Review: Fallout: New Vegas – Honest Hearts (DLC)

fallout-nv-honest-hearts-review-banner-v2

Title: Fallout: New Vegas – Honest Hearts
Format: PlayStation Network Download
Release Date: June 2, 2011
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Price: $9.99

Review of the Original Game:
fallout-nv-review-banner

I am all for second chances. The first time I attempted to play Honest Hearts I accidentally killed a character that is central to advancing the plot. He was attempting to sneak up on an enemy that was harassing me and got caught in the crossfire. This lamentable situation was due more to the sequence’s questionable staging then an itchy trigger finger. With no indication that I had been locked out of a majority of the story and only a single mission in my quest log I headed out across the map, laid waste to a Native American camp and ultimately killed a Christian missionary. Within forty-five minutes I was seeing a concluding cinematic and felt immensely unsatisfied. Thank goodness I didn’t let this hiccup prevent me from experiencing Honest Hearts. After reloading a previous save I jumped back in to this piece of DLC and had my dormant Fallout addiction rekindled.

Gameplay:
I praised Dead Money, the previous DLC for New Vegas, for its change up in pacing and interesting characters. To my surprise Honest Hearts surpasses Dead Money, not by following its restrictive example, but by adding in many of the features of the core game and turning them loose in a playground ripe with conflict. And what a playground it is, if you aren’t familiar Honest Hearts is set entirely in Zion National Park, with its sandstone capped mesas, winding rivers, and the Narrows, the mother of all slot canyons. Fast traveling is back for most missions; a few key quests require you to trek across much of Zion without warping in order to accentuate the crescendo of the story conflict. Also, in contrast to Dead Money, you can bring a number of your items from the Mojave main game into Honest Hearts, there is a weight restriction, but it should not prevent you from outfitting the Courier with his best gear.

The two most important pieces of Honest Hearts have returned from the main game, quick, run and gun action and a story where moral ambiguities abound. Gone is the slow, methodical pace of Dead Money and in its place are the plasma blasting, grenade tossing, and head shattering of the New Vegas storyline. Traps, while present, are not the constant threat they were in Dead Money and there is more wildlife to contend with. If you ever wanted to take on a giant, mutated bear and her cubs then Honest Hearts is a DLC pack to look into. With the amped up pace comes a more involving story following four “tribes” the benevolent warrior – Dead Horses, the pacifist Sorrows, the malevolent harassers the White Legs, and the New Canaanites, a group of Christian missionaries. At the heart of the story is how two missionaries Joshua, leading the Dead Horses, and Jacob, counseling the Sorrows, decide to deal with the White Leg threat. Of course there are conflicts and each has a personal stake in the fate of the White Legs, with storyline roots stretching back to the Mojave.

Honest Hearts’ return to more traditional Fallout gameplay makes it seem less like a Dead Money-style side story and more a natural extension of the New Vegas world.

Visuals:
Zion, as the setting, dominates the visual style of the DLC. The bright, expansive vistas provide an oddly cheery backdrop for the story’s dark, central conflict to play out against. Most of the creatures inhabiting this landscape will be familiar to those who have spent a lot of time in the Mojave Wastes, with mole rats, radscorpions, and various insects abounding.

The most visually interesting design is the Yau guai, a giant, mutated bear, which is introduced to New Vegas in this DLC. Its giant paws, diseased skin, and frothing mouth certainly leave an impression when it’s charging you and trying to knock your head off. Unfortunately, the same care was not given to the various tribes in Honest Hearts. At a distance the deadly White Legs can look very much like your allies the Sorrows and Dead Horses, hence the reason it took me two tries to get into Honest Hearts. While the change in setting is striking and refreshing, much of the artistic style of Honest Hearts is not very distinct from New Vegas.

Audio:
The stories told in Fallout are what make the series stand out. Thankfully the voice acting in Honest Hearts is up to the task of delivering this story of good intentions motivating deadly deeds. The two central characters Joshua and Jacob provide most of the background and moral hook for the player. The sadness and inevitability of the coming conflict pour out of Jacob’s laments, while Joshua’s call for retribution is tinged with excitement and the future glories of combat. Additional side character performance don’t stand out, as they shouldn’t given this is Joshua and Jacob’s story. The score is forgettable and falls into the trap of being nondescript background music. I can’t recall a single tune from Honest Hearts. However, if you are coming to Honest Hearts solely for the music and not the character interplay and story then you really shouldn’t be in Zion.

Conclusion:
Bringing back the tried and true Fallout gameplay mechanics, coupled with a gorgeous setting places Honest Hearts above Dead Money. While the tragic story of Joshua and Jacob against the White Legs rivals many of the quest lines from the New Vegas core game. Despite a very frustrating flaw early on that can rob you of the Honest Hearts experience, anyone who enjoyed New Vegas would do well to look into this DLC. But be warned – Zion, while a place of beauty, hides many beasts.

Score:
8.5

Written by Justin Spielmann

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook