Over the past couple of years since the release of Tombraider, the game market has been crowded with 3rd person trash. Due to the overwhelming popularity of Tombraider, the 3rd person camera angle has been blatantly exploited by developers with no talent who are all well known for skimping out on gameplay and going for beautiful babes in tank tops. Deviating from the normal first person clone, Raven Software opted to use a 3rd person camera angle that suits the game perfectly. Heretic 2 is by far is one of the best 3rd Person games I have played this year. The Gamplay is far superior to Tombraider and also has a deeper atmosphere where you actually find yourself engulfed in the story.
You assume the role of Corvus, slayer of the Serpent Riders. After a long post-heretic vacation you are back once again to save the citizens who are up against a magical force. Upon beginning the game in your home town of Silverspring, you notice something is wrong with your people. They seem to be dying rather quickly and even turning into bloodthirsty monsters. To get a solution you head towards Andoria to receive a cure from a healer. After three hours of gameplay just to reach Andoria you learn the story only begins here...
Graphically this game is so intense it is almost hard to believe. When I first adapted to the controls and I looked around a village I thought, "My god this is beautiful". I have never felt so completely absorbed in a game before. As I peered around I noticed glowing lanterns, intricate stained-glass windows, and realistic wooden pillars. The general feel of the game is somewhat dreary, none the less it's mystical. To drive this beast I used my 3dfx-voodoo1 board with 4 megs of ram and noticed absolutely no slowdown. Having just a P2 233mhz system I am usually confined to run games in low or medium resolution modes, however I was able to run Heretic 2 in all of its glory creating quite the visual experience. After all this praise I do have one complaint and that is the character animation. They are somewhat of a let down considering Corvus's ear is nothing more than a single polygon with a skin tone texture on it. The monster animation could use some work as well; rats with jagged polygons for skin is just unacceptable.
In most cases the control of Heretic 2 is well done, however there are a few problems. One problem constantly plagued me, mostly in multi-player. For no reason I seemed to be doing back flips before I could run forward. As I tinkered with the options I could find no explanation to this and became quite frustrated to say the least. All of the standard keys are present like strafe left and right along with flipping and rolling maneuvers. Being an avid Quake 2 player, I was a bit skeptical of how well I could adapt to Heretic 2's style of gameplay. Controlling Corvus is quite easy actually and completely deviates from the typical Tombraider style of control. The word perfection basically describes the sound effects in Heretic2. As I ran around the village killing zombies, cries of women and babies echoed in the background, church bells clanged, and wind-chimes clanged together in the wind. Moreover, spell and weapon sound effects are superb. The actual sound of your staff ripping through flesh is so realistic it's scary.
The basic concept of the game is to use your spells and weapons to destroy everything in your path. Luckily there are also puzzles that require the use of your brain. As you follow the story you are given certain goals, such as reaching Andoria via the Darkmire swamp, which proves to be a perilous adventure. Another example would be the retrieval of a crystal and earthblood to concoct a cure for the deadly plague sweeping across your world. Weapons are divided into three categories: offensive mana consuming, defensive mana consuming, and conventional weapons such as bows. As an added boost, one can consume defensive mana in exchange for a temporary power boost, much like the quad damage in Quake 2. Offensive spells range from a typical fireball to a devastating wall of fire. My personal favorite magical weapon is a spell called iron flail which shoots deadly iron balls in all directions. Power-ups mainly consist of small and large sizes or combined health vials, much like the ones in the original Heretic. The 3rd person camera view proves as a valuable asset in Heretic 2 because much of the environment cannot be appreciated without it. One of the most noticeable features I found in Heretic 2 is the intricate level design. I really felt as though I was in a medieval fantasy town overrun by a dark magical force. The AI is your average AI: after being wounded the monsters will run away and find help. The fun factor relates directly to your style of gaming. Heretic 2 is not a mindless kill fiesta like Quake 2. Rather than just kill everything you must use your mind and open doors via hidden switches or navigate your way through mazes. At several points I became completely stuck as to where to go or what to do and required some kind of outside assistance to find what I should be doing.
Multiplayer supports TCP/IP and LAN connections and does a decent job with both. For the most part lag was minimal, except when I would use deadly spells as flamewall with a tome of power, creating unbearable lag. Although I did experience some lag, the fun and excitement of Heretic 2 DM cannot compete with the non-stop "real life" action of Half Life. One of the coolest features of Heretic 2 DM is the power of your initial weapon, the staff. Instead of running around just using projectile weapons, I opted to use my staff most of the time, brutally destroying my opponents in one hit. Another added twist to DM is the use of shrines which range from staff power-ups to complete mana refills.
After being completely let down by Hexen 2 I wasn't expecting that much out of Heretic 2. Thank god I was wrong because Heretic 2 is one of the most amazing games that I have ever played. Every aspect of the game has been attended to and nothing has been left out. Another good feature I noticed was the lack of bugs, which such releases like Sin have been plagued with. It's good to see that Raven actually took the time to put out a fairly bug free product. I recommend Heretic 2 to anyone who enjoys Quake or even Tombraider, you will not regret picking this title up.
I remember my first time playing Heretic. It combined the AWESOME Doom engine with a dark, medieval, and gothic feel that made it one of my favorite first person shooters. This was not the sequel that I expected to come out from Raven. The games I've played by them have usually been first person shooters and usually used the latest and greatest ID Software game engine. Heretic 2 was a shocker for me when I heard it would be 3rd person and in fact I wasn't sure they would be able to pull it off. The first thing I though of when I heard "3rd person" was Tomb Raider and I've never really liked that series. I must say Raven has done a superior job of mixing the 3rd person aspect with the graphics and gothic feel I've come to expect from them. After all they do say, "ID Software writes the engines, Raven makes the games".
Graphics: Heretic 2 supports D3D, OpenGL, and 3DFXGL. I played this game in 800x600 with my 12MB Voodoo 2 and the graphics were amazing. They had a crisp feel that was missing from other games using the Quake 2 engine. The effects used in this game showed really nicely and they did an excellent job of making the 3rd person view work. Even in software mode the game was decent looking, but of course a 3D accelerator yields a much more distinguished look.
Sound: Heretic 2's sound effects are quite nice. Lots of the weapons provide very unique sound, which is always helpful in multi-player. Useful environment effects are provided such as footsteps and breathing, helping you tell who or what may be around the next corner. Heretic 2 provides 'High' and 'Low' quality sound settings, however, when I set it to 'High' I experienced a lot of sound clipping so I was forced to use 'Low' quality.
Gameplay: As I previously stated the 3rd person gameplay was extremely well put together. The camera angles were almost always on key and clipping problems seemed to be non-existent. There were also in-game cut-scenes that added to the story line. You play as Corvus (the hero from the last Heretic) and you have to save your town from an evil disease. As Corvus you go through many different environments from inside dungeons to the bottom of sewers to out in the middle of desert canyons. I had a lot of fun with this game even though it wasn't all that challenging.
Fun Factor: It's another hit title from Raven so of course it's going to be fun. Who couldn't have fun running around blasting zombies with mystical weapons and magical spells? This game lasted pretty long and kept my attention. I'm not sure if I completely agree with their move to 3rd person, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.
Multiplayer: Multi-player for a shoot 'um game is an obvious plus and I loved playing this game over both the internet and LAN. Even on my 56K modem the lag wasn't that bad and the shrine power-ups in the game make it very interesting. A lot of the weapons are very original which adds to multi-player fun.
Overall Impression: Overall I think this game was a valiant effort on Raven's part. They took a big leap by moving to a 3rd person/1st person shooter hybrid and they pulled it off better than anyone else could. Basically, if you like Quake, Quake II, Heretic, or Hexen you'll love this game and its definitely worth the money.