Fallout: New Vegas had its fair share of glitches, but overall, it was one of my favorite games of all time. Running around with a .44 Magnum, a prophetic robe, and Danny Trejo is one of my deepest badass fantasies. But I’ve had my romp, and now, I’m just waiting to see what the planned DLC can offer.
The newest contender, Dead Money, set in the doomed wasteland of the Sierra Madre casino, just launched on the Xbox 360. Does it match up to something like The Pitt, one of the quality packs from Fallout 3? Or does it completely fail like Mothership Zeta?
First off, for those who are curious, this initial pack of DLC does increase your level cap by five – unfortunately, it doesn’t do much else for your core game. You still aren’t going to get to continue the main storyline after the Hoover Dam showdown (they’ll probably sell us another pack for that), your current companions are automatically sent home, you can’t return to the Sierra Madre once you leave, and the rewards aren’t that astounding. Now that the setup is out of the way, onto the bread and butter!
In typical Fallout DLC fashion, a new quest and radio station will pop up on your pip-boy. Once you follow it to a tiny metal grate in the sand, prepare to be gassed, and have your equipment taken away until the end of the DLC. When you wake up, you’ll find out an elderly gentleman named Elijah wants you to crack into the vault of the prestigious unopened Sierra Madre Casino, so that he can reap the benefits.
It sounds simple enough, but there’s a catch: Elijah fashioned an explosive collar around your neck – and if you try to escape, he’ll detonate it. He also wants you to find three other team members with varying skillsets, and rescue them to help you on your way. But there’s another catch: to prevent one person from betraying the others and running off with the treasure, if anyone dies, everyone dies. Oh, and did I mention that being in proximity with active radios and speaker systems will set off your collar too? Sounds like fun!
Before you get into the casino, you’ll have to romp around the outside villa area for about an hour and a half, and deal with deranged, gas mask equipped inhabitants called “ghosts”, that seem to have gained super human strength from the area’s noxious fumes – but you’ll have some help in dealing with them. Your companions range from a schizophrenic mutant, a cautious mute, and a cocky ghoul playboy. All of them have a bit of mystery to them, and their own specific perk, which really adds to the package. For instance, your mutant companion will eat ghouls, preventing them from getting back up. You can also talk to your team, and build up a bit of a personal relationship. Once you actually get into the casino, you have some options in regards to what you want to do with them – but getting into the casino isn’t going to be easy.
In fact, make no mistake; this DLC is hard. The enemies do a ton of damage, they’re resilient (you’ll have to blow their heads off to really finish them, otherwise they get back up), speakers that activate your bomb collars and poisonous gases are at every turn, and health replenishing items are extremely scarce. Towards the end of the DLC especially, having to constantly watch for radios and speakers really starts to get tedious. A lot of them are hidden in spots that require you to get into position to shoot them with only a few seconds to detonation left, meaning there’s going to be a lot of trial and error involved.
Unfortunately, in addition to the sudden spikes of difficulty, the actual act of completing the DLC is bogged down by familiar surroundings throughout, and as previously mentioned, tedious trial and error in certain sections when you’re trying to not set off your collar. Also, a few required quests are needlessly complicated by the imprecise quest map, and other general mechanics of the game. While these issues have been present since Fallout 3, it would have been easy to design around them.
In spite of some mechanical issues, the writing for Dead Money is on par with the quality of New Vegas. All of the characters have their own demons to deal with, and I really enjoyed talking to them at great length, as well as dealing with their fates at the end of the package. While your team’s backstory and narrative is fleshed out, the actual quest isn’t as engaging – like the Resident Evil series, the bulk of your information is going to come from various notes and computer logs – not from the events of the main story. While there are a few key tidbits here and there that really bring the narrative together at the end, a lot of players will most likely glance over them. In the interest of not spoiling the game for everyone, I don’t want to talk about the story more than that, as pretty much anything else I could reveal would ruin it.
Personally, I also felt like the buildup to get into the casino itself was too long, and the surrounding areas housed too many drab looking locales – I know that you’re supposed to get the feeling that poisonous gas has overrun the area, but it could have looked a little more detailed.
Despite the fact that it was a bit too difficult at times, and sometimes felt uninspired, what I liked most about Dead Money is the fact that everything is encapsulated. The Sierra Madre has its own currency to spend on its own unique vending machines; most of the characters involved play into the main storyline somehow; and it has its own set of multiple ending sequences. Once you’re actually in the vault and get to see what’s in it, don’t expect to be excited; you’re either going to be completely let down, or complacent. I was the latter, as there isn’t really anything “fun” item-wise in the vault, or in the entire DLC package to bring back to the Mojave Wasteland. That’s perfectly fine with me, but I know a lot of players have come to expect “super” items from their Fallout DLC.
Ultimately, while Dead Money is a pretty fun affair, it doesn’t really have the “wow” factor a few of the DLC packs did in Fallout 3. While the three hours it took to complete is on the longer side for downloadable content, I’m not really sure Dead Money is worth the full $10 asking price.
Gamer Limit gives Dead Money a 7.0/10