Fallout: New Vegas Tweak Guide

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General System Optimization

Fallout: New Vegas Tweak Guide by Koroush Ghazi

If you're unfamiliar with the Fallout series of games, the quirky premise is that America effectively became culturally stuck in the 1950's 'Atomic Age', right up to a devastating nuclear war which occurs in the early 21st century. Fallout: New Vegas begins in the late 23rd century, shortly after the events of Fallout 3, allowing you to once again enter this bizarre alternate reality and explore the post-apocalyptic wasteland surrounding and including Las Vegas, now known as New Vegas. In terms of genre, Fallout: New Vegas can best be described as a cross between an adventure game, a role-playing game, and a first person shooter, having elements of all three.

If you've played Fallout 3, then the simplest description of Fallout: New Vegas is that it is more of the same goodness, but with RPG enhancements including a better companion management system, Hardcore mode which places greater emphasis on strategy and realism, and a Reputation System that means your actions now have more consequences. Add to that new enemies and new weapons, a large open game world to explore and a great deal of freedom to play your character any way you wish, and the result is a game guaranteed to provide you with countless hours of enjoyment.

The game's official minimum requirements are shown below:

  • Processor: Dual core 2.0GHz CPU
  • Memory: 2GB
  • Hard Drive: At least 10 GB of free space
  • Video Card: Nvidia GeForce 6 Series (or equivalent) or higher
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible
  • Peripherals: Keyboard & mouse or Windows compatible gamepad
  • OS: Windows XP / Vista / 7

The requirements are quite modest because Fallout: New Vegas is based on a game engine which has been around for many years, most notably used in Fallout 3 and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Basically, if your system can run Fallout 3 then you should be able to run Fallout: New Vegas at similar visual quality.

What follows are full descriptions for all of Fallout: New Vegas' in-game settings, including screenshot comparisons to highlight the impact on image quality of changing the most significant settings. Performance information is also provided, although bear in mind that the precise impact on your particular system depends on your specific hardware combination and your other game and system-wide settings. The aim here is to give you enough information so that you can make an informed choice as to the settings you enable or disable to obtain the precise balance of visual quality and performance that is acceptable to you.

General System Optimization

Almost as important as any in-game setting is the way your Windows installation is configured. A great many problems and performance issues - particularly stuttering and crashes in Fallout: New Vegas - can be traced directly to sub-optimal settings in Windows and out-of-date or badly configured drivers. For this reason it is recommended that you download the relevant version of the TweakGuides Tweaking Companion (TGTC) and take the time to optimize your Windows installation correctly. At the very least make sure to update your graphics drivers to the latest available version.

Performance Measurement

To successfully conduct any tweaking in Fallout: New Vegas, you will need some way of objectively measuring your performance in Frames Per Second (FPS). The quickest and easiest way to measure your FPS in any game is to use the free FRAPS utility. Download, install and launch FRAPS before starting up Fallout: New Vegas. You will now see a yellow FPS counter displayed in the corner of your screen. Pay attention to the FPS figure, particularly during graphically intense scenes, such as during explosions and in crowded areas - if it dips into the low double or single digits for example, this is a good indication that you need to adjust various settings until your minimum FPS is consistently above 25-30.

Graphics

There are several places in which you can adjust the Fallout: New Vegas settings. The first and most important location is the FNV Launcher window which appears each time you start up the game. The second place to further alter settings is within the game itself. The third is through the use of advanced .ini file tweaks. All of these settings will be covered in different sections of this guide.

Graphics

The graphics settings have the greatest impact on game performance. In the following section, we'll go through each setting and see how they affect performance and image quality.

In the performance graphs shown in this guide, for each setting we start with a "baseline" where all options are set to their maximum, along with 4 Sample Antialiasing and 15 Sample Anisotropic Filtering. From this baseline, we vary individual settings to measure their effect on performance and image quality. The test system consists of a GeForce GTX 460 1GB and Intel Core i7 940 CPU.

Full System Configuration:

  • GeForce GTX 460 1GB
  • Intel Core i7 940
  • 3GB RAM
  • Win7 64-bit
  • NVIDIA 260.99 Drivers

Resolution & Anit-Aliasing

Start Fallout: New Vegas and when the FNV Launcher window opens, click Options to adjust the following settings.

Graphics Adapter

This allows you to select your graphics device, also known as a GPU, and should show the correct name for the main graphics card in your system. If the information is incorrect and/or you can't select the correct card, make sure to do a clean installation of the latest graphics driver.

Aspect Ratio

This setting is based on the ratio of width to height for your monitor, and also affects which resolutions are available to you in the Resolution setting below. To avoid distortion you should select the ratio which precisely matches your monitor's aspect ratio. If you're unsure as to which ratio is correct, select each one and test to see whether round objects in the game - like the buttons on your Pip-Boy 3000 - appear perfectly round (correct) or oval (incorrect).

Resolution

This option lets you choose the Resolution of the game image, measured by the number of pixels horizontally and vertically (e.g. 1920 pixels x 1200 pixels). The number of resolutions available here is limited by the capabilities of both your graphics card and monitor, as well as your Aspect Ratio setting, and whether youve ticked the 'Show All Resolutions' box in the lower right of the FNV Launcher options screen. The higher the resolution you choose, the more detailed the image will be, with noticeably less blurriness and jaggedness. To obtain the sharpest image on an LCD monitor you should select the maximum available resolution, commonly referred to as the Native Resolution. However higher resolutions also generate an increased load for your system, particularly on your graphics card, and hence will noticeably reduce your overall performance.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

As the graph shows, the performance impact of resolution is substantial, so if adjusting other settings fails to sufficiently improve your performance, reduce your resolution.

Antialiasing

Anti-Aliasing (AA) is a method used to smooth the appearance of jagged lines in a game. The available options here are Off, 2 Samples, 4 Samples, and 8 Samples. The higher the sample rate, the smoother the outlines of various objects in the game world. The screenshot comparison below shows the difference between no Off (no AA) and 4 sample (4x AA). If you look closely, you can see that almost everything in the game world, from the lamppost, to the 'Express' sign to the left, the iron railings to the right and the wires just above them, are showing jaggedness with Antialiasing disabled. This jaggedness is noticeably reduced when Antialiasing is set to 4 Samples and the entire scene looks smoother and more realistic. However AA can be very costly in terms of performance, especially at higher sample rates.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The graph shows the significant performance impact of antialiasing at all resolutions in Fallout New Vegas.

Anisotropic Filter & Detail

Anisotropic Filtering

Anisotropic Filtering (AF) is a texture filtering technique designed to improve the clarity of textures that are displayed at an angle to the screen, such as those covering the ground or walls when looking down a corridor. The available options here are Off, then a range of sample rates starting at 2 all the way up to 15. The higher the sample rate used, the crisper and more distinct surfaces will appear as they recede into the distance, at the cost of some performance. A screenshot comparison is provided below to demonstrate the difference between the two extremes of Off (minimum) and 15 Samples (maximum). As can be seen, when AF is disabled, the textures from around the middle distance onwards become blocky and blurry. However when 15 Sample AF is enabled, the stone wall to the left, the road, and even distant landscapes show much more detail, looking far more realistic than the blocky mess which appears when AF is disabled. Since some of the textures in Fallout: New Vegas are of relatively low resolution to begin with, it is strongly recommended that you use some level of AF, preferably 4 Samples or higher.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

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The graph indicates that the use of AF will result in reasonably small drop in performance at all but the highest sample rates, even at higher resolutions.

Detail

Here you can select the overall level of graphics detail used in the game. The preset options are Low, Medium, High and Ultra. A screenshot comparison is provided below to demonstrate the difference between these preset levels. The most noticeable difference between Ultra and High is that some texture detail is lost in the distance due to a reduction in Anisotropic Filtering from 15 to 8 samples, and some distant objects and geometry is also removed due to a reduction in the View Distance and LOD settings. Between High and Medium the difference is more pronounced, primarily due to a loss of many game world objects and buildings as the View Distance and LOD settings are greatly reduced. Antialiasing and Anisotropic Filtering are also both turned off, resulting in a further loss of texture detail and jagged edges appearing on most objects. Between Medium and Low the change is very obvious - the lighting effect goes from HDR to None, making the game world very monochromatic and bland, and there is a further loss of a range of objects, even those close to the viewer such as tufts of grass.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Since the Detail preset controls a large number of basic and advanced graphics settings, including AA and AF, the graph confirms that there is a pronounced difference in performance for each level of this preset. Although using the Detail presets is the quickest way to adjust your game graphics, it is certainly not optimal. It is strongly recommended that you click the Advanced button and manually adjust individual graphics settings as described in this guide, giving you the best balance of image quality and performance to suit your particular tastes.

VSync & Screen Effects

Windowed

If this box is ticked, Fallout: New Vegas will run in a window on your Desktop as opposed to fullscreen mode. In Windowed mode the window size depends on the resolution you select in the Resolution setting. Windowed mode is useful if you want to run the game lower than your monitor's native resolution but still maintain the sharpest image. Otherwise it is recommended that the Windowed box be unticked so that the game can run in fullscreen mode for optimal stability

Vertical Sync

Also known as VSync, Vertical Synchronization is the synchronization of your graphics card and monitor's abilities to redraw the image on the screen a number of times each second, measured in Hz. This is not the same as FPS, but it does affect your FPS - when VSync is On (this box is ticked) your maximum FPS will be capped to your monitor's Refresh Rate, which for most people is 60Hz (= a 60FPS cap). Furthermore at certain times VSync can also reduce your overall performance and bring about mouse lag. When VSync is Off, your FPS is no longer capped, but you may experience a phenomenon known as 'tearing' - portions of the image temporarily appear to be slightly out of alignment. This does no harm to your system, however it can be annoying. If you wish to enable VSync to remove tearing, it is recommended that you also enable Triple Buffering to prevent the performance drop which accompanies VSync. For the highest framerates and the least potential for mouse lag however, VSync is best set to Off. Unfortunately in Fallout: New Vegas, VSync is enabled at all times, even if the Vertical Sync box is unticked. You can either select 'Force Off' in the Vertical Sync setting for the Fallout: New Vegas profile found in the Program Settings section of your Nvidia Control Panel, or by using an advanced tweak covered below.

For Advanced Users

You can force VSync off in Fallout: New Vegas by editing a command variable found in the Fallout_default.ini file in the \Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\fallout new vegas directory. Make a backup copy of this file first, then open it with a text editor like Windows Notepad, and alter the iPresentInterval=1 variable to iPresentInterval=0 and save the change. This will forcibly disable VSync in the game.

Screen Effects

This setting determines the type of lighting effects applied to the game image. There are three options available here: None, Bloom and HDR. The screenshot comparison below demonstrates the difference. The None option uses basic lighting which provides an acceptable-looking sky, but makes the rest of the game world look rather flat and washed out, with no real depth or realism. Bloom is an effect which adds a glow to lighting in an attempt to make it look more realistic, however it is not dynamic, and in Fallout: New Vegas, makes the sky glow unnaturally bright, so is not recommended. HDR (High Dynamic Range) lighting dynamically alters its appearance based on the way it interacts with various objects and surfaces, as well as how and where the viewer is positioned in relation to the light. HDR lighting makes the game world seem much more vivid, and provides a more realistic contrast between lighter and darker areas. In terms of performance, None and Bloom provide a similar level of FPS, while HDR can be noticeably more performance-intensive at times.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The graph highlights the fact that the performance difference between None and Bloom is minimal, while HDR has a significant performance impact.

Texture & Radial Blur Quality

When the Advanced button is clicked in the FNV Launcher, a new window opens with a detailed series of graphics settings you can alter under five tabs. The contents of each tab is covered in more detail in the rest of this guide, starting with the Detail tab below.

Texture Quality

Textures are bitmap images which cover the surface of every object in the game world, giving them the appearance of depth and detail. This setting controls the level of detail for these textures, with the available options here being High, Medium and Low. As the setting is lowered, the resolution of the textures used falls, resulting in a loss of detail. A screenshot comparison is provided to demonstrate the difference. As you can see, the walls and windows on the building, and the ground as well as other surfaces, become slightly blurry at Medium, and noticeably blurry at Low. The performance impact of changing this setting is relatively low in terms of overall FPS, but the higher the Texture Quality, the more information needs to be loaded into your GPU's memory, resulting in greater potential for stuttering and loading pauses as you wander the game world. If you have a graphics card with a relatively lower amount of Video RAM, lower this setting to see if it helps reduce stuttering and periodic loading pauses on your system.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The graph shows the difference in FPS, but as noted, the most significant impact of this setting is on stuttering and loading pauses as you wander the game world.

Radial Blur Quality

This setting controls the degree to which the 'radial blur' effect occurs, visible when you are in VATS combat for example. The edges of the screen are blurred more than the center to simulate fast action and heighten drama while in slow motion. The available options for this setting are High, Medium and Low, but in practice altering it does not appear to change its visual quality to any noticeable degree, as the screenshot comparison below shows - there is an equivalent amount of blurring visible whether at High or Low. Similarly, there is no noticeable performance impact from altering this setting.

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Depth of Field & Transparency Multisampling

Depth of Field

This option controls whether a Depth of Field effect is enabled in the game. When ticked (On), you will notice that in certain circumstances, such as when speaking with people or when targeting enemies during VATS mode, objects around the character or object you are focusing on will appear blurred. A screenshot comparison is provided below to demonstrate the difference. You can see that when enabled, Depth of Field makes the background blurrier, accentuating the robot in the foreground. Enabling this option can make conversation and combat seem more cinematic, but there is a noticeable impact on performance, especially when in VATS combat.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The graph shows that the general performance impact of Depth of Field is noticeable, more so at higher resolutions.

Transparency Multisampling

Transparency Multisampling is a form of Antialiasing which is applied only to transparent textures - that is, textures which have see-through portions, such as foliage or chain-link fences. When enabled (ticked), and you also have the Antialiasing setting enabled, this setting applies Transparency Multisampling on top of regular AA, making transparent objects even less jagged. The screenshot comparison below shows the difference - with Transparency Multisampling enabled, the bushes to the left, the grass to the right, and the chain link fence in the background are softer and smoother than when Transparency Multisampling is disabled. Enabling Transparency Multisampling can noticeably reduce performance, however the precise FPS impact and visual quality will depend on your graphics card and overall Antialiasing level, as newer GPUs provide both better image quality and less of a drop in FPS with AA.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The graph shows minimal performance impact from altering this setting on a GTX 460, but in practice the impact can become quite noticeable depending on your GPU and the scene you are viewing, in conjunction with the level of Antialiasing used.

Decal Cap

This slider determines the maximum number of decals - primarily blood splatters on the ground - which are visible at any one time. It doesn't seem to have any impact on the maximum number of other decals, such as bullet holes. The impact on FPS from altering this setting is virtually unnoticeable on most systems so set this to suit your taste - the maximum is recommended unless you dislike seeing pools of blood, in which case select the minimum.

Water Refractions

Water Refractions

Refraction occurs when rays of light are bent. If ticked, this setting gives objects which are seen through water a shimmery and distorted appearance, which enhances realism. The screenshot comparison below demonstrates the difference. As you can see, with Water Refraction enabled, the rocks near the bottom of the screen are barely visible and are distorted; with Water Refractions disabled most of the underwater objects in the scene become clearly visible. Disabling water refractions can improve FPS in areas around water, however it also makes water look much less realistic.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The graph shows a relatively minor impact on performance, however the impact on realism in all water areas is significant so it is recommended that this setting be kept On unless you get substantial slowdowns around water.

Water Reflections

Water Reflections

As the name suggests, if ticked this option should allow a reflection of nearby objects on the surface of bodies of water. The visual quality of the reflection is determined by a combination of the Reflection Quality, Soft Reflections, Full Scene Reflections and Full Detail Reflection settings as covered below. If this setting is unticked, all reflections are removed from the surface of water, and all the reflection-related settings are also automatically disabled, which can improve performance when around water areas at the cost of a significant loss in realism.

However in Fallout: New Vegas there is an oddity in that in the majority of instances the only thing which is actually reflected on the surface of any body of water is the sky - nearby buildings, terrain, objects and characters are not reflected at all regardless of the Reflection-related settings. There are only a couple of notable instances in which this is not the case: right behind the Hoover Dam building, and in Cottonwood Cove. A screenshot comparison is provided below, showing that essentially, the only Reflection-related setting which does have a noticeable visual impact is Water Reflections, which as can be seen in the last screenshot, makes water quite unrealistic when set to Off.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Reflection Quality

This setting adjusts the quality of reflections cast on the surface of water, if the Water Reflections option is ticked. The available options are High, Medium and Low, and the lower this setting, the more blurry and indistinct reflections should appear. However, as can be see in the screenshot comparisons further above, whether at High, Medium or Low, because only the sky is reflected in the water most of the time in Fallout: New Vegas, the visual impact is virtually unnoticeable - at Medium and Low the reflected clouds become ever-so-slightly more blurry.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Soft Reflections

If enabled (ticked), this option is designed to soften water reflections, making them hazier and more realistic. However as discussed, the only thing reflected in the water is typically the sky, so the difference in image quality whether Soft Reflections is disabled or enabled is marginal at best.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Full Scene Reflections

If enabled (ticked), all scenery is typically reflected in water; if disabled, only the most significant landscape objects should be reflected. Once again, since no scenery or objects are reflected in the water in Fallout: New Vegas most of the time, there is no discernable image quality impact by disabling this option.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Full Detail Reflections

If enabled (ticked), water reflections show much of the detailing of the original objects being reflected; if disabled, water reflections become relatively bland outlines of the reflected objects. Once again, in practice this setting has no discernable visual quality impact due to the lack of reflected objects aside from the sky.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

As can be seen, all the reflection settings show minimal to no change in performance when altered, precisely because of the lack of actual reflections shown on bodies of water in most areas. In short, while a range of variations is possible for overall water reflection quality based on the five reflection-related settings above, the absence of any reflections in water, save the sky, for the vast majority of the game, makes changing these various settings redundant. Out of all the water reflection-related settings, only disabling Water Reflections has any significant visual impact. Therefore if you require additional performance around water areas without sacrificing much in the way of image quality, reduce Reflection Quality to Low, and disable the Soft Reflections, Full Scene Reflections and Full Detail Reflections settings.

Water Displacement & Depth Fog

Water Displacement

If enabled (ticked), whenever your character moves through a body of water, you will leave a rippling trail behind you. You can disable this effect, however the FPS improvement is not significant.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The performance impact is negligible, and only occurs when your are moving through water.

Depth Fog

This setting controls the level of murkiness of the water, though it doesn't control the murkiness while you're actually underwater; it affects the level of fogging visible when looking at water from land. The screenshot comparison below illustrates the difference, showing that when disabled, the area where the water meets the shoreline is not as realistic because it doesn't blend in with the land. The performance impact of this setting should be negligible on most systems.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The graph shows no change when this setting is altered on a GTX 460, but in practice there may be a more noticeable performance impact on lower-end GPUs.

Water Multisampling

Multisampling is a form of Antialiasing, which means that this setting is designed to reduce the jaggedness of water. The available options are High, Medium and Low, however in practice there is no discernable visual difference in the jaggedness of water when this setting is changed. Lowering this setting can improve performance though, even in areas without any visible water.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The graph shows that there is a noticeable change in performance when going from High to Low for this setting, and given its negligible visual impact, Low is suggested for all but high-end machines.

Shadows

Enable Shadows

When this option is enabled (ticked), shadows will be displayed, though note that there are no environmental shadows at all in the game, such as shadows cast by buildings and trees. Most objects will react to lighting in a generic way: for example the side of a building facing sunlight will be brighter, while the other side will be darker. But there are no actual object shadows, not even any static shadows, so the only visible impact of enabling or disabling this option is on shadows cast by characters, including your own shadow when in third person view. The screenshot comparison below demonstrates that the only discernable difference in the scene is the removal of the character shadow when the Enable Shadows setting is disabled. Hence while disabling shadows can improve performance, the performance and visual quality impact is only noticeable if you're in third person view and/or when there are other characters around.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The graph shows that the performance impact can be noticeable, but this is only in instances where your own or an NPC's shadow is visible.

Note that if the Enable Shadows setting is unticked, all the other shadow-related options under this tab will automatically be disabled as well.

Shadow Quality

This setting determines the overall resolution of cast shadows. The available options are High, Medium and Low, but the visual difference is difficult to notice given the sparse use of shadows in the game. A screenshot comparison is provided below, and as you can see, as this setting is lowered, the shadow cast by the character becomes slightly blockier and more faint. The degradation in shadow quality from lowering this setting is much more noticeable when the Shadow Filtering setting is also lowered to Medium or Low.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The graph demonstrates that the performance impact is not major, certainly less so at higher resolutions.

Shadow Filtering

This setting controls the way in which the edges of shadows blend with the surroundings. The available options are High, Medium and Low, and the screenshot comparison provided below demonstrates the difference. At High the edges of the shadows cast by the two people are very soft and blurry, making them more realistic; at Medium they become slightly more distinct; at Low the edges are hard and crisp, which can look quite artificial. Lowering this setting will improve FPS when shadows are visible.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The performance impact is not significant, but the precise change in FPS when this setting is altered will depend on how many characters with visible shadows are in a scene.

Max Interior Shadows/Max Exterior Shadows

These two settings control the maximum number of shadows which are allowed on screen at any one time. The Max Interior Shadows setting determines, as the name suggests, the maximum number of shadows possible when inside buildings. The Max Exterior Shadows setting determines the maximum shadows cast when outdoors. Lowering the number of shadows visible on screen can increase FPS, particularly in situations where there are multiple characters with visible cast shadows. Where there are more characters than the maximum allowed by these settings, the shadows cast will actively switch to the character(s) which have moved most recently.

Object & Actor Fade

The distance sliders in the View Distance section of the Advanced Options affect the way various objects or effects fade into and out of view. The sliders determine the distance between you and an object or effect before it pops into or out of view. However the pop-in/pop-out effect is variable: it typically takes less distance while moving towards an object before it appears, whereas moving away from it seems to take a greater distance before it finally vanishes out of view. The number of objects you can see in the distance may also be affected by your character's Perception statistic. Keep these factors in mind, since the screenshot comparisons provided can't really demonstrate these effects.

Object Fade

This slider controls the distance at which a range of game world objects such as fences, boxes, wrecked cars etc. are visible. As this setting is lowered, many world objects in the distance will be faded out of view. The screenshot comparison below demonstrates the effects of this slider at its maximum (15), middle (8) and minimum (1) positions. As you can see, as the Object Fade slider is moved to the mid-point, only a few minor items in the distance are removed. However by the time the slider goes from the midpoint to the minimum, a large number of objects - including iron railings, lampposts, wrecked buildings, large signs, even portions of the street - are all removed from view. While this can improve FPS quite a bit, having so many objects removed and suddenly popping into view only as you get within a few feet of them substantially detracts from immersion and realism, and makes it extremely difficult to explore the game world properly. For this reason it is strongly recommended that you do not lower this slider below the mid-point (8).

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The graph indicates the performance impact of this setting can be significant, but so can the gameplay ramifications if it is lowered too far. Only lower this setting if you are truly struggling for performance and have no other choice.

Actor Fade

This slider controls the distance at which other characters and creatures are visible. The screenshot comparison below shows that at the minimum value of 2, only a single NPC in the middle distance is visible; at a value of 4 on the slider, a further three NPCs behind him become visible; and at a value of 8 (and above), two additional NPCs in the far distance become visible. Reducing this slider may boost FPS, but if it removes characters from view then that also incurs gameplay disadvantages, because you may miss seeing enemies or friendlies even at moderate distances. For that reason it is not recommended that this slider be lowered below a value of 8.

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dication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The graph demonstrates the relatively minimal performance impact of this setting. Due to its impact on gameplay, this setting should not be lowered below Medium unless truly struggling for performance.

Grass & Specularity Fade

Grass Fade

This slider controls the distance at which grass fades into or out of view. The lower the setting, the fewer patches of grass are visible in outdoor areas. The screenshot comparison below shows that from the maximum position on the slider (7) to the mid point (3), there is a minor loss of the grass from the middle distance and beyond; however by the minimum value of 0, all grass has been removed. This can improve performance in outdoor areas at the cost of some realism.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The performance impact in the graph is much higher at higher resolutions, though it all depends on the amount of grass in the scene. Since grass is not critical to gameplay, and the Mojave Wasteland is already quite barren, this setting can be lowered to gain performance without a major reduction in realism nor any gameplay disadvantage.

Specularity Fade

This slider controls how shiny various surfaces appear to be, so the most obvious impact of changing this setting is that some reflective surfaces will lose their shine. Note that oddly enough, if you select the 'Ultra' preset in the main FNV Launcher options, that will set this option to a value of 20, which is beyond the maximum of 15 normally allowed if you move the slider manually. The screenshot comparison provided below shows that as this setting is reduced from the maximum (20) to the mid-point (10), the shine on the building's walls and glass is noticeably reduced. From the mid-point to the minimum (2), the shine is almost completely removed from the building, and the telegraph pole to the right also loses its reflectivity. Lowering this setting can improve performance, but you may also simply prefer to reduce this setting to obtain a less shiny look to the game world.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The performance impact is virtually negligible on a modern GPU, so adjusting this setting is best done to suit your tastes with regards to the level of shine and hence the general look of the game world.

Light, Item & Shadow Fade

Light Fade

This slider controls the distance at which lighting begins to fade out. The impact of this setting is most noticeable when indoors, as the screenshot comparison provided below shows. Between the maximum setting (35) and the mid-point (18), you can see that the luminosity of the lights on the back wall is reduced; from the mid-point of the setting to the minimum (2), there is a dramatic reduction in the lighting from all sources, particularly from the lights above the car, which provide no illumination at all on the vehicle. Reducing this setting can improve FPS, but can also make lights effectively useless if set too low.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The (minimal) performance impact must be offset by considerations regarding how much illumination you want from lights. On balance this setting is best kept at Medium or above.

Item Fade

This slider controls the distance at which items you can pick up or equip, such as weapons and armor, stimpacks, plates, glasses etc. are visible. As you lower this setting, more distant items will no longer be visible. See the screenshot comparison below for an example - all the items strewn along the road into the distance are visible at the mid-point (8) or above on the slider. When the setting is further reduced to 4, only the furthest few items are removed. All items beyond the near distance have disappeared completely when the setting is reduced to its minimum of 1. There is only a minor performance boost at best from lowering this slider, but the gameplay disadvantage is significant. Therefore it is strongly recommended that you do not lower this slider from its maximum, and certainly not below a value of 8, lest you miss seeing important, dangerous or useful objects while wandering the game world.

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An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The graph confirms the negligible performance impact of changing this setting, particularly below the critical Medium level.

Shadow Fade

This slider controls the distance at which shadows fade out. However because the only shadows affected by this setting are those cast by characters, for the most part there is no noticeable performance or visual impact from lowering this slider. Even at the lowest point on the slider, the shadow cast by your character in third person view, as well as those of nearby characters, remain visible and unaltered.

Tree LOD, Object LOD & Land Quality

LOD is short for Level of Detail, and all three of the sliders in the Distant LOD section control the distance from the player at which trees, terrain and major geometry fade into/out of view. This can have an impact on stuttering/loading pauses, since the higher the LOD settings, the more details have to be constantly loaded as you wander the game world. So if stuttering is a major issue for you, consider experimenting with these sliders. Note that you should change the LOD settings in the FNV Launcher rather the using the in-game settings of the same name, otherwise you will not see the impact of the changes properly until you restart the game.

Tree LOD Fade

This slider is designed to control the distance at which trees can be seen. However in Fallout: New Vegas, the trees most commonly appearing around the Mojave Desert are not affected by this setting, as even the most distant trees are visible at the minimum setting, and do not fade out of view or lose any detail when this setting is altered. There are certain areas which have a larger number and different types of trees, such in the northwest section of the map around Jacobstown, but once again, even in these areas there doesn't appear to be any visible difference at all in the level of detail of trees when this setting is changed. For the most part the performance impact is also negligible.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The graph confirms that the FPS impact is insignificant, and combined with no discernable visual impact, altering this setting is somewhat pointless, but can be done without facing any gameplay disadvantage.

Object LOD Fade

This slider controls the distance at which major game world geometry can be seen. A screenshot comparison below demonstrates the difference. The comparison shows that from the maximum setting (50) to the mid-point (38), several buildings across the far distance are removed; from 38 to the minimum setting of 25, some additional geometry in the form of the rocky outcrop to the top left and rocks to the far left is removed. While lowering Object LOD can improve FPS, the improvement will not necessarily be significant enough to offset the gameplay disadvantage. Lowering this option may be of greater benefit to those looking to reduce stutter.

Click to enlarge

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The performance graph shows that FPS does improve as this setting is lowered, however it is generally not recommended that this setting be lowered, particularly below the Medium point, to prevent missing important distant objects and landmarks.

Land Quality

This slider controls the appearance of terrain, however in practice there is no significant change in both image quality and FPS between the various levels. The screenshot comparison below demonstrates that as this setting is reduced from its maximum of 150 towards the minimum of 75, some extremely distant landscape may show minute variations in shape, but in reality the change is of no major consequence.

Click to enlarge

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The graph indicates that the FPS impact of altering this setting is quite low, matching the negligible visual impact. You can lower this setting if struggling for performance without facing any gameplay disadvantage.

That concludes our look at the Advanced Options, however keep in mind that many of the advanced graphical settings covered can be adjusted even further by using the tweaking methods under the Miscellaneous Advanced Tweaks section of this guide.

Gamplay

Once you've adjusted the settings in the FNV Launcher, click Play to start the game. In the main menu screen of Fallout: New Vegas, click the Settings item to adjust the following additional settings, starting with those under the Gameplay section.

Kill Cam Mode

This feature determines the way in which enemy deaths are portrayed. The available options are Cinematic, Player View, and None. In combat, whenever you kill the last enemy, and this option is set to Cinematic, the scene slows down and the camera moves around the slain enemy for dramatic effect; if set to Player View, the scene is simply slowed down with no camera movement; if set to None, this disables any special Kill Cam effects, and the enemy dies without any drama. This setting appears to have no impact if using VATS combat mode, which still slows down for a cinematic-like death regardless.

Hardcore Mode

This is an extremely important feature introduced in Fallout: New Vegas. It is distinct from the Difficulty setting, and can significantly increase the challenge of playing through the game. You will be given the option of enabling Hardcore Mode early in the game, and from then you can toggle it On or Off at any time - though you will only obtain the Hardcore achievement if you always leave it on from start to finish.

When Hardcore Mode is set to On, the following changes are implemented in the game:

  • Your character will get hungry, thirsty and tired over time. The status of these conditions can be found under the FOD (food), H20 (water) and SLP (sleep) sections of the Stats button of your Pip-Boy 3000, as shown in the screenshot above. In the screenshot example, you can see that the H20 counter is at 394, which means drink(s) or item(s) of food with a negative H20 rating (-H20) need to be consumed to reduce the counter. Failure to regularly eat, drink or sleep in a bed will eventually lead to starvation/dehydration/exhaustion and thus various negative effects (such as -1 Endurance as shown in the screenshot), ultimately leading to death.
  • All ammunition you carry has weight in your inventory. This makes strategic inventory management much more important.
  • Crippled limbs require a Doctor's Bag (or similar custom item such as Hydra), or a visit to a doctor to properly fix; Stimpacks, sleep or food will not fix them.
  • You cannot fast travel distances during which your character would die of dehydration, starvation or lack of sleep.

Hardcore mode adds a deeper level of roleplaying and another challenging aspect to the game, but is not overly difficult, so it is recommended that you at least begin using it and only switch it Off if you find it too annoying.

Difficulty

This setting controls the overall difficulty of the game, ranging from Very Easy, Easy, Normal, Hard to Very Hard. The main impact of this setting is on combat: the higher the level of difficulty, the less damage your attacks will do, and the greater the damage you will take when hit, as well as getting less experience for killing enemies. This setting is separate from Hardcore Mode.

Save on Rest

If set to On, whenever you rest in a bed, the game will automatically be saved over your latest autosave at the start of your rest.

Save on Wait

If set to On, whenever you Wait (i.e. rest outside of a bed), the game will automatically be saved over your latest autosave at the start of your wait.

Save on Travel

If set to On, whenever you use the map to quick travel from place to place, the game will automatically be saved over your latest autosave before you arrive at your destination.

The three automatic save options above all save to a single autosave slot, which is distinct from the quicksave slot used when you press the F5 key, and the normal save slots created/used when you manually select the Save option. As a general piece of advice, it is strongly recommended that you not only save often, but that you manually save to several different slots so that if something goes wrong with one save game - whether due to a quest bug or a bad choice of actions - you have another relatively recent save point to fall back on. If you only rely on the autosave or quicksave, you will be extremely limited in your selection of save points. As such, you should periodically press ESC during the game and click the Save option, then select a new slot to save the game. Ideally you should keep at least 5-10 such separate manual save slots in addition to the autosave and quicksave slots.

True Iron Sights

This feature allows you to determine the way in which you aim your weapon when looking down the sights (right mouse button by default). If set to On, you will use the actual iron sights of each weapon to aim, which vary in terms of ease of use and accuracy; if set to Off, you can aim with the regular crosshairs in a zoomed in view, which makes it easier to aim at the cost of some realism. A screenshot comparison is provided below to demonstrate the difference. There is no significant performance impact so set to suit your taste, and this setting also does not affect aiming in VATS combat mode.

Click to enlarge

Display

In-Game Settings- Display

Brightness

This gamma slider controls how bright or dark the overall screen image will be. Adjust it so that at night the image is clearly visible but not washed out. It has no impact on performance, so set to suit your taste.

HUD Opacity

This setting controls how transparent your Heads Up Display (HUD) elements are; namely the various indicators on your screen such as your compass and Health Points (HP) on the bottom left, and your Action Points (AP) and weapon's ammunition and status on the bottom right. If you want to remove the HUD altogether move the slider to the far left, though this is not recommended. This setting does not affect the opacity of dialog boxes and prompts. There's no noticeable performance impact from changing this setting, so set to suit your taste.

HUD Color

This setting allows you to change the color of all the HUD elements, as well as your crosshair, dialog boxes and prompts. The default is Amber, however you can change it to Blue, Green, or White. Has no performance impact so set to suit your taste.

Pip-Boy Color

The Pip-Boy 3000 is the small computer you wear on your left arm and access using the TAB key by default. This setting allows you to change the color of the text and images in the Pip-Boy, from the default of Amber, to Blue, Green or White.

Texture Size

This is the same as the Texture Quality setting in the FNV Launcher, and is covered earlier in this guide. This setting should be changed in the FNV Launcher, but if changed here, you should exit and restart the game to properly apply the change and load up the new textures.

Fade Options

The various Fade and LOD-related options here are all exactly the same as the settings of the same names available in the FNV Launcher Advanced Options, and are covered earlier in this guide. These settings are best adjusted in the FNV Launcher, as the LOD-related settings in particular require a full restart of the game to implement properly.

Crosshair

If enabled, a small crosshair appears in the middle of the screen and provides color-coded hints as to the actions you can undertake with particular objects or characters. Disabling the crosshair doesn't remove the context-sensitive action prompts shown at the bottom of the screen (e.g. 'E) Search'). Enabling or disabling this option has no performance impact, so set to suit your taste.

Dialog Subtitles

If enabled this option displays subtitled text for all words spoken by characters who you actually choose to start a conversation with. However anything they say outside of an actual direct conversation with you will not be subtitled. Neither this option, nor the General Subtitles setting affects other forms of subtitles or text prompts such as location text which appears at the top left of screen, or reply options during conversations. This setting has no performance impact so set to suit your taste.

General Subtitles

This setting controls whether dialog subtitles appear outside of direct conversations. For example, when you pass by a talking character, their spoken words will be written as text at the bottom of the screen. However if you actually engage in a conversation with that character, this option will not affect the conversation subtitles - the Dialog Subtitles setting must be used for that purpose. This setting has no performance impact so set to suit your taste.

Audio

In-Game Settings- Audio

Volume Sliders

There are six separate volume sliders here: the Master slider controls all sound volume in the game; the Music slider controls in-game (but not Menu or Radio) music volume; the Footsteps slider controls the level of footstep sounds in the game; the Voice slider affects how loud character voices are; the Effects slider controls special effects volume; and the Radio slider affects the volume of the Radio channels which you can access in your Pip-Boy 3000. Set these to suit your taste, as they have no impact on game performance. Note that the main menu music volume is not affected by the Music slider.

Importantly: If you are experiencing audio-related or general performance/crashing problems in Fallout: New Vegas, first make sure you have installed the latest audio drivers for your sound card as covered in the General System Optimization section of this guide. Next, if you've installed any third party codec packs or filters, or any software which automatically installs these, then either uninstall it/them, or if possible, add Fallout: New Vegas as an exception to prevent these codecs from interfering with the performance of the game. The most common filter is FFDShow, and to add an exception launch the FFDShow Audio/Video Decoder Config utility, either by clicking on the FFa and/or FFv System Tray/Notification Area icons which appear when Fallout: New Vegas is running, or by launching these utilities from the Windows Start Menu. Once the relevant utility is open, select 'DirectShow control', and click the Edit button next to the 'Don't use ffdshow in' box and add FalloutNV.exe to the list. There should be similar procedures for other codec packs and filters, allowing you to prevent them from running when Fallout: New Vegas is active. If all else fails, uninstall them completely, as codec packs in particular are a common source of problem for many games, not just Fallout: New Vegas.

Control

Invert Y

If set to On, moving your mouse back makes your character look up, moving your mouse forward makes him look down. If set to Off, the opposite happens. This has no impact on performance, so set to suit your taste.

Mouse Sensitivity

This setting controls how sensitive the mouse is in the game. The higher the setting, the more sensitive your mouse will be to movements while playing. However mouse lag - that is, a reduction in the responsiveness of your mouse at certain times during the game - is not controlled by this setting. Mouse lag is usually caused by low FPS in certain areas, and is exacerbated by enabling VSync - which is forcibly enabled by default in Fallout: New Vegas. To correctly disable VSync, see the Vertical Sync setting earlier in this guide. To determine if low performance is the cause of your mouse lag, see the Performance Measurement section of this guide and use FRAPS to measure your FPS; any time your FPS dips below the mid-to-low 20s, you will likely experience increased mouse lag. You will need to reduce some of your settings to increase your framerate if that's the case.

For Advanced Users

Fallout: New Vegas enables mouse acceleration in all 2D interfaces, such as when viewing game menus or in the Pip-Boy 3000 screens. This acceleration results in the mouse being much less predictable and more difficult to control when using these interfaces. To disable mouse acceleration you will need to go to the Fallout_default.ini file found in your \Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\fallout new vegas directory. First make a backup copy of the file, then open the file with a text editor, find the [Controls] section, and immediately after the last entry in that section, add the following lines exactly as shown:

fForegroundMouseAccelBase=0

fForegroundMouseAccelTop=0

fForegroundMouseBase=0

fForegroundMouseMult=0

This will disable all mouse acceleration in the game, providing consistent mouse movements when using menus and other 2D interfaces.

Action Mapping

Selecting this option takes you to a screen where you can assign keys and buttons to various functions in the game. These should be set to suit your taste as they have no performance impact. Note that by default the control listing shown is for the Keyboard; to see and alter the Mouse bindings you need to click the Device item at the bottom right of the screen.

Misc. Advanced Tweaks

Miscellaneous Advanced Tweaking

For advanced users, there are several additional ways of tweaking Fallout: New Vegas beyond the options available in the FNV Launcher and the in-game settings. These methods involve editing initialization (.ini) files, using the Command Console in the game, or installing modifications (mods).

Since the Fallout: New Vegas game engine is largely the same as that used for Fallout 3, see the Advanced Tweaking section of the Fallout 3 Tweak Guide for full details of a range of .ini variables and console commands which you can utilize to further customize and optimize Fallout: New Vegas. Just remember that in Fallout: New Vegas, .ini changes must be made in the Fallout_default.ini file found under the \Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\fallout new vegas directory.

Aside from advanced .ini and console tweaking, you can add modifications to Fallout: New Vegas to change everything from the interface to the graphics, sound and gameplay elements. For a large selection of free unofficial modifications for Fallout: New Vegas, go to New Vegas Nexus or visit the Official FNV Mods Forum. Be sure to read user feedback and instructions for each mod, and bear in mind that all of these mods are user-made, so there is no guarantee that they will be problem-free. If you wish to create a mod yourself, you can use the official Fallout: New Vegas Garden of Eden Creation Kit (G.E.C.K).

Finally, if you still have general performance-related issues such as crashing and stuttering, make absolutely sure to follow the advice under the General System Optimization section of this guide. No amount of advanced tweaking or modifications can resolve problems stemming from things such as conflicting background programs, codec packs and a lack of appropriate or up-to-date drivers.

Conclusion

That brings the guide to a close. As a final tip, make absolutely certain to read the manual - found by clicking the 'View the manual' link at the bottom right of this Steam Page - to ensure you get the most out of the game. Fallout: New Vegas, like Fallout 3 before it, has a great deal of scope for providing you with a long, rich and rewarding gameplay experience. Whether you want to play strategically, or just run around blasting everything that moves, if you want to spend endless hours exploring the game world at your leisure or just work your way through the main storyline - the choice is yours.

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