Fallout: New Vegas – Honest Hearts DLC – Review

Title   Honest Hearts
Developer  Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher  Bethesda Softworks
Platform  Xbox 360, Windows PC
Genre  Role Playing Game
Release Date  May 17th 2011

After what seemed like an eternity, a new DLC finally arrived for Fallout: New Vegas. I paused before pressing the confirm purchase button as I was less than impressed by the previous offering, Dead Money, so you can forgive my trepidation as I watched the download bar eek its way across my screen.

In case you missed Dead Money, developed amnesia, or are one of those irritating commentards that feels the need to add “I’m waiting for the GOTY edition” to every piece of online coverage then here is what you’ve missed in a nutshell: Dead Money was a harshly unforgiving, dull DLC set in a separate area to the Mojave. It was short in content with the playtime drawn out using methods like insta-death traps, invincible enemies and retracing your steps. You were also stripped of all Mojave equipment and companions. Basically it was just terrible, and that’s all you need to know.

As is the case with every Fallout 3/New Vegas DLC to date, you are made aware of the new content via a radio signal picked up by your trusty Pip Boy. Should you wish to answer the summons, you’ll find yourself travelling far north of New Vegas to meet with a rag-tag bunch of people from the Happy Trails Caravan Company. Predictably, I had to lose my companions, another DLC staple for Fallout, but this time I wasn’t suddenly stripped naked or told to go in a disguise; this time I could take 70 pounds of equipment with me and dump the rest in a handy box by the cave wall that, miraculously, no-one would find or steal during my absence.  As I agonised over my inventory decisions, reluctantly ditching my power armour, I went back to check the encumbrance limit and discovered a couple of extra dialogue options. Making my choice, my limit was then increased to 100 pounds.  Huzzah for the Strong Back perk!

After a small cutscene, you regain control of The Courier and need to defend yourself against a raid. Being so soon into the DLC, this was unexpected and as I was still taking in the stark change of scenery when the first couple of caravan guards fell. Like a scene from any great western movie, the ambushers appeared from nowhere and were shooting from ledges high up in the cliffs; it was clear we didn’t stand a chance. Eyes wide open and the excitement of this set piece thrumming through me, I actually felt surprised and endangered by the situation. Luckily though, I am The Courier and a few buckshots into my assassin’s armour won’t stop me. Breaking out my sniper rifle I soon obliterated the attackers and found myself alone amongst a score of corpses. Taking a few seconds to restock my trimmed inventory from fallen enemy and ally alike, I strode forth into the Zion valley looking for answers and a way back home.

Shortly afterwards I met my first companion for the DLC and was offered the initial side quest. So as not to spoil the entire thing, this DLC drops you into the middle of a tribal war and, in order to obtain the knowledge of getting back home, you will have to assist the tribes in some manner. You meet the Burned Man who was oft mentioned in the main Vegas Story, and there are also mentions of another courier which add to those already mentioned in Dead Money but we won’t get to see him until a future DLC. With decent, fully voiced, dialogue options you are able to learn a lot about the Burning Man’s back story and his immediate purpose. In fact all of the major NPCs have a full compliment of voiced dialogue, perk/stat sensitive options and if you travel with a companion you’ll have all of the usual benefits that brings (inventory space, unique perk, combat options, etc). While there are only a few main NPCs to talk to it doesn’t feel as few as Dead Money although, in reality, it probably is; whether this is due to good spacing out of the interactions or because Honest Hearts gives back the freedom to explore, I am not sure.

Moving away from the story content, the setting for Honest Hearts is a definite contrast to what has come before. In a valley called Zion, it is set in what was previously a national park and there is a lot more greenery to be found than back in the Mojave. The other change is landscape itself, which ranges from river-floored valley to mountain-top and provides some absolutely stunning views to go along with it.  You are also free to wander about at will which was the most welcome change from the Dead Money DLC so where previously you were forced down fixed routes, corridors and punished for trying to deviate, you are now rewarded for exploring. Numerous caves, ranger posts, campsites (a welcome sight for any hardcore players) and an abundance of wildlife in both plant and animal form make for rich pickings and interesting discoveries.  Whilst some may bemoan the lack of urgency to the main quest-line, I welcomed it; there’s no feeling pressured to go from A-B but, instead, should I see a path winding up a hill I could take it, see where it went and brutally headshot anything along the way.

The difficulty, however, was a walk in the national park and this will probably irritate a few people. Most areas are inhabited by some form of beast or tribesmen but you are not pitted against unbeatable (literally invincible) enemies like Dead Money’s holograms. In fact there is little in the way of any serious threat to a level 30+ character so the poor mole rats through to the geckos and even the more challenging Yao Guai all succumbed to my superior ranged weaponry, or the Power Fist I had taken from Veronica before leaving the Mojave and had since gifted to my new companion. After the level cap increased by five with this DLC, I expected more of a challenge for a high-levelled player, yet it seemed to be squarely aimed at those about half-way through the New Vegas experience.  Alas I found and bested just one Cazador and there were no Deathclaws in sight.

Other irritations still hang over from the main game: sometimes my arms drift above where they should be and opening the pip-boy makes it appear off-screen, similarly when jumping the weapon and hand will also magically rise up the screen.  The freezing is still a problem, and in just six hours of total playtime it froze my Xbox 360 three times.

Depending on how much you like to wander, this DLC weighs in at four to six hours in length and it doesn’t include repeated deaths to try and squeeze longevity from it.  Although interesting, the story is fairly loose and the ramifications of my decisions throughout had little impact overall so anyone looking for the usual Fallout style of choosing between two evils and living with the consequences will be disappointed. The quests are not overly imaginative and there is a definite lack of side quests, however there are new perks, weapons, an increased level cap, and you can return to the area after you have completed the DLC should you wish.  Ultimately Honest Hearts isn’t a game changer, but it does offer a solid amount of area to explore, a variety of encounters (although few different from the Mojave) and adds more background lore regarding Caesar and the Burning Man.

  • Level cap increase
  • New perks, items and recipes
  • New area that welcomes exploration
  • Not much challenge for high-end characters
  • Separated from usual companions again
  • Storyline is a little shallow

Compared to Dead Money I found this DLC infinitely more fun and much more on par with some of the previous Fallout 3 DLC. Whilst lacking in depth and difficulty, you can't ignore that it has brought back one of the main elements to a Fallout game: exploration. 800 Microsoft points seems a worthy trade for an average playtime of five hours and although, other than the background environment, there isn't anything new on offer in terms of gameplay, the extra perks, new weapons and additional story relating to the Burned Man are not to be sniffed at - especially for a second playthrough or someone still mid-adventure in the Mojave. I found my playthrough a leisurely one; almost a break from the punishing Mojave environment, but more importantly an enjoyable one. A definite step in the right direction and hope has been restored for the two already announced future DLC content packs.

Last five articles by Stu



  1. SimonJK says:

    Nice review. I enjoyed the DLC and it gave me a hand full of days worth of fun. Some nice new equipement to find and new armor to make at the camp fire. I loved the free form quest I found by visiting the caves. I suggest to people still compaining about the lack of difficulty that they simply access the option screen and actually turn up the difficulty setting.
    On a side note, I actually liked the Dead Money dlc as I play a stealth character, rarely running foul of the traps but loved the ‘Wedlock’ suspense behind it.

  2. Edward Edward says:

    Great review, Stu :D
    I have to get back into New Vegas soon, but considering the first DLC was such a failure to you I was hesitant on picking anything else up. However, looking at this I reckon I’ll give Honest Hearts a look when it’s half price or something; it looks worth a purchase, but the flaws keep it from being worth the full 800 points to me.

  3. Stu Stu says:

    @SimonJK – The problem with difficulty that I found wasn’t as simple as turning it up (although, of course, that would help obviously), the main problem was that for a top-end character the skillsets and weapons taken into the fray are still above that of the content and apart from a few points you’re rarely taking on more than a two or three things at a time. It’s hardly like walking into the Deathclaw nests. For a middling level character this makes the perfect outing for both the challenge and that the weapons gained there would help back in the Mojave. Sadly I ended up ditching most generic items as they simply took up space and didn’t stand up to other Mojave equipment. I did love the fact the plantlife, water and new recipes were geared towards the hardcore players that lived off the land.

    Granted each person plays differently, as a silver-tongued sniper with perks into AP, crits and the like it’s quite rare (coupled with a melee power-fist companion) that anything reaches me, and with the groups of enemies that could pose a problem not being too well armoured there wasn’t anything to properly cause me hassle as the DT wasn’t enough to stop the crits. I can see your point though, I could have forced myself to DLC only (or worse) weapons on the hardest difficulty had I wanted. The difficulty didn’t overly bother me but I thought it worth mentioning, I was more overjoyed at being able to explore a proper new area again without insta-death if I went off the beaten path!

    It sounds like you had the perfect Dead Money setup, I possibly had the worst and in fact ended up having to waste the level ups I gained there putting points into melee attacks…but swings and roundabouts I guess. =D

    @Ed Yeah in my opinion this was a complete turnaround on the previous DLC, not to be missed at half price! ;)

  4. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I want to play this. I loved all of the Fallout 3 DLC apart from Mothership Zeta… think I enjoyed Point Lookout the most but I even loved playing through Operation Anchorage when most people were finding it dull and pointless. The thing is… I played them all after the end-game lockdown had been lifted so I was able to just continue my game with everything intact and that’s what I’m hoping for with New Vegas. I’m not interested in any of the DLC until I can play from the point where I cleared up in the Legate’s camp.

    Dead Money didn’t impress me though… the synopsis bored me to tears actually, and I was hoping that Honest Hearts would be something decent and, from what I’ve read here, it is. I’m glad. I don’t want to write New Vegas off yet so once they think to lift the lockdown, I’m all over this.

    Brilliant Stu, thanks!

  5. SimonJK says:

    i’m afraid, according to interviews I’ve read with staff, there is no intension lifting the end-game. They say it would “detract from the moral choices made in the game”. I suppose if you take into account all the changes that happen after the end game and then continue your game to find none of them happen, (which would be a bit*h to program) they think it would ruin their IP afterall it’s an Obsidean game and not a Bethesda game. If I can find an actual link to the interview, I’ll try to PM it to you:)

  6. Lee says:

    Glad to hear things are looking up for New Vegas, I’ve still not completed the story – I dunno why I just never seem to feel in the mood for it. When I do finally get back into it though I’ll give this a go and dodge Blood Money I think.

  7. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    @Simon Oh bollocks :(

    I suppose I hadn’t really considered that they’d have to alter landscapes, progress factions etc and make such fundamental changes to the game! All I thought was “You had me kill this guy, I grabbed his awesome looking sword and helmet and now you’re telling me that I can’t actually shove any of it in my locker??” and that I’d have to go to a previous save where I hadn’t actually taken out Legate Lanius yet. What if I hadn’t saved at all before going in to the Legate’s camp? I normally have three saves – a current one, a previous one and the autosave but that’s it. I’m not even sure if any of them are outwith the point where I entered Legate’s camp, in which case I won’t be able to go back to a previous save. I’m going to have to check on that.

    Thanks for the PM by the way; really appreciate it! I’ll watch it tomorrow morning when my brain isn’t trying to escape through my lughole :D

  8. Jeremy says:

    First off you should try playing the original Fallout games since you could NOT play past the end game there. Fallout 3 is the ONLY one that lets you, and it was quite stupid. Each action you take changes the ending you get, unlike Fallout 3 where you had nothing but artificial choices. Fallout 3 is garbage. Fallout New Vegas is great as it feels like a true Fallout game. NV contains a lot of stuff that was to be in Van Buren (The cancelled Fallout 3, not the spin off fallout 3 that came in 2008 which butchered the BoS and brought back a faction that was destroyed a long time ago (Enclave) on the Poseidon Oil Rig.

    As for “and that I’d have to go to a previous save where I hadn’t actually taken out Legate Lanius yet. What if I hadn’t saved at all before going in to the Legate’s camp? I normally have three saves – a current one, a previous one and the autosave but that’s it. I’m not even sure if any of them are outwith the point where I entered Legate’s camp, in which case I won’t be able to go back to a previous save. I’m going to have to check on that.”

    The game TELLS you that if you continue past this certain point there is no going back, if you choose to say continue instead of no and going back and saving, that is your fault.

    Dead Money is pretty good actually, I don’t get the people complaining. It has a different feel to it, a more horror feel. It made you use stealth more. It’s much better than the first Fallout 3 DLC Operation Anchorage. Honest Hearts is better then Fallout 3′s The Pitt, keep it up and every DLC will surpass that trash game Fallout 3. Any true Fallout fan is a Fallout: NV fan.

  9. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Playing past the end of something that was touted as an “open world RPG” which had no less than five additional DLCs made available to it and playing past the end of a 14 year old top down game when DLC wasn’t an option and you weren’t expected to take your existing character forward are two entirely different things. Remember that this is all about opinion and your thinking that New Vegas is “great” is because of how much you enjoyed it yourself, rather than a cold hard fact. If you read my review on New Vegas, you’ll see that I was constantly reiterating how much better New Vegas was to Fallout 3 but, ultimately, the ending sucked for me… it just… ended! No huge battle after all that hard work – turn up in the camp, kill a couple of henchmen and take out Legate Lanius… then the compound doors swing open, you have a conversation and shoot the guy with one round. Over. I wanted a fight, something that would epitomise the struggle and make everything that had come before seem like chicken feed and not be over in a few minutes. Also, the last twenty hours of exploration where no new side quests opened up and left me wandering around doing absolutely nothing beyond killing geckos or deathclaws just left me cold – no interesting journals, no log entries, no hidden gems where you see an untold story unfold… just deserted locations or a few beasts to slay. I could have saved myself those twenty pointless hours and gone straight to the endgame, which would have made it a drastically shorter experience than the core Fallout 3.

    NOW, having finished it, I prefer Fallout 3 overall, but still prefer the story and dialogue in New Vegas. It may not be to your personal taste, but that doesn’t mean it’s garbage… it’s just garbage to you. I think so many people forget “opinion” when they come to a site to pass comment. Our word is not gospel, just as yours isn’t either. We have our own opinions, which is why some games appeal to some and others don’t. Your remark of “Any true Fallout fan is a Fallout: NV fan” screams of fanboyism and it lets down what was, until that point, a very reasoned argument. Sweeping statements such as those are ridiculous and it’s why so many forums end up with trolls – those who attempt to push their opinions on others with “You don’t like this but you call yourself a fan?” are just not accepting that we will, invariably, have our own choices as to what we do and do not like about a game and each of the facets within the franchise. I loved the dialogue and depth within New Vegas, but I hated that there was nothing to stumble upon outwith the easy-to-find side quests. Doesn’t make me wrong; just different from you.

    With regards to having saved beforehand… I DID actually come back and concede to Stu’s reasoning about how much the world would change, so you’ve quoted me on my previous response to get your point across when it had already been satisfied. Come on mate, I’ve not seen you post here before (or at least I haven’t noticed) so let’s not make the first comment an antagonistic one. You love the Fallout franchise, and I love it. Why make an enemy of someone just because they don’t like New Vegas as much as you and are therefore labelled not a “true fan” because of that? Why must it be like that? Why not just accept that my opinion differs from yours and that you like what you like for your own reasons, as I do myself.


  10. Stu Stu says:

    @Jeremy I get your horror feel from Dead Money and it did well to try and build up an atmosphere but that was constantly shattered for me mainly as I didn’t spec melee nor stealth so I felt forced down that play style which is so wrong (add in the invincible holograms, insta-death collars, ineffective Mojave ranged weapons with only the newly added holorifle being any use and ammo so limited it wasn’t worth exploring for more as you’d use the same amount up dispatching enemies). In my opinion the point of an RPG is that you choose how you want to play and Dead Money didn’t work for a number of character specs. My review of that is also on the site here if you wanted to check my thoughts and reasoning behind my distaste for it. For me Dead Money just didn’t give any fun or enjoyment whereas I enjoyed practically every moment of Honest Hearts. That said my opinion is in no way gospel, I always find it interesting to read opposing views as it helps to see angles I’d maybe not considered previously. :)

  11. SimonJK says:

    I must hold my hands up at this point and admit that even using a fairly deitylike (2nd playthough) stealth character, I did kinda cheat as I figured out that ‘Guns don’t kill Ghostpeople, the supermutant in walkingfront of me does!’ So, without risking any spoilers for those who haven’t invested a smallish amount of MSPs in getting Dead Money, I reckon you can figure out a tactic from that. The reason behind invincable holograms was the same as the insta death collars and that was discover the offswitch:) and being fair, you can play ‘peekaboo’ using opening and closing a door near a hologuard to net yourself an achvmt;)

  12. Adam Adam says:

    Thats a really interesting concept, having you leave equipment behind and ‘travel light’ as it were. I really like that. Shame that it didn’t really punish you for it though by upping the difficulty any to make it feel like a truly weighty decision.

    I know other people differ but typically, I’m a one trick pony in RPG’s. If I have a good weapon, I stick with it and rarely keep alternate stat enhancing outfits to suit other builds unless the game calls for it and supports it a la Two Worlds II. In Fallout 3 and what of NV I’ve played, once I found a good weapon, I switched to it without looking back (save for Oblivion where I kept the weapons I liked to display them in my home) and so only ever found myself carrying what I needed or wanted to sell.

    Cool review though Stu, maybe you’ll get me to go back and play some more NV :)

  13. Eats chips says:

    The burned man is Joshua Graham the legate before lanius or something

  14. Eats chips says:

    Anyways it is pretty good not as good as lonesome road but good

  15. Gomezz34 says:

    Why is everyone hating on Dead Money? I thought it was a very impressive DLC. The one thing I didn’t like was that I messed up and had Dog/God hate me, and the boring ending. Other than that, I found it to be very good. I just downloaded Honest Hearts and am looking forward to playing with it.

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