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While I was pin-balling around some ideas in my head to get down on virtual paper for Fallout New Vegas: Honest Hearts, my mind went to some interesting places. I found I wasn’t thinking about the usual considerations that playing through a Fallout expansion brings. Where my thoughts usually turn to discussing things like the new variance of weapons and enemies, or even the new environments, this time around it was none of those things. To be sure, there is plenty of “new”; you get all the things I mentioned in simple passing but with a bevy of surprisingly heavy philosophical conversation. The is the place my mind goes when I think about Honest Hearts.There’s difficulty in trying to explain what makes the downloadable content so good in terms of storytelling without giving the entire thing away. Thankfully the enjoyment of the pack comes from the storytelling itself, not the story.
While you willingly take part of an expedition into the new unexplored territory, it soon turns from expedition into ambush. Once the smoke clears, you’re the only remaining survivor and are soon approached by a local Tribal. Without too much in the way of explanations you two are quickly joining forces and running amok in the vast Utah expanse. But after you’re done screwing around and you actually try to sort out what’s happening, you meet The Burned Man. The Burned Man isn’t the giant wicker effigy they burn in the desert while listening to electro, instead he’s a former Legate of the Ceaser’s Legion who was covered in pitch, lit on fire, and thrown into the Grand Canyon. Damn.
You quickly sort out that his name is Joshua, and he needs a little hand with a local problem. It’s a familiar setup and premise for Fallout, but familiarity doesn’t breed contempt here. Instead the motives, and logic behind the conflict drives the content along. Joshua and his people believe that Zion is the promised land for them, and that God’s plan is for them to remain there and live peacefully. He also thinks that as long as the opposing Tribe known as the White Legs remain in the area, this will not be possible. He sees no other option than going to war. His sentiment isn’t shared, and he is opposed by another respected man within their community, by the name of Daniel. Daniel thinks that instead of defending themselves, the New Canaanites should simply pack up and seek redemption elsewhere. He is a man of peace above all else.
For some spectacularly stupid reason, they now have entrusted you to make that choice for them. I chose to fight, simply because I love blowing people up in Fallout. But the choice I made was much more significant than that. I was defending people who simply wanted the right to believe what they wanted without persecution. The stark realization came to me days later, that our beliefs, and experiences on this earth as people are so profoundly influenced by the things that happen to us at the hands of others. Or even as a result of others. Or even worse, we abdicated the responsibility of questioning belief because of these things. Honest Hearts doesn’t provide you with any easy way out of asking yourself those things aside from going apeshit and simply slaughtering everyone, but you’ll destroy most of the exp earning quest chains by being so stupid.
Instead Honest Hearts does it’s best to get your head as involved in the narrative as possible to add gravitas to the choices you make while in it. And it pretty much forces you into making those choices. It asks you to inspect your idea of God, fate, and second chances. It puts you in the role of religious dispute arbitration consultant, and expects you to make a well thought out decision that will impact these people for the rest of their lives. Or at the very least to briefly consider the possibilities long enough to have a new thought in your head about the very subject. It’s not everyday that as a videogame character you embody the proof of God’s grace, and God’s existence for a man falling short, but in the same stroke become the reason that a pillar of faith and virtue has his belief shaken to his core. For this alone it is an experience that should be mandatory.
Fallout New Vegas is available now for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360
It was devloped by Obsidian Entertainment, and published by Bethesda Softworks
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