(Originally posted on the defunct Blistered Thumbs community blog back in March 2012.)Hard Reset is truly a Frankenstein monster in every way. It’s story takes inspiration from Terminator, Blade Runner, Johnny Mnemonic, and The Big O. The game play takes inspiration from Quake II, Painkiller, Bulletstorm, and Bioshock. Musically it’s a hodgepodge of various forms of Electronica. Visually it feels like someone put TRON, Judge Dredd, Quake IV, Halo, and Doom 3 into a blender.
But is it a Pot Luck Stew you will truly enjoy?
PROS: Impressive effects. Satisfying gunplay involves environments. Interesting premise.
CONS: Short length. Story becomes hard to follow. Derivative at times.
WEIRD: The Swiss Army Knife-ness of your weapon.
Comprised of former members of People Can Fly, Flying Wild Hog Studios quietly rolled out Hard Reset to digital storefronts toward the end of last year. Set in a dystopian future, humans live in a closed off city called Bezoar. Much of the rest of the world is overrun by sentient robot armies who wish to exterminate the last remaining human resistance. The heart of Bezoar holds a place called “The Sanctuary” where the consciousness of many human souls lie interconnected. The machines wish to take down the Sanctuary, and so Major Fletcher heads into battle against the machines to save humankind. Along the way he is contacted by Professor Novak, who is revealed to have created the cybernetic technology in Fletcher’s nanosuit. It is also revealed that Novak created the technology the machines used to nearly wipe out human kind.
The story is told in between levels through narrated comic book panels. There is also some in-game exposition, but it’s mostly the comic book panels you’ll want to follow. The game doesn’t always lend itself well to understanding the story. This is because there are a lot of references to characters or events that are never shown or explained leading to a lot of confusion. Some of the in-game exposition helps, but you’ll be so busy paying attention to playing the game that you’ll likely miss it.
The story is mostly there as a backdrop for the action however, and in a game like this it thankfully isn’t something you need to follow, or understand to have fun. It is a shame its poorly executed though because some of the art in these comic panels really does look cool. The voice acting isn’t too shabby either when compared to similar games.
As for the game itself Hard Reset does a lot of things you’ve seen a million times before, but it also takes some of its own chances, and liberties with those things. For starters, while you won’t be completing any in-depth mission objectives (Aside from shooting robots), the game does mix it up. Instead of doing the typical FPS fare of either giving you 25 different guns to use, or telling you “There are 25 guns. Pick TWO of them to use, and that’s all you can carry at a time”
Hard Reset instead gives you 2 guns. One is a ballistics based gun that has a chain gun, and the other an energy gun that has a plasma rifle. As in Bulletstorm, and to a lesser degree Bioshock however, Hard Reset has capsules that can be opened, and you can spend points on upgrading these two guns to the point you have enough modes to equate to around 20 some odd guns. There are rocket launchers, shotguns, and one of my favorites: the electric mortar. Each of these upgrades themselves can be upgraded.
In addition to the upgradable weapon system one can also upgrade their health system, allowing for higher resistance to being shot, or a higher health meter. Unlike most other shooters this generation, Hard Reset does not do the regenerating health schtick.
Instead, like PC shooters of yore, you must find health packs in the field, and decide for yourself when it might be worth using, or waiting to grab later. It brings back some of the feeling from Quake II, or Goldeneye, or SiN. There is no ducking out behind cover to regain your health. In a bit of irony there is the “Bloody vision” popularized by Call of Duty. So getting badly injured does make it more difficult to see making it even more challenging in a severe firefight.
While there are some similarities to Painkiller, and Serious Sam in terms of combat, Hard Reset is still a bit different. There are indeed sections later in the campaign that follow those games’ structure of: Enter room\Wipe out enemies\Collect something or press button\Wipe out enemies\Repeat. But the entire game does not do this. There are a lot of sections that evoke feelings of playing Doom 3’s quiet jump scare moments, or Quake II’s exploration for secrets. The game combines just enough of these elements so that it feels both intimately familiar, and different enough you’ll want to see what’s next.
Hard Reset also has a novel combination system. Similar to how Bulletstorm, and Madworld reward players for creatively combining attacks on enemies for higher point boosts, Hard Reset has its own. The game doesn’t go for quite the same thing but it does reward you for using explosive objects in the stage backgrounds to take out enemies. For instance, you may fill your upgrade meter slightly for gunning down a small horde of robots. But blow up a car parked on the street, which in turn blows up a robot, which in turn blows up a flammable canister that destroys 15 low-level robots, and you may nearly fill it right there.
The game also delivers a few really awesome “Holy Crap!” moments in its boss characters. The greatest of these is easily the giant skyscraper sized android boss. Reminiscent of TRON, The Big-O, and The Sentinels from The X-Men comics, this Boss will make you nearly soil yourself when you first see him coming. It’s also worth mentioning that for people who may be coming over from Xbox 360 First Person Shooters, that Hard Reset also supports the Xbox 360 gamepad for those who prefer a controller to a keyboard, and mouse.
As fun as the campaign is, some may find some faults with it as it isn’t perfect.
The biggest issue some may have is the short length. The average person will be able to beat the game in a day or two. While you can replay it several times over to use upgrades to guns you may have skipped in previous sessions, you probably won’t care to revisit it very often. The game does have a ton of achievements for players absolutely obsessed with collecting them, but again, it’s a small segment.
Other minor complaints will be the derivative nature of the art direction. While kudos go out to Flying Wild Hog for putting out visuals that can hang with some of the major big budget studios out there, the fact remains that you’ve seen these settings many times over the last 15 years. I hate to keep going back to Quake 2, but a lot of the robots are a stone’s throw from being actual Strogg.
Finally, as I mentioned near the beginning of this review, the storyline can be difficult to follow for players who want to be invested in it. While it isn’t required to enjoy the game, a lot of people really do play games for their stories, even if they are a lot like other stories, or even if they’re shallow. One thing that will certainly disappoint these players is the rather abrupt ending given by the game.
Some may also be turned off by the fact there is no co-operative or competitive multiplayer to be found here whatsoever.
At the end of the day though Hard Reset does have enough going for it to make it worth checking out if you find yourself interested in it. It is a fun ride while it lasts. It tries to do something new with its weapon system, and it takes a slight variance on the creative killing idea put forth by Platinum Games’ Madworld, and People Can Fly’s Bulletstorm. When it does decide to take chances it succeeds.
Even when taking it’s faults into consideration, the low asking price of $20 does limit the feelings of risk. There are games far worse than this one you might spend $60 on.
Hopefully, if there is ever a sequel to this game it will expand on some of these new features, and conventions. Moreover one can only hope Flying Wild Hog will incorporate some form of co-operative play the way Serious Sam has in the past.
Final Score: 7 out of 10.