Firstly, it's worth noting that VATS is a little less broken than it was in Fallout 3. One of the major problems with the system is that the player is unable to move while VATS is activated - so you can't dodge attacks or back up away from an opponent who is barrelling in at you with a melee attack. What was Bethesda's solution? "Oh well, then you take less damage - 75 PERCENT LESS DAMAGE while in VATS mode". This makes no sense, is highly exploitable, is imbalanced, and lazy game design. Obsidian had the sense to reduce that to 10% damage reduction, but all that does is return us to the original problem with the system - that you cannot move while using it. VATS is also more accurate than free-shooting and has a higher chance to Crit, for some reason. To compensate for THIS intentionally-coded-in imbalance, using VATS damages your weapon's condition four times as fast as free shooting - what? Why? What does the weapon's condition have to do with this weird slow motion mode? I could go on about VATS for hours, but in short, it's a list of what not to do when designing a video game mechanic. For me, combat is a large part of an RPG; it's usually make-or break, and regardless of the rest of the design, VATS pretty much breaks the game.
Beyond that, though, there are other big problems. The game still has the Oblivion radar problem, where each quest you get and each major game plot point gives you a little green arrow. You could program a bot to beat these games, easily.
- Have it follow the little green arrow
- If it led you to a friendly character, have it click use and then have it left-click on all possible dialogue trees.
- If it led you to a hostile character (don't worry, children - hostiles show up as RED DOTS on the radar before you even know they're there!), then have it kill them.
- Repeat until the game is finished! Hooray, another game completed, time to buy a new one!
The rest of the check-box game design you'd expect from any high profile game these days is all there - achievements, recipes, unlocks, skulltulas, jinjos, etc. Basically, if you have a seriously addictive OCD personality, these things may appeal to you in a sick sort of way, but for the rest of us, they're pure noise.
I mentioned in the beginning that I like it when worlds are dynamic - that is, I can actually change stuff in the world, and the characters in the world respond to their newly changed world. The problem is, creating truly dynamic worlds increases the development workload exponentially, so unless it's a major goal from the get go, it's not going to happen. And it didn't happen in Fallout: New Vegas. For instance - right outside the first town, there's a prison that has been overtaken by the prisoners, and they now roam the streets as the "Powder Gang", terrorizing nearby settlements. Everyone in the first town is all freaked out about the Powder Gang, and one of the first quests is to get a bunch of people together to go kill them. Well, I said screw that, I'm gonna go kill them myself! And I did. With a careful combination of VATS and a couple save-games, I was able to clear out not only the whole prison, but all of the surrounding Powder Gang settlements. I literally killed every last one of them. Went back into town, and the idiots are still trying to get a group together to go take them out. Why can't I tell them, "uh, there's really no need. I killed them all just now." That would be cool! But no, you have to do everything the way they want you to do it. That sucks.
To end this section on a good note, they included a mode called Hardcore mode, which is actually rather reasonable. It makes ammo have weight, food and water are actually useful, stimpacks take a few seconds to fill your health, etc. Honestly, it's all stuff that should be the default, but I think this game was designed for publishers, not for gamers. Oops, that wasn't a good note. Oh well.