Fallout: New Vegas Dead Money Review
Obsidian Entertainment has brought Fallout fans the first piece of DLC for New Vegas. Dead Money expands on the Fallout: New Vegas story with new characters, locations, and even adds to existing plot lines. The DLC revolves around the mysterious Sierra Madre, believed to be the greatest casino in the west, and its priceless contents. This special casino was set to open to the public, but never made it to that point once the bombs fell. Its state of the art security systems tightened the place up leaving it impenetrable and sealing anyone who was already inside stuck there. Years later the climate control began to release toxins which created poisonous clouds that floated throughout the city. This left the entire place uninhabitable except by those known as the Ghost People. Time continued to pass and the Sierra Madre faded from the thoughts of many until stories of it containing unfathomable wealth began to arise. Falling prey to the call of the Sierra Madre like so many others our wastelander ends up trapped within its deadly walls.
The Dead Money DLC takes the Fallout formula in a bit of a new direction. As you progress through the add on content you’ll notice that weapons, ammo, and health are scarce. Couple that with waves of enemies and endless amounts of traps and you have totally different Fallout experience waiting for you. Running and gunning may have served you well in the main story, but it doesn’t seem to do too much here. The “Ghost People” inhabit the city surrounding the Sierra Madre and you’ll become familiar with them very quickly. They have bear trap fists, knife spears (throwing variations too), and gas bombs. Given the right circumstances, they can provide a threat even one on one. Now group three of them together and you’ll find yourself scrambling around. With a police pistol and holorifle at the top of your offensive options fights become tense due to the fact the ammunition is hard to come by. Like most survival horror games more ammo can be found by being daring. Exchanging health by running through bear traps and poison clouds sometimes results in packets of much needed ammo, but, as previously stated, this comes at the expense of your health which can drop quickly due to the contents of the city. Did I mention that throughout all of this you have an explosive collar on your neck? If your companions die (they have collars linked to yours) your collar is set off. If you enter sections of the city with speakers your collar beeps quicker and quicker until either it explodes or leave the area. It’s definitely a fight for survival as each time you turn the corner you’ll have more obstacles to overcome. The greater challenge is even warned in the beginning as the DLC suggests you be level 20 or higher before taking on its missions. This is a welcome change of pace to the usual style of gameplay to a certain extent.
The Sierra Madre and the city outside of it make up the new area you get to explore, but a new setting isn’t the only new addition. New items, enemies, companions, and perks all come together to compliment the new environment. All of this comes with a level cap increase of 5. The new items range from the effective Holorifle to the up-close-and-personal cosmic knife. Each weapon fits the gritty city as they reflect either the times before the bombs or items put together for survival purposes. Ghost People are the enemies of Dead Money and they’ve adapted to their environment using hazmat suits. They remain silent walking awkwardly toward their prey with a variety of weapons. The new perks come with the new companions depending on which one is in your party at the time. The perks are very useful in surviving and exploring the city while avoiding its many hazards. And who doesn’t love the chance to level up more? With the DLC you’ll be able to obtain 5 more levels which means more stat raising and perk picking.
The new characters that fell into the same trap as our wastelander all have distinct personalities. The first character is Dog who has split personality disorder. His other personality refers to himself as God. The two fight for control constantly. One is more sophisticated and logical while the other is ruthless and simple-minded. The second companion is Dead Domino, a ghoul with questionable intentions and a celebrity background. The final character is Christine. She’s a disfigured mute due to a malfunctioning auto doc unit. She communicates with awkward gestures and facial expressions. These companions are the true stars of Dead Money as each one is so unique and has a great story behind them.
Trial and Error
While the survival horror aspect was a nice change of pace its not too enjoyable after a while. The DLC’s explosive collar, bear traps, and minimal supply count tends to leave the player repeating sections over and over. Running through hazy corridors or trying to run out of the areas that set off the collar can send the player sprinting blindly through bear trap after bear trap only to end up at the feet of the Ghost People with minimal health and crippled limbs. Dead Money makes surviving more tedious than fun. This is also apparent when the realization hits that your equipment is gone and so are your caps. You’re pretty much set back to square one collecting anything you can off the ground including Sierra Madre chips, the new currency. While having a new currency isn’t a bad idea to freshen the experience it doesn’t help that items have to be unlocked via audiotapes containing the proper code for the vending machine in order for those vending machines to sell the specified item. That may leave some people without the ability to buy stimpacks if they never find the proper audiotape. Trust me you’ll need as many as you can get. The missions have you running all around the outer city and backtracking a lot. This leads to constant health loss since you won’t see a bear trap half the time until you’ve hit it or an enemy will toss a gas grenade point blank in your face. These issues lead into the next problem with the DLC.
After the initial excitement of entering the Sierra Madre wears off the game drops into a repetitive cycle. You’ll spend your time running back and forth between the main areas gathering your companions and bringing them back to the center fountain for more directions. At this point you find out you have to run each one back one at a time in a certain direction backtracking through the areas you just retrieved them from. Upon reaching your destination each one becomes uncooperative and demands that you meet a certain requirement in order for them to continue with the plan. The first time this isn’t an issue, but by the time you’re escorting the third companion you are impatiently awaiting the inevitable task they will give you in order to proceed.
The repetition also comes in the environments and enemies. The outer city would not be able to be traversed if it weren’t for the map marker. All the cloud filled corridors and interiors look so similar it can be hard to tell where you have and haven’t been. This can be especially difficult when you’re low on health and trying to outrun your opponents as it’ll usually end with bear traps stripping you of any remaining health, the clouds choking you to death, or accidentally ending up in an area that sets off your collar before you can turn around. Repeating these processes over and over as your last save reloads becomes extremely annoying fast.
Dead Money isn’t built on a new engine so for this reason it still contains the problems the Fallout engine has. There is constant lockup and the game can slow down to a crawl in some areas. These aren’t glitches that can be easily overlooked. At times they were nearly game breaking. At one point upon approaching the Sierra Madre gates after FINALLY finishing the tedious companion tasks the game locked up for several seconds. I sat there with a blank stare wondering if I would have to reset the system and tried to remember my last save. Fortunately, it started back up, but it could have just as easily frozen up just like the retail copy did before.
Fallout: New Vegas’ first DLC has some solid offerings that’ll keep you occupied for a few hours. The change from surviving the open wasteland to surviving the thin alleyways of the city outside the Sierra Madre add a type of tense horror aspect that really changes the feel and pacing of the game. The new items, enemies, and companions compliment the new areas as each reflects the deadly surroundings. Out of these the characters easily stand out as the greatest addition. Each one has a specific personality that makes them genuinely interesting and fun to interact with. Unfortunately, not too long after jumping into the DLC the content becomes very repetitive and switches from survival horror to trial and error gameplay. The add on content as a lot of potential, but those who become impatient rather quickly might lose interest just as fast especially since it shares the technical issues that the main game has. For other Fallout fans this may just be the excuse to pop their copy back in for a few more hours running through the wasteland.[Editor's Note: Fallout: New Vegas Dead Money DLC was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.] Fallout: New Vegas Dead Money Review,