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Fallout: New Vegas: Dead Money
Score: 75%
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG/Free-Roaming/Adventure

The Signal:

It all starts with a signal on your Pip Boy, eventually leading you to an abandoned Brotherhood of Steel outpost where you are unceremoniously knocked out and stripped of your worldly possessions. You wake up, only to find you've been outfitted with a collar wired with explosives.

Not long after, Father Elijah, an "Eye in the Sky" with his finger on the detonation button, greets you. He offers to remove the collar, but only after you've traveled to the fabled Sierra Madre casino. Like most of the area, the casino survived and has managed to remain untouched. Its loot is legendary; many have tried to find it, but none have survived. Navigating the casino's defenses is a better option than an explosive popping your head like a zit, so you have no choice but go along with Elijah's plan.

Welcome to Fallout: New Vegas: Dead Money.


The Job:

You're not alone in your mission. Like any good heist plot, you're teamed with a group of misfit characters. The team aspect is one of Fallout: New Vegas: Dead Money's more enjoyable aspects. Each of the characters has their own unique backstory and quirks. There's a mute who communicates through gestures, a ghoul with a knack for slipping out of trouble and a mutant whose dual personalities can't seem to get along.

Part of your job is to convince them to come along with your quest, so interaction is a key. These interactions are Dead Money's strong suit, but the related gameplay doesn't exactly match up. Although the idea is to get everyone to work together, you're never able to use more than one companion at a time. Gameplay is guided by story, taking away some of the personal narrative that drives open-world games like Fallout. It's enjoyable, but underwhelming considering the scope of the base game.

The only play choice I loved was having to scrounge around for new gear. It's not the most enjoyable experience, but I sort of liked the idea for the added tension. One of my favorite parts of Fallout 3 was the first few hours out of the Vault when you had nothing, so I thought it was fun to have to start from scratch. Be aware though, you want to be at least level 20 before jumping into the quest.

Story is a driving force behind the entire expansion. It's the sole reason you'll want to finish the expansion (well, that, and once you start you can't leave). This was the case with Fallout 3's expansions, and like a majority of those expansions, Dead Money places the story above fun design. Dead Money builds on New Vegas's weaker aspects, so while it's an entertaining story, the gameplay isn't as enjoyable.


The Complications:

There's a reason few have managed to find the casino. The route to the casino is dangerous. Traps are everywhere, much to the game's detriment. Knowing a trap is waiting to be sprung at any minute lends a tension to your travel. The tight spaces might suggest a shoot-or-be-shot corridor shooter though you'll spend most of your time making sure you don't accidently get a shotgun blast to the face after opening a door.

The slower pacing offers a different play experience, but when added to the confusing level design, it can lead to a few frustrating moments. One of the more exhilarating, yet annoying, traps involves radios that can set off your bomb collar with a high-pitched sound. Once triggered, you have a short period of time to shut the emitter off. However, you aren't given much time to shoot the speaker once the collar starts. You'll see a few of these throughout the area, so get used to them and, remember, take your time - but not too much.

The number of dead fortune hunters has lead a fine red mist to set in, choking anyone and anything in the area. Whenever you're exposed to the cloud, you slowly lose health. Combined with the traps, the pacing slows even more. It's in opposition to the Fallout experience. The guided experience is a great change of pace early on, but a few hours in, it becomes tedious.


The Score:

The experience has to stand as its own reward as well. Unlike other expansions, Fallout: New Vegas: Dead Money doesn't offer many tangible rewards for completion. You'll find a few really cool weapons, like a new rifle and knife, but I thought both lacked any real "wow" factor. It's a personal taste, so I expect disagreement from other players.

Honestly, I think the lack of a big reward at the end dimmed my view of the expansion. Yes, the experience is important, but sometimes you need to see a big, juicy carrot to get you through to the end. Dead Money's missions alternate between mindless backtracking and overly-dangerous situations. I enjoyed the story enough to go through the entire expansion, but most of the time, I felt like I was simply going through the motions because Obsidian wanted make sure the game hit a certain length. A short, fun experience trumps a long, drawn-out one every time.

Fallout: New Vegas's first expansion is a rough one, but it's worthwhile if you're searching for something to do in the Mojave Wastes. The story adds a fun bit of mythos to the Fallout universe and, if you're willing to let that override some gameplay issues, it's a great purchase.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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