Truly worthwhile DLC is hard to come by. Mind you, worthwhile doesn’t always mean entertaining. In most cases, the content is fairly one-note, an amusing addition good for a few hours of tangential fun before being tossed away completely. In the event of the Mass Effect franchise, pretty much everything up until Lair of the Shadow Broker felt like an insubstantial add-on. With regard to Fallout 3, Broken Steel, Mothership Zeta and Operation: Anchorage offered little more than mindless running-and-gunning in visually distinct environments whereas Point Lookout offered the real deal, chock-a-block with new puzzles, characters and storylines. Generally, with DLC, the odds aren’t in your favor if you’re looking for the same level of attentiveness and creativity given to the core game. So how does the first content pack for Fallout: New Vegas, entitled Dead Money, hold up?
Thankfully, quite well.
Accessed via the sudden appearance of a strange radio signal, Dead Money starts off by guiding players to an abandoned bunker where they are ensnared by a character you might even have heard about on your adventures in the wasteland: Father Elijah, member of the Brotherhood of Steel. You awake on the outskirts of the legendary Sierra Madre Casino, a gambler’s nirvana before the war, its location now lost to time. It’s the thing of legends, purported to contain an invaluable treasure somewhere in its vaults. Searching for this treasure is Father Elijha, luring in passing travelers and binding them with explosive collars in the hopes of forcibly recruiting a gang of thieves.
Think of Dead Money as Fallout’s version of Ocean’s 11: a post-apocalyptic heist adventure. You’re pressed into servitude to find three other companions lost in the town at the foot of the casino – a schizoid berserker, a bomb-planting sharpshooter and a mute prisoner with a connection to Veronica, one of the game’s main companions. You’ll spend the first portion of the DLC fighting your way through the ghostly, glowing enemies that haunt the crimson-lit town – and who’ll only die after you knock them out and dismember them – to find and gather your three companions. The second part involves the break-in itself and a final confrontation with Father Elijah.
That the DLC opens with its own title sequence and plugs back into – and influences – events in the wasteland proper. Depending upon your past and future companion selections, as well as your morality leanings, you’ll find a few new bonuses available to you after the conclusion of Dead Money.
Visually, this chapter is individual and distinct, but the character interactions are surprisingly well scripted and consistently engaging. The environments are moody and atmospheric. The set-up is unique. This isn’t simply some quickly constructed staging for a shooter scenario. In fact, at times, Dead Money shows more clever creativity than a majority of the game itself. In scope and scale it’s closer to The Pitt than to the expansive Point Lookout, but it offers a bite-sized portion of every single aspect of what we love about Fallout, wrapped in a shiny (well, let’s say appropriately rust-covered) and affordable package. There's also a pretty substantial tease regarding the nature of the next, unannounced DLC pack, as well.
Our verdict? Fallout: Dead Money is well worth the money, time and effort. It’s no gamble at all.