Fallout: New Vegas was a title from 2010 that didn’t quite get off to the best of starts. A game that was riddled with game-breaking bugs and glitches, New Vegas added a barrier to entry that many gamers weren’t willing to cross. Thankfully, Obsidian and Bethesda were quick to dispatch many, but not all, of gamers’ problems in order to make the experience more enjoyable.
Now that the worst is behind gamers, it was high time for Fallout to get its typical DLC experience. Fallout 3 delivered some of the more diverse and engaging DLC for a console game to date, so the expectation for New Vegas was fairly high. Its first offering, 'Dead Money,' is a standalone story about revenge, greed and lots and lots of gold. The question is: does 'Dead Money' pack in enough content and enough of a new experience to be held up there with some of Fallout 3’s DLC? Read on to find out.
The story of 'Dead Money' at its soul is a heist story. Our noble courier, after being drawn from his main quest to a mysterious radio signal, finds himself knocked unconscious and forced to do the biddings of an elderly man known as Father Elijah. Father Elijah has become exceedingly obsessed with The Sierra Madre, a casino that has long since had its doors closed. From there the courier must assemble a team, each with their own skills, in order to break into the vault at the Sierra Madre and takes its treasure. Along the way there will be betrayals, reveals, and even a black and white morality choice. Essentially, this is Fallout: New Vegas’ version of an Ocean’s Eleven movie; it’s engaging, quirky and never ends up how you think it will.
Some new gameplay tweaks have been added to 'Dead Money' in order to keep the DLC feeling like a completely new experience as compared to New Vegas. More than half of the self-contained underground streets are riddled with pockets of a extremely deadly red gas. Unlike the radiated areas of Fallout proper, these gas clouds will instantly begin depleting a player’s life if the stay is too long.
Enemies are comprised of two different categories: ghosts and holograms. Reanimated corpses with their own special gas masks, the various forms of ghosts are constantly there to keep the courier feeling like he has to show off his fighting skills in order to advance any further. At times the appearance of ghosts can become a nuisance, but it all works in service of the villainy. Working alongside one of the three companions in the game does alleviate some of the combat woes, but fighting solo can sometimes be frustrating as the ghosts are well armored and well armed. The game itself recommends the player be, at minimum, level 20 to enter 'Dead Money,' and that’s a bare minimum.
Combat might only be at times frustrating, but one thing that is a constant source of frustration is the dog collar placed around the player’s neck. Reacting to any audio source, the collar begins to send out a warning beep that, if not heeded, will result in an explosion and death. Early on, finding and dispatching the audio sources is a neat little addition, but towards the end it becomes a game of trial and error that results in frantically trying to search the surroundings in order not to become a meat pile. Story-wise the collars make a lot of sense, and adds an interesting dynamic, but gameplay-wise this feature could have been fine tuned a little better.
Having been shut down long ago, The Sierra Madre casino has many of its defense systems still up and running, primarily in the form of holographic combatants. Invulnerable to any gun or laser fire, these enemies are meant to add a stealth element to the game whereby the player must access various terminals that plot new patrols for the holograms. When it works, it works really well, but there were a few times when just running past them and hoping not to receive a deathblow was the better option.
Aside from the new enemies, the standard New Vegas fare is all accounted for except health and other items are distributed via vending machines only and sleep is near impossible with the amount of enemies around. Weapons and various useful items, especially the very scarce ammo, will be hidden in everything from nightstands to toolboxes so search every area thoroughly.
Check out the trailer below to see a bit of "Dead Money" has to offer in action:
'Dead Money' has exactly the right blend of new and old, ensuring the world feels familiar but the experience is its own entity. The locale might be a bit bland to look at, and the areas explored don’t feel as wondrous as that first time players hit The Strip, but the time required to complete the episode keeps all the retreads from running thin.
Clocking in at somewhere between 5 to 8 hours, 'Dead Money is a worthwhile detour from the courier’s quest for revenge in New Vegas. It packs in a new story, a few new weapons, new enemies and even has some unique quest lines. At times the experience will begin to wane on players as some of the design choices meant to instill immediacy, especially the dog collar, end up causing repeated deaths and frustration. Like the main game, 'Dead Money' is packed with enough of that Fallout joy that any fan of the series will want to take a detour into The Sierra Madre, but also like the main game, "Dead Money" isn’t perfect. Still, at 800 Microsoft Points, the DLC is certainly worth a play through.
Anyone interested in taking a little detour with the Fallout: New Vegas "Dead Money" DLC? Where would you like to see future DLC for the game go?
Fallout: New Vegas is available on the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC while the "Dead Money" DLC is currently an Xbox 360 exclusive.