Fallout: New Vegas Dead Money Review

Vince Yuen

Reviewed by:
On December 25, 2010
Last modified:December 29, 2013


The unique gameplay, raised level cap and interesting story make for DLC that is definitely worth the price.

Fallout: New Vegas Dead Money Review

Fallout: New Vegas has been a bittersweet game for me compared to Fallout 3. Its core gameplay is great so I’m happy for more but I can’t help but feel it’s too derivative. It emanates a strong “been there done that” feeling except with more bugs. Dead Money tries to change this by flipping the gameplay on its head.

Now before we even get into this review, I should note that like Fallout 3 (prior to Broken Steel), when you finish New Vegas, you cannot continue so must have a save before the end of the game in order to play Dead Money. Otherwise, you must start a new character. It’s a shame Obsidian didn’t learn from Bethesda’s mistake two years ago but I digress.

Like other Fallout DLC, Dead Money starts with a transmission on your Pip-Boy, which leads you to an abandoned Brotherhood of Steel bunker where you are ambushed and gassed. You wake up in a strange land in front of a hologram of a man named Father Elijah. He tells you that you have an explosive collar on your neck which he can set off at any time. Your mission is to break into the Sierra Madre casino, get into the vault and pull off a heist.

He also tells you that there are three others who are in the same predicament as you. First, you must recruit the others to assist in the break-in. What makes this an even trickier situation is that all your collars are linked together so if one of them dies, everyone’s collar goes off including your own. Their back-stories are actually really interesting and they have some neat perks when you recruit them but unfortunately, you can still only have one official follower at a time.

Now I mentioned earlier that the gameplay is quite a bit different in Dead Money than what you’re probably used to in New Vegas, Fallout 3 and all it’s DLC. Sierra Madre and its surrounding town are engulfed in a cloud of poisonous gas that will damage you. There are also speakers and radios that can set off your collar if you’re in its proximity and they are not found and disabled in a set amount of time. In addition to these are a large amount of mines, bear traps and shotgun booby traps.

Combine these all together in copious amounts and you have a deathtrap of a town that is something out of a Saw movie. There are times where you simply need to run but are constantly being damaged by the gas cloud while running over bear traps and mines. Not fun.

And that’s not even taking into account the ghost people who inhabit the town and can’t be killed. You can only knock them unconscious and then they rise again. There are also certain sections with hologram guards who you must manipulate and sneak around, turning it into a light stealth game at times.

Simultaneously, Dead Money is almost a survival-horror game because of the constant threat of traps and severe lack of ammunition and supplies. To make matters worse, there are hardly any usable beds. You cannot sleep in any building that is exposed to open air (due to a hole in the wall or a broken door for example), because of the gas, so finding a usable bed is next to impossible. Though there are many beds around, most are just teases that you can’t actually use.

If you haven’t guessed by now, this DLC is hard. It’s definitely the hardest piece of Fallout you’ll have experienced this generation thus far. They even warn you when you begin that Dead Money is for experienced players and recommend you only to begin it at level 20 or higher. Of course, I came in without meeting that requirement so admittedly, I made it harder for myself but the general consensus is that it’s much harder than New Vegas or Fallout 3.

It’s almost too hard. The gas and all the traps, particularly the speakers that make your collar explode when you’re in close proximity, make the game extremely frustrating. Unclear quest directions and quest-markers complicates matters even further because you’re frequently under pressure to find out exactly what you need to do before your head blows off searching for it.

When the game recommends you to be level 20 or higher, I highly back that warning up. Dead Money seems to stress a lot of the more unconventional skills that a lower level player (like me) may not have put many points into yet. You are often skill-checked and can save yourself a lot of hassle by having high skill in Speech, Repair, Lockpick and Science. Without being able to pass them, you have to do a series of menial fetch tasks, find computers to turn on or you’ll have turrets or holograms shooting at you that you can’t disable. Having a high Melee or Unarmed skill would also be handy because of the serious lack of ammo and guns.

Unlike most of the other Fallout DLC, there are not many new items in Dead Money. There are a couple of new weapons and perks but the biggest addition is the raise of the level cap. Like Broken Steel in Fallout 3, Dead Money raises the level cap by 5, making the maximum level 35.

All in all though, Dead Money was not very fun. The story was good, especially at the end when it all comes together, but the sneaking around, the insane amount of dangerous traps, the lack of supplies, confusing town layout and unclear directions made it a very difficult game. I’m all for changing the gameplay but I don’t think it was executed well here as it was more frustrating than it was refreshing. It wasn’t really for me and didn’t fit my character’s playstyle. I can’t even imagine how people are playing this with Hardcore mode on.

On the other hand, you get quite a bit of value here. My in-game counter clocked me in at just about six hours for Dead Money and that’s not including deaths and retries…and there were many of those, believe me. When you take those into account, the real number is probably sitting somewhere between 8-10 hours depending on the player. At 800 MSP ($10), that amount of game time is a bargain compared to some content other companies are charging. I only wish I took that level 20+ warning a little more seriously at the beginning as having higher skills in the non-combat areas would have helped me tremendously and made this piece of DLC a little less frustrating.

Fallout: New Vegas Dead Money Review

The unique gameplay, raised level cap and interesting story make for DLC that is definitely worth the price.

Comments (14)

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  1. RAGSsays:

    i thought Fallout: New Vegas was great. There is also the fact that i am a hardcore fallout fan and love playing all the games of the franchise. With New Vegas i did get the feeling of it just being DLC for 3 however i enjoyed every minute of it and you shold not judge the game for this reason. the “Dead Money” DLC is great. i can usually breeze through alot of things in this game and went into this at level 25. it was still tough for me but thats what i love about it. The DLc makes you take a new approach to the game, and makes you use things you otherwise would not.

    1. Vincesays:

      Oh don’t get me wrong, I still love NV. It just never really hooked me like Fallout 3 did probably because of how similar it felt. I would still give NV on its own an 8 or 8.5. But nonetheless, I just didn’t really enjoy this DLC. All the traps just made it felt more like a chore than fun. But different strokes for different folks I supposed.

  2. guestsays:

    the biggest fuck you was when you could not take all the gold

    1. Garysays:

      They’re trying to teach you a lesson against materialism! You’re supposed to be emulating Uncle Leo from F3.
      Yeah, it’s a dumb thing to do.

  3. Pambo_calrissiansays:

    Marked down, for the reviewer not listening to the minimum level advice given by the game itself [facepalm]

    Yeah so I saw Avatar on a plane cinema screen. I give it 5/10 – the visuals were too small.

    1. Vincesays:

      Well if you actually read it, the difficulty was not the only problem I had. In fact, I even admitted that I was not the proper level so I did not dock the score much because of that. I didn’t meet the level requirement so that’s my fault not the game’s. C’mon man Im a reviewer, that would just not be fair.

      Besides, being level 20 would have only made a big difference in the skill-checks and speech challenges. It wouldn’t have much affect on the traps (which were just annoying) and the unclear quest directions. Those are the main reasons why I gave this DLC a lower score.

  4. Anonymoussays:

    I agree with the author, Dead Money was damn hard unless you had skills in the right areas. Somehow FNV is just not as much fun as F3. Maybe it was just too soon, but I think they did sacrifice the sheer fun of exploration for faction politics as well as loads of fetch and carry quests. To get as good an ending as possible in NV it wasn’t just your actions that counted, but also whether you had enough skill points in various areas, which could be damned frustrating. The developers seemed not to care what it was about F3 that people liked and chose to make themselves happy first.

    1. EpiiiiiicFAiLllllsays:

      ” The developers seemed not to care what it was about F3 that people liked and chose to make themselves happy first.”

      Expect that from Obsidian Entertainment..

  5. Beckett Nicksays:

    what i wanna know is when is it coming out for ps3

  6. Bali_tiger23says:

    I entered the vault at Level 35 on Easy with 100 Unarmed and I STILL found this incredibly hard. For the last three quests I threw up my arms in disgust, lowered it to Very Easy, and had a walkthrough in front of me for the remainder of the DLC. I agree that the only perk is the level cap. What makes it really frustrating is that you can only play it once (per character) and by the end you’re so frustrated that you just want out. The lack of good new items sucked – nothing was better than what I already had from the original gameplay, and I even looked up what was attainable to see if it was worth even attempting to get… Again, I was sorely disappointed.

    I love New Vegas (not as much as Fallout 3, but enough that I’m already on my third character/playthrough), but for the next DLC, I’m definitely doing research before automatically assuming it’s good and wasting money on it. I feel like I got screwed, and they didn’t even have the decency to buy me dinner first.

  7. davidsays:

    I played it at the hardest difficulty with hardcore mode on, I was 29 and didnt invest at all on melee or unarmed. I believe that giving this game a 6 is too harsh. Exploring gives u enough supplies, once you understand the perks you can run into the fog to see if there is anything worthwile around. ONE thing you got reallly WRONG is that you can actually kill the ghosts if you mutilate any part of them, so even when they go down running and chopping the corpse with a knife does the trick. Your companions are very strong so you got good support. I used the revolver all the time hitting arms or heards to cause a critical and insta kill. Dodging traps and finding radios becomes trivial once you learn that they are everywhere and where the developers usually hide them.

    Once you are inside the casino supplies become meaningless since blackjack is a joke, I made 5000 chips in 10-15 min.

    I think its a disservice to the developers that took a chance and made something unique, understand that they have to use the SAME engine, the money they get is to develop the DLC not to fix bugs. The game not giving you super guns that kill everything is a really nice change from the originals where i would find myself one shotting anything. Never did I expect using a revolver as my main gun to kill bosses.

    I loved the story, the characters are some of the best compared plenty of high budget games around. If you didnt really enjoy this dlc, turn the difficulty down to easy, turn off hardcore mode and give yourself a nice plasma rifle with the console. Its obviosly only inteded for some crowds
    If you have enough perks you dont need to worry about ammo or supplies since you can craft them and there are plenty of spare parts to craft whatever you need.

  8. Dougpickering5says:

    Pretty good review. Just finished it and I agree with all of the main points. The overall story was engrossing and I loved the characters but the gameplay itself was too annoying at times. Well before the end I just wanted out so I could get back to the main game.

  9. Marcos Piressays:

    Man, Sierra Madre and all the surrounding areas make the Mojave Wasteland a PARADISE. almost no resources, a killing cloud, hard enemies (you CAN kill ghosts, you have to decapitate them) and a possibility to cripple ALL my limbs. Dead Money is a good, awesome hardcore DLC

  10. Slade360says:

    Ok seriously, this DLC is tough. First off, if you aren’t specialized in melee or empty hand you’re going to have a tough time of it. Gas clouds, trapped everywhere, enemies that are tough to kill 1 or 2 on 1 come at you in packs of 6 or more.

    At times as the author states, you just have to run. From endless locked doors you can’t pick in the casino, to trying to locate radios that blow your head off is extremely frustrating. I just want out, and back so I can play another DLC that’s fun. This is horendous. FO3 New Vegas is great, but this first DLC installment is a brutal, take-everything from you and kill you over and over without rest endeavor.

    If you loved building your character in the game, just expect everything to be impossible if you don’t have a high science and melee spec. If you’re like me, and used guns and built up speech, you’re screwed.

    My suggestion – though I haven’t tried Lonesome Hearts yet, because I’m stuck in this crappy casino of all locked door…is to skip this, period. enough said.

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