I recently picked up an Xbox Live card from my local video game store and downloaded Dead Money , the first downloadable add-on for Fallout: New Vegas , the latest installment of the post-apocalyptic Fallout series . I was somewhat skeptical of the quality of the add-on, mostly due to several forum posts and magazine reviews complaining of the shortness of the storyline and the lack of new content. But because forum posts tend to be on the exaggerated side of things, and because I wanted the new revolver and higher level cap that the add-on came with, I bought it anyway.
Dead Money begins with a mysterious radio signal promising riches and a chance to “start again”. The Courier (the main character) follows the signal to an abandoned bunker in the middle of the mountainous no-man’s land. The bunker fills up with fuchsia knockout gas straight out of a 1960’s TV show, and the Courier faints, only to awaken at a fountain in a dark Spanish-style plaza. This is where the antagonist, Father Elijah, appears via hologram. This guy is probably the first character in a video game whom I vowed to kill as soon as I was face to face with him, solely from his opening monologue. Basically, he has holed up in a huge hotel and casino called the Sierra Madre, where he captures the greedy schlubs who follow the radio signal and forces them to crack the safe in the casino’s basement, with our hero and three others being the latest batch. Insuring the compliance of his slaves, he has fitted each person with an explosive collar, Which will go off if anyone tries to escape, dies, or stays too long in the radius of the terribly annoying radios placed every ten feet around the casino and sizeable faux city surrounding it. Later on, he tries to coerce you into killing off your fellow captives, which cemented my decision to put a .357 slug into him on sight.
The first missions are standard escort missions, in which you transport your teammates to and from the fountain. The enemies in the DLC are agile undead-type creatures called ghost people. They wear SWAT gear and gas masks and have glowing green eyes. The ghost people cannot be killed unless you shoot off(or chop off, or blow off, or punch off) one of their limbs. This adds to the franticness of some of Dead Money ‘s combat, as well as the “oh crap” factor at encountering a group of enemies that the main game seems to lose after about level 15. On top of that, a certain kind of ghost person throws huge gasoline tanks at you which, according to dialogue, are possible to shoot and blow up before they are thrown, but seem to be glitched into invincibility. The ghost people, the sparseness of ammunition, medical supplies, and weapons, and the explosion triggering radios and speakers littering the place make for a harrowing gaming experience. Actually, these factors coupled with your character almost perpetually being a few hits away from death reminded me strongly of classic first-person shooters as well as survival horror games. There are hardware mods for console gamers to improve the ranking in the game. The video games with multimedia images can be played efficiently through the gamers.
Dead Money is almost as linear as these games as well. The play area is relatively miniscule compared to the Mojave Wasteland of the main game, but the storyline and quests fit well with a small, linear map. Both the linear aspects and small map are another aspect of Dead Money that evokes nostalgia for the survival horror and FPS games of the not-so-distant past. Despite its linearity, the storyline has different ways to accomplish quests and offers different endings upon completion.
All of the new characters introduced in Dead Money are full of personality and it is easy to find yourself empathizing with (or loathing, in the case of Elijah) them. Your teammates include a mysterious, scarred and mute woman, a schizophrenic Super Mutant, and a radiation scarred, conniving-but-lovable lounge singer. They each offer different traits that help you traverse the poisonous clouds and speaker-ridden corridors of the DLC.
In all, Dead Money is worth the $10 for the storyline and gameplay alone, but some of the new weapons and clothing, as well as the raised level cap, add a sweetener to the deal. If you liked the hyper linear, paranoia inducing, and ammo scarce shooters of the last 15 years, you’ll enjoy Dead Money right away. If you didn’t , it’s still interesting enough to give a go over a weekend off.