Hard Reset Review
It seems like I’ve been playing shooters since they were invented. That’s mostly because I have. Today’s shooters are very different animals than those we cut our teeth on years ago. In many ways that’s a good thing. Still, I sometimes find myself wishing I could go back and play a game that uses today’s technology and yesterday’s gameplay.
Enter: Hard Reset. The first game from fledgling developer Flying Wild Hog, Hard Reset is a shooter that descends from games like Painkiller. This isn’t a surprise, as former members of Painkiller developer People Can Fly make up part of the Flying Wild Hog family.
Hard Reset drops you into a cyberpunk future as a CLN security officer of some type, defending against “the machines.” The story is presented in fully voiced, comic book style cutscenes, but it isn’t the most coherent thing ever. Fortunately, the story really doesn’t matter a bit. Why not? Well, mostly because Hard Reset is five or so hours of unadulterated fun.
The future is beautifully realized using Flying Wild Hog’s own engine (which they plan to use again). Fans of Blade Runner and even Deus Ex: Human Revolution will see some parallels to the worlds those experiences take place in. Lots of neon, lots of grit. Oh, and robots.
Unfortunately, the robots are your enemies, and they are apparently quite angry. They’re also quite well-designed for doing something about it. Throughout the game, you’re constantly besieged by hordes of robots of various different types. Some charge you, some stand back and shoot at you, and others try to get up close and saw you into little bits. All of them are persistent as hell. They’ll chase you through a level or around a corner, and you’ll find that once you’ve killed the last one, there’s almost a palpable sense of relief.
By now you’re probably wondering where the ‘old-school’ designation is coming from. Quite simply put, this shooter is missing a lot of things that today’s shooter players take for granted. There’s no cover system, no regenerating health and no reload button. Hell, there’s not even a crouch button! Just as in games like Unreal or Painkiller, your best defense is mobility and LOTS of shooting. You’ll also find lots of secrets hidden behind destructible walls, or off in remote spots in the world. Taking the time to find these is a definite help as you progress through the game.
Hard Reset hands you two weapons when the game begins. One is an energy-based plasma gun, the other is an assault rifle that fires standard bullets. These two weapons will see you through the entire game. Well, sort of. As you progress, you’ll earn NANO, both from kills and from picking up NANO containers. Earn enough NANO, and you’ll unlock an upgrade point. You can spend the upgrade points to modify your weapons. The plasma gun can also become a railgun, an electric mortar, or a lighting gun. Your assault rifle can become a shutgun, RPG or a grenade launcher. Upgrades are also available that unlock things like increased health, more ammo, and faster shield regeneration.
Overall, the weapons systems are very slick. The animations as the guns transform are very well done, and the upgrade system allows you to progress with whatever weapons you’re most interested in. The downside to it is that you have to learn a system of switching weapons that can be a little daunting. Unlike a lot of classic games, you can’t just scroll quickly through several weapons. There’s a slight delay before you can nudge the mousewheel again, and that can be enough to get you killed in certain situations. Learning the hotkeys for each weapon becomes vital later in the game.
The most impressive thing about Hard Reset is the way the game was released. We’re used to games being announced two years in advance, and seeing dribs and drabs of information about them from announcement to release. Hard Reset was announced in July, and hits Steam today. While this sort of schedule might not be right for every game, it’s something I’d like to see a lot of games try out.
All in all, Hard Reset embodies all the best mechanics of classic shooters like Painkiller while still showing off what modern graphics technology is capable of. It’s unforgiving, with even normal difficulty offering a solid test of your shooter skills. Best of all, it’s affordable, launching on Steam today with a $29.99 price tag.
Hard Reset is a game that any old-school shooter fan simply must play. It’s memorable, unique, and a hell of a lot of fun. It’s a game that you’ll play again just because you enjoyed it so damn much, and really, what’s wrong with that?
- Old-school aesthetic with modern graphics
- Challenging difficulty
- Cool weapons progression
- Fast-paced fun that you want to play again
- Weapon switching can be clunky
- Campaign can be finished in five hours or less