I am a huge fan of Fallout: New Vegas. I would like to state that I am also deeply respectful of the team that created the Dead Money add-on for Fallout: New Vegas and applaud their ambition as well as artistic vision. It is an excellently written story and the idea behind making a haunted casino in the middle of the Mojave Wasteland is an intriguing one. Please understand this before I proceed with the rest of my review.
I frigging HATE this DLC.
Hate. Hate. HATE it.
Dead Money exceeds Splinter Cell: Conviction's laser traps, many old-school Nintendo games, and a number of other games I simply could not bring myself to care enough to finish. The story was fine and I watched the remainder on Youtube but I couldn't justify playing the game anymore because it was so frustratingly hard. Not even challengingly hard, either, just repetitive and boring.
Fallout: New Vegas is one of my favorite games so it bothers me that they felt the need to drastically change the gameplay style for this add-on. It plays, instead, more like Metal Gear Solid than Fallout: New Vegas. Certain enemies are invincible, requiring you to sneak past them. There's specialized devices which automatically kill you if you get too close to them. You're linked up to the slave collars of your Followers so if they die, you die as well. Large portions of the map are covered in poison gas.
Oh and you have to dismember certain enemies too or they regenerate. Yes, Dead Money introduces enemies who are effectively immortal. This is in addition to the fact the game removes all of your equipment at the start of the game and forces you to scavenge from the decidedly thread-bones collection around you. If you are a Guns-heavy character, you'll find almost no ammunition in the add-on and instead be forced to use a Holo-Rifle even if you have no Energy Weapons skill.
I could go on and on but the game goes out of its way to prevent you from being able to play like you would normally during New Vegas. I wouldn't have minded one or two of these suggestions but all of them together just stack together in order to make the experience a frustrating slog. I don't want to creep around abandoned hotels, I want to heroically fight my way through hordes of bad guys.
I'm the Courier dammit!
Dead Money suffers for other reasons as well. The setting of the Sierra Madre Casino is, despite an impressive backstory, not that enjoyable of a location to explore. I don't expect every game to have as detailed a atmosphere as Fallout 3's Point Lookout DLC but the Sierra Madre is a hotel with a ruined villa around it. It's not exactly wowing me in terms of things to do or enjoyment to be had.
There's also the lore-breaking technology present in the game. Fallout's universe has power-armor, nuclear-powered everything, and space-travel but I think a lot of the stuff present in the game exceeds the bounds of what is possible in the game's lore. The vending machines can convert casino chips into Stimpacks, Holorifle ammunition, and anything else?
Finally, I'm not even a big fan of the characters present in the game. While the villain, Elijah, is an enjoyable antagonist just about everyone else is just plain strange. One of them is a traumatized surgical victim who can't talk, one is a split personality super-mutant, and the other one is a psychotic man-child ghoul. Dealing with the extreme personalities of the DLC was wearying.
I can't recommend this DLC, I'm sorry. The storytelling, as always, is excellent and the design is wonderful. However, the gameplay element just ticks me off.