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Publisher: MacPlay    Genre: Action
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: 601 @ 233 MHz    RAM: 64 MB    Hard Disk: 180 MB

HeXen II
November 21, 2002 | Richard Hallas

Click to enlarge

Playing along
So much for the game's features; how does it actually play?

Very well, once you've adjusted yourself to the unspectacular graphics. Hexen II was actually the first game after Quake to use the Quake 1 engine (and it's a much more colourful and attractive game than Quake). Therefore it's actually a genuine 3D game, whereas its two predecessors, the Doom engine-based Heretic and Hexen, were in the so-called '2.5D' mould.

As it uses this early polygon-based engine, the graphics do suffer somewhat. Actually, they're really quite good in some of the locations, but initial impressions of the game are not favourable because you start off in a bland courtyard which is populated by a couple of inflated lollipops that are supposed to represent trees.

I've always been of the opinion that the early polygon-based games were actually at a graphical disadvantage compared with the more accomplished sprite-based games that preceded them. Those of us who cut our 3D teeth on the Marathon series are well aware that you can create some very graphically rich environments with a sprite-based engine, and Marathon also had the benefit of some truly exceptional level design in genuine 3D (at a time when rival PC games were stuck with Doom's 2.5D maps).

Quake and its early polygon-based successors may have introduced genuine 3D models and better animation, but they also lost the kind of rich detail that was possible in the best of the sprite-based games. So, my feeling is actually that Hexen II looks visually less exciting than the original sprite-based Hexen, though other players may disagree. However, the original Hexen (which I liked a lot) had a kind of brooding malice in its environments, and that's not really evident in Hexen II, which seems somehow flatter.

Having said that, some of the polygonal enemies are actually very successful. If, like me, you're less than fond of spiders, you'd better brace yourself when playing Hexen II, because it's full of big, horrid spiders that leap high into the air and land on you. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that they made my skin crawl, but they did. The other foes may not be enormously detailed (and can be a little hard to identify at a distance), but it has to be said that they're all extremely well animated.

Within any individual world or continent, though, Hexen II's levels have the disadvantage of looking pretty similar. I was a great fan of Marathon's twisting, angled corridors, and the original Hexen also made good use of space. Whilst Hexen II shouldn't be technically worse off than any earlier games, it does have an unfortunate tendency to suffer from a lot of repetitive areas. All corridors seem to turn at right-angles, and many of the rooms and other areas can look much the same. This isn't initially too much of a drawback, but when you've progressed quite a way through one of the worlds, and are chasing around between levels, trying to find a switch in one area to open a door in another, say, then it's easy to get lost. It may be worth sketching your own map, because unfortunately the game provides no mapping facility.

That's not a huge criticism, and in various places Hexen II's levels look quite spectacular. One of the more interesting aspects of the game is its fragile scenery: you can smash up quite a lot of the objects you come across in order to reveal hidden items or access secret areas, and there are also occasional movable walls, or walls which appear solid, but are not.

This can sometimes cause frustration. For one thing, if you break every object in sight, the level then looks featureless and dull and it's harder to find your way around again because half the landmarks have been obliterated! On the other hand, if you don't break things up, you're likely to miss important discoveries that are essential to progress through the game. In the end, I think it's fair to say that Hexen II suffers a little too much from the constant need to run around between areas in an effort to find the necessary items to get past an obstacle. The hub system is a nice idea, but it does result in a huge 'continent-sized' map which spans several related levels and is hard to remember.


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