Fallout: New Vegas – Dead Money Review

by on March 8, 2011

Game: Fallout: New Vegas – Dead Money

Developer: Obsidian Entertainment

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC (PlayStation 3 version reviewed)

PlayStation 3 users have yet again had to wait a while to get the first taste of Fallout downloadable content, this time around with “Dead Money”, the first add-on for Fallout: New Vegas. The Fallout 3 add-ons were a mixed bag, but is Dead Money a hit or a miss? Read on to find out.

Fallout: New Vegas Dead Money takes place in a strange, eerie place, full of strange noises and odd characters. Upon entering this new area called Sierra Madre, you are knocked out, and a collar is placed upon your neck to keep you in line, with the threat of explosion literally hanging around your neck!

Father Elijah is the culprit, though he has a plan. He wants to use you to help him get inside the Casino and steal its treasures. Many have failed due to the “Ghost People” that haunt the various alleyways throughout Sierra Madre, but you are tasked with succeeding where they have failed.

The first thing you’ll need to do is gather the three people that Father Elijah desires, and this is where Dead Money truly shines. The characterisations of Dog/God, Christine and Dean Domino are the shining lights in Dead Money, a schizophrenic super mutant, ex-celebrity ghoul and mute…girl!

Tasked with infiltrating the Casino, you’ll do a lot of backtracking before you even get there and this is where the add-on starts to fall down. The environments are nothing spectacular, especially if you’ve played a lot of New Vegas before, but the real downfall is the environmental hazards that are new to Dead Money.

A poisonous gas is the main culprit, causing frustration, but the worst issue this causes is that you are forced to navigate around it, which is tricky and irritating at times. Another new game mechanic touched on earlier is the collar. This is not just a narrative excuse for keeping you there, it manifests itself as a constant threat of death. There are speakers littered around Sierra Madre, some obvious and some very tricky to locate. If you don’t find these and destroy them quickly, you will instantly die. They cause your collar to emit a beeping noise, which steadily raises in tempo until…boom.

You can of course escape this, as mentioned, by destroying the speakers, but some are remotely controlled meaning you’ll need to find a computer and switch them off. Combine the two elements (the collar and poisonous gas) and you’ll find yourself, at times, very frustrated due to irritating deaths. A word of caution, save often!

As mentioned, Sierra Madre is populated by “Ghost People”, who are tricky to kill if not at a sufficient level and unless you decapitate them or sever limbs, they’ll get back up constantly. You are given a new holographic rifle upon entering the Dead Money add-on, which is appreciated immediately when you realise you have lost all your previous inventory. This even extends to economy, with Sierra Madre having its own economy known as chips.

As the story progresses you’ll get fairly fed up of backtracking through locations, especially when you get to the stage that the environment has bear traps littered all over the place, at times deciding to re-arm themselves, even if you are absolutely certain you have already disarmed that particular trap. Again, add that backtracking to the poisonous gas, collar and bear traps and you have a fairly high level of difficulty, and possible frustration to go with it.

With the add-on though comes new weapons, mostly of the melee variety, which is especially useful since ammunition is rather scarce in Sierra Madre. New crafting solutions are also brought with Dead Money, some as a direct result of collecting the “cloud” that is ever-present throughout the game. As you level up you’ll also gain new perks as well as gaining temporary access to new companion perks whilst playing Dead Money. There is nothing particularly special though, weapons and perks aside, that you’ll take back to the Mojave Wasteland after you are done with Sierra Madre.

Speaking of levelling up, with Dead Money comes a raise in the level cap, from 30 to 35 as well as adding some new trophies/achievements, if that is your kind of thing.

Dead Money, despite it faults, does offer tremendous value for money, giving the player a good 6-8 hours of gameplay, new weapons, enemies and locations. Sadly though, it has to be said, if the engine was looking dated back when we reviewed Fallout: New Vegas, with blockbuster titles like Killzone 3 hitting shelves, it really is looking decidedly ropey on consoles now. Also, despite being fully patched and up to date, a hard crash was encountered before even getting to the DLC and some very noticable slowdown was encountered during sections with lots of enemies.

VERDICT: Dead Money takes place as a totally seperate experience to anything else that goes on in New Vegas, playing no part in the overall story arc whatsoever. However, the story contained within Dead Money is one worth hearing, even if you’ll have to wade through some irritating new game mechanics and overcome a reasonably high level of difficulty to get through to the other side.

The price is right, even if it slightly outstays i’s welcome at 6-8 hours, but if you love Fallout: New Vegas and want a reason to go back, with the aforementioned caveats, Dead Money might be just what you’ve been looking for.

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