When I found out that the creators of Dead Secret were releasing a second VR game, my mind started racing. Would we get to explore a different type of crime scene this time? Maybe a dark alleyway or a seedy night club? What if we got to stage a crime scene after committing the murder ourselves? That would be a tantalizing flipping of the script.
Much to my surprise, what we got wasn’t related in any way whatsoever to Dead Secret or that entire genre at all. Instead, HEX: Heavy Encounter EXOsuit is a light-hearted shooter for the Gear VR that can be played either with or without a gamepad. It’s about as far removed from the type of slow-paced, investigative adventure game that was Dead Secret as you can possibly get. Also, not to be confused with Hex, a Gear VR puzzle game.
HEX features an accessible control scheme that makes it easy to jump in and play for a few minutes without having to memorize any complex systems. Everything is controlled by turning your head or tapping the touchpad — a swivel chair is highly recommended for this game. You’ll spend a lot of time spinning in circles trying to take out the waves of robotic enemies. Moments like these make me wish there was a way to more easily track where enemies were coming from, as the chaos makes it easy to feel overwhelmed.
All you have to do is target an enemy by looking at them and tap the touchpad to fire. Holding it down charges up the shot and passing the cursor over multiple enemies — while charging — lets you lock onto several at a time. Releasing the touchpad fires off a split shot that hits all of your targets.
As you progress through the levels, a surprising amount of variety is afforded. Sometimes you’re simply on lookout for enemies to fly by so that you can wipe them out and move onto the next area, whereas other times you must activate switches and solve simple puzzles to progress.
Each area is loaded with destructible objects that bolster your score and also contain special items, such as health packs, health upgrade boosts, and improvements for your aiming. There’s enough to keep you busy, certainly, even if it all starts to feel a bit repetitive after a while.
Difficulty is another delicate topic for games because, naturally, it’s entirely subjective. I’m terrible at racing simulators, so they’re incredibly hard for me, but I know a lot of people can easily hop behind the wheel and drift around corners. I’m missing that gene in my DNA. In the case of HEX however, some of the parts that make it difficult feel a bit artificial.
For example, because this is a VR game, the world surrounds you. But enemies seem to have a habit of suddenly spawning wherever you aren’t looking and they sometimes just rain lasers down ontop of you making it easy to quickly die before you even know what’s happening. That can be extremely frustrating, especially on later levels.
Some enemies just march onto screen in a line, similar to those you’d find in the classic arcade game Galaga, whereas others dart around the level quickly. It will keep you on your toes, but I found charging a shot and just firing on multiple enemies at once before recharging to shoot again was the best tactic.
The great thing about the Gear VR is that the controls for most games like this are super simple, but that also means they lack precision. For example in HEX, the same command (holding the touchpad) is used for charging your shot and also for activating teleport nodes and some gate levers. That means if I charged up my shot and then accidentally pass my targeting cursor over a teleportation node, it would cancel the charge and start loading the teleportation. That became extremely frustrating when a lot of enemies were on screen.
Boss battles were a nice change of pace, requiring you to deftly navigate large areas to dodge attacks and set up your returning fire, but in other cases they felt even more chaotic than the standard levels. Ultimately, HEX feels like a game that would have benefitted from a bit more depth or at least more freedom of movement.
HEX is a simple game with a relatively admirable selection of levels. The gameplay is easy to pick up and has enough diversity to keep you guessing until the end. With a few collectibles and ratings on each stage, there is a good amount of replayability. However, the limited interface, uninspired mechanics, and sheer simplicity limit this from being much more than a momentary distraction. It’s far from bad, but also not that fantastic.
HEX: Heavy Encounter EXOsuit is now available for the Samsung Gear VR for $2.99.
Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.