Fallout: New Vegas: Dead Money
System: Xbox 360 (also on PS3 and PC)
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date: December 21, 2010
Every now and then I get the urge to go back to the Fallout universe. Something about that post-apocalyptic wasteland drives me in and doesn’t let go for hours at a time. Although I have exhausted Fallout 3, I still have an unfinished campaign of Fallout: New Vegas sitting on my hard drive, with many of the DLC expansions remaining untouched.
Dead Money was the first piece of downloadable content released for New Vegas, and it offers an intriguing premise. A mysterious signal from an abandoned Brotherhood of Steel bunker beckons the Courier, and visiting this location leads to him being knocked out and transported to the Sierra Madre Casino. The Courier awakens to find an explosive collar wrapped around his neck, and he is commanded by the Brotherhood elder, Father Elijah, to work together with three other captives to pull off a massive heist at the casino. Since the collar will go off if he attempts to leave, the Courier has no choice but to accept, and he does so without any of his weapons, armor or loot. Yeah, no one ever said this was going to be easy.
In fact, this expansion is downright brutal at times in terms of difficulty. Not being able to start with your normal loot is a huge disadvantage, and finding worthwhile weapons is a monumental task in itself. Health packs are also scarce, so it can be important to dodge enemies instead of fighting them head on.
Dead Money‘s environment also has other factors that raise its challenge. There is a toxic red fog that covers much of the area, and the Courier loses health rapidly if caught in it. The explosive collar is also a nuisance since its signal causes interference with the various radios and speakers scattered around the environment. If he gets too close to one of them, the collar will explode, killing him and the other three captives. Throw in a handful of new enemies — including the incredibly annoying ghost people — and this can become quite the frustrating save-and-reload experience.
What makes Dead Money worth playing is its story. There’s quite a bit of substance in terms of plot, and the characters are especially entertaining. The three captives are an amusing bunch. There’s a super mutant with a split personality — “Dog” and “God” frequently bicker with themselves –, a radioactive ghoul named Dean Domino that used to be lounge singer at the casino, and a mute scribe named Christine that lost her voice in one of the most horrific ways possible. It’s a lot of fun getting to know these characters, and each one has their own quest in which the Courier spends a great deal of time with them.
The expanion lasts anywhere from 6-8 hours, so there is a good amount of juice. It’s just a shame that the great storyline and entertaining characters are diminished by the punishing, repetitive gameplay.