Fallout: New Vegas - Dead Money
“Do this, I’ll let you go. I’ll let all of you go.” Despite the flickers, the bitter resolve on Father Elijah’s holographic face remains unwavered, much like the icicles that cling to his commanding gaze. Still, you can’t help but try to retrace the steps that led you to this Catch-22. You remember traveling the Mojave when your Pip-Boy picked up the odd frequency of a sultry vixen repeatedly beckoning you to the Sierra Madre Casino’s grand opening. Following the signal led you to an abandoned Brotherhood of Steel bunker where, a few steps later, you find yourself overwhelmed by knock-out gas. The companions who’ve tagged along deemed this to be your problem and left you to your own devices… bastards. When you come to, you find yourself at the feet of the fabled Sierra Madre Casino that is its villa. Shoelaced in the present, the casino has become the object of your predicament as you are being forced into leading a break-in of the Old World’s best kept secret. Ready, steady, go.
For those who have already beaten New Vegas, and it’s been a while since doing so, if the most recent save you have of your beefed up character is during the final story mission, you will not be able to access Dead Money. Picking up the Sierra Madre Radio Signal does not change this. If you don’t have a separate file set aside where it’s right before starting the last mission, you will need to start a new game. Once you’ve beaten the DLC, make sure that you continue to keep a separate file for future DLCs.
Dead Money is a dish that is made from many unique ingredients. Take one part Wizard of Oz, one part Battle Royale, season with essence of zombie horror and mix, then heat at team criminal heist temperatures; careful when handling, it’s hot! One of the themes that the Sierra Madre continues to advertise is that it is a place where one can “begin… again”. This is a promise that is fully delivered as not only are your original companions offline, but you’ve been stripped of all the weapons, armor, and items that you’ve accumulated up to this point. Perhaps the casino’s pledge applies even more so to New Vegas itself. As akin to surviving a near-death experience, everything you’ve taken for granted up until now, the DLC will ensure that you will walk away with renewed appreciation.
If you’ve been spoiling yourself on stimpacks and scoffed at the idea of consuming irradiated foodstuffs, that mentality can get you killed. Preferring to shoot rather than getting your hands dirty can also get you killed. If you’ve been laughing and walking it off from every trap you’ve set off, be warned, this yellow brick road is laden with them. And, if you’ve been tuning in to the ballads of Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby to lighten the mood of traversing dark, dismal locales, that privilege has been banned. What Dead Money aims to bring is an experience of survival horror down to its definitive core. So if you’ve been ignoring the option of crafting and are not usually inclined to deep exploration, it’s time to start cracking. Just about anything you pick up can be used to keep yourself at a couple paces ahead of Death. Particularly in managing your finances with Sierra Madre Chips. Being at level 30 certainly does not excuse you from these proceedings.
Tonight’s performance includes an engaging ensemble of characters: a smarmy, washed up performer turned ghoul, an unfortunate G.I. Jane mute, and a schizophrenic super mutant. They will be playing the roles of Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion respectively. Each player carries their own baggage and motives that gradually unfold as you near the casino’s legendary treasure. Like you, they’re sporting the Sierra Madre’s latest fashion in linked bomb collars so if you, or one of them, ceases in giving life readings, the night will go out with a bang… with sown brain nuggets as evidence. Though they aren’t the ideal trio to be seen walking around with in public, each companion provides perks that help you endure the exclusive dangers of the Sierra Madre.
Ring any bells?
Prior to the release of Dead Money, three of the four DLC exclusive characters have been referenced in New Vegas. You may have already seen the human form of one of the characters during certain loading screens. The Sierra Madre Casino itself has also been referenced in some graffiti and postcards found in the Mojave.
So what can be so hard about robbing an unmanned casino? For starters, the atmosphere is saturated in the toxicity of the mysterious Cloud. Aside from choking out wanderers in certain pockets, the Cloud’s presence alone is what usually deprives players the option of getting a night’s rest. Add a number of inconveniently placed, collar-triggering radios and speakers (some can’t be destroyed), and you can expect scenarios that call for blind leaps of faith. Replacing the Sierra Madre’s faculty are its undead inhabitants, the Ghost People. They’re a sturdy bunch, and they tend to not understand the phrase “stay down” unless separated from at least one of their limbs. If things couldn’t get any more intimidating, it does. Defining the casino for its high tech glory are its holographic sentries. Being that they’re holograms, all forms of weaponry passes right through them. Alerting them would be welcoming yourself to being riddled with agonizing energy blasts that can have you screaming like a little girl chased by hornets. If you’ve got a good eye, you can defeat the holograms by destroying the emitters that project them. Otherwise, it’s a matter of playing with their lines of sight or reprogramming their patrol route with wayward terminals.
“Take one part Wizard of Oz, one part Battle Royale, season with essence of zombie horror and mix, then heat at team criminal heist temperatures”Though it would seem that Dead Money is a securely fastened affair, it does come with a number of loose bolts. While it may not have as many bugs as its parent title, the game still suffers from a handful of them. After using a Ghost Sight, explosions tend to cause a bacterial spread of black splotches that eventually drowns the screen in darkness for short periods. Towards the end, the game occasionally auto skips dialogue, both text and speech, that threatens to ruin the entire experience along with stalled loading times. There have also been reports of players who have been unable to access the DLC due to the game immediately crashing at the abandoned bunker. If one is fortunate enough to be spared of these shortcomings, the game itself is not exactly spotless of drawbacks. On occasion, the game dulls itself due to its limited content. There really isn’t a whole lot of variety one can experience when focus is only given to the villa and the casino; forsaken of NPC’s and vending machines serving as the only means for commerce. Furthermore, despite the addition of new weapons and armor, you count on a single hand those that are useful. The introduction of killer holograms and relentless undead are intriguing but these are the only bestiaries you will face during this caper, with the occasional Radroach or laser turret. And while the challenge factor may be a welcomed ordeal for certain players, others may find it to be a turn off.
Overall, however, Dead Money is a unique change of pace from a world buzzing with the travesties of Mr. House, the NCR and friends. This is supported by its polished story, brilliant voice acting, and wonderfully penned dialogue. Though the new gear is lackluster, the path opened to the level 35 cap and new perks is fair compensation. In the end, everything ties thoroughly together with the Sierra Madre Casino’s ethics on greed vs. letting go, which continues to stand true when you finally come face to face with its prolific treasure. Hit me!
Eight out of ten
- First class story
- Compelling new companions
- Exceptional writing and voice acting
- Level cap is now 35
- Challenging even for Mojave top dogs
- Interesting insights into future DLC's
- .308 rounds become more accessible at the DLC's completion
- Bugs still exist
- Level of challenge may frustrate some
- Dry environment
- Only two varieties of enemies
- New weapons, armor and perks are almost useless
- Inaccessible during the final story mission; might need to start a new file