It’s time for the first DLC to appear for Fallout: New Vegas, and I was kind of excited to get back into the Fallout world after being away for a while. Titled Dead Money, the DLC follows the familiar formula of most Fallout 3 DLCs where you are stripped of your equipment and companions before you embark on the quest.
Traveling to an area on the map that’s designated by a radio signal once you download the DLC, you’re greeted with an abandoned Brotherhood of Steel bunker where you are soon captured by a mysterious person named Elijah and whisked away to the Villa, which leads to the Sierra Madre hotel. You’re tasked to enter the Sierra Madre, steal what’s in the vault, and return it to the stranger.
To keep you in line, you’re outfitted with an explosive collar that will blow your head off should you disobey or try to run away. The first mission is to recruit three more companions to help you on your quest. A mute woman, Nightkin, and ghoul comprise the rest of your team and after braving through the Villa, you’re off to the hotel to complete the heist.
Now, the Sierra Madre’s sort of stuck in time as the grand opening of the hotel was interrupted by the atom bombs being dropped around the States, Afterwards, a mysterious red cloud descended on the area and this cloud has kept the area in and around the Sierra Madre in confinement.
Inside you’ll find some a tough cast of monsters to deal with. The DLC suggests you should be at least level 20 to partake and you really do need to be an experienced adventure to survive. The new enemies in Dead Money can really pack a punch and some are indestructible. The Ghost People are people that are wearing haz-mat suits and are always hostile to the player. The unique thing about these folks is if you don’t decapitate, dismember, or decimate these guys, they pop back up with full heath. They are the first enemies you’ll encounter in various types with different weapons and they offer a good deal of resistance.
The other main enemies you’ll encounter are holograms. They’re just like the name implies and they’re pretty much immune to gunfire. The only way to get rid of them is to find the emitter and destroy that. It’s also best to avoid them as they can really do a great deal of damage when they attack. The holograms were enemies that I didn’t really care for since you can’t really kill them without finding the emitter and it doesn’t take much from them to bring you down. Thankfully, they have a limited field of vision and it takes a little bit of time for them to turn hostile but of the two new enemies, these guys are ones that I could’ve done without.
Besides having enemies wanting to end your life, your collar actually can be fatal due to radios in the Villa and Sierra Madre emitting a frequency that can set them off prematurely. Thankfully, you get a good deal of warning as your collar will start beeping and you’ll feel the pulsating of your controller at the same time. If you don’t disable the radio that’s on or run to an area that’s away from the radio in time, boom goes the dynamite. Some radios can’t be destroyed by gunfire so you’re either going to have find a way to disable them or avoid them all together. Let me say, this is probably the most annoying aspect of Dead Money. Certain situations that you’re put into make it artificially difficult at times since you’re trying to find a way to disable the radio or get around it. I’ve died many times just trying to hunt for the radio that’s setting my collar off. The last part of the DLC in getting into the vault of the Sierra Madre really made for a frustrating time and I spent more effort in making sure my collar didn’t explode than dealing with the holograms or the damaging cloud.Each of the four companions you work with are actually kind of interesting. The Nightkin named Dog has a multiple personality disorder and depending on which personality is dominate at the time he’s with you, he’ll provide a different companion perk. Christine, the mute, is probably my favorite. She communicates through gestures and facial expressions for most of the DLC and it was kind of fun to figure out her story through various dialogue options that has her motioning her responses. Dean Domino, the ghoul, is also an interesting character with his own agenda for the Sierra Madre treasure. He’s my second favorite and comes close to being the one I liked the best with top notch voice acting. Dean and Christine have some good back story to them while Dog’s was just OK in my opinion.
Mission design does get a little repetitive involving the three companions. I don’t know why Obsidian didn’t allow you to have more than one companion but it was pretty annoying to lead one to an area and have to go back to fetch another. Fallout: New Vegas sort of lets you have two humanoid companions and one non-human companion if you get the NCR Radio to call in someone. Why didn’t Obsidian let you have more than one follow you is beyond me but like the collar, it artificially lengthens the time needed to complete the DLC just because you have to double back a few times. I wouldn’t be annoyed by this if it only happened once but you have to work with your companions three times individually. I know a few quests that could’ve been completed in less time were I able to have more than one tag along, but alas the limitation to just one companion is another one of my main beefs with the DLC.
The level design of the Villa reminds me of some of the Vegas hotel inner shopping center. I hope you enjoy red as that’s very prominent in the air as part of the mysterious cloud’s effect. You don’t get much in terms of exploration though and you rarely get a place to sleep. The Sierra Madre is actually done well and I liked walking around in there a lot more than the Villa. For new areas to explore, Dead Money’s the Villa disappoints while the actual hotel had some interesting parts.
Supplies are limited but there are vending machines scattered about that can give you items. As you go along, you’ll pick up code for other items that can be dispensed by the machines that work off of Sierra Madre coins found throughout the maps. It is rather tough at the beginning since you are low on coins and you can’t create stimpacks, which are pretty sparse early on. Drops by enemies offer up little to or no value so you’re going to be relying on finding items in storage areas and the vending machines mostly.
You get five more levels with the DLC so those that were maxed out will be happy to know they can level up some more. A few new perks are also available to choose with the release of Dead Money. The new perks range from useful to eh in my opinion though but that’s par for the course for any Fallout DLC. Out of the new ones, I’d probably choose Heavyweight myself, which make weapons weighing more than 10lbs weigh half as much as I’ve horded a large amount of heavy weapons for my character..
What would a Fallout game be without bugs and I encountered my first one in the first few minutes of the game. Pulling the gun out, I was greeted by the weapon being held up higher than usual on the screen and then proceeded to dance above and below the point while I was walking. Pulling up my Pip-boy, the screen was inaccessible due to it being above where I could see it on the screen. It was fixed after putting it down and pulling it up again though. I think this bug was still in the game prior to the DLC, and if so, it doesn’t seem to be corrected yet.
I encountered three fatal bugs though that forced me to reload the game. The first one involved a simple act of sitting on a couch in one of the abandon buildings which caused my character to just stand there. I couldn’t go into VATS and the game just didn’t proceed as my character was stuck standing up. I couldn’t even move the camera around as it just showed a third person view and it didn’t even seem to be any obstruction in the way to cause my character to glitch. Luckily for me, I had a save that was about a few minutes off, but this bug would’ve really frustrated me if I didn’t save often like some people do.On the final confrontation with Elijah, I had the game completely lock up on me before we meet. My controller was stuck vibrating and I couldn’t even go to the dashboard. I had no choice but to turn off the Xbox 360 and reboot the unit.
Finally, sitting at the end waiting for Elijah to show up, the trigger to make Elijah come to me didn’t activate for some reason so I saw him standing behind this force field and nothing happened. I went back inside another area waiting for him to show up like he did the first time but again, nothing. I had to reload a save file and then it worked.
Of course, there are a bunch of other small bugs such as some of the Ghost People being stuck in walls as well as other objects. It felt like I encountered more bugs in my short time with Dead Money than my entire playing time with New Vegas, which isn’t good.
In the end, Dead Money is an OK DLC for Fallout: New Vegas. It’s not the worst Fallout DLC I’ve played, having played them all, but it’s certainly a long way from being a solid experience. The bad bugs, repetitive missions, frustrating collar gameplay mechanics, minimal amount of exploration, and lack of really good loot would’ve made this my least favorite DLC if it wasn’t for the story and characters that saved it some. It’s an OK start for Obsidian’s first DLC, but I hope they step it up for the subsequent offerings and make some really good add on content for New Vegas.