Fallout: New Vegas – Honest Hearts
Honest Hearts is the second instalment of DLC for Fallout: New Vegas, following on from last year’s Dead Money. The new segment begins in the standard way of you receiving a new radio broadcast, whereby you learn of a caravan company looking for a capable individual to assist them whilst travelling north to the region of Zion. After exchanging pleasantries with your new comrades and possibly threatening a drug addict, you set out on course. Without giving too much away, the trip doesn’t go according to plan and you soon find yourself stranded and isolated in a new area of the Fallout world.
Zion is a fairly large former national park: a virtual paradise when compared to other areas in New Vegas. Glistening streams flow through burgundy rocky outcrops, cacti silhouettes stand proudly on smooth ridges overlooking the natural beauty and the night sky is illuminated by thousands of stars. Besides this difference in locations, Honest Hearts also differentiates itself to Dead Money by the fact that you’re free to explore this new area at your own pace.
There are around thirty new locations to be discovered but many of them are simply caravan sites or small piers, which are relevant given the setting, but are far from satisfying to an excitement-seeking adventurer. Upon exploring the map’s cave system, you may uncover the most compelling aspect of the DLC: the uncovering of a segmented sub-plot where you learn about a survivor of the war on the verge of suicide, who settled in the area whilst assisting the locals without them knowing. Those playing in Hardcore mode will be in their element as there’s an abundant supply of water, edible flora and campfires to utilise. Although, do be careful when cooking that food, a mutated bear-monster may smell it.
Yes, besides some other familiar beasts, Fallout 3‘s fearsome Yao Guai are back, superbly re-introduced in a startling scripted sequence early on in. Only now they’re officially ‘giant’ to get that fear-excrement flowing even faster. Unless you’re playing on easy or are levelled-up to the eyeballs, seeing a three-strong pack of giant, snarling Yao Guai hurtling towards you often spells imminent disembowelment. You’ll also encounter green geckos, which can again come in the giant variety and will cause you a slew of flesh-splitting problems. Then there are the locals to deal with…
There are three tribes occupying Zion: the warlike White-Legs, the peaceful Sorrows and the Dead Horses, who are a bit of both. The relationship between the tribes and their leaders is what drives Honest Hearts’ narrative forward as the leader of the Sorrows, the non-tribal religious leader Daniel, wants to evacuate them from the area to save them from violence whilst Joshua Graham, leading the Dead Horses, wants to annihilate the White-Legs outright. Both leaders look to you for support and whomever you side with will take the decisive action that will permanently alter Zion’s population. In return for your help, you’re offered a map showing a route out of the area (perhaps to discourage you from simply murdering everyone).
I must admit to being disappointed with how straightforward and unceremonious it was to meet Joshua Graham, the near mythical ‘Burned Man’ whom Caesar covered in pitch, set ablaze and cast into the Grand Canyon for his failure at the first battle of Hoover Dam. Given his torturous back-story, I’d expected something more impressive. This disappointment exponentially expands to the experience of the DLC as a whole. Although it offers new characters, enemies, weapons, items, locations and traits, this quantity is not qualified by its quality. Honest Hearts delivers on the content level but it is lacking in essence, a strong narrative that makes you care about how your actions affect Zion and its people. This is a far from essential purchase and is only recommended for Fallout completists.