It’s been such a long time since I’ve played an FPS that requires you to strafe. Now-a-days most shooters have you ducking in and out of cover. Those days of running-faster-sideways-than-you-could-move-forward are apparently long behind us. Hard Reset is developer Flying Wild Hog’s attempt at scratching the itch felt by fans of that now-niche style of FPS.
Hard Reset is set in the future? Where you…. Kill stuff. Truth be told I found it difficult to hold any aspect of this story in my head for any length of time. The plot is laid out between levels as a series of comic book panels which do not fit the look or feel of the game as a whole. The game seems unabashedly untroubled by this, as if it is itself impatient. Click skip and shoot stuff it whispers. Players will find that the story travels in simple vagaries and when its path does cross their wavering attention only simple distilled facts are absorbed. There has been back stabbing shenanigans, now kill things. Classically this style of shooter has never cared much for story, preferring instead to load you up with murder implements and set you on a path of destruction.
After navigating a 3d animated interface and then sitting through a comic book style introduction you will be forgiven for feeling a little confused when a surprisingly robust 3d engine welcomes you when the game proper begins. The graphics engine is nice to look at; not as detailed with minutiae as the likes of Battlefield 3 and Crysis, but certainly pleasant. Importantly the engine remains fluid and responsive despite quantity of enemies thrown at you and the volume of effects frazzling the screen.
Hard Reset comes with a surprisingly robust weapon set. What could have been a tired roster of weapons that simply dealt either focused, spread or splash damage is instead unique and well designed. Each weapon offers you the obvious damage option and through the alternative fire a utility option. The mortar can fire a stasis field which greatly slows enemies that are caught within its influence, while the shotgun can fire energized pellets that stun enemies. To add further complexity weapons can be upgraded throughout the game via a tech tree which is a nice feature reminiscent of the more recent Bulletstorm.
The variety of weapons and upgrades on offer is very much welcomed. They serve as a distraction to the fact that both the enemies and environments become stale rather quickly. The foes you face are devoid of any character and most explode in a shower of sparks and metal as they pelt towards you. It is a struggle to even visualise what they look like. There are hordes of little robots and the big charging robots and the ones that shoot at me and… With the enemies lack of personality Hard Reset misses out on a trick that even the likes of Doom got right. There are no Cyberdaemons or Cacodaemons; nothing that invokes a fear and gut response of “I need to get the hell away from that guy”. As a result they lack personality and impact.
The environments fall into the same pitfall as they lack variation and quickly becoming stale. As you might expect the levels are littered with explosive barrels and electronic devices that will send out arcs of electricity when shot. Leading the mindless hordes into these combustibles is the fastest way of clearing each wave of enemies. However you will feel this getting old before the game comes to a close.
As you might guess Hard Reset’s game play embraces those FPS tropes of yesteryear, preferring strafing over cover systems and med packs over regenerating health. Hidden areas are secreted away behind destructible geometry and concealed paths invite you to search every nook and cranny. There is a simple pleasure to be had by any completist playing this game as once each level has finished it mischievously informs you that yes you did find five hidden rooms but there were eight in total. There is an undeniable urge to return to the level in search of those remaining three areas to get that warm completionist fix.
It is a good thing that the game does urge you into replaying its content as it’s extremely short. The game can be powered through in several short hours and its sudden end will likely leave a fair few gamers upset. What is important though is whether those hours delivered are enjoyable and worth the money spent and time invested. In that matter I can only speak for myself and offer up advise on anyone thinking of buying Hard Reset. If you enjoyed titles such as Painkiller and Serious Sam and long for a quick and dirty shooter like those you played once upon a time then Hard Reset can offer you that. However if you believe games like Halo and Call of Duty have changed the FPS games for the better and you look back on those old titles with a measure of confused mirth and apathy then Hard Reset is best avoided. I found a nostalgic joy in returning to the era of my misspent youth to flex those spatial awareness muscles. So deduct a point if you are not that person.
7 malformed robots out of 10