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SummaryA descent Medieval shooter that just tries to be too many games at once
The GoodAlthough two years have gone past since the release of Doom, Hexen doesn't look old for 1995, and in fact, does add something new that hasn't been possible before - this is in fact the ability to jump. Therefore like Heretic, Hexen drives the Doom engine forward 1 big step. I would also like to note that weapons look more detailed than in Heretic and Doom, but that's pretty much it. The levels, monsters and other items don't stand out with art beauty in Hexen.
The sound in Hexen does what it is supposed to, and that is building a quite creepy atmosphere. Hostile growls of monsters, creepy and fitting music combined with other game sound effects makes Hexen probably the scariest game ever released with the Doom engine (although, calling it a scary game by itself isn't quite correct, to be honest). Although like in Heretic, the composers were able to write a couple of memorable tunes in the game, most soundtracks are in fact so quiet that you might not even notice them, what's to say about memorising them after...
As for the gameplay, this is what makes Hexen the most unique - for the first time in a Doom engined shooter we are able to pick up from 3 different characters to complete the single player campaign, each having unique weapons and a unique storyline (which doesn't really change anything) and we can also play as these guys in deathmatch and co-op! Like in Heretic, we still have the inventory, where we can collect usable items. These items can heal us, make us stronger or can be used as a separate weapon against the enemies. Unlike in Heretic, this time if you for example have 2 Porkalators and go to a next level, you will still have 2 Porkalators in there. In Heretic, you would always end up with 1 of each item, which is a good improvement in Hexen. The collectible items are quite interesting in Hexen, although some of them may seem completely new and not like those you've seen in Heretic, many of these are actually the same from Heretic, just remade and with a new name. Even some weapons bare a resemblance to the ones from Heretic, the same goes to the enemies in the game, however, yet again, there are some completely new foes which are nothing like those you've seen in Heretic or even in Doom.
A big change in Hexen's gameplay over Heretic's are the levels - in this case Hexen is more similar to Half Life, because like there, if you enter a new level, you can sometimes go back, which is a good way to pick up some health or ammo from the previous level if you really need it. But going from one level to the next and back is not just for that, but it is the key to solve a puzzle in one big central level of an... umm... we'll call them episodes :). Thus Hexen is a game made up off puzzles and mystery. Still, like in Doom and Heretic, you're gonna face lots of monsters so you won't get bored... or will you? Now let me talk about what really pissed me off of this game...
The BadFirst of all - the feel of the game. Almost every level has a dark theme and uses mostly these colours - black, grey and brown, thus building (or tries to build) a Medieval scenery. But the repetitive scenery only makes this game boring as hell. Sure, you will see different areas like forests, swamps, castles, graveyards and caves, but because all of them look almost the same, it's completely impossible to navigate through them and it's very easy to get lost.
Also, almost all "puzzles" involve themselves in searching for a stupid switch, hidden somewhere in the level, or a key that must open the door, which hides yet another switch behind it!
Another complaint is the monsters - not the fact that they are stupid, but the variety is so small. In Doom and Heretic there are about 10-15 different monsters you can see in a level. But in Hexen? Let's actually start counting, how many different types of monsters are there: 2 headed guys with morning stars, flying demons, serpents, centaurs, evil priests, plus some levels have exclusive ice monsters or swamp beasts... and that's it! So, the maximum amount of different monsters you can see in a level is about 5-7, with some episodes having a boss in the end, add to that the fact that your character has basically only 4 weapons (every new weapon can be found only in the next episode, which makes it even worse) makes running through some small, repetitive corridors in search of a stupid switch rather doll quickly. And by the fact that the game has 3 different characters, it is possible that it has some replay value? I doubt that.
The Bottom LineIt is unsure for whom was Hexen developed for. I can say as a Doom fan that it's definitely not for a fan of Doom, as it lacks all of the awesomeness Doom has. As for those whose first shooter that they played was Heretic, this sequel might be worth trying out if your deep into running around Medieval castles and searching for puzzles, but if you're more of a fan of action and killing huge amounts of monsters with different weapons, Hexen is not the game for you. It might be that the reason why Hexen is not a good game like Doom or Heretic is the fact that it was probably meant to be acceptable for fans of RPG as well, as it has many similarities to RPG games (Medieval scenery, different selectable characters, puzzles to solve in big levels), however, i doubt that even they can find it a good combination of the two genres.
Good or bad, Hexen is definitely not the sequel to Heretic which i wanted it to be, which is probably my biggest complaint about this game. It's hard to tell for what kind of gamer was Hexen made, i can say only one thing: if you've never played FPS-s before, make sure Hexen is not your first FPS game. Better start out with games like Doom and Heretic.