Fallout: New Vegas, the latest entry in the long-running RPG franchise, is released on October 22 and is shaping up to be one of the best RPGs of 2010. Fancy a look, but worried that you've never played Fallout before? Or perhaps your knowledge is just a bit rusty since playing Fallout 3 in 2008? Never fear, here's what you need to know:

It's one of the best RPG series of all time...


The original Fallout started its life in 1997, developed by now-defunct Black Isle Studios. It was an isometric RPG that was effectively a spiritual successor to Brian Fargo's Wasteland. The game boasted a sick sense of humour and fantastic quest design - qualities that helped to gather one of the most devout fan communities of all time. The original games are still popular with many gamers today... though most of them probably have beards and haven't accepted modern gaming.

...but it's spawned some nasty spin-offs


Duff spin-off strategy game Fallout Tactics was not nearly as popular as Fallout 1 or 2, on account of it not being very good; still, it was a lot better than 2004's shockingly poor Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel - a shooter that Interplay developed after shutting down Black Isle. BoS is so bad that most people like to pretend that it never happened. It wasn't until Bethesda - the guys who did The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - picked up the license and developed 2008's hugely successful Fallout 3 that the series recaptured much of its former glory. Some die-hard fans had issues with Bethesda's approach, but most people loved it.

Everybody's dead


Well, not everybody. Much of the planet was thoroughly destroyed in The Great War, an event which happened on October 23, 2077. All nuclear-capable nations of the world (though mainly the United States and China) launched their entire stock of atomic weapons on this day and basically decimated the planet in just a couple of hours. The remaining survivors are living rather grim lives in the world that emerged from the ashes - a land of mutants, roving gangs, and natty art deco stylings.

Now we're in Vegas


The latest title in the series, Fallout: New Vegas, is unsurprisingly set in post-apocalyptic Las Vegas and takes place in 2281, three years after the events of Fallout 3, which unfolded in Washington. Vegas managed to come out of the war relatively unscathed compared to other American states, and the nearby Hoover Dam means there's even running electricity for the privileged members of society. Still wouldn't want to live there, though.

Hardcore mode will test your limits


New Vegas' new Hardcore mode looks set to be a devilishly difficult mode for those who fancy themselves up for the challenge. Here you need to drink water to avoid dehydration, you can't heal as easily and ammunition has weight (with your character having a limit of stuff they can carry) - all of which aren't present in the regular game, or in previous Fallout games.

The Brotherhood of Steel look awesome


If you've ever seen the front cover of a Fallout game before (New Vegas excluded) you'll probably have spotted the large, hulking person wearing beefy metal armour slapped over the front. That's a member of the Brotherhood of Steel, an organisation of techno-religious isolationists who descended from military officers. They kick ass and love technology more than someone who spends their weekends lingering around their nearest Apple Store.

Always watch out for mutants


Mutants are commonly encountered in Fallout. Some, like the shuffling, skeletal ghouls, are simply humans who got exposed to ridiculous amounts of radiation and transformed. The others - people that were subjected to the Forced Evolutionary Virus - are the ones you've got to worry about. These are the Super Mutants, and they're big, hulking green monsters who are impeccably well armed and always, always want to see you dead. Naturally you'll also see lots of mutated wildlife too - rats, scorpions and two-headed cows, among other beasts.

There are loads of Vaults


The American government contracted Vault-Tec Industries to construct a series of 122 underground vaults before the Great War. In appearance, these vaults were intended to preserve life in the case of nuclear war; however, their true purpose was to subject citizens to certain test conditions (such as isolation) so the government could monitor the outcome. In Fallout 1, 2 and 3 your character either grew up in a Vault, or else was descended from Vault-dwellers. In Fallout: New Vegas, this isn't the case.

There are also loads of guns


Mostly you get to choose between guns that shoot bullets and guns that shoot lasers or plasma. I like the former, because I tend to stick with what I know. Still, the latter can reduce a foe to glowing green goop, so it's all good. Despite the game's first-person perspective, you won't get far if you treat this like a typical FPS. This is an RPG, and raw stats play a crucial role in determining your effectiveness with a given weapon. The V.A.T.S. system allows players to pause time, target specific body parts (usually the head), and then watch as your character fires off devastatingly accurate shots.

New Vegas is being handled by Obsidian


Obsidian Entertainment was founded in 2003 after Black Isle Studios bit the dust. Comprised of key talent from the closed studio, Obsidian went on to produce a string of entertaining if unremarkable titles: Knights of the Old Republic II, Neverwinter Nights II and Alpha Protocol. New Vegas, however, looks like a sparkling return to form for a once-venerated team.