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Monday, August 15, 2011

Review: Old World Blues Is Portal Meets The Venture Bros. At The End Of The World

Posted by Earnest "Nex" Cavalli on Mon, Aug 15, 2011 at 4:29 PM

That gun is a dog. Seriously.

I feel I offer you Fallout fans something of an apology. All through the lifespan of Fallout 3, I made a regular point of covering each new downloadable content release, but since the release of Fallout: New Vegas last year, I've barely mentioned its three DLC additions.

It's not so much that I'm being lazy, as the last handful of add-ons have all just been really dull. "Mediocre" and "bland" are two words I could use to describe the New Vegas DLC to date, even if I went out of my way to catalogue each handful of positives the individual releases carry with them. In what kind of dull-as-hell world do you want to read about a depressingly rote tour of dystopian Utah?

Of course, just when my expectations for new DLC drop to compensate for this lack of intriguing new areas, Bethesda releases Old World Blues, and totally blows me away. No hyperbole: Old World Blues is the finest downloadable add-on for any of the new generation Fallout games.

Hit the jump for an explanation.

I should probably get one admission out of the way ahead of time: Old World Blues isn't entirely novel. This DLC pack wears its inspirations on its metaphorical sleeve. The good news it that those inspirations are really phenomenal.

Most obvious, are the comedic and tonal cues Bethesda gleaned from Valve Software's Portal games. Do you enjoy being blackmailed by borderline psychotic AIs? Would you enjoy it more if said AIs were British, vaguely sexually predatory or the metal reincarnation of Joseph McCarthy? Those are all things in Old World Blues, and while none of the DLC's 'bots are quite as memorable as GLaDOS, when taken as a collective, they're wildly entertaining.

There also exists an AI that is functionally mute, and without spoiling the plot, I can say that if you have the ability to interact with him, the results vary between hopeful and borderline heartbreaking. I didn't cry, but I'm now tempted to pour one out for my fictional, static-voiced homie.

There is never not a good time for a natty fedora.

The other inspiration for Old World Blues is less obvious, but far more inspired. Somewhere along the line, someone at Bethesda got it into their head that this new addition needed to focus entirely on the results of science run amok, and turned to the television for ideas on how to properly convey that concept. In this probably fabricated scenario, they just so happened to catch an episode of The Venture Bros. and shouted "Eureka," waking a nearby dog.

But simply lifting the hyperbolic insanity of Cartoon Network's best program wasn't enough. No. Not at all. Bethesda needed to lift the show's aural flavor, so it tapped James Urbaniak to provide voice actor work, and while his character's distinctive voice (hint: it sounds exactly like Dr. Venture) is a bit jarring at first, it both blends in quickly and perfectly compliments the hilarious, deadly, insane world you've stepped into.

See all that blue? This DLC is also way more colorful than its predecessors.
  • Bethesda Softworks
  • See all that blue? This DLC is also way more colorful than its predecessors.

I just realized I have yet to mention a hint of what this DLC is about. While attempting to avoid spoilers, I can say this: your character enters a gigantic crater, where a group of robotic scientists swipe your vital organs and force you to complete tasks for them. In the course of fulfilling their orders, you'll encounter cyborg dogs, coyote/rattlesnake hybrids, prototype armor that talks to you and a toaster with plans to burn the entire world.

Oh, and also robo-scorpions. Fucking, asshole, bastard-twat robo-scorpions. If you thought Super Mutants or Cazadors were a pain in the ass, you're still living in a magical part of the Mojave where everything is sunlight and kitten farts, nobody ever dies, and you'll never wake up to a metal arachnid filling your bloated corpse with super-heated plasma.

I envy you.

Gameplay-wise, it's true that Old World Blues doesn't do much that you haven't seen before. There are some clever quest variations, and the overall experience is quite long given the $10 price tag and the length of its predecessors, but the key selling point of this thing is definitely its witty writing. I'm still not entirely sure whether "skinvelope" is supposed to be erotic or not, but when you discover what exactly a Y-17 Combat Harness does, you'll be momentarily horrified, before smiling to yourself and thinking "nicely done Bethesda."

I won't dive to the bottom of the canyon of hyperbole by claiming that people should pick up New Vegas specifically for Old World Blues, but if you already own the game, there is no reason for you to not buy this DLC add-on. It's better than much of the content that was in the original retail release, and blows all the other downloadable additions out of the water.

Just try not to break your controller when you run into those bastard robo-scorpions.

For realsies, fuck these guys.

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