In addition to quests and plot development, interacting with the different factions will change the way your game plays out by way of the "reputation system." Each time you make a decision, take an action, save a character, don't save a character, complete a quest for a faction or work against them, your reputation with that group will be affected. In action, this works as an addition to the Karma system, whereby your stature in an individual community, or with a particular faction, has real-world implications and will affect the dialogue options you are given, the quests available to you and how people treat you in the world.
Obsidian showed off a key quest in the game that could have a significant impact on the character's relationship with the NCR and various towns in the wasteland, depending on how the character chooses to complete it. Unlike in Fallout 3, where you could nuke the town of Megaton and maybe two or three people would notice, Obsidian promises that your actions in New Vegas will have a dramatic affect on how the game plays out.
"With reputation, it's really supposed to represent what people know about you," says Sawyer. "It is important to us that your standing [with] factions change, and as factions react to you, you get a palpable benefit from it."
Each action will contribute a reputation modifier, and the sum of those modifiers will affect how you're treated by other characters in the game.
"This can manifest in a number of different ways," Sawyer says. "People might give you free things, they might give you discounts at places. If you terrorize a town, they might actually be terrified enough to give you a tribute. If you screw around with one of the bigger groups, like Caesar's Legion or NCR, they might send hit squads after you.
"It's not just good and evil, it's basically whatever you do with that group so you can have a lot of different relationships with different groups in the game."
As the character's introduction to the world suggests, the story of New Vegas will be told - at least in part - as the player progresses through the world looking for who shot him in the head and left him for dead. Your character was a courier, carrying something important. You were killed for it, and you will eventually want to get it back. In the course of your adventures you will discover the many settlements that make up the Vegas wasteland, uncover the power (both electrical and political), water and human struggles that will shape the world in your wake.
With the combination of the radically different Western U.S. setting and Obsidian's unique Fallout sensibilities, New Vegas promises to add more then simply "more Fallout." From this first look, it seems like the next installment could feel a lot like a completely new game and according to Bethesda's Pete Hines, New Vegas will be roughly the same size as Fallout 3. "You won't be playing it quickly," he says. Whether that's good or bad remains to be seen.
Fallout: New Vegas is scheduled for a Fall 2010 release for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.
Russ Pitts is the Editor-in-Chief of The Escapist.