The lights of Vegas have always been a draw, but for a wasteland traveler trudging around a post-apocalyptic desert, a night's rest in a luxury penthouse suite never seemed so appealing.

Fortunately, that's in the cards in "Fallout: New Vegas," Bethesda Softworks' latest entry in its popular role-playing shooter series.

"Fallout" titles capture an idyllic 1950s vision of the future, but the Vegas setting prompted developers at Obsidian to bring the series into the Rat Pack era. The dichotomy between the vast desolation and the walled-off glitz is wonderful, motivating the player to find a way into the big city.

Players who grew accustomed to the Capitol Wasteland of "Fallout 3" will feel right at home in the Mojave Wasteland, and there's plenty to explore.

Your character is a courier sent to deliver a package in New Vegas, and he's shot and left for dead in a shallow grave. You wake in the town of Goodsprings to a doctor who patches you up, helps you customize your look and strengths, and sends you out into the unfriendly world to face raiders, death claws and geckos.

You're once again equipped with a Pip-Boy 3000 so you can manage your inventory, repair weapons and check maps to plan the next quest; navigation, attacks and character dialogue are exactly the same.

Gone from the Pip-Boy radio DJ booth is Three Dog. His replacement, Mr. New Vegas, is a Casey Kasem-style character voiced by Vegas legend Wayne Newton. He'll keep you abreast of the happenings around the area.

It's been a couple of hundred years since nukes destroyed most of the world, but they apparently spared New Vegas, a renamed city powered by the nearby Hoover Dam that looks like a throwback to the days when hotels such as the Sands ruled the Strip.

Unfortunately, the gate is patrolled by large security robots that demand a passport or want you to submit to a credit check to show you have at least 2,000 bottle caps ("Fallout" currency) to spend in the casinos.

I was a little short, so I headed back out into the wasteland for hours of more exploring, killing, pillaging and scrounging. "Fallout: New Vegas" offers players a vast new wasteland to explore, plenty of humorous character interactions and enough new creatures and weapons to continue the fun.

Bottom line: It's a blast.


New Vegas'

Rated M, $49.99 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC

(Bethesda Softworks)