Welcome to New Vegas

Our dystopian future, seen through the eyes of video-game programmers

If you long for the old days when Las Vegas seemed cleaner, friendlier and easier to navigate, don’t rush out and buy a copy of Fallout: New Vegas; you’ll find no comfort in the game designers’ decidedly bleak vision of our destiny.

On the other hand, if you’re fan of quasi-cautionary dystopian fables with enough visual cues from the present to lend a creepy familiarity to the future, you may dig New Vegas. Judging from the trailers on the game’s website, the city still looks like a good time. Just don’t expect to find valet parking as readily as you can now. Or cars, for that matter.

The first installment of Fallout dates to prehistoric times in gaming terms: 1997. That story was set in a post-apocalyptic Southern California in the mid-22nd century, after a worldwide nuclear war over shortages of petroleum and uranium erupted in 2077. To survive, residents live in underground vaults, coming out occasionally to take a look around and shoot one another.

The New Vegas edition, scheduled for release on Oct. 19, has the vault dweller roaming the scorched Mojave Desert, battling slobbering mutants and dealing with the kind of weirdos Las Vegas has always attracted, albeit radioactively enhanced. According to the website, “It’s the kind of town where you dig your own grave prior to being shot in the head and left for dead … and that’s before things really get ugly.” So status quo, pretty much.

The good news is the Hoover Dam is still standing, and so is the Stratosphere. You can still go throw away money on the Strip, once you clear the barbed wire gates and armed guards who control it. Purists will be happy to know that the canopy over Fremont Street has apparently been torn off, but saddened by the realization that urban renewal of the downtown core has failed to take hold. Watch out for the enormous spiders and enjoy your stay.

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