Fallout: New Vegas Gameplay Guides

The 2009 entry into the Fallout franchise headed up by Obsidian Entertainment is one of the best RPG experiences ever made. In not just my opinion, but many others too.

There are many reasons why Fallout New Vegas is held in such high regard, whether it comes down to the wonderful storytelling, the setting, or the soundtrack.

All of these are high points within the game, and yet one thing that is often looked over in the description or lauding of this role-playing masterpiece is the gameplay itself.

After all, no matter how excellent certain elements of a game may be, there is no way players are going to put in the mammoth number of hours that many do in Fallout New Vegas without a backbone of strong gameplay mechanics.

To this end, this guide is going to take a walk through the different factors embedded in Fallout New Vegas that make up the overall Fallout: New Vegas Gameplay experience—giving some praise back to an often well-overlooked section of the title. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s get going!


Fallout New Vegas

The combat system included in Fallout New Vegas (FNV) may seem on the surface to be one very familiar to that of Fallout 3, but it is actually just different enough to make things feel a lot more smooth.

Small changes such as the character’s weapon actually firing from the crosshair on the player’s screen and not the tip of the gun like it did in Fallout 3 allows the player to take on their targets more accurately without having to question whether or not they should do some more practices with Sunny Smiles in Goodsprings.

Damage Resistance VS Damage Threshold

Also, Fallout 3 utilizes a system heavily dependent on Damage Resistance for its calculations of damage dealt per impact or hit, whilst FNV uses a system more focused on Damage Thresholds.

Therefore, in Fallout 3, any damage taken is reduced by a set percentage depending on a myriad of things such as chems, perks, armor, and so on. Whilst in FNV, damage taken is decided through a more complicated calculation.

Instead of simply inflicting a percentage of the initial damage onto the player, FNV decided to subtract the points of damage inflicted from the set amount of Damage Threshold, leaving behind, at the very least, 20% of the initial attack’s damage.

This means that even if an attack may only inflict ten damage and the player has a DT of 20, the game will not simply make the player invincible to this attack. Instead, it will concurrently overwrite the DT calculations being made to inflict the minimum amount of damage, 20%. In this case, 2 points.

First and Third Person Camera Choice

Now that we can see how the systems are somewhat different let’s just have a look at the FNV combat system in general.

First of all, we must mention that the combat in this game can take place in either first or third person but also through the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System or V.A.T.S. these three options give the player an almost best of both worlds approach to fighting in the game, giving the player the freedom of choice on the fly as and when the situation calls for each particular method.

The first and third camera system allows the player to either look down the sights of their weapon very precisely or to cut around walls with deft camera manipulation in order to get the drop on enemy NPCs.

The Birth of Aiming Down Sights

Fallout New Vegas

Also, another very important change made here by Obsidian was the inclusion of an Aim-Down-Sights system wherein a gun’s iron sights are actually used to help the player aim.

You may not have even noticed this change between Fallout 3 and New Vegas; however, after you do, the difference is startling. Fallout 3 didn’t really have any aim-down-sights option; it simply zoomed the character’s view closer to the side of the weapon when the player pressed the aim key.

V.A.T.S. For the RTS Gamers

The V.A.T.S system is also key to many players’ enjoyment in this series. And no, not just because we get to see continuous slow-motion shots of NPCs being ripped apart by various weapons in a multitude of horrifying ways, no. Instead, this system was put in place for the fans of the original Interplay Entertainment Fallout titles.

These games being top-down RTS experiences means that the developers of Fallout 3 and, therefore, FNV had to do something to please the original patrons of the franchise. Thus the V.A.T.S system was put in place, hopefully, to scratch that itch. How it works is actually quite simple. Upon hitting the bound key for the system, the gameplay is paused, allowing the player the time to pick specific sections of the enemy’s body to target their attacks on.

Not only does this allow the player to introduce a form of strategy, at times shooting an enemy’s weapon out of their hand or crippling their legs so they cannot give chase, but it also gives the player some vital thinking time.

This system is, of course, very powerful, so it is therefore weighted by the character’s stats; each body part on the enemy has a percentage chance to be hit or missed by the player, and each shot takes up the players Action Points or AP, a resource which is also weighted by perks, experience, and other factors.

Related: Complete New Vegas Perks Guide.

In Brief

  1. Fallout New Vegas borrows its base combat mechanics from Fallout 3 but changes certain elements to make the gameplay feel smoother.
  2. The effectiveness of the V.A.T.S system is impacted by many things, including chem use, perks, critical hit chance, and many others.
  3. The only weapons that do not have an Aim-Down-Sights (ADS) function added to it in FNV are the laser weapons. However, the modding community well and truly stepped up to fix this should the issue be a great bother to you.

Hardcore Mode

Fallout New Vegas Hardcore Mode

The Hardcore Mode in FNV is not simply just another level of difficulty; it actually changes many of the core gameplay mechanics and adds some more in to make the gameplay experience of FNV feel truly different from any other general playthrough.


There are myriad differences between the base/normal game and what occurs during the hardcore mode. In the normal game, for example, Stimpaks heal the player instantly; this is changed in the hardcore game by healing the Lone Wanderer slowly over time.

From this small change alone, one can see how an entire playthrough can be changed; no longer can you jump headfirst into a barrage of enemy fire and melee attacks, spamming the Stimpak hotkey for survival, instead you might have to change your playstyle to a slower, stealthier method in order to overcome difficult areas/enemies.

Stimpacks also no longer heal crippled limbs in this version, therefore forcing the player to either visit a doctor or use a Doctor’s Bag to regenerate the broken limbs. This doesn’t sound like such a big deal until you are trapped in a firefight with two broken arms and a crippled leg with no Doctor Bags in sight.

Ammunition Worries

The next big change in this game mode is the weight given to all ammo types. In the base game, the player is actively encouraged to carry around as much ammo as they want. Eventually leaving the player capable of spamming the fire key on any weapon they own after accumulating thousands of rounds throughout the game.

However, in the Hardcore mode of FNV, each one of these rounds would have weight and therefore carrying any more ammo than one actually needed would inevitably lead to the player being over-encumbered, unable to progress.

Once again, it isn’t hard to see how big a difference this may make to one’s gameplay strategy.

Will a player swap to a melee character build-out, not really relying on ammo as much, or will the player simply get even deeper into their inventory management, as the hardcore mode created another little mini-game for the player as they assess just how much ammo will a certain mission take?

Fallout or a Survival Simulator?

Fallout New Vegas

The final and maybe most important difference I will cover in regard to hardcore mode is the dehydration, starvation, and sleep deprivation system imposed on the Lone Wanderer by the game’s hardest mode.

Unlike the base game, wherein the player never has to sleep, eat or drink, this mode makes the character a real-life person with real-life needs that must be tended to. If the player does not keep these three different needs satiated, certain negative effects will begin and then pile up over time until the player’s inevitable death.

Not only does this change once again alter the way the player must approach the game, spending more caps on supplies and sleeping arrangements than they ever would in the base game, but it also adds a certain aspect of realism into the game.

This realism makes the title feel more like an RPG mixed with a survival game, a welcome addition for many players who have probably been playing games such as DayZ or the Forrest in their off-time between Fallout playthroughs.

In Brief

  1. Choosing to play the game in Hardcore Mode will prompt another menu before leaving Doc Mitchell’s house, asking if the player is certain about their choice.
  2. The lead designer and project director of Fallout New Vegas, Joshua Sawyer, admitted in an interview that the survival and hunger mechanics included in FNV had been inspired by a 2009 game called S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat. Later, Joshua admitted that the hardcore system itself was “basically” a rip-off from the said title.
  3. Whilst this mode gives the player penalties for not eating; it also penalizes the player for eating raw meat; these debuffs can only be removed via cooking the meat.


Fallout New Vegas

The S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system builds the primary character statistics in this and all other Fallout games. An acronym standing for; Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck, this system is familiar to anyone who has played a Fallout game before.

These SPECIAL scores are set at five by default but can be changed at the beginning of the game from Doc Mitchell’s Vit-o-Matic Vigor Tester machine.

Changes to these stats will set the basis for which playstyle the player wishes their character to pursue in each playthrough of the game, with each section giving a set number of additional points into skills associated with the main SPECIAL category.

For example, if the player puts a lot of points into Strength, the skill Carry Weight will begin higher than skills like medicine.

Statistics Galore

In this way, FNV acts very similarly to Fallout 3, with the game always keeping an internal check on these base stats, comparing them to actions and requests made of them in the game. These base stats are also checked on throughout the game to determine how many skill points will be allocated to the player when leveling up.

After progressing past Doc Mitchell’s opening character creation portion of the game, these base stats cannot be changed or improved upon except on some rare occasions.

One such location is the New Vegas Medical Clinic, which offers SPECIAL boosting implants in exchange for some hard-earned caps. Finishing the Lonesome Road DLC and taking on the perk Intense Training will also boost these base stats. Finally, Traits can affect these base skills also.

In Brief

  1. When starting the Old-World Blues DLC, the game automatically gives the player the Spineless perk, granting plus one strength. Completing this DLC then gives further bonuses also.
  2. The SPECIAL system found in Fallout 3 is pretty much the same here in FNV, with the only addition being the need for certain strength levels to handle and fire particular weapons.
  3. Where in Fallout 3, the SPECIAL stats could be improved by the collection of SPECIAL bobbleheads, this game instead inserts the New Vegas Medical Clinic.


Fallout New Vegas

The trait system in FNV is not a very complicated one to understand. The developers most likely added this in to give the player yet another opportunity to differentiate one playthrough from another.

Before leaving Doc Mitchell’s house, the player will be made to pick from a list of traits; these traits will mostly have both pros and cons, which the player will have to consider—weighing the benefits against the long-term impact such traits will have on their character.

The Pros and Cons

Certain traits such as Wild Wasteland do not really have any drawbacks, as it simply takes up a slot for another trait in exchange for adding in some extra wacky content to the Mojave wasteland. However, other traits such as Logan’s Loophole will drastically affect the game for the player.

On the plus side, this trait results in the player benefiting from chems for twice as long whilst simultaneously making it impossible for the Lone Wanderer to become addicted to said chems; however, the drawback is quite severe. The player will be level capped at 30; no matter what they do, they cannot progress past this point.

Keeping it Fresh

A player can therefore look at these traits as something akin to the traits system in the original Fallout games. They are merely a simple system to spice up the lives of returning players, keeping things fresh and interesting.

The inclusion of such a system seemingly dropped by Bethesda in this Obsidian title is no great surprise considering most of the people who worked on FNV for Obsidian had come from original Fallout developer Interplay Entertainment after it wilted away into the void.

In Brief

  1. There are ten initial traits included in the base game. This is expanded to 16 after the Old-World Blues DLC is installed.
  2. Choosing the Wild Wasteland trait will make the Alien Blaster available to the player throughout the game, but it will also remove the unique Gauss Rifle YCS/186 from the wasteland.
  3. These traits often modify some other element of the character statistic menus, including Primary Statistics, Derived Statistics, SPECIAL points, and Skills.



Much like Fallout 3, this next installment in the franchise has a perks system, working to improve the player’s character overall as the game progresses and the Lone Wanderer levels up.

These perks became available in Fallout 3 upon every level-up your character earned, however, in FNV the decision was made to limit such improvements to once every two levels gained.

Not only does this make the perk choice more important when you get the chance, but it also makes sure the player does not become too powerful too fast.

Perk Choice

Perks one can choose via the leveling system include Friend of the Night, Hunter, Intense Training, and many more. One should also keep in mind that some of these perks only become available once certain parameters are met. the Black Widow perk, for example, can only be taken by players who chose their character to be female.

There are also some perks that can only be acquired with the recruitment and continued partnership with a companion. Perks such as Enhanced Sensors, for example, are only available when ED-E is your companion.

Related: A Comprehensive Fallout New Vegas Companion Guide.

Alternate Perks

More perks can be gained in other ways, however, without the need for those annoying companions. Perks that fall under the category of ‘Challange’ perks for example can be acquired by fulfilling certain requirements or achievements.

The perk, Set Lasers for Fun, for example, gives the player a bonus to their chances of scoring critical hits on enemy combatants only after they have done a total of 16’000 points of damage to any mob found in the game with one-handed energy weapons.

Another subset of perks is the special perks that can only be acquired through implants. these implants can either be garnered by visiting the New Vegas Medical Clinic or starting and completing the Old World Blues DLC.

In Brief

  1. Perks can only be acquired every two levels in FNV, different from the one per level in Fallout 3.
  2. Perks can be acquired via leveling up, completing challenges, and visiting certain locations.
  3. Some of the old Fallout 3 perks still remain in the FNV game files and therefore can be added into the game via the use of console commands.

Karma and Reputation

Fallout 3 Moral Code

Fallout 3 was originally advertised as a game with a complex moral code embedded in its storyline, forcing the player to make hard decisions for the better or worse, not always with clear-cut right and wrong answers.

This promise, as I am sure most of you will agree, was not lived up to even in the slightest. Instead, what players were given was a very basic, good guy or bad guy archetype wherein one or two major decisions decided whether you were a good or bad person.

Either you save Megaton from being blown up for no good reason, saving tens of innocent people, or you blow up Megaton for no good reason, killing these same people. This is genuinely billed as a difficult moral decision. So, yeah, Fallout 3 fell a bit flat in this regard.

How New Vegas Did it Right

The developers of FNV, on the other hand, decided that they would take another crack at it instead, just to see if it could be done better within this franchise’s system.

Spoilers, it could. First of all, the developers of FNV decided that there shouldn’t really be an overall system that decided you were good or bad depending on your actions all across the wasteland.

Instead, they approach the system from a microcosmic perception, rating the player’s morality or karma in particular areas or with particular factions.

This way, if the character behaved one way, the game could simultaneously punish and reward the player, never making definitive judgments on whether the choice the player made was right or wrong. This decision by Obsidian was downright genius, and once again, much more in keeping with the DNA of the original titles.

Consequences and Rewards

FNV Consequences and Rewards

The game will also take these small opinions from the different factions and locations in the game and insert consequences accordingly. Therefore, if the Lone Wanderer becomes vilified by Caesar’s Legion, they will occasionally be found by a group of Legion fighters out for blood.

The same occurs for the NCR. On the flip side, if a faction idolizes the player, they will receive rewards and access to special locations.

In Brief

  1. There are many different categories a player can wind up in on the reputation grading tree; in fact, there are 12 different reputation monikers, each accounting for the amount of good and bad the player has done towards the faction/area.
  2. Reputations amongst certain factions can be reset in the game. This includes Freeside, which can be reset via paying James Garret in the Atomic Wrangler as well as the NCR and Legion via triggering certain main quest objectives.
  3. Unlike in Fallout 3 and 4, Karma or reputation does not affect which companions one can recruit.
  4. The amount of Karma earned per action is seemingly bugged. When killing a typically evil character, the game may grant only two positive Karma points, whilst killing a fiend could result in plus 100 karma points.


With the Karma and Reputation system in mind, we must mention the factions and how these organizations affect a player’s experience of the game.

All the Factions

FNV Factions

There are 4 different sections of factions in the game. these are split up into Major, Minor, The Strip, and Other. As you may have guessed, the Major factions are those that the player can side with in order to complete the game.

This includes the NCR, Legion, and Mr. House. further down in the importance tree come the minor faction, this section includes those factions the player either had to convince to join their side for the battle of Hoover Dam or destroy. These factions include the Brotherhood of Steel, Boomers, and the Great Khans.

The Strip and Other factions in the game are pretty much inconsequential to the overall storyline of the game yet they can affect a player’s happiness if the Lone Wanderer happens to walk through their territory whilst being Vilified. These factions include the Crimson Caravan, the Van Graffs, and Jacobstown.

Faction Reputation

Faction Reputation

Factions are where the Reputation system comes into play. Certain actions a player does throughout the game, whether they are morally right or wrong will affect one’s reputation within a faction.

In other words, if you do something that is morally correct that just so happens to help the NCR, you will gain reputation with the NCR, but you might also lose reputation with Caeser’s Legion.

This system, therefore, makes the player compete in a constant battle of decision versus repercussion, a very nice change to the basic morality system included in Fallout 3 if you ask me.

In Brief

  1. A player can gain and lose reputation with a faction throughout the game in various different ways.
  2. Angering one faction can often please another.
  3. Some Factions also have set pieces of armor. Wearing this armor when met by enemy factions will cause fighting in some conditions.
  4. Companions will refuse to wear the armor of factions they oppose.

Weapon Modding

FNV gives the player the ability to change their weapons and their features. This includes adding scoped, extended magazines, and silencers.

This feature can be seen to have been picked up and taken even further in Fallout 4, with nearly every aspect of each weapon in the game being modifiable, thus changing the name of the base weapon.

In FNV, however, the modifications one is allowed to make are limited and require the purchase of these elements instead of their creation via base components, like in Fallout 4.

Unique or Antique?

FNV also made it impossible for certain unique weapons to be modified in order to ensure that the players simply didn’t beeline for these weapons and forget about the other armaments scattered throughout the wastes.

This way, the players must decide whether the drawbacks of having a unique weapon are worth the extra features or damage and vise versa for the base guns.

In Brief

  1. The addition of certain modifications to a weapon will not initially add weight. However, they may change the overall weight of the final weapon as well as add extra features.
  2. The Gun Runner’s Arsenal DLC adds 40 more weapon mods to the base game.
  3. When a modified weapon is given to a companion, the weapon will appear as its base model; without any modifications, however, it will still hold the benefits of said modification.

Crafting and Cooking

FNV crafting and cooking system

Fallout New Vegas like most Bethesda games after it, has a crafting and cooking system inbuilt. In FNV the system is rather basic, lumping both cooking and crafting together.

How to Craft

Through the use of Electric hot plates and campfires, the player can create several different types of food, drink, and chems. Basically, through the acquisition of recipes throughout the game, the player will learn how to transform base elements into useful creations.

An example of this transformation would be the chem Rocket, through the combination of box detergent, Jet, and Nuke-Cola, the player can create Rocket.

The same system works for the crafting of ammo, armor, and other goods. Simple walk your way up to a Reloading Bench or Workbench and get to work. With these tools, the player can also break down certain items, recycling them or converting them into other useful components.


FNV requirements

To ensure that the player does not simply create Stimpacks out of thin air or ammo that should otherwise be rare right from the very start, the developers have inserted some special requirements for the creation of most items.

These requirements are not just the rare components necessary though, the player will also have to possess a certain skill level in either Science, Repair, or Survival to access some of these recipes. Either this or have a recipe note found throughout the game or from the Vigilant Recycler Perk.

In Brief

  1. To craft in FNV, the player needs base elements, the skill in certain areas to perform said craft, and a tool to craft on such as a workbench.
  2. The crafting system placed in FNV can be seen in Fallout 4, if not drastically improved.
  3. When beginning the game, the player starts with several recipes but others will not appear until special perks are taken or they are found throughout the wastes.

Companion Wheel

FNV Companion Wheel

Another difference between Fallout 3 and FNV is the addition of a companion wheel. When a player begins a discussion with one of their followers, a decision wheel will appear, giving the Lone Wanderer a series of options for interacting with their companion.

These options include the choice to have your companion operate with either melee or ranged weapons, to open their inventory and to stay close to the player, or to keep a distance.

Options to force the companion to wait or follow are also included in the wheel, as well as passive/aggressive operation modes. Lastly, there is the option to simply talk to your companion.

In Brief

  1. The companion wheel replaces and adds to the simple dialogue box which was available in Fallout 3.
  2. Companions will comment on changes made in this wheel for the most part.
  3. When placing items in a follower’s inventory, they will reject armor from factions they are not aligned with personally.


FNV Gambling

As with any game based in Las Vegas, or New Vegas in this case, the importance of gambling as a mechanic cannot be overlooked; in FNV, there are ample ways for the player to gamble and make or lose large sums of money whether this is in the unique card game Caravan or through more typical casino games such as Blackjack and Poker.

How it Works

The gambling mechanic in FNV is directly linked to the Luck SPECIAL stat and, therefore, can be cheated in a sense. If a player specs themselves specifically into luck, they can almost win every game of Poker without even looking at the screen.

This generation of caps so early in the game can be amazing; however, much like the rest of the bonuses garnered in FNV, there is a drawback, one would need to seriously underfund their remaining SPECIAL stats to make this work.

If the player does, however, begin to make sizeable wins in any of the Casinos in New Vegas, the management will send over some rewards to their new high roller, much like what happens in real life.

The highest reward one can make this way is a room within certain hotels. If you push the casinos too far, however, by winning too much money, you will be banned from the tables.

In Brief

  1. There are many ways to gamble in FNV, including the fighting arena in the Thorn, wherein the player bets on different amounts of species of creatures as they fight to the death.
  2. Gambling can result in the player being banned from playing in certain casinos; however, this does not bar the player from entering or using the other features in the casino.
  3. Obsidian specifically developed Caravan for FNV.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Is Fallout New Vegas Still Worth Playing?

Answer: Whilst the game is certainly dated in some aspects, it was still way ahead of its time in terms of storytelling and replayability options. You may, however, wish to play on a console instead of PC due to several compatibility issues with Windows 10.

Question: How Many Hours of Gameplay Does Fallout New Vegas Have?

Answer: If the player decides to focus solely on the main objectives, there are only 27 and a half hours in the game’s full questline. However, should the payer wish to complete the game in its entirety, they will have to spend, on average, 130 hours in total.

Question: Is Fallout New Vegas Getting a Remaster?

Answer: Whilst Bethesda or Obsidian has no plans to remaster the title, the game may have just gotten a half-remaster via the beautiful modding community. This mod uses the Fallout 4 engine to remodel over 800 assets as well as some key areas from the original games. Whilst this may not be a total remaster, it may just do the trick for player’s who wish to return to the Mojave on their new consoles/PCs.

Question: What is DPS in Fallout New Vegas?

Answer: DPS stands for Damage Per Second. This figure represents the number of damage points a weapon will do per second of firing.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it, a complete list of all the gameplay features and mechanics that Fallout New Vegas has to offer, complete with some helpful tips and tricks to ensure you come out on top, no matter what character build you go for.

Hopefully, then, this guide will leave you in a comped suite, high in the halls of The Tops casino, with your belly full of cooked meat and good old-fashioned H20. If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, however, no matter, just stay safe out there, and watch out for those Deathclaws!

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