In Fallout 3, level 20 was the max, and the game deflated like yesterdays balloon as soon as you reached it. Didn't matter how compelling the adventure content, when you ran out of perks and levels to get, it was like eating cookies made without sugar. It's hard to explain, but the illusion of progress in an adventure game is almost everything you need.
In New Vegas, the game runs to level 30, so I'm still climbing. I was having the height of fun this last few hours of gameplay---excellent characters, funny dialog, and a few actual puzzles in combat form. Like, there's a woman with a sniper rifle up high, surrounded by vicious dogs. What do you do? Just sniping her might work, except that if she sees you she shoots back.
Of course, it's still mess. It's ugly, both from a tech perspective and from an actual muddy-brown-rust-colored-textures-everyw
And yet, it's totally absorbing, and I'm sad to stop every night. It gives me this amazing sense of accomplishment, it's constantly rewarding me with new locations that, although constructed of the same 14 textures, somehow feel fresh. There's funny dialog, unexpected bits of detail, and genuine surprises in the plot. I'm addicted to following the hollow arrows on my compass to new locations.
I can see that playing as a Legion sympathizer would be an almost completely different experience, as the place is crawling with NCR troopers and anti-Legion quests. I'm faintly attempted to do it again, except I haven't slept properly in 2 weeks, so I don't need that.
I'm not playing tonight just so I can go to bed at a reasonable time, but it'll be hard to stay away.