I've been in the middle of the road when it comes to downloadable content (DLC). For most games that feature DLC generally it's unnecessary. Sometimes a game that can't seem to 'fit' on a system is broken into pieces and the pieces are sold as 'DLC'. In my opinion I think that's great business, but at the same time it feels a bit dirty for the gamers expecting a complete experience.
With that said, there are genuinely good downloadable content that adds to the adventure of a game (not just complete it). I felt like games such as Dragon Age, Call of Duty: Black Ops and Fallout 3 dealt this hand when it came to DLC. Experiences were added onto the stories (or the multiplayer gameplay, as was the case with CoD) and the cost for the DLC didn't hurt as much.
With that said, one must ask where Dead Money, Fallout: New Vegas' DLC, falls into play. Let me tell ya...
This isn't your normal DLC. This won't feel like the life span of New Vegas has been extended. It won't feel like a mere 'add-on'. This game will feel like a 'game'. The idea behind Dead Money is that you've received a radio signal promising riches due to a wonderful casino that just opened on the ass-end of the New Vegas map. When you go to explore what is up an how you can get rich quick you're suddenly knocked out. When you wake up you find yourself with a wonderful lethally detonating collar on and a need to obey a mysterious stranger that controls your fate. He wants riches found in Sierra Madre (the casino) and he wants you to find them for him. Obliged to do so, you need help and you need to avoid the current 'security' that roams the premises.
I won't tell you anymore than that because you need to experience it.
The gameplay in Dead Money is engrossing. It reminds me (and I apologize in advance for saying this) of the 1999 release of Wild Wild West. There is a scene where the two lead characters have magnets strapped to their necks and they've got to avoid a large blade from cutting their heads off. It's intense, worrisome and just a great scene (probably the best one in that awful film). Anyway, that's exactly what you'll get with Dead Money. You wake up, you're in this strange world with this strange thing strapped to your neck and if you get too close to certain objects the thing will explode; thus, killing you. The only indication that you're near a radio (which sets it off) is a beeping sound that gets faster and faster, as the device gets closer and close to detonating. That's the first thing you have to think about in the game. The second thing is avoiding ghost hunters in Sierra Madre. They are the main residents of the place and the virtually unstoppable; even when you 'think' you kill them. You have to pay attention to a lot in a small place like Sierra Madre.
All of this sets the mood for the game, which just heightens the excitement (and terror) of the adventure.
So what's the purpose of this DLC? Is it a straight linear shot? Is it shallow? No, surprisingly it's neither of those things. Once you meet up with your help you have a series of decisions to make and each one has a different outcome in the overall adventure. For example, there is a point where you get the option of locking one of your 'friends' in a gated area to make sure they do the job. This friend is a wee bit insane, so your relationship with them might change should you choose to be an a-hole. The cynical a-hole gamers out there will adore this decision, but I wish you good luck with the outcome.
What's neat about the game is that it becomes kind of a Resident Evil-esque situation, in terms of weaponry. You will find new weapons in the Dead Money, which include gas bombs, throwing knives and spears. You'll also run around finding very limited weapons that you know and love, like the 9mm pistol. With these weapons you'll find scarcely laid out ammo. You getting the idea? Conserve your ammo. It adds another element of 'thinking' to the first-person shooter.
Another element of the DLC that adds a bit of relief to an otherwise tense experience is the use of vending machines in Sierra Madre. Throughout the villas of Madre you'll find casino chips. These chips can be used for items in various vending machines. The items range from food to cigarettes to meds. Once you get the item from the vending machine it is gone. Much like the weapons situation, you want to make sure you conserve your best items (like Stimpaks) and use them when you absolutely need to use them. This creates a tighter situation than the regular New Vegas experience, so be careful with your decision making.
Anyway, I found myself completely engrossed with the title and fearing for my character's life during the entire experience. For me, who is just meticulous with details, I milked about about 5-6 hours worth of gameplay from the DLC. That's a lot considering it's 'DLC'. The shortest DLC I've ever run across was one provided by the good folks at Bioware with their Dragon Age game. The entire DLC took me 45 minutes to complete. So color me pleasantly surprised when the Dead Money DLC lasted longer than the campaign for Call of Duty: Black Ops. The point of this rambling? The game is not shallow one bit. You get to point A to get to point B to get to points C-F. There's enough here to keep you entertained. There's plenty of adventure to be had and enough to keep you satisfied. There are a few more weapons to be had in the game as well, which makes for an even more interesting adventure.
So what's the rub with this 'DLC'? There are a few gripes. The first gripe is that the game can get a bit long in the tooth when you're transitioning from finding your group to getting the first task completed with your group. There is a lot of back and forth between villa's which will bring you to the brink of boredom. It's tedious having to move characters to certain places and not being able to group everyone together. For example, you have to prepare for a gala event as the second task in the game and you have to move everyone to a certain part of Sierra Madre. Like I previously stated, you can only take one person at a time. This does pose a challenge, as you'll have to take on Ghost Hunters with just you and your selected partner. The other challenge is that you have to keep everyone alive and kicking, otherwise everyone dies on the team (the sick bastard will blow your head off if you lose any teammates). It's really frustrating, but at the same time very tedious. The action does get rolling after this, but you have to climb that large hill to benefit from the adventure on the other side.
My other gripe in the game is that it froze three times when I was playing. My main gripe with Fallout: New Vegas is that it felt unfinished due to freezes and bugs. While certainly not as extreme as the main game, the fact that it still froze multiple times was irritating. That's really all I'm going to say about that, as the point has been made.
So is this game worth it? Here's the best part of Dead Money... it's only $9.99. For 5-6 more hours of gameplay (maybe four if you're good), you're paying $9.99, which is less than the cost (when it came out) of the 45-minute DLC for Dragon Age. If you're a fan of this series I can't imagine how you can pass that price up for what you're getting in Dead Money. Granted, it's not a perfect game, but still it's damn cheap.