I spent the last couple of weeks in a New Vegas fugue state, playing the entire game from start to finish, while picking up each and every achievement there is to offer. It was a lot of fun, and I'm really glad I picked it up during the Steam summer sale, even though I'd already beaten it on my Xbox a year or two ago.
I've got a couple of New Vegas junkie friends, so I thought I'd share my tips and tricks for clearing the game and getting all of the achievements. Enjoy!
(Special thanks to tiddy, who advised me prior to my run and gave me several of these tips...)
Main Plot Achievements
There are achievements for each of the 4 possible factions (NCR/Legion/House/Yes Man) - both for following their quest lines, and for conquering the Dam afterwards. The real branching point is when you complete Ring a Ding Ding - by this point, you will want to have done as much as possible, and been to as many locations as possible, in order to minimize the amount of needless backtracking.
At a minimum, you should be able to fast travel to:
- Red Rock Canyon (west of Camp McCarren)
- Hidden Valley
- Nellis Air Force Base
- Cottonwood Cove
- El Dorado Substation (just north of Helios One)
- Hoover Dam
Ideally, though, you want to have done any quests at these locations, as you'll probably be asked to do at least part of each of these quest lines in order to finish the game.
I also highly suggest that you get all of the other mission-specific achievements (ie, Volare!, GI Blues, Return to Sender, etc) prior to this point. Most of them have an impact on the ending or the final quest of the game, regardless of your path.
Hardcore mode isn't for everybody, and I'd wager that your first playthrough is going to be without this turned on. If you're just not excited about this one, there's a way to speedrun the game that makes the whole process very streamlined. I'll go over the basics, but there's a very detailed guide on the GameFAQs forums that is a must-read.
Essentially, build your character as a female runner (high agility, constitution, and intelligence) and rob Doc Mitchell blind. Leave Goodsprings and make a beeline for Hidden Valley, then through Scorpion Gulch to Helios One. From there, head north to the El Dorado Substation, and then to the 188, to Durable Dunn's Sacked Caravan. Sell the goodies from this area to Crimson Caravan and Vendortron so you can pass the credit check and get into the strip.
When you meet Benny at The Tops, you'll level up. Pour points into Survival to hit 45, and then max out Speech. Take the Black Widow Perk, and use it to convince Benny to take you to his suite. Have your way with him and murder him in his sleep. Follow the Yes Man track by encountering the other casino families, and visiting the Boomers, Hidden Valley (w/Veronica from the 188) and Red Rock Canyon. Ignore virtually everything else. Kill House, and power up the substation, and then take Hoover Dam.
The whole process takes about an hour or two, depending on how well you know New Vegas geography. You shouldn't really need to eat, drink, or sleep to stay alive. Additionally, you don't even need to fire a single shot.
Gun Runners' Arsenal Challenges
There's a bunch to choose from, but I'll give my top 3 per category. These were the ones I picked, primarily because they didn't require me to go way out of my way or grind a bunch in order to complete. There's many of the challenges which essentially require you to kill certain plot-critical characters, and some of them seem like they'd be mutually exclusive.
There's a few of these that require you to take a particular story track in order to get them. I've tried to avoid those wherever possible.
- The Same Could Be Said Of All Religious Weapons - Once you've dealt with Benny, take his 9mm pistol, Maria. Use it to kill Ghouls around the REPCONN test site. There's about 6 or so outside the facility. If you've already cleared the interior, wait inside for 3 or 4 days and go back outside and kill them again. Doesn't take more than 10 minutes or so. You can also use a couple of other "holy" weapons, but you're virtually guaranteed to encounter Maria, so I waited until then to do this.
- Ne Ne Ne Ne... - Shotguns are plentiful, so grab one and go wound some hostile humans! I did this while I was lead-piping Fiends for White Line Nightmare
- Benefit or a Hazard - Buy "That Gun" (a unique 5.56 pistol) from Cliff Briscoe at the gift shop in Novac, and go to town on some robots! The security scanners in REPCONN HQ are valid targets for this, although you might want to do Man-Machine Interface at the same time, see below.
Honestly, there's nothing too challenging here. I actually finished this achievement before the one star one, since they're pretty straightforward.
- Vault 13's Revenge - Another one for That Gun - if you wrap up Crazy, Crazy, Crazy at Black Mountain, Super Mutants will spawn every few days on the route up the mountain. I fixed Rhonda to resolve that quest, and as a result they were all non-hostile (until I started shooting them...).
- White Line Nightmare - Grab a lead pipe, either from a weapon vendor or off a dead raider/gang member. Go thwack a bunch of Fiends in the area west of Camp MaCarran.
- Dyin' Ain't Much of a Living - Getting Villified by NCR or the Legion is practically guaranteed, and once you do, these hit squads will spawn and come after you. Again, That Gun is one of the guns that counts for this challenge.
For these, I'd recommend a fairly high level, and I highly suggest you get a massive pile of stimpaks from the Dead Money vending machines, along with the Stealth Suit Mk2 from Old World Blues. Together, this can keep you alive in even the most intense situations.
- Deathclaw Pro Hunter - If you're high enough level, the only tricky part is finding a weapon that counts. I ended up going with a .22 pistol and a switchblade. The other weapons don't tend to spawn or be offered for sale at high levels. The pistol is still fairly common at high levels, but I had to find the switchblade on a dead Freeside thug. As far as actually killing deathclaws, the easiest thing to do is to run the quest in The Thorn, and then fight deathclaws in their arena. I took one shot with the Holorifle to knock most of the deathclaw's health off, and then plinked him to death with the pistol and/or the switchblade.
- Crackerjack Timing - Again, the real challenge is getting the weapons that count. Tin Grenades are the easiest to come by, as you can make them yourself with the Mad Bomber perk. Crafting them requires duct tape, tin cans, and pistol powder. Powder can be bought from most high-level gun vendors (ie, Gun Runners at 188 Trading Post and the Vendortron at the Gun Runner Kiosk), tin cans are practically everywhere, and there's considerable amounts of duct tape in Big MT. Also, the fully upgraded book chute in the Big MT will accept clipboards and generate duct tape from them. When you have about 40 of these, go Cadazor hunting. The quest "Bleed Me Dry" that you get at the Thorn will eventually send you into the mountains between Jacobstown and Red Rock Canyon, where there are tons. I found throwing the grenade at a rock and then training the enemies over the grenade was the easiest way to go. I had around 50 points in the explosives skill, and therefore each kill took about 1-2 grenades. Sometimes you can bunch up many cadazores in the same explosion.
- Man-Machine Interface - You've already got a Lead Pipe for White Line Nightmare, so the only thing you need to do is find a bunch of robots that count. If you anger the scanners in REPCONN HQ, you can fight the sentry bots there. (Of course, if you killed all the scanners for the 1-star challenge above, you're out of luck :( ) Also, there are several robots in New Vegas Steel that respawn every 4 days or so.
- Guns - This one's pretty easy, and you're almost guaranteed to get it - guns are sort of the primary weapon type in New Vegas.
- Explosives - For this, I used the Mercenary Grenade Launcher that came with the Courier's Stash DLC. The other easy to get explosive weapon is Red Glare, the unique rocket launcher in Lonesome Road. There's several of them in the DLC, but the easiest one to find is carried by an enemy in the bombed out building where you find the laser detonator early on.
- Unarmed - I actually had less trouble with this than I was expecting. A generic power fist I grabbed from an unnamed Fiend was enough. You can go and get Pushy if you desire, although I didn't need to.
- Melee Weapons - There's a couple of GRA challenges that require you to use melee weapons, especially killing Fiends with the lead pipe.
- Energy Weapons - The easy way to do this is with the Holorifle from Dead Money. It does excellent damage (more than the Anti-Materiel Rifle!), and is effective against many different types of enemies.
- Unique weapons (Curios and Relics from GRA) - If you pick up That Gun (a unique 5.56 revolver) from the gift shop in Novac, and use it for some of the other challenges, you'll probably be well on your way to getting this one. Since most of the GRA weapons are also unique, working on that challenge will help here as well.
- GRA Weapons (Master of the Arsenal from GRA) - Since I primarily use conventional guns, I picked up Sleepytyme from the Gun Runners' Kiosk. It's a silenced SMG that yields some good sneak attack criticals as well as being pretty devastating in close range. There are a bunch to choose from though, so take your pick. Any weapon with (GRA) at the end of it's name counts. Do note that if you pick a unique named GRA weapon, damage done with it counts for both of these challenges.
Argh, Caravan. What a broken mess! You can go and look up strategies for winning, but bear in mind that one of the game's patches changed the AI player behavior. The strategy of loading your deck with 10s/9s/7s and playing 26 on each caravan no longer works, sadly. They also changed the rules somewhat, which can also lead to frustration.
I'll also point out that on the PC, you have to use the arrow keys to move the card/cursor around the board. This is not really explained, and it is very non-intuitive.
Honestly, I got tired of Caravan quickly, so I made a mod that made the game significantly easier to win. You can pick it up [here](http://www.newvegas.nexusmods.com/mods/47630/?tab=3&navtag=%2Fajax%2Fmodimages%2F%3Fuser%3D0%26id%3D47630# content) if you're interested. It just changes No-Bark Noonan's deck so that he's incapable of winning.
The Legend of the Star
Blah, this is kind of a pain if you don't have this achievement in mind when you start the game. First off, the standard progression of towns (ie, Goodsprings -> Primm -> Novac -> 188 etc) is going to take you past many - probably around 25 or so you can get if you just pay attention to the places you're passing through. A good guide is an must, honestly.
Secondly, there are a number of caps you can get by killing the people who inform you about this quest or who are fighting over them. For instance, once you've found the first cap, you'll be approached by a man who explains the quest to you. Kill him, and you can get a half dozen or so off of his body. Later, you'll find a couple of people fighting over some star caps, and killing/looting both of them will net you another half dozen or so.
Between these two strategies, you should be in the 30's or 40's pretty easily. You can also guzzle Sunset Sarsaparilla to get a chance at a star bottle cap, so pick up and drink every full bottle you find.
This one's only hard if you get close to the end of the game and then want to go back and get it. If you're not taking notes or finding all the ones you can as early as you can, you're going to have a rough time finding 50.
The most important thing to know about this achievement is that the game counts all the healing the food would do, even if you become fully healed before the effect wears off. It does NOT count if you are not in need of healing when you eat/drink the item, though. So if you have 199/200 HP, and you eat an item that heals you +1 HP per second for 7 seconds, you'll get credit for 7 HP of healing, even though the food only healed you one HP.
With this in mind, the easiest thing to do is to collect empty bottles, take them to the Sink in Big MT, fill them, and then guzzle a whole lot of purified water at once. You can also bring a ton of plants and convert them to Salient Green, which is also an effective source of healing.
If you don't have Old World Blues, the best place to get food items is the commissary at Camp McCarren. Plan to spend a lot of money and time collecting the food, hurting yourself, and eating it, though.
At any rate, having a super-high Survival skill helps, as it increases the amount of healing you get per-item.