Hexen: Beyond Heretic
Hexen is an excellent shooter that's just not for everyone.
Feb 02, 2004
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Hexen begins it long list of innovations by introducing the character to 3 player classes, each drastically different, that they can play. Each class responds differently to enemy projectiles, has a different set of 4 weapons, and use subweapons called flechettes in different ways. Even for a game created in 1995, the graphics are convincing. Though playing the game in DOS is probably not an option for most players, Hexen lives on today mostly through several high quality sourceports/graphical enhancements, namely involving the Doomsday engine. The first thing you'll notice about Hexen is that the environment rocks. Few things are more pleasing than pulling out your big spiked gauntlet and smashing through a stained glass window - except perhaps pounding it through the skull of some of Hexen's more obnoxious beasts. Playing through Hexen is downright challenging. Modern gamers will want to play the game on the maximum difficulty setting to adjust for their ability to use mouselook. Despite only having 4 weapons per character, Hexen involves a good amount of strategy in choosing which weapons for which battle and how to best conserve ammo for them. Especially pleasing about Hexen are some of the more frightening monsters. Once you get to the second hub, you'll be wary to step in water, and for good reason. In that sludge water are some of the nastiest villains to grace a computer screen, Stalkers. You probably have nerves of steel if these suckers don't make you jump out of your chair at least once. Other creative entries into the (limited) bestiary are Centaurs, which are perhaps my favorite FPS baddie to date. Centaurs are pretty much just bad guys with swords. The catch is, they also have a shield that can block your melee attacks and reflect your ranged attacks right back at you! Hexen's network play is quite fun in cooperative. If you can find a friend with voice comm, then you'll really have a blast. Sometimes, putting two heads together is the most satisfying way to finish some of Hexen's "remember that switch 10 levels back) puzzles.
The monster variety in Hexen is small. As you slowly chip away at Hexen you'll be fighting most of the same enemies over and over again. The first encounters with a new monster are generally interesting and fun, however, fighting their rehashed comrade for the 1000th may be entertaining, but it certainly isn't fresh. The puzzles in Hexen generally serve more to tick off the player than reward them for careful thought. Most people will want to bring a strategy guide into the mix. Those that don't should keep very, very careful progress of their map if they don't want to spend hours (yes, that's right, hours) hunting the one hidden switch that got away. Unless romping through empty hallways looking for switches is your favorite thing in the world, you're undoubtedly going to find some frustrating points in Hexen. The size of the game, oddly enough, doesn't work to it's advantage. I would guesstimate that 1 out of every 50 gamers who buy Hexen will actually manage to finish it - the fact is, Hexen is just too darned long for how tedious and repetitive it can become. Multiplayer matches are also very difficult to set up, even with the new source ports. The only way a friend and myself could set up a multiplayer match was through ZDoom and Doom Connector.
The Bottom Line
Hexen is comparable to Halo in terms of play. You move around with a limited arsenal in repetitive environments fighting the same old bad guys over and over - some people love the core gameplay so much that they'd give their souls for another hour of Halo. Some hate it. Download the demo of Hexen, and if you manage to want more after you finish it, treat yourself to the full version. If the demo doesn't suit your fancy, you won't find anything else for you in the full version.
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