Fallout: New Vegas - Honest Hearts review (Xbox 360)

Honest Hearts is the second downloadable content pack for Fallout: New Vegas. It’s an expansion set within the Zion National Park: a giant canyon area that feels a world away from the more harsh radiation-gripped New Vegas and an even further world away from Fallout 3’s Capital Wasteland. This expansion isn’t alike Dead Money when it comes to linearity as it adds an entire open world for you to explore, one that’s full of surprises and some disappointments.

The story goes that a long, long time ago, Mr Caesar of Caesar's Legion went after the Hoover Dam and tried to destroy the NCR’s grip on the place. This conflict sets the stage for New Vegas’ main plot, but this first attempt from the Legion resulted in failure. Caesar decided to grab his chief malpais legate (the leader of the attack), named Joshua Graham, strap him with gasoline, set him on fire and throw him into the Grand Canyon as an example.

It’s been a long time since then, and, like Dead Money’s antagonist, the whispers of Joshua Graham haunted the world of New Vegas. Now with Honest Hearts you come face-to-face with the new reborn Joshua, the burned man. His character is, in all honesty, the only stand-out guy from this entire package. There’s no real charm or flavour to anyone else but him, whereas with Dead Money all of the characters had a breath of life to them.

Honest Hearts revolves around the Courier (player character) being invited by the Happy Trails caravan group to help assist in a little expedition into the Zion National Park. It all goes horribly wrong and the player is caught up in a world of tribal warfare. There are factions vying for power throughout the park and the player can deal with them however they choose with the main plot decisions being akin to that of New Vegas, morals tainted with the colour of grey.

The burned man assists the Courier whichever way you choose to fight the cause, which involves a destroyed tribe versus one that seeks the Legion’s approval. There are giant biblical references throughout this expansion and the themes revolve around fighting for those beliefs and perhaps launch a giant debate on the two-faced scripture. It’s rather clever in the way it’s presented and it’s not blatantly beaten over your head either.

Honest Hearts will take you around five hours of the main story and then three extra hours or so of scavenging, questing and exploring this landscape. There are blue skies, giant geckos and some great art design to be found. It’s a shame, then, that the main story devolves into a fetch quest for the most part and while the same quality of voice acting from Dead Money is kept, there are no real characters to take a liking to other than Graham.

There’s a small reference to the overarching plot that’s developing with these DLCs involving the Courier’s past, but the majority of this feels like a gigantic side-quest to what’s going on. It feels more of a break from New Vegas, not a continuation of any of its threads or delights. Point Lookout from Fallout 3 would be its best comparison point, but even then, there are some liberties to be had. It’s worth the money, but I wouldn’t say it’s completely worth your time.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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