How to have the best Fallout New Vegas experience today

Fallout New Vegas key art
(Image credit: Obsidian Entertainment)

Now boasting a glossy (and surprisingly authentic) TV adaptation, Fallout is the talk of the town again—not bad for a series that started out as a niche turn-based isometric RPG from the '90s. While Fallout 4 and 76 are probably better known these days, most longtime series fans still sing the praises of Fallout: New Vegas and its hugely reactive, freeform story. At least, they recommend it more strongly than any other game in the series, just with some assembly required. You’ll need to do a bit of legwork unless you happen to enjoy bugs and crashes, even after New Vegas got some official patches and a round of (excellent) DLC.

Years of dedicated community efforts have culminated in New Vegas being a better game than ever (and arguably one of the best RPGs ever made), but only if you’re willing to go that extra mile through the Mojave to gather all the parts needed and cobble them all together at a crafting bench. So here’s a crash course on how to get the most out of Fallout: New Vegas in 2024. Get it all done, and your friends will be atomic-green with envy.

Install this one

Fallout New Vegas Ultimate Edition

(Image credit: Bethesda)

What's the best version of Fallout: New Vegas? 

There are a few places you can pick up Fallout: New Vegas, but you’ll want the Ultimate Edition from either Steam, GOG or Epic if you plan on modding the game, which you will absolutely want to do. Also if you’re unfortunate enough to have the German version, you’ll need to follow some extra steps—see the Viva New Vegas guide below.

The full version of the game is normally $20, but New Vegas goes on sale multiple times per year, so savvy shoppers can often snag it for under $5. The Ultimate Edition includes four lengthy expansions that most bugfix packs require. The rest of this guide will assume you own this version of the game. 

You’ll probably want to skip on the Game Pass or Microsoft Store versions, because they don’t play nicely with the Script Extender used by many mods.

First steps

Fallout: New Vegas art approaching the gates of the strip

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Before you do anything else

New Vegas is technically playable straight from the jump, but if you want to play the game at its best, you’ll want to go through a few steps before anything else: 

1. Install the game, and then run it at least once. This will create the directories on your PC to hold your saves and INI files. If you’ve got a PC from any time in the past six years, you’ll be fine cranking every graphics setting up to maximum too.

2. Make an account on Nexus Mods. You won’t be able to download the key mods and fan-made patches until you do this. Don’t worry about Nexus's premium subscription thing—it’s fully optional and only worth it if you’re very impatient.

The PC Gaming Wiki—a perennial tech-advice hub—has tips for how you can force higher frame rates, fix field-of-view for ultrawide resolutions and ambient occlusion. But aside from the Ambient Occlusion fix, you should hold off on doing anything, because we’re diving into the deep end with a lot of heavy changes.

Use these mods

(Image credit: Viva New Vegas)

Essential mods for the newest New Vegas possible (The Easiest Way)

A couple years ago, this process was a bit easier, thanks to a community mod pack named Viva New Vegas, which you could automatically install via Wabbajack, a time-saving app that downloaded mods for you, set up the correct load orders and handled all the finicky parts for you. Unfortunately, the maintainers of Viva New Vegas felt that updating the Wabbajack version of it continually was more effort than it was worth, and so you’ll have to follow a guide to assemble it yourself.

Viva New Vegas is still your easiest route to a smoother, more stable New Vegas, but now it’s in the form of a step-by-step guide to follow here.

As with the previous iteration, there’s varying levels of modded-ness you can pick from, with the default setup guide just focusing entirely on patches, fixes and some quality-of-life fixes.

While you should follow the guide to install them (most of which you’ll be slotting into place using Mod Organizer 2), the key mods of the most basic install include: 

But there’s plenty more, including a separate guide on optimizing and tuning the game for your hardware. The more you add from the initial setup list, the smoother and more stable the game will become. You’re restoring the game’s foundation here, rather than building a wobbly Jenga tower of add-ons.

For those wanting to start on that tower and build up a richer, meatier New Vegas experience, the VNV Extended section of the Viva New Vegas guide is where you want to go. Split up into UI, Gameplay, Overhauls, Content, Visuals and Finishing Touches, you’re free to pick and choose what modules you use.

Fallout: New Vegas's JSawyer mod

(Image credit: JSawyer)

I personally recommend Vigor, from the Overhauls section, a further-refined version of the ‘JSawyer’ mod, which rebalanced the game to fit the personal preferences of New Vegas’ own development lead, Joshua Sawyer, making the game a bit tougher and less loot-centric, but also buffing a bunch of lesser-used items to make more playstyles viable.

I've returned to New Vegas every couple years for the past decade, and this has given me the most solid, polished and coherent version of the game I’ve played yet. It runs flawlessly on my new 3440x1440, 120hz ultrawide monitor.

More New Vegas mods

Extra mods for a wilder Wasteland

Fallout: New California

(Image credit: Radian-Helix Media)

New Vegas wasn’t an especially handsome production even when it first launched. Partly because sacrifices had to be made to get the game running on the PS3 and Xbox 360, consoles with tight RAM limitations, and partly because Obsidian is a studio that always seems to be working with a shoestring budget.

One big budget shortfall of the game is the voice acting. While decent, there’s far too few actors to voice all the cast, and a lot of characters end up sounding almost identical. Fix that with:

Brave New World (previously featured on PC Gamer): Re-voices thousands of lines of dialogue with a much larger cast. They left the best performances intact, but a lot of minor NPCs are given a fresh lease of life. The voice-only version of BNW can be paired with New Vegas Redesigned 2 Revised to give almost all NPCs a makeover, too.

There’s also a handful of expansion-scale mods for New Vegas, not ideal if this is your first time playing, but interesting additions:

Fallout: New California: Gives your character a years-long origin story, starting out as a lowly vault dweller before getting caught up in a full-scale military conflict, eventually dovetailing back into the beginning of New Vegas. Our own Andy Kelly had nothing but praise for it, despite a few rough edges.

Fallout - The Frontier: A more guarded recommendation for this mod. It stands as the most ambitious mod for New Vegas, bigger than any of the official DLCs, and it’s a very different beast from the main game. Its three largely-linear storylines take a more ‘cinematic’ approach that leads to some interesting but awkward vehicular sections and a questionable assault on a space station. Balance is also geared towards a high-powered combat character. Flawed, but if you want more New Vegas, this is a huge chunk of it.

Autumn Leaves: Less ambitious, but a better fit for the original game. A single large narrative-heavy quest with multiple solutions and a ton of new voiced dialogue across a cast of quirky robots that you’ll find in a long-abandoned new facility. A full playthrough will take most players around 4-6 hours, making it roughly comparable to New Vegas’ own DLC, albeit a bit more self-contained.

It’s also worth noting that there are other New Vegas mod packs for Wabbajack, most of them centered around the massive Tale Of Two Wastelands mod, which combines the campaigns of Fallout 3 and New Vegas into a single game. You’ll need both FO3 and New Vegas installed for it to function, but if you really want to go large and work on that atomic tan, these will make the process of welding the two games together a relatively painless process. 

Time to start playing

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Wasteland survival tips & tricks

Unlike Fallout 3 and 4, New Vegas is a little more old school in its structure. The moment you’re out of the character creation sequence, you are largely free to go wherever you like and do as you please. Of course, this being a harsh post-apocalyptic warzone, a lot of options will lead to near-certain death. Save early, save often and don’t be afraid to experiment. There’s no one right way to play, and New Vegas is famously replayable, supporting dozens of approaches.

During Viva New Vegas character creation, you’ll be given the option to enable Wild Wasteland mode independent of any other option, and without overriding another of your starting traits. Don't disable it unless the idea of silly easter eggs and alien encounters upsets you.

In the early game, use Goodsprings as a safe haven—explore, scavenge what you can then fast-travel back for some rest. Take some time to fully explore the town and talk to all the NPCs. There’s one in the saloon that’ll offer to teach you some survival skills, including the basics of marksmanship and crafting. Well worth doing for both the XP and free ammo.

(Image credit: Bethesda)

There are a few early threats to be especially aware of. Cazadors (monsters that look like giant house flies with bright orange wings) are extremely fast, aggressive and powerful and will destroy most lower-level characters. If you see them, run, and keep a note of where they were.

⭐Deathclaws (giant humanoid lizards with coincidentally huge, deadly claws) are another critter that tend to be placed as a wall to dissuade lower-level characters from continuing. With enough explosives and maybe some armor-piercing ammo, you can brute force your way through, but it’s easier to run past them than Cazadors.

Fallout: new vegas tips

(Image credit: Bethesda)

⭐Ammo types are important, especially early on when you’re largely using scavenged gear. The default hotkey to switch between ammo types is (rather unintuitively) '2' and it’s well worth experimenting with what you’ve got. Use cheap bullets and bulk energy cells when fighting low-level critters like molerats or coyotes, and switch to the premium gun-food when you need to serve up a feast.

⭐Invest in at least a little bit of Repair skill, and make sure you pick up weapons identical to whatever you’re using. The janky, low-quality gear that raiders drop can easily be stripped for parts to improve the quality of your usual gear. Look for the prompt to repair in your inventory menu.

Even with the JSawyer mod (or its descendants) making things a little more intense, Hardcore mode isn’t quite as scary as it sounds, and some players find having to keep a cursory eye on hunger, thirst and other negative effects adds to the experience. Nobody will judge you for just playing on Normal though.

⭐Keep an eye open for escalating hostilities. New Vegas does level scaling in a fun way, with the war between the NCR and Caesar's Legions stepping up as you become more powerful. Keep an ear open for NPCs talking about new enemy types entering the fray, especially around military bases. 

New Vegas is built to be replayed. There are a vast number of dialogue branches, endings, several major factions that you can throw your lot in with, go to war against or ignore entirely, and the game remembers a surprising amount. Even if your actions don’t immediately return to haunt you, the ending monologues will probably acknowledge any acts of heroism (or crimes against humanity) you performed along the way.

Don't miss

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Sights to see and folks to visit in New Vegas

Once you’ve got a few levels under your belt, you’ll want to make some friends. Firstly because New Vegas’ companions are excellently written with their own morally complex questlines, but also because they’ll soak up an impressive amount of lead for you in combat. You’re allowed one human and one non-human buddy with you at any given time, so here’s one of each to get you started: 

⭐The easiest companion to get is the floating drone Ed-E, found in the town of Primm just slightly south of Goodsprings. You’ll need to fix him up but it’s not a hard quest.

⭐As for a steadfast human pal, if you’ve got positive Karma (she only hangs out with heroes), Cass is a hard-drinking, hard-brawling sort down on her luck. You can find her at the NCR Mojave Outpost far to the west and a little south of Nipton. Talking with her will start a quest chain that’ll need you to talk her into selling her caravan, requiring either good Barter or Speech skills to clear, but she’ll eventually find her way into your party. 

As for the rest of the friends to look for, they’re spread pretty thin and far, but it’s well worth meeting them all. Each brings something useful to the party, and each has a personal quest-line to follow that fills in more of their backstory. Here’s a list of them all on the Fallout Wiki, but I’d personally just recommend exploring.

⭐Once you’re feeling confident, it’s time to head north to the Vegas strip proper. It’s a hub of iniquity, inequality and intrigue, as well as some other words beginning with ‘in’. It’s also where you’ll find most of the big plot hooks of the game. Investigate what’s up with that casino chip that you nearly got killed over, and make sure you grill the local NCR forces on what they’re doing in the region.

⭐While you’re in Vegas, it’s highly recommended you do some investigating (see, another in-word) into the three families running the strip. Not to spoil too much, but the White Glove Society are attached to one of New Vegas’ most reactive and freeform quests, with many possible branches and endings depending on what kind of character you’re playing.

If you want to see the main story of New Vegas to its end, you’re going to have to pick your poison. There’s three factions fighting for power here. Mr House (in his big casino penthouse) is trying to carve out a capitalist hotspot here, and you can follow his questline in the questline The House Always Wins.

⭐ The democratic NCR are trying to establish American business as usual, and will try to recruit you pretty actively once you’ve made a name for yourself, so just swing by the NCR embassy on the strip to sign up. Lastly, Caesar's Legion are a bunch of ancient Roman larpers, slavers and raiders, perfect for evil characters or people who follow too many ‘trad history’ Twitter accounts with marble statue avatars. Begin the misadventure with Render Unto Caesar at Caesar’s camp Northeast of Hoover Dam.

The DLC is extremely worthwhile. Arguably the best expansions the Fallout series has ever seen, and ranging from survival horror in Dead Money to screwball super-science comedy in Old World Blues. They build on your personal story, filling out the The Courier’s history, and are best played in release order (Dead Money, Honest Hearts, Old World Blues and then Lonesome Road), ideally once you’re above level 20. Start your personal side-story when you pick up a radio signal leading you to the Sierra Madre casino, via an abandoned Brotherhood Of Steel bunker far off in the east.

That should be enough to start you on your wasteland wandering. Exploring and finding stuff for yourself is half the joy of the game half the joy of an RPG like this is carving your own path through its world. So off you go, Courier—you’ve got deliveries to make. Try to stay away from any glowing barrels and keep some big iron on your hip.

Dominic Tarason
Contributing Writer

The product of a wasted youth, wasted prime and getting into wasted middle age, Dominic Tarason is a freelance writer, occasional indie PR guy and professional techno-hermit seen in many strange corners of the internet and seldom in reality. Based deep in the Welsh hinterlands where no food delivery dares to go, videogames provide a gritty, realistic escape from the idyllic views and fresh country air. If you're looking for something new and potentially very weird to play, feel free to poke him on Twitter. He's almost sociable, most of the time.