Hero X beckons gamers to don the costume of a customizable superhero and fight for isometric, click-driven justice through a less-than-serious plot. Though its subject matter might seem to hold special allure for the stereotypically geeky PC gamer, Hero X offers boring, point-and-click action with little motivation of story or character. Ostensibly the game is about superheroes, but there is nothing here that has anything to do with real comic books. Far beyond the obvious lack of a big-name Marvel or DC license, there's no feeling of "good vs. evil," or "prevailing against great odds," or any sort of "superheroism" at all. Hero X has no sense of any of the things that make real comics appealing.
It might be abrupt to assume that Hero X was developed and released quickly in order to capitalize on the publicity of Irrational Games' truly excellent superhero game, Freedom Force. There is support for such an accusation, however, at least to the extent that Hero X feels very rushed-to-market. From the start, the game shows a complete lack of polish. The static comic pages that introduce the game's story look like rough drafts, with sketchy ink lines and washed-out water coloring. Though functional, the game's front-end interface is bare-bones. The in-game text displays in a visually taxing font, as if blocky Game Boy-resolution letters have been over-inflated.
The game world is similarly under-realized. The hero is encouraged to speak to citizens and other NPCs, in order to get information, but such dialog quickly wears thin. Other characters simply recite their way through the same few, limited conversation trees. Their comments seldom change according to the game's story, or even in-mission events. The story itself may have some potential, but it's not told very well. There is no sense of time and place to hold it together.
The player begins the game as a new member of the "American Super Heroes Association," whose first assignment is to crack down on a recent crime wave in the "City of Smalltown." The tongue-in-cheek superhero premise flatters the Superhero League of Hoboken, a farcical adventure considered by some to be the only good PC superhero game of the 1990s. Yet Hero X lacks the character and pizzazz of that earlier title. The overall presentation is done so poorly, it's difficult to know when the game is trying to be funny and when it's not. Players aren't left chuckling; only confused. Hero X feels so thrown-together, it's hard to know how to take it on any level.
So the best advice is to leave it. There are many other click-action role-playing games that are far better than Hero X -- casual gamers should try Diablo II, or something by BioWare to understand how this style is supposed to be done. For those who seek a little humor, there's a wide selection of clever point-and-click adventures available, such as LucasArts' Monkey Island games. Perhaps there are only a few other PC games that are about superheroes, but those few are infinitely superior to this one. Everything that Hero X has to offer has been better done in earlier games. There is no real hero here.
Graphics: Graphics are decent, but plastic. The City of Smalltown feels pre-fab; like adventuring through one of your Sims neighborhoods, only nothing's interactive.
Sound: Sound effects are sterile but the background music is pretty good (when it actually plays), with bass-heavy MIDI jazz that sounds like a 1960s spy movie.
Enjoyment: Hero X feels churned-out; uninspired and under a deadline. The box says it's about superheroes, but it's not really about much of anything at all.
Replay Value: No thanks.
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Heretic Kingdoms: The Inquisition, Hard Truck: Apocalypse, Hazard, Hammer & Sickle, Harvest Moon: Back To Nature, Heroes of Annihilated Empires, Gangland, Marvel Ultimate Alliance
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