As an aside, I love it when I'm playing a computer/console RPG and I end up totally outflanking the plotline via an open world and my own curiosity. Kill the bad guy? I already iced the bastard when I found a sinister castle in the woods and slew him an account of his sinister vibes and possible treasure.
That's not going to happen in a "contemporary" adventure. You won't need to load up the pack mules with food, water and blank hex-parchments in order to find the Lost Temple of the Toad-Wizard, you just need to pass a skill challenge.
One of my favorites aspects of old adventure fiction is the "expedition" aspect. The equipment inventory in Journey to the Center of the Earth. The survival plans of a band of castaway shipwreck survivors. The battle with a hostile alien wilderness in The Walls of Eryx. The man versus mountain battle to the summit of Stardock.
It makes the Boy Scout in my blood howl for adventure. It makes me want to load a backpack with rope, rations, canteens, maps and tools and strike out into the forests seeking ruins.
Oldschool wilderness adventuring was a gamble. You hope you find something worthwhile before nature and wandering monsters takes too dear a toll. You seek out rumors, maps and guides if you're smart. But even then it's not a sure thing. You could always get hopelessly lost and stumble into the lair of an ancient red dragon.
And I'm fine with that, a reward is worthless without risk.
I was not happy when "the hobby" started ditching hexmaps. Sure "real maps" are prettier and "more realistic." But I don't need to be fucking around with a ruler and a map to calculate how far the party travels in a day.
Hexmaps are excellent. They abstract distance and terrain into manageable chunks without breaking the illusion. And they facilitate capital-A Adventure. Those hexes beg to be filled with ruins, lairs and general strangeness. They encourage the DM to place awesome eastern egss in random corners of the wilderness. They allow the party the freedom to do what they want instead of helping the DM with a story.
Another computer/console games aside, I can't play video games that aren't "open world." Bioshock is beautiful and fun, but I throw up in my mouth when confronted with the railroad. I'm a free man goddammit, I seek adventure on my own damn terms. And the open world makes me want to explore.
Hexmaps were thrown out by the industry in order to facilitate the "fantasy pornography" of artistic, beautiful maps. Maps that serve as a mere backdrop for the adventure instead of being a crucial part of adventure. Or even the adventure itself.
Hexmaps were thrown away as they were rendered useless by the setpiece railroads. Entitled heroes with a destiny to save the world shouldn't waste their time getting lost in the swamp and contacting malaria. Or die of dehydration in the desert.