What would you do if your spine was ripped from your body? What would happen if you had a big gun with a dog's brain? Do light switches get along with each other? These are questions you've likely never thought to ask, yet Fallout: New Vegas - Old World Blues answers them with more humor and irreverence than is contained in the entirety of the last two full Fallout games combined. In this downloadable add-on, you have a conversation with your own body parts and learn the meaning of the word "sonjaculate," perhaps while dressed in an insecure suit of armor that asks, "Do you like me?" Expect to laugh and laugh often, even as you clobber murderous robot scorpions with a sonic weapon that you can program to sound like an opera singer. This kind of wit penetrates every aspect of Old World Blues, which turns ordinary fetch quests into surreal excursions that cleverly hark back to previous threads of dialogue without calling undue attention to the link. And there are so many bizarre touches tucked into the add-on's nooks that you'll want to turn over every stone and open every door, lest a shrewd secret go undiscovered.
Old World Blues announces its wit with a hysterical opening dialogue, and doesn't let up until the final frame of the epilogue that concludes it. That dialogue occurs between you and Dr. Klein, a self-important scientist who is not human, but rather a brain attached to a trio of monitors that shiver, glare, and scrutinize with exaggerated motions that communicate more emotion than any of Fallout: New Vegas' wooden character models. Dr. Klein and his robot cronies--an egghead having an identity crisis and a vixen with a disturbing fixation on human reproduction among them--have removed your brain. Oh, and your heart and your spine too. This may seem a cruel experiment, yet here you are, lobotomized and trying to reason with a robot scientist with the voice of an old-timey radio announcer. As it happens, you want your brain back (go figure), yet your curious captors are no longer in possession of it. Their academic nemesis, the "evil" Dr. Mobius, has whisked it away to his lab. It seems that if you want to be whole again, you must confront Mobius--and do a few favors for Klein and company in the meanwhile.
As in most role-playing games, Old World Blues' missions involve collecting objects for your quest-givers and returning to them to continue forward. But great context can turn a simple fetch quest into a phenomenon, and every action you take has a humorous edge that keeps you pushing forward with a grin. Much of this humor comes from the uproarious dialogue. On the subject of human emotions: "Glands. They come from glands." On the subject of the tongue: "It's like having a dexterous slug lolling and flopping about in one's mouthal cavity." On the subject of the DLC's new explorable area: "The crater helps keep everyone inside. Because it's bowl shaped!" The wit carries into almost every feature in one way or another. One weapon you might earn is the K9000 Cyberdog, a heavy machine gun that lets out a heartbreaking whine when you unequip it. Your new stealth armor applies stimpaks automatically when needed and provides occasional hints in a soothing female voice--but feels guilty for doing so.
Quests are similarly elevated by this endless whimsy. At one point you perform a series of tests in a structure guarded by cyberdogs and patrolling robots. The "testing arena" may seem a tired idea, but the way the quest ties in to one of the not-so-good doctor's adolescent anxieties makes it special. For that matter, it's also fun. Consistent robot movement patterns, smart enemy placement, and alternate routes for lockpickers and hackers make the sneaking portions more enjoyable than typical Fallout stealth. Elsewhere, you take on sturdy robot scorpions that act as Dr. Mobius' eyes and ears, fellow lobotomites who didn't take to their surgeries quite as well as you did, and a few other interesting enemies.
If you'd rather procrastinate questing and go off on your own, there's plenty to discover out there in Big MT. (Some pronounce that as "Big Empty"; your electronic subjugators prefer "Big Mountain"--even though their hazardous experiments turned this former mountain into a giant hole in the ground.) There are all sorts of interesting things to find if you're vigilant, including AI/voice routines that you can plug into the various appliances in your personal space, known as The Sink. One such device lets you feed it plant material for helpful consumables in return. (And boy, is this suave gigolo eager to have you feed him your seeds.) Another is a jukebox with the persona of a jocund jazz trumpeter. Searching out these routines and other secrets is a delight, thanks to the varied scenery, which makes the most of an aging graphics engine. The domed base called the Think Tank cuts a striking silhouette against the night sky. A botanical garden provides organic respite among the surrounding cliffs and canyons. And an enclosed village provides a taste of humanity in a territory manned by machines.
Fallout: New Vegas - Old World Blues' primary flaws are those that carry over from the main game. Entering VATS (the Vault-Assisted Targeting System) could result in a minute's worth of slow motion in which you never take a single shot or swipe at your target. Voice-overs might interrupt each other--a shame, when you want to savor the funny dialogue and fantastic acting. And the poor lighting and indistinct textures can make it difficult to spot mines or even quest items. But there's a good amount of content in here for enthusiasts--along with some new perks, a five-level increase to the level cap, and various weapons and clothing to take back with you into the Nevada wastes. You even earn a device called the transportalponder, which allows you to freely teleport between the crater and the desert. But the best reason Old World Blues gives you to return to Fallout: New Vegas is its nonstop humor, which is so outlandish as to make you laugh out loud, yet restrained enough to never be tasteless. At one point, you are told, "I have very good raisins for everything I do." And there is no better raisin to return to Fallout: New Vegas than this hilarious add-on.