Despite being a book publisher, I land firmly on the side that video games are a form of art, in the same mold of other forms of visual media such as movies, television, and music videos. Except that video games are even cooler because they’re interactive.
I would venture that making a game that is as interesting and entertaining as a movie is more difficult because not only do you have to get the visuals, the script, and the sound just right… but you also have to interface with your audience/user in a fun and interesting way. So when a game like Fallout: New Vegas comes so close to touching that magical place so few other games have, but fails, it turns into a major disappointment.
As a point of reference, my list of video games that exemplify the best the medium has to offer is quite short (and no doubt leaves off many great games due to my own limited playing experiences). Doom, Half-Life 1 and Half-Life 2, Bioshock, Dead Space 2, Final Fantasy VII, Super Mario Bros. 3, Resident Evil 4, Baldur’s Gate, and Fallout 3.
Make special note of that last one. Fallout 3. Here. Watch the first promo for Fallout 3 and tell me that you’re not ready to jump right in and start playing.
This is a genius of a trailer… but that’s fodder for a different blog post…
So here’s the trailer for Fallout: New Vegas.
It’s good stuff, but it lacks the emotional punch of the trailer for Fallout 3. In fact, practically ALL aspects of Fallout: New Vegas lacks the emotional punch of its predecessor. In Fallout 3, the main story involves your father and a terrible betrayal. You visit national institutions that are now in ruins. The whole thing is quite harrowing. In Fallout: New Vegas, you’re an anonymous courier who can side with robots (or Vegas assholes, or a power hungry army, or Caesar’s Legions–the name should tell you plenty about them) to take over New Vegas. The scenes of desolation involve the desert and New Vegas. Not quite the same impact. The closest I came to caring about ANYTHING in Fallout: New Vegas was a poor robo-dog that needed a new brain or else it would die of old age.
To be sure, both games are gorgeous. I actually found the acting to be good in both (and who doesn’t love Ron Perlman as a narrator?). Game play is solid FPS business. Yet, after the novelty of a new Fallout experience expired, the whole game felt like a chore, a test to see how many “Boy, go and fetch me this and that” missions I would undergo.
To exacerbate the problem with the game, F:NV suffers from being too damn easy. F3 was quite a challenge. F:NV, once your character reaches level 25 or so, has a powerful rifle, and two companions, you’re quite unstoppable. I took out an entire camp of nasty Caesar Legion soliders (about 40 of the toughest dudes in the game, including Caesar and all his bodyguards) all on my own. My battle with the “big boss” at the end of the game lasted all of three head shots with my rifle. Grand Theft Auto IV doesn’t make my list of greatest games because it is too difficult (I’m only a semi-casual gamer). F:NV doesn’t make my list partially because it is too easy.
So close… F:NV is a painful ‘what if’ in the canon of video games.