The Ups and Downs of New Vegas’ Hardcore Mode

In: Articles by Anthony McGill

15 Nov 2010

fnvhardcoreWith the recent release of Fallout: New Vegas comes a number of new features that Obsidian has implemented into the Fallout series — the most notable being hardcore mode.

It is important to note that the difficulty and hardcore mode are two separate choices. Therefore, you can play hardcore mode on very easy, very hard, anywhere in between, or not at all. It simply adds an extra layer of difficulty and immersion as you’re clawing your way through the sands of the Mojave Desert.

Ever find yourself wondering how your character was able to survive the brutal beatings, endless questing, and countless hours of trekking through the Capital Wasteland? With hardcore mode, the Wild West will do everything in its power to keep your limbs crushed, throat dry, and back-breaking inventory full of weighty supplies.

Fallout: New Vegas uses three new condition markers, displayed on your HUD as well as on your pip-boy to indicate how your character is doing: Water (H2O), food (FOD), and sleep (SLP) are now among your primary concerns. As you stumble along running errands for the citizens of New Vegas, you are constantly required to be well stocked on food, water, and crafting supplies.

The difficulty lies in strategic planning, cautious activity, and deciding what to carry on your journey. Since many common foods and beverages still cause slight radiation poisoning, your RAD condition must also be monitored.

To make things worse, stimpacks no longer heal immediately and cannot be used to heal a crippled limb. Instead, they heal over time, the amount is dependent on your medicine skill level.

The wasteland is almost always filled with the delicious nectar known as purified water. Nothing is sweeter than scavenging a house, looting a body, or tearing apart a doctor’s office to find a stash of water. Better yet, many casinos, homes and faction headquarters have bathrooms that contain rad-free water via the toilets or sinks. (Since when is guzzling toilet water sanitary?)

Between dehydration, hunger, and exhaustion, water consumption is your most important defense against the detrimental stat reductions that you will face, as the stat meter for water increases more frequently.

One feature that is crucial to hardcore mode survival the crafting of food, ammo, and medical and repair supplies. Using reloading stations, work benches, and campfires you can use what were previously referred to as “junk items” to create your own meals and equipment. For example, after killing a brahmin you will often loot brahmin meat, which can then be cooked over a campfire to make it a mrahmin steak, which offers a significantly more effective meal than the raw material. The same system applies to ammo, stimpacks, and weapon repair kits; using materials and recipes to conjure up useful items. (I still can’t find a xandar root!)

While hardcore mode pulls you into New Vegas using a realistic approach, it isn’t perfect. I had hoped for a much more demanding experience than I was presented with. Most of the time, certain aspects of hardcore mode were mere annoyances and simply something needed to take care of before I could fast travel anywhere. Thankfully, playing on the PC allowed me to easily solve my problem. There are loads of mods created by the community that allow you to fine tune almost every aspect of hardcore mode, as well as the rest of the game to your liking. While it may not be for everyone, hardcore mode is certainly a welcomed addition to the Fallout series.

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20 Responses to The Ups and Downs of New Vegas’ Hardcore Mode


Nick "Alsop Live" Dinicola

November 16th, 2010 at 9:36 pm

I’m about to start playing on hardcore mode. I’m also hoping for a demanding, how-the-hell-am-I-going-to-survive-this experience, but I’m playing on a console so I can’t tweak anything. Do you think playing on the hard difficulty would make any significant difference?

Also, what tweaks did you make?


Anthony McGill (Special to GameHounds)

November 16th, 2010 at 10:11 pm

The difficulty simply makes adjustments to defense and attack numbers. Basically, you will burn through ammo and die faster. As far as that immersive experience, the difficulty won’t do much for you. However, I do challenge you to play hardcore mode on very hard difficulty. That would be a feat in and of itself =)

I made tweaks to how often you need to eat, sleep, and drink. I just don’t think Obsidian made that aspect difficult enough. I want to feel like I’m actually a struggling wastelander, not just a guy keeping an eye on condition markers, yknow? haha

–Also, *spoiler* (maybe). When you chose whether or not to play on hardcore mode, the game promises some amazing reward if you complete the game entirely in that mode. Unfortunately, it’s just the achievement. No super-awesome nuke or anything. Wha wha wha =(



December 6th, 2010 at 3:46 pm

hardcore isnt that bad. you can wait for 3 full days, and only be slightly dehydrated, suffer no sleep dep or hunger…. its good how ammo has wieght though, but 200+ 10mm round only wieghed 3……


Alexander Mudavanhu

December 6th, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Hey. I’m currently playing the game on PC; Hardcore AND Very Hard. Can be rather challenging AT TIMES. I mean hey, for the first time ever in Fallout, I got killed by a dude with a Steel Pipe! That only happened once though. No, seriously. Anyhow, that isn’t why I’m posting this. There are about a gazillion mods on the newvegasnexus site and I’d like to know which exact mods you used, seeing as though you mentioned that you did. Secondly, how the bleeding hell do you use those reloading benches?! Thanks!


Jake Maldonado

December 6th, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I’ve done the hardcore mode on my speed run.

Speed run time of Fallout New Vegas: HARDCORE NORMAL TIME: 038:27:55

I have my save before the legate at 037:32.22 LVL 24

If anyone else has a faster time let me know, I have to find out how they did it. Honest to god, NEVER WILL I PLAY HARDCORE EVER AGAIN!! It’s just god damn rage inducing. Nearly threw my controller 90+ times.



December 6th, 2010 at 4:07 pm

I started my first playthrough on hardcore for the immersion factor, started on hard so I could make the game last longer.. Since then I have lowered the difficulty to normal because even though it is a stat based RPG there is nothing immersive about having to shoot someone in the head 15 times at point blank range.



December 6th, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Hardcore mode isn’t so hard.
I was scared at first, so I turned it on my second playthrough and wished I had done it sooner.

The only challenges I really faced are broken limbs (Doctors bags and hydra on supply) and ammo weight, which isn’t so bad…but it can add up if you’re not paying attention. Just stash or sell off the extra. Or, go melee or unarmed and not need to worry about ammo.

A good collection of bloatfly sliders are all I really needed for food and water.


~Foo Fighter~

December 6th, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Hardcore/Normal was a rewarding way to do a first run-through.

Hardcore isn’t that difficult if you are a methodical player who scavanges and loots everything you see. If you are running and gunning through the game on hardcore you may run short on food supplies.

Hardcore tips – If you see a bed sleep a couple hours. If you see water drink some. Eat something at the start of a fight (before you get injured). You don’t “need” a lot…but you should put some points into survival.




December 6th, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Im a huge fan of fall out and played the hardcore mode on the hard setting. It seems to me that there are alot of holes in the game. I had to restart a hours worth of game play because i was walking along a hillbside fell through it and got stuck. Other than that. The game is still bad ass.


Anthony McGill

December 6th, 2010 at 4:43 pm

#20a and #20b

The reloading benches took me awhile to figure out. Basically you use the ammo casings that you find along the way in addition to scrap metal, lead, etc to recreate your ammo. You can also break down existing ammo to it’s base components to then make new ammo.


I think #14 may be helpful to you as it provides a one-shot-kill headshot mod. Unless you are playing on the 360, then you may just have to stick with lowering the difficulty.


Anthony McGill

December 6th, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Sorry. Meant @Alexander Mudavanhu for the first link.



December 6th, 2010 at 4:58 pm

I think it should be for everyone. As mentioned you can play hardcore but still tune the game to be incredibly easy, all hardcore does is provide more immersion. Yet many people I’ve asked don’t play it at all. I reckon more people should try it.


Anthony McGill

December 6th, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Well said!



December 6th, 2010 at 5:14 pm

I played it on Very Hard and hard core mode, without any problem, well, probably in the beginning. Hard core mode makes it a bit tricky with your bag capacity but it somehow makes the game last longer and be slight more realistic.
And if you play on Vary hard you will have to max you’re ammo anyway which makes it alot stronger and you can free some space in your bag. You can find some really good laserguns and when you do make sure you have maxed ammo and good sneak and the strongers of the deathclaw will have no chance.


Tim Dredge

December 6th, 2010 at 5:24 pm

@mrben: That is actually a pretty accurate weight. 200 10mm bullets would actually be right about 4lbs.


Alicia Goldstein

December 7th, 2010 at 10:54 am

I don’t really have a problem with Hardcore mode at all. I just drink and eat when I need health and it does me fine. I have a bit of trouble carrying ammo but I keep that motel room stocked with goods. I often travel back home to get well rested and unpack my recent loot.
I used to play on hard, but once I found out there isn’t any change of experience through difficulty I brought it down to normal.
The only honest problem I am having with the game is how often it crashes. I use a PC so often times I have to manually power down due to the game completely crashing the system….
I prefer to not use mods or console settings though since it messes with achievements with Steam.
It’s really not that hard though…



December 7th, 2010 at 11:20 am

hardcore mode is really just annoying…
ammo has weight, the H20, FOD, and SLP meters are annoying

one big flaw with the SLP meter is you never have to sleep…the super common Atomic Cocktail drink reduces SLP by like 200 and you can just keep on going…in the several weeks ( game weeks) that i played my character never went to sleep…not even once

Ammo weight ( while probaly semi-accurate) is just annoying…i love missiles…i collect them and uses them when i get bored…at 3lbs a missile this killed my fun by limiting me to only 10-20 missiles at a time

other then those two problems, it is a pretty decent thing…food and drinks are really easy to come by in the mojave, it kinda forces you to stay with one weapon type, and makes combat more interesting with the lack of insta-heal stimpacks



December 7th, 2010 at 12:25 pm

I found hardcore really easy if you have good karma. Try to get a good reputation in freeside and every so often a member of the kings gang comes up to you and says “This is from the king. Keep up the good work. Or somethin like that and he gives you food, purified water or caps. Also try to get the strong back perk so you can carry more things. And get Lily as a companion as she is the best companion of the game because she is TehEpicNightkin. Try to maintain alot of water and food by killing Viper Gun Slingers or Jackals Gang Members eg. Also whatever you kill try to pick up whatever you can from them. I like scavenging on the game and have all weapons on the game Oh,Baby is probablly the strongest to use and one of the best weapons. So get a good gun, have a kick-ass partner, have lots of food and water, and have ammo. But the best rule. Trust nobody but the Brotherhood of steel. Because they pown like hell. And NCR are ok but Ceaser’s Legion will die because they suck! TehEpicDuckah -_-


Anthony McGill

December 7th, 2010 at 12:34 pm

@Alicia Goldstein

Only the console commands affect achievements. Mods are okay, I’ve confirmed it. I too was worried about that. =)



January 11th, 2011 at 10:33 am

@ Shadeus – Seems like you haven’t gone through Hardcode Mode at all. Even in Very Hard Mode and level 15 alone is hard to kill Deathclaws not unless you are in elevated space.

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