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Written by  :  Kaddy B. (796)
Written on  :  Oct 01, 2009
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars

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(Review from 1995) Hexen is more than just a "Doom Clone" and is worth trying.

The Good

*Note: This is a review I wrote in 1995 for my High School newsletter, so don't go "wtf?" when I say things like "Best graphics" and whatnot*

Released earlier this month, "Hexen" comes from Raven software and is a sequel to their previous effort, "Heretic." Heretic, while by no means a bad game, has the dubious honor of being called a "Doom clone" for mirroring the gameplay of Doom and merely swapping out the levels, weapons, and monsters. So it may come as a shock that Hexen, is NOT a Doom Clone. While you will still plow through monsters and mazes running on a spruced up Doom engine, various gameplay changes make Hexen unique.

The first thing you will notice enter Hexen are the stunning visuals. Like in Heretic, Raven has reduced the level of pixelation in the graphics, meaning the enemies and objects retain clarity no matter how close up you are, and seeing as there is a greater focus on melee weapons in this game, especially for the fighter class and his mighty hammer, you are going to get up close and personal quite a bit with the nasties in this one. The audio is good, though I don't think the music will wow anyone. Rather than midi rock tunes, the music is more ambient and slow toned but it does lend a creepy feeling to the games bizarre landscape, as do many sounds such as leaves in the wind, creaking doors, dirt crumbling from rocky crags, etc. it all does a great job establishing a mood. The baddies sound as nasty as they look, and nothing beats smashing them about with a hammer as there are many appropriate thuds and of course bones cracking and wet splashes indicating you've successfully removed your foes brain.

The levels progress in a weird way, the game uses a "hub," an area you will often return to and contains the entrance to each level. You will often return to levels, running about from place to place finding switches and puzzles that unlock more areas inside each level, as well as unlocking other levels completely. Eventually you will unlock a boss, and the game will automatically send you to a new hub, essentially an automated way of picking the next episode. Hexen advances the Doom engine so that you can now fly with the appropriate power up, and just like in Heretic you can look all around and jump, meaning there are many more platform puzzles and high places. If you have vertigo, you might find Hexen a little frightening at time.

The Bad

Despite all the praise I've given the game for its technical prowess and unique gameplay elements, Hexen isn't without flaws. Some may not appreciate the switch hunting and often confusing design, it can also be said that many may not like the random death traps that rarely give any indication or forewarning of their existence. Sometimes monotony can set in from returning to levels and being faced with the fact that you've already killed most of the baddies, and the game isn't always so kind as to give you new ones, making levels seem empty at times. The puzzles can be fun, but they seem out of place in a game like this.

The Bottom Line

Hexen isn't perfect, it certainly won't replace Doom, but it's not trying to. Hexen feels like an experiment, and on many levels, it works. If you're a fan of Doom or it's "clones," but are looking for something different while you wait for IDs next project, "Quake," Hexen might appeal to you. A 3-level shareware demo can be acquired from a BBS if you have a modem, or you can always track me down and ask for a copy. The full game can be bought in a retail store or ordered. Just remember to keep it off the school computers.