited soundtrack? Repetitive lyrics and talk shows drove me mad. I could have used my own music, but I felt that would have ruin whatever mood was left in the game. So I shut it off and wandered hoping to hear something to break the silence.
On the flipside, Red Dead Redemption kept the ambient tracks flowing and adjusted to whatever was happening on screen. It wasn’t much — just a few guitar strings when I was out in the desert — but it didn’t wear out its welcome. The audio work in Rockstar’s latest was near immaculate, if you ask me.
If Obsidian was to be praised for anything in New Vegas it would be for their writing. The NCR and Caesar’s Legion were intriguing groups. The towns that I found myself in had more diverse and intricate back stories than the ones found in Fallout 3. I’m sure there was more enlightening discoveries to be found. It was just a damn shame that Obsidian didn’t learn from the pacing problems of Fallout 3; it simply takes too much time to see something worthwhile.
Wastelands be damned. Give me the wild west
This was never going to be a fair comparison. I didn’t finish Fallout: New Vegas. And who knows if I will go back to it. The purpose of this comparison was to highlight what I liked and disliked about each title’s approach to the open world game.
I didn’t start Red Dead Redemption with the intent of comparing the two, but as it turns out, both titles were remarkably similar. I could see Rockstar pulling off a post apocalyptic open world game and I’ll probably enjoy it more than any of the recent Fallout games. I can’t — nor do I want to see — Obsidian’s version of a Western. It may sound harsh, but there were times when wished Fallout: New Vegas was a text adventure. After all, their writing was what I was playing for right?
Red Dead Redemption was in a word: excellent. I was pleasantly surprised with how well executed it was. Even though the ending was spoiled via GiantBomb’s Game of the Year 2010 podcasts, I was still shocked by how it all ended. Truly one of the more satisfying endings in recent memory. And, most importantly, the journey itself was also very enjoyable. If you liked what you’ve read of it thus far and if you ever wanted to herd cattle, skin animals, hogtie varmints and other cowboy-like things, look no further than Red Dead Redemption. It’s the real cowboy simulator.
Red Dead Redemption’s Verdict:
Fallout: New Vegas’ Verdict:
For more information on Red Dead Redemption, visit the official site.
For more information on Fallout: New Vegas, visit the official site.
PC configuration used to play Fallout: New Vegas