A few days before I wrote this review, I was looking around online for “Blade Runner“-themed levels for “Doom II”. Although I couldn’t really find one, I was reminded of a classic 1990s cyberpunk FPS game that I’d been meaning to play properly for some time. I am, of course, talking about version 1.2 of “Hacx: Twitch ‘N Kill”.
At the time of writing this review, I’m about three-quarters of the way through this game (since I’m stuck on one of the puzzles!), so this review will only reflect my impressions so far.
Although “Hacx” was originally a commercial add-on for “Doom II” released by Banjo Software in 1997, it was later re-released by Banjo as freeware in 2000. In 2010, several members of the “Doom II” modding community and possibly one of the original “Hacx” team, released an updated freeware IWAD version of the game that doesn’t require a copy of “Doom II”. However, you will also need to download a free open source “Doom Engine” source port in order to play it.
In other words, just download “ZDoom” (ignore what it says on the site about “ZDoom” requiring “Doom”, “Doom II” etc…, it will also work with just “Hacx”) and then copy the ‘HACX’ WAD file into your “ZDoom” directory. Once you’ve done this, just start ZDoom and a menu should come up. Select “Hacx” and start playing. It’s that simple.
Anyway, let’s take a look at “Hacx (1.2)”:
“Hacx 1.2” is a cyberpunk FPS game that contains 20 levels (plus a secret level), new weapons, new music, new monsters, new textures etc…
Since this game uses the “Doom” engine, it’ll be instantly familiar to anyone who has played the old “Doom” games, or possibly “Heretic” or “Hexen”. There are a few minor enhancements (eg: destructible objects) but, for the most part, this is just the good old “Doom” engine.
Like in the classic “Doom” games, jumping and vertical mouse-look are disabled by default in “Hacx 1.2” (and the old keyboard-only controls are default). Thanks to modern source ports like “ZDoom”, you can enable both of these things and change the control scheme to something a bit more modern if you want to.
However, I would only recommend enabling mouse-look and modern controls, since some puzzles in this game rely on the player not being able to jump. As such, the game might be considerably less challenging and/or fun if you enable jumping.
Since the download of “Hacx 1.2” doesn’t really come with a manual, I have no clue about the backstory behind this game. Although this game obviously has a story of some kind, I have no clue what it is. Even so, the story is relayed by the fact that you occasionally finish levels by entering an office-like room with a computer terminal and/or by finding various forms of transport.
In terms of the level design, it’s surprisingly good. Although some of the earlier levels can be visually monotonous, the design itself is well and truly up to standard. If you like your FPS games to contain non-linear levels that reward exploration, challenging puzzles and intense combat, then you’re going to love “Hacx 1.2”.
One interesting thing about “Hacx 1.2” is that it places much more emphasis on puzzle-solving than “Doom II” did. In other words, the gameplay can often be a lot closer to something like “Duke Nukem 3D” or “Hexen”, since you’ll often be searching for hidden switches and trying to work out what you’re supposed to do next.
Whilst most of these puzzles can be solved with careful exploration and logical thought, I’m completely stuck on one of the puzzles in level 15 (?)
In terms of visual design, although some of the levels I’ve played look a bit boring (eg: generic caves, generic buildings and “Quake”-style industrial areas), there are some interesting locations here too.
For example, you get to explore an old-fashioned Chinese village, you get to explore parts of a city and you get to break into (and out of) Alcatraz. Plus, since this is a cyberpunk game from the 1990s, expect to spend some time IN CYBERSPACE! :
As for the combat, it’s slightly more challenging than “Doom II”. The levels sometimes have a slightly higher monster count than in many of the earlier “Doom” games, and you don’t really start getting many of the decent weapons until a few levels into the game.
The new monsters are fairly well-designed, although they don’t really look quite as distinctive as the classic “Doom II” monsters do. In keeping with the cyberpunk theme, you’ll be fighting various robots and/or mutants.
Although some of the monsters are clearly just the old “Doom” monsters with new sprites (eg: the shotgun-firing robots), some of the monsters have new attacks and/or attributes, which helps to keep the gameplay unpredictable.
As for the weapons, they’re fairly similar to the classic “Doom” weapons, albeit with more of a futuristic look to them.
One interesting thing to note is that the pistol is a much better weapon than it was in “Doom”. Although it gobbles up two bullets per shot, it fires considerably faster than it did in “Doom” which actually makes it a vaguely useful weapon. The chainsaw has also been replaced with this awesome electric glove.
The super-shotgun and shotgun replacements look suitably futuristic, although they sound a bit underpowered. The chaingun has been replaced with a SMG, which fires a lot faster (so, only use it in short bursts) . The rocket launcher has been replaced … by a “torpedo” launcher.
The BFG has also been replaced with a small nuclear weapon of some kind. But, best of all, the plasma rifle has been replaced with something that looks a lot like the Jaffa staff weapons from “Stargate SG-1” !!!! 🙂
As for the music, it’s kind of a mixed bag. Some of it sounds slightly generic, some of it sounds quite catchy and – in the tradition of “Doom” – at least one or two of the songs were *ahem* heavily inspired by classic heavy metal music. Seriously, the background music in either the first or second level sounds a lot like “Exciter” by Judas Priest. Not that I’m complaining though 🙂
All in all, although this game isn’t quite as good as “Doom II”, it’s still pretty awesome. If you like your FPS games to be challenging things that actually make you think, or if you’re nostalgic for how much cooler the future seemed in the 1990s, then you can’t go wrong with “Hacx 1.2”.
Best of all, it can be legally downloaded and played for free right now (although, again, you’ll also need to download a free “Doom Engine” source port too). So, what are you waiting for? Give it a go!
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half.