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In Dead Money, the first DLC for Fallout: New Vegas, you will find yourself trapped in the environs of the mysterious Sierra Madre casino, fighting to stay alive while avoiding hostile natives, pre-war security systems and the lethal toxic cloud that envelopes the desolate resort.
For those of you used to humping it across the Mojave armed to the teeth with your favorite weapons and a bucket load of stimpaks, Dead Money strips you of your belongings at the start of the adventure, forcing you to make do with what little you can find/make and keeping the atmosphere tense. Ammo is scarce and enemies are tough, placing a greater importance on fighting smart, although some players may find it easier going than others. Along the way you'll also meet some new companions, each with their own unique skills that will help you over the course of your adventure. Just be warned; they all have their own reasons for being here.
The best way I can describe Dead Money is to call it a 'survival horror' add-on to Fallout: New Vegas. Limited resources and distrustful allies will test your abilities, although for the best possible experience I highly recommend playing Dead Money in Hardcore Mode, as this amps up the nature of the hostile environment and forces you to search for food and water as well as bullets and stims. All in all, it's a short and sweet adventure with a dark, moody atmosphere and plenty of danger.
I am a big fan of the Fallout games and Bethesda studio in general, having played Fallout 3 and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and so this DLC was an obvious purchase. And overall I have been very pleased, and it has been worth the purchase. It has set a good trail for the later Fallout: New Vegas DLCs to follow, and hopefully make even better.
The storyline was interesting and a bit different to that in the vanilla Fallout: New Vegas game. It features the Courier waking to find a bomb collar around his neck and being forced complete a heist on the fabled Sierra Madre Casino on the request of a mysterious man called Elijah. I found the story to be interesting and full of character, and I was intrigued to find out what lay behind the doors of the famous casino. The characters are reasonably well developed, for a Fallout game, and there are some twists in the story.
There are enough new additions into the DLC to warrant its purchase for 800 Microsoft Points, including new weapons such as the Cosmic Knife, Police Pistol, Automatic Rifle, Bear Trap Fist, Gas Bomb and my personal favourite the Holorifle which is a pump-action energy shotgun. There are also new enemies in the form of the Ghost people and the invincible hologram security guards. These two types of enemies spice things up for players, and are unlike any thing I have seen in a Fallout game so far. I particularly like the idea of the holograms as they cannot be damaged by bullets or melee weapons, and so must be avoided until the player reaches a terminal or switch to disable them. This adds a degree of stealth into the game, to balance out the combat sections.
Another neat touch is the currency system, as you have had all your belongings taken from you (don't worry you do get them back) at the beginning of the DLC quests, you have no caps and so the currency that you use is the Sierra Madre Casino chips. With this you can buy ammo, food, meds and stims from vending machines, that look a bit similar to old jukeboxes.
The quests themselves are a bit repetitive at times, and some of the tasks are mundane. This is the one downfall in the add-on. However, there are some really good quests and overall the game time is between 4-8 hours. On of the main benefits of downloading Dead Money is that it raises the overall level cap from 30 to 35, which makes a difference when you are getting towards Fallout: New Vegas Completion.
With all Bethesda RPGs the theme is important and Dead Money is no exception. The narration at the beginning and end of Dead Money builds up the theme, and in game concepts such as the poisonous red cloud and fractured pieces of the story picked up through accessing computer terminals adds to the overall feeling of the game.
All in all Dead Money is worth the 800 Microsoft Points, and is an interesting concept. It plays well, except for a few annoying bugs, and is recommended for all serious Fallout gamers. Well done Bethesda, keep up the good work for the follow-up DLCs.
What do you do when you're playing through Fallout New Vegas and gamers' fatigue kicks in: you're flying through the missions, you've explored the length and breath of the Mojave, you've crucified Caesar/NCR/everyone you've ever met and you just fancy a new challenge? Head to the Sierra Madre of course! Haven't you heard the advert on your pipboy? There's a grand opening to get to!
For those of you who are wondering what on earth I'm going on about, Dead Money is a downloadable add-on that can be purchased to extend the game play (in terms of time, story and levels) of Fallout New Vegas. Dead Money is currently only available for Xbox 360 Fallout fans, but there is talk of bringing it to other gaming platforms soon. First of all, what is Fallout New Vegas? Well, it's a role-playing game set after a nuclear war. Your character wanders the Mojave wasteland around Las Vegas completing missions and generally deciding everyone's fate. Fallout New Vegas is enormous and requires a separate review to explain, so I won't go into further details here. I have written a separate review for Fallout New Vegas on Dooyoo with the title 'DIY Ending'. Please feel free to read that review for a complete explanation of the game before continuing with this review if you feel lost already.
So, now we're on to Dead Money. The first thing that will happen when you install this add-on is that a message will flash up on your screen informing you that you've picked up a radio broadcast. It's an advert for the grand opening of the Sierra Madre Casino and it promises to be one hell of an event. But wait! It's a trap! Too late... On tracing the source of the broadcast you're going to be gassed, stripped of all your weapons and amour and to add insult to injury, when you wake up you'll find a sociopath has fitted you with an exploding neck collar and is forcing you to do his bidding - or kaboom! Oh dear. Boy were you suckered: no weapons, no amour and a job to do.
What is the job though? The man who had you gassed and fitted with your snazzy new neckwear turns out to be Father Elijah, the former head of the Brotherhood of Steel. (The Brotherhood is one of the main factions involved in Fallout New Vegas and its predecessor, Fallout 3.) Father Elijah has been disgraced after making an almighty miscalculation and killing swathes of his own men and rather than facing the music, he ran. Although it is close by no-one would follow him to the Sierra Madre for very good reason - it's a scary place (more on that later). Years alone have sent Father Elijah quite mad and he has become obsessed with his goal of cracking open the Sierra Madre casino vault, where it is reputed the largest amount of treasure in the Mojave can be found. Father Elijah has spent years luring people to the casino to help him crack the vault. It's impossible to do it alone because the mechanism of the vault is directly linked to the opening ceremony. This requires several people to be in different places at the same time. It's also impossible to do it alone because of the 'residents' of the Sierra Madre.
'Residents? I thought this was post-nuclear war, who'd survive that?' you might ask. Well, some of the casino's former employees apparently. The casino was at just the right distance to be saturated in toxic gas. These unfortunate workers donned their 'Hazmat' radiation suits to protect themselves but instead became trapped inside the suits and transformed into weird, twisted, irradiated freaks whose only desire is to kill. These delightful residents took the name 'Ghost People' and without all your weapons, they're formidable enemies. Oh, and that gas problem hasn't gone away years later either. Another joy of the Sierra Madre is wandering through clouds of the toxic red gas, concealing your enemies and sapping your health.
The fun's just begun though. Remember that I said this vault heist wasn't a one man job? Well, that's your mission here. You have to 'recruit' other people to your team (why you have to recruit them when Father Elijah's already bagged and tagged them too I have no idea - but you have to convince them nonetheless). Your new best friends are: Dean Domino - a singer at the casino who has been 'ghoulified' by the radiation, Christine - a mute girl trapped in an 'autodoc' machine and finally Dog and God. Dog and God is in fact just one person, well mutant. He is schizophrenic and Dog and God each represent a separate personality.
Once you've assembled your crew, it's then you can begin your heist. The story centres around you preparing for and completing this heist. Once again, endings can vary depending on your decisions and I have no wish to spoil the surprise by discussing possible endings. After you've completed the heist however, you're free to go and the add-on is completed. So is it worth buying at 800 Microsoft points (about £7.50 to you and me)?
Dead Money has to be one of my favourite parts of Fallout New Vegas. As I've discussed in my New Vegas review, many gamers have complained that 'hardcore' mode in New Vegas isn't that hard - it is in Dead Money. It's a proper challenge to find food, a safe place to sleep and to keep your companions from dying in this hellhole! To make things even more difficult, Father Elijah has linked all your collars - that's right, one dies, you all die. Despite the lethal link, your companions can be surprisingly unwilling to co-operate and persuading them can be a challenge. Sleeping here is also difficult. The smallest of openings to the outside renders a bed useless due to the toxic gas; of the many mattresses lying about, you'll find very few you can actually use. Food and fresh water is extremely scarce. Even when you find a weapon, ammo is even scarcer than food. This is the challenge hardcore players signed up for. The game will warn you before you enter the add-on that only players who have reached level 20 or above should attempt Dead Money and I think that's reasonable.
The added bonus of Dead Money is that it raises the game's level cap from 30 to 35, giving you 5 extra levels of points and skills to distribute to your character. Dead Money extends the game play by a good 20 hours. I think that's great value for money. You will also find unique weapons and clothing to bring back in to the Mojave with you to liven up your game. Collectable fans should be sure not to miss the 'Sierra Madre Snowglobe' for a bonus 2000 caps (Fallout money).
Well, all good things come to an end and that is my only criticism. Just like the main story of New Vegas, once you've completed Dead Money, you cannot return to the Sierra Madre. Dead Money reminds me of 'The Pitt' add-on for Fallout 3: dark and foreboding but once you've done it, there's an amazing sense of achievement. Sometimes, you want to be able to go back and relive your glory! Previous add-ons (such as The Pitt) have allowed players to travel back there and explore at will, so why can't Dead Money?
All-in-all, Dead Money is a brilliant add-on. If you're finding New Vegas just too easy, Dead Money is the add-on you've been waiting for. It's extremely sinister and hard work playing through it all but it's worth it!