Las Vegas survived Crime Scene Investigation and Wayne Newton, but it will never look the same after it gets the Fallout treatment.
In the alternate-history video game Fallout: New Vegas, coming to Xbox 360, PS3 and Windows PCs this fall (no price and not yet rated), the Las Vegas Strip and surrounding area in 2280 bear the effects of a nuclear holocaust more than 200 years earlier during a great war between the United States and China.
The mystery is, who are you in this nuclear wasteland?
At the outset of the game, your character is shot and left in a shallow grave in the desert, lifted of the package you were entrusted with delivering. A robot digs you out and takes you to a local caregiver, Doc Mitchell, who nurses you back to health.
"Unlike the previous Fallouts, where you start in a vault and you are a vault dweller, this one starts with a curveball," says Pete Hines of Bethesda Softworks.
The Maryland game publisher's release of Fallout 3 in October 2008 (rated M for ages 17-up, PC, PS3 and Xbox 360) resurrected one of the most popular franchises ever. The original Fallout, released in 1997 by Interplay, is consistently listed among the all-time top-rated computer games.
In those games, as well as in 1998's Fallout 2, the main character leaves a fallout shelter and roams an irradiated environment to perform missions. Fallout 3 let players explore a bombed-out Washington, D.C., populated with mutated humans and creatures.
Its mix of role-playing and first-person shooting game elements, as well as its elaborate and expansive story, earned Fallout 3 critical praise and several game-of-the-year awards. The game has sold about 4 million copies.
This time around, Bethesda Softworks will publish the sequel with development by Obsidian Entertainment. The staff of the Irvine, Calif., studio (Neverwinter Nights 2) includes several veterans of Fallout and Fallout 2.
"There is practically no one more qualified to make Fallout games," says Dan Stapleton of PC Gamer, which will feature the game on the cover of its April issue (in stores March 2). "Few people know the look and feel of the Fallout universe better."
The move to Las Vegas provides "a brand new, fresh experience that has a familiar feel of Fallout, but otherwise it's an entirely new game and a new look, with Joshua trees and tumbleweeds and blue skies," Hines says. "Vegas is up and running. It is not a ghost town. It still exists and thrives. There are casinos, and you can go down onto the Strip. It will have a very different feel from that standpoint."
Events in the game happen a few years after Fallout 3. No characters from that game appear, Hines says, "but you will eventually hear a little bit about the events" of that game. New Vegas is "a self-contained story. You don't have to have played the previous games to have any clue what's going on here."
At the game's outset, you get to customize your character by choosing gender, age, race, other attributes and skills. "You were a courier, and you were obviously carrying something that somebody wanted," Hines says. "Part of the story is finding out what you had and what they took."
As you explore, you must be savvy enough to play off the various factions seeking to control turf while you evade hazards such as gun-wielding super-mutants and giant bloodthirsty lizards. New Vegas' territory is similar in size to the area of the nation's capital in Fallout 3.
Says Hines, "It is a massive game world that will take you hundreds of hours to explore every nook and cranny."