Friday, August 24, 2012
DLC review: Fallout: New Vegas - Old World Blues
After receiving yet another radio broadcast, you find yourself drawn to a drive-in movie theater where a satellite seems to have crashed. A brief interaction with it, and you are whisked away to Big Mountain, an old research facility from the pre-war era that has apparently been forgotten. Sometime between your disappearance from the Mojave and your arrival at Big Mt., your brain, heart, and spine were removed in the name of science. How are you made aware of this? Because the first individuals you encounter are the five scientists responsible for your body being partially dissected.
These scientists - or rather, what is left of them, as they are effectively brains in jars with monitors for faces - make for an oddball group. The de facto leader of the group is Dr. Klein, who wishes to impress you with his vast scientific knowledge - which is curious, since he views your lack of a human brain as equivalent to you being an animal. Dr. Borous spends much of his time reminiscing on his high school days and is paranoid that you might be a commie like so many of his former classmates. Absent-minded Dr. O forgets where he places things as frequently as he forgets what he is talking about, while 8 is incapable of producing anything other than static due to an accident. Finally , Dr. Dala seems the most invested in your body's current state, but not because she has any genuine care for your well being. She is obsessed with the movements and functions of the human form, and comes across as equal parts creepy and horny.
The whole experience carries a 1950s/1960s sci-fi B-movie vibe about it, with the goal being to upgrade the central Think Tank's facilities in order to fight back against the evil Dr. Mobius. As you explore the different laboratories around Big Mt. you will encounter robo-scorpions, a school where cybernetic dogs patrol the hallways, and artillery test sites, to name but a few. Travelling from one spot to another may lead to a run-in with enemies like Nightstalkers, animated corpses wearing Y-17 trauma override harnesses, and other hostile lobotomites. At times, these enemies will spawn with no apparent rhyme or reason, and can easily overwhelm you if you are not carrying sufficient aid supplies.
Conversely, there are a few new toys you can pick up in Big Mt. that prove rather useful. At the outset, you gain two guns - one that is a sonic emitter, and the other that is a heavy repeating machine gun with the brain of a dog attached to it. The former proves invaluable against the variety of robots crawling about the region, and can be upgraded with new audio clips as you find them. There is also a stealth suit waiting to be discovered in one of the labs that not only helps you avoid detection, but will also heal your wounds as you take damage in the midst of battle. The suit will talk to you on occasion, indicating that there are enemies nearby or that the area is now safe. The only downside is that the suit has a rare tendency to waste medical supplies - it is smart with staggering the use of stimpacks, but will sometimes burn through Med-X faster than need be.
The curious cast of characters does not stop with the five scientists. Adjacent to the Think Tank is The Sink, another area that acts as part of the core of Big Mountain. Therein, you will find an eclectic cast of appliances that require upgrading. Muggy is a pint-sized Securitron who is painfully aware of his usefulness as he is programmed for the sole purpose of cleaning coffee mugs for scientists who no longer have bodies. Two flirtatious female light switches are seemingly jealous of one another, while the toaster believes he will one day be capable of burning up everyone on the planet. There is even a book chute who has taken up the task of collecting texts from before the war and wiping their pages clean in order to maintain an Orwellian order. Upgrading this amusing lot proves somewhat tedious and mundane, however, as each item retrieved requires you to find a few more items, which requires you to find a few more items. And since none of these items are ever in particularly close proximity to one another, the process wears quickly. Even the optional quests have you running in circles, which quickly becomes more annoying than fun.
By the time you've concluded your adventures in Big Mt., you'll have acquired a few new perks and weapons to bring back to the Mojave. The main questline only runs a couple of hours, and it is nice to see that Bethesda included some sidequests beyond it. However, the whole experience is more about style than substance, and Old World Blues feels like a missed opportunity in more ways than one.
My rating: 7 (out of 10)*
*(rating applies solely to downloadable content, not its inclusion with the content on the original game disc or other downloadable content)