Friday, September 23, 2011

Review: Lonesome Road DLC - Exciting, but very linear

Lonesome Road, the final story DLC for Fallout: New Vegas is out and, as a Fallout nerd, I am obligated to weigh in on it.

Lonesome Road brings the Courier face-to-face with the mysterious Ulysses, the original Courier 6 who rejected the job so that the player would carry the Platinum Chip and get shot in the head. Those who have been keeping up on the preceding DLCs know that Ulysses has been a central, yet unseen figure in all of New Vegas' DLC to date.

The adventure begins when Ulysses sends you a message that "invites" you to find him in the Divide, an area ravaged by storms and warfare. Along the way, you will encounter the residents of the Divide and uncover how you and the Divide share a shocking history. Ulysses will contact you frequently during your adventure and you will have an opportunity to match wits with him on subjects such as your history and your current faction affiliation. I'll stop there, as we might be risking spoilers if I share any more!

The Pros

Lonesome Road features an extremely captivating story that answers so many of the questions that players have had since before Dead Money was even released. From Ulysses' back story to his master scheme, players get pulled into this epic tale that is a fulfilling end to the story line.

Moreover, the DLC features extensive level design. The Divide truly feels post apocalyptic as you weave your way through the broken roads, collapsed buildings, subterranean tunnels. On top of that, it is a much more dynamic experience than any of the previous DLCs as you never know what you will find lingering among the debris. New and old enemy types make an appearance in the Divide and they are more difficult than ever! There is a significant increase in scripted events, and each of them lends well to the atmosphere of the Divide and the dangerous reputation that it has. Expect surprises from enemies, traps and an abundance of nuclear detonations.

The Riot Armor makes the NCR Rangers look like powder-puffs
Lastly, the Divide houses a plethora of new weapons, armor and consumables that players can get excited about. First, there's finally a version of the Ranger Combat Armor without the NCR Faction attached to it! On top of that, there's several redesigned versions of armors from the main game that look excellent and truly fit the ruinous environment. The new weapons are off the wall, such as a fully automatic, long range rocket launcher, a flare gun, and flash bangs! These are just a few of the goodies available.

The Cons

You might get sick of looking for these
Traveling the Divide is a very linear experience in a small map. Don't get me wrong, it is one heck of an adventure that truly makes use of the space. However, players will not be able to explore numerous unique locations like they could in Honest Hearts or Old World Blues. To this affect, Lonesome Road has missed the mark on one of the major highlights of the Fallout experience - the exploration. There are a few stray buildings and sewers that you can enter, but they are small cells with little to do besides pick up weapons or find posters of a pre-war TV called "Ralphie".

Lonesome Road is also virtually devoid of side-quests, another staple of the Fallout experience. Instead, players can occupy themselves with finding Ulysses' audio recordings, detonating the stray warheads, ED-E upgrades, and finding RALPHIE posters. Aside from looking for the ED-E upgrades, none of this is particularly rewarding beyond farming achievements and trophies.

Ulysses' "unused" face
Lastly, the physical character design for Ulysses is quite disappointing. His unique appearance comes from an equipped breathing mask that covers his mouth and gives him his unique hair. However, there is no reason for him to be wearing a breathing mask in his particular area. While there is a fully textured face beneath the mask, it is not used because his mouth and lips are not animated for speech. This seems like an extremely lazy omission that really sells short the quality voice acting of Roger Cross provides for such a significant character. There is a great deal of build-up to the meeting Ulysses and it is a little bit of a letdown when you can't actually see much of his face.

Overall Reaction: 7.5 out of 10

Lonesome Road is an exciting, engaging and fun way to end off Fallout: New Vegas. It features an exciting story, a vividly imagined atmosphere and several new toys for players to use. Nonetheless, it is not perfect and suffers from some design flaws, including a character design and heavily linear game play that offers little in the way of quality exploration that the Fallout series is so well regarded for.

Ulysses waits for you in The Divide

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