sunnuntai 16. lokakuuta 2011

DLC REVIEW - Fallout: New Vegas - Dead Money (2010)

GENRE(S): Action / RPG
RELEASED: December 2010
DEVELOPER(S): Obsidian Entertainment, Bethesda Game Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Bethesda Softworks

Just a day before the release of the highly anticipated follow-up (and spin-off) to Fallout 3, Bethesda Softworks announced that Fallout: New Vegas would be blessed with downloadable content. Four DLC packs have since been released, and the first was Dead Money, in which the player is given the chance to visit a ghost town near the Nevada border and rob a high-security casino with a dark past. Another ten bucks on the line - what will you do, and what should you do?

Blowing the bank at Sierra Madre 

Richard Herd : Father Elijah
Dave B. Mitchell : Dog / God
Laura Bailey : Christine Royce / Vera Keyes
Barry Dennen : Dean Domino

The Courier's journey across Nevada is interrupted by a mysterious radio signal broadcasted from an abandoned Brotherhood of Steel bunker in the southeast. When the Courier investigates the origin of the signal, he is captured by an insane former Brotherhood member whose only agenda in life is to rob the fabled Sierra Madre Casino, which was supposed to open on the day the bombs fell. With a particularly fatal slave collar on his neck, the Courier is forced to assemble a team from the town of Villa and find a way to break into its high-security shell of a casino. To make things worse, the eerie inhabitants of the Villa don't take kindly to strangers.

Even though I downloaded Dead Money back on Christmas Eve, I consciously let Fallout: New Vegas rest for almost a year, hoping they'd harvest most glitches in that time and optimize the experience. Well, in that sense the game isn't much better than before. It still randomly freezes, lags and features some more amusing glitches such as severed heads bouncing on their spots and perhaps even bolting through the air like rockets. However, it was nice to return to the world of Fallout: New Vegas - did a few quests before following the signal to trigger Dead Money, just to be able to review the DLC within the Monster Mash frame, and watched in disappointment as the immersive political conflict that is Fallout: New Vegas turned into a pseudo-horror borefest that is Dead Money. The title most likely refers to the ten I spent on it; it's worth five at tops. Perhaps the worst part of it is that you MUST see it through if you want to return your character to the "real world" - it's the same as with Mothership Zeta for Fallout 3, and no, I did not like that DLC pack either.

Dean Domino, another ghoul companion that
doesn't sound like a ghoul at all.
The events of Dead Money take place in an isolated resort called the Villa, which took a good deal of ooch from the bombs back in 2077. A blood-red concentration of toxic gas called "The Cloud" covers the most of the sky above, so it all looks quite different from the main game in design. Sound is an important part of this particular experience - you'll see what I mean. There are a few new, haunting tracks by Inon Zur, loud sound effects, and four additions to the cast. The story's sufficient enough and so are the characters, but truth be told, I could've done fine without the schizophrenic Super Mutant. Having him along means that you have to listen to him babbling the same crazy lines to himself over and over again, on five-second intervals. In general, the developers could've shut the companions up for the duration of the quests. Seriously. They will disassemble your nerves piece by piece. Christine is mute for the most of the plot, which automatically makes her my favourite partner to have along. However, Dead Money is based on teamwork with all of your three companions. In other words, you can't live without any of them. Literally. And unfortunately.

We've already went through the game's basics, so there's no need to return to them. Refer to the Fallout: New Vegas review from December 2010 if you disagree. Dead Money has a few "special features", which I would more correctly describe as "shortages" or "unnecessary nuisances". First, there are very few different enemies to encounter - most of them are "Ghost People", the inhabitants of the Villa to whose existence we never get a proper explanation. They're quite cool in design; they look like outcasts of the Foot Clan in TMNT, and they're immortal... or at least they're claimed to be immortal. Officially, you can't actually kill them before gaining the proper perks, but unofficially, all you need to do is shoot 'em down, wait 'til they get up, and then shoot them again. Immortality at it's not-most-climactic. Besides them, the most common enemies are the Holograms, who you can't kill - since they don't really exist, naturally. Their lasers do, though, and they're fucking deadly regardless of your experience level and density of your armour. The only way to dispose of them is to hack a security terminal and recalibrate them, or find their transmitters from somewhere in the environment and destroy them. They're usually in some really awkward, hard to reach spots. Of course they are.

Your new Holorifle is a good weapon to have
along in Dead Money, but it doesn't have
much special purpose outside this quest.
You won't have access to bottle caps at all - still, the few vendors in the Villa only accept caps as currency. Ironic, huh? Well, they don't have anything good on sale, anyway. Most of your vending and crafting happens at vending machines that work on Sierra Madre chips, to which you almost have greater access than you ever had to bottle caps in the whole New Vegas retail - one of your new companions can even teach you to counterfeit them. Of course, the chips aren't worth shit in New Vegas, and you can't even exchange them for caps at the Sierra Madre.

Some places on the map are blocked from the unprepared by the toxic clouds that will certainly kill you if you spend too much time within them. Towards the end, you need to navigate through some; again, having a certain companion along will help you survive longer.

The most distinctive special feature in Dead Money - you're wearing it; the collar which is set to explode if you happen to stray from your linear path, OR if you spend too much time within the radius of some mysterious radio signals. The collar is damn annoying, and that only. You can prevent your skull from being blown to pieces by destroying HAM radios and unshielded speakers around town and the casino, but they are usually unnecessarily hard to find, AND the distance from which the signals start affecting the collar seems to be extremely random. The final dungeon - which, of course, is the casino itself - is one damn sudden-death trap of trial and error, in which you have to save all the time, not only because of sudden deaths, but also the game's evergrowing tendency to freeze. Everything that makes this whole quest so tedious and unenjoyable culminates within those halls.

It is told that the best way to kill Ghost People
is to dismember them. Hmm, sounds familiar.
A casual player will hack through Dead Money in about three to four hours - it's more than recommendable to be at Level 20, at the very least. It's just as hard as the second half of Mothership Zeta was, and you cannot quit it at midway. The quest leaves a really sour aftertaste. In the end, all I could really remember getting out of this little side trip was a bunch of the worst glitches I've seen in months - no, they still haven't fixed 'em - a few utter, really untimely lockdowns, a few cheap Trophies, and end rewards which are of no use to me. The environment itself will bore you out of your socks before you reach the casino - the Villa is a really, really dull place to explore. After the last key decision, I saved the game and reloaded it right after the credits to nail the last one of the five new Trophies - I never want to do this quest again.

It's got a story that's decent enough, although totally detached from the plot of the game - and if it was free, Dead Money would provide for a moderately good weapon for a Fallout fan to kill a few hours with. As it is, it's damn dull, annoying, and inescapable once you start it. Aside from permanently raising your level cap by five, it doesn't even benefit your main game one bit, if you're not ready and willing to sacrifice a whole bulk of your inventory for the few literally heavy rewards you're offered for beating this son of a bitch. If you're still eager to play it, discard any thoughts of downloading the stand-alone product and wait for a special edition of New Vegas. One's surely coming and it'll surely include this junky bundle. 

SOUND : 7.5


GameRankings: 72.14% (PC), 69.86% (PS3), 70.25% (X360)

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