I know Fallout New Vegas has been out for a while. If it was a toddler it would be old enough to steal knives off the dining room table and take naps in the dryer. But I only recently began to play the downloadable content, which adds at least two more hours of real gameplay, and several days worth of loot-mongering and crate-shuffling. It was during this recent session that I came to a startling realization. New Vegas is secretly about a violent, mentally retarded man-child who has suffered a traumatic accident, and the people who would use him for their own gains. How can I be sure…?
The Doctor at the beginning spells it all out for you, and treats you like a child.
So, you’ve just been shot in the brain by a Rat Pack wannabe wearing a pinstripe suit cut from motel drape. The first thing you can expect is a life-flight helicopter to rush you to the nearest hospital, a qualified brain surgeon, and years of physical therapy. Or, you know, this crusty old fuck…
And after Doc Mitchell washes your blood out of his mustache, his first order of business is to gently inform you of your new limitations. He asks you to walk around a bit to get a sense of your balance, now that you’re handi-capable. He tells you about the complications of bullet-in-brain-itis, and the challenges you’ll face in life. He even gives you a strength test on a blinking, light-up carnival machine.
This is not a rigorous scientific test. It’s a goddamn toy. If he sat you down with a scan-tron sheet and a pencil your now-childlike brain would implode. The Doc is using kid gloves for a reason. And if you think the he’s bullshitting you, just look at who you travel the wastes with.
Your companions are all enablers, fictitious, or straight-up using your illness to their advantage.
Here we have Cassidy, a violent drunk who’s lost her livelihood and her family’s good name. She is whiskied to the gills when you first recruit her–at a bar–and in case you were concerned that she might sober up before this rampage reaches its conclusion, not to worry. She can distill alcohol on-the-go like some kind of transient moonshiner. Cassidy is also kind enough to take total advantage of your addled confusion, and will ask your brain-damaged ass to murder a whole emporium full of thugs armed with lasers. After you’ve been disarmed. In their legal place of business.
Ed-E: During a quick stop at the Post Office (cause’ you’re a courier, right?) you might run into this archaic piece of rusted robot scrap. Having been recently shot in the noodle, you might fancy yourself the perfect candidate to repair something that used to fly and shoot plasma indiscriminately. If that wasn’t frightening enough, it’s possible to upgrade this psychopathic killing machine after you’ve listened to its “hidden” messages, and presented it to an authority on technology. But, surprise surprise, they find little of use in its memory banks.
Because you made the whole thing up.
Because your character has been waving it around making pew-pew sounds with his mouth the whole time.
Boone is an ex-ranger sniper who snapped so hard before you made the scene that he spends his nights in the mouth of a giant novelty dinosaur, in the hopes that someone will make the mistake of wandering in front of his scope. If you, a complete stranger, offer to help him get over his dead wife issues, he’ll ask you to send someone from his hometown into his field of vision. That way he can claim revenge on literally anyone stupid enough to follow you. Once you’ve conned a local to “go look at the big dinosaur” probably while holding your hand, Boone will soften their skull with .308 caliber aspirin. He also asks you to wear his red beret, probably so he can pretend he’s close enough to feel the arterial spray.
Do you think your faithful robo-hound, Rex, is real? Nope. He’s a mental monster your character materialized to justify to the authorities why there are bite marks on the victim’s liver.
This is Lily. Lily is a giant purple mutant who thinks she’s a 75 year old grandmother, wears a sun hat, and calls you “deary”. It’s almost certain that the synaptic spaghetti in your head fabricated her out of whole cloth, probably shorn from snuffaluffagus hides. But I’m more inclined to think that Lily is a poor geriatric woman whom you’ve escorted from the nursing home to accompany you into the wasteland…at gunpoint.
Veronica is a young girl who hangs out around trading posts and talks like she’s in a shopping mall. Also, she’s totally willing to follow you anywhere to alleviate her boredom. If you’ve ever seen teenagers making fun of the mentally challenged, this one’s pretty self-explanatory.
Raul here is another victim of elderly abuse by you, the Courier. If you hang around Raul’s wrinkly ghoul ass long enough you can convince him to play along, at which point he dons a poncho and revolvers. I don’t know if this is because being around you has finally tipped him over the edge, or because the poor bugger is trying to distract you with pistol tricks like a children’s party entertainer, probably in the hopes you’ll let him go.
Arcade looks like Dr. Drew, speaks Latin, wears a lab coat, and can only be convinced to follow you if you have a high Speech skill, or if your character’s as dumb as, well…a guy who trusts a blinky carnival machine to reveal his innermost personality. I don’t think the Hippocratic Oath extends to babysitting a wacko with enough guns and C-4 to make the South rise again. But Arcade is kind enough to accompany you, ask you how you’re feeling, and slip sedatives into your Nuka Cola before you can go American History X on yet another prostitute.
Companions aside, there are a few other “tells” that indicate your character is facing some pretty heavy mental conditions. Such as…
The Term “Delusions of Grandeur” exists for a reason…
The mental insanity are often plagued with delusions that an ordinary person, like a Courier, could be contracted by a higher power; be it aliens with righteous probes, god, the devil, a secretive government agency, or really anything that sounds cooler than; “that guy I cornered at the bus stop.”
For example, as a “quest” would anyone really trust a stranger to…
Save the president (Quest: You’ll know it when it happens)because you’re such a good delivery man, right? Who needs secret service when there’s a perfectly capable (physically, at least) postman nearby?
Meet with a mummy, whom nobody else knows exists and secretly controls all of Vegas from a techno-sarcophagus (Quest: Anything involving Mr. House) all because you scienced an ATM machine (Quest: Gain access to the strip)
Stop a legion of wax warriors who escaped from the Caeser’s display at the museum (Quest: Anything involving the legion) Or operate on an emperor’s brain (Quest: Et Tumor, Brute?)
Be trusted by the military to Interrogate/torture a prisoner in their custody, because you work for the post office. (Quest: Silus Treatment)
You could look at almost any major quest offered in New Vegas, and wonder if anyone would trust a murder-hobo with loose morals to take care of their delicate problems.
What about the DLC quests?
Honest Hearts: One of the quests literally tells you to “Take drugs, fight a bear” in Zion Canyon. You can also opt to take drugs and wear the dead bear’s paw as a catcher’s mitt. Or take drugs and go genocidal on a local tribe.
Old World Blues: Get kidnapped by flying brains in jars, who lobotomize you, and send you after an evil mad scientist who commands an army of robo-scorpions with laser tails. They also give you a sweet house to chill in…where all the furniture talks to you and has their own unique personalities. None of this entry is a joke, or even exaggerated.
Dead Money: Again, get kidnapped, and get set up by a bearded techno-wizard to pull an Ocean’s 11 job on a casino, which is guarded by roaming zombies in gas-masks who dwell in clouds of purple haze.
Lonesome Road: The culmination of the DLC, and the ultimate answer to your origins as the Courier. It’s mostly just a gravely-voiced slice of your subconscious filling you with guilt for all the lives you’ve taken, blaming you for being the harbinger of death and spreading nuclear winter like an irradiated Johnny Appleseed. Boxcar hobos with schizophrenia hear this voice too, but their guilt is limited to that time they shived Spoons for his Southern Comfort.
These all sound like the mad ravings of a diseased mind. And while your character is off on these adventures, saving the president and getting kidnapped by aliens, if his body is doing anything more than drooling on himself slumped on the couch, uttering monosyllables like a Woodstock survivor on his last acid trip, I’ll eat my copy of New Vegas, CD shards and all.