Review: Hard Reset: Extended Edition

HardResetExtendedEdition

With a name like Hard Reset, it is pretty easy to imagine that this game has a cyberpunk theme.  Not wishing to buck the public’s expectations, Flying Wild Hog has authored an experience where players will assume the role of a cybernetic operative tasked with helping The Corporation investigate and quell a rouge AI threat that has manifested in hundreds of nasty, disappointingly unerotic robots.  A tale told through comic book style cutscenes that seem absolutely divorced from the actual game which has little going for it by way of setting or story.  However, the shooting is solid enough that anyone that enjoys this game’s brand of violence will soon forget just how much of a throwaway the setup is.

To a large degree, I think that whether you will like Hard Reset will depend on how old you are.  The age barrier would be whether you remember a time when people used the term “Doom clone.” The reason for this is that it plays almost the same as a game that is almost twenty years old at this point, Doom 2, which in turn played exactly the same as Doom except there was a shotgun with two barrels.  Instead of demons and zombie soldiers, Flying Wild Hog’s cyberpunk adventure will set players against easily identifiable machines and things that look kind of like cyborgs in a series of corridors and large arena areas. 

Other than that setting difference, and a drastic improvement in the graphics department, Hard Reset and Doom 2 are basically the same game.  Players will go into areas that are virtually devoid of any and all story or setting elements, essentially zero immersion to give a sense of reality or world interactivity – everything feels like mere backdrops, not an actual world – and the only goal is to go through the level, blasting baddies and hitting switches until the level end score screen pops up.  Granted, you can look up and down in this 2012 game, but other than this radical ability to perceive the floor and ceiling, there is no change at all in style and gameplay here compared to when Clinton was in office.  It kind of feels like not a single person involved in the development of this game has played anything that was published since the days of the original Quake (or Painkiller, the work of some at Flying Wild Hog – a shooter also like Quake).  Just like in those older games, the only reason to replay anything is to face tougher challenges on higher difficulty settings or to find secret areas hidden just out of view.  There is no deeper meaning or narrative paths, just more enemies that deal and absorb more damage.

That having been said, if you are older like me and remember when the BFG 9000 and cyberdemons were all the rage, your sense of fun and nostalgia for a certain style of game will be in high cotton.  While the levels are painfully simple in their layout (run down path till locked door is hit, go find switch, press switch, returned to newly opened door, run down path two, repeat till done), getting through them can be a lot of fun.  Hard Reset values pure twitch adrenaline over any sense of tactics or fairness.  Enemies will – seemingly – crawl at random out of nooks and crannies in a level or come from the mystical realm of EverSpawn, located just outside of the accessible areas of a level, to run at the player to murder him.  There are little robots with buzzsaws and helicopter blades that will try to cut, giant hulking robots that will heedlessly charge, and almost human-looking, extremely augmented cyborgs that will use a variety of projectile weapons to shoot. 

Basically, think of a general way to get hurt in a first-person shooter, and there is at least one enemy type for that.  And while there may not be screaming shirtless and headless men with bombs for hands screaming at the protagonist, there are seriously little grenade robots on spindly legs that serve the exact same exploding kamikaze purpose.  What the enemies lack in variety they more than make up for in number.  It is commonplace in this game to be running all over the place, typically backwards, while a dozen bots seek your blood.  The greatness of the game comes out only if you can let go of “why” you are blasting all of these robots and just concentrate on the “how”.

The how of this process is made enjoyable by the variety of gun types available.  In actuality, the game only has two guns, electrical and projectile, but as players destroy more robots and earn XP, they will unlock modules to improve these guns and unlock additional types of shots.  From a commonplace, but useful, shotgun that can stun enemies as well as blow them to the scrap yard to a missile launcher with an add-on to make the missiles remote controlled so they virtually never miss to a plasma gun that can charge up big shots like Samus Aran’s arm cannon in Metroid Prime, there are any number of ways to sow destruction and reap spare machine man parts.  When switching between shot types the gun will animate to turn from a machine gun to a shotgun and back in a very slick and memorable way.

Putting these shot types with the simple levels harkens to a day when the walkthrough for a level consisted of this sort of instruction: “Enter the room with the plasma rifle fully charged, fire a blast at the hulk robot as it appears to hit it and the exploding barrels near its starting point (if you miss you will have to deal with the robot as it charges you).  Five seconds after you enter the threshold, a horde of small melee only bots will emerge from the vents.  Ignore them and switch to the railgun to take out the eight (twelve on Hard) shooting robots on the catwalks located on the perimeter of the room.  Make sure you move in a circular pattern, you should avoid most of their fire and cluster the smaller robots on the same level as you.  When the shooters are dead, switch to the shotgun and fire into the horde of little robots that have been trying to cut you.  If you manage to kill all of them, switch to the rocket launcher to take out the two hulks that will then enter the room.  If you manage to survive, press the now green switch and exit the room.”  The action is complex and intense when it is happening, but everything in the game feels pointless whenever the trigger is not being held down.

Other than the dated play, the only other negative to point out is the load times.  The initial load time for me after several programs were run in between sessions of dealing destruction to Decepticon derivatives was easily over two minutes.  To be fair, after the initial boot up, subsequent level loadings were well within tolerance.  After that first hump they usually took less time than the cinematics in between the levels.  The initial waiting is not the end of the world, but it is something to consider if your PC is firing a different game off every other hour.  Alternatively, it could be yet another reason to invest in a solid state hard drive.

Once the game gets going it runs smoothly.  I never experienced any slowdown or other major technical hitches.  This was a good thing too, because I looked online to see what the support was for the game and it appears to be nonexistent.  Assuming you too can get the game off without a hitch, you will find a gorgeous looking shooter filled with abundant superficial detail and many destructible objects clogging up the place.  Futuristic signs dot the landscape when appropriate, wet surfaces shine and many of the lighting effects around the world’s lights look quite lifelike.  Going near any of these things will reveal them to be only skin-deep, no interactivity or complexity, but they look impressive from a distance.  The enemies have moving parts and often have various levels of damage before they cease functioning.  Usually only the larger enemies will start to show wear and tear after they soak up their fifth missile, but the little guys will whirl and click with miniature buzz saws seeking out tender cyborg flesh.  The arcs of electricity that shoot out whenever certain kinds of shots are used are particularly noteworthy in how dynamic they seem and in how many of the little electron spurts appear without taxing your computer.  Sure, the explosions look good, but it is nothing that one would not expect from any other competent shooter.  The blue-white arcs of power might not send debris flying all over the level, but they very clearly convey just how much bad news is being spat at robots.  It is unfortunate that usually the conventional gun shots are more effective in most situations than the electrical blasts.

This article could comprise a buying guide for both Hard Reset as well as Hard Reset: Extended Edition even though the later is what was provided for review.  It appears that it is possible to upgrade the initial release for free to the most extendedish of editions, but your mileage may vary.  No matter what offer you may be given, that is somewhat of an academic point as this game is likely only going to be available anywhere in its newest incarnation.  The latest version adds a handful of new weapons and levels, not quite an expansion pack’s worth of content, but not a mere patch either.  Still, given the generally short length of the game and the tools of destruction at one’s disposal in this newer release, taking any part of this game away would have made it quite the sparse package.

I know there must be some people on Earth who are in high school, or maybe younger, who can stop texting for long enough to play a PC game, have tried an older shooter and lament the fact that “they don’t make them like this anymore.”  It turns out they do.  (You might also want to check out the Serious Sam HD games for other modern, attractive-looking blastfests.)  Hard Reset doesn’t make any innovations to the FPS genre, but it is a fun and mindless experience.  Make no mistake about it, this game is very difficult and will give no quarter.  Any fun to be had comes from meeting a challenge and watching things blow up, not completing any kind of meaningful objective or seeing the narrative play out.  The game demands a certain type of battle meditation at its highest setting that requires users to block out everything except ammo count, the best way to avoid enemy attacks and how to best use the shot types available.  It is peaceful in a way to not have to think about the consequences of your actions or what firing a gun might mean for the future city with the robot problem and instead just blast everything to cyberhell.  But anyone looking for a game with more substance will want to look elsewhere.

TryIt

Pros:
+ Nail biting action
+ Great weapon animations with a variety of effects
+ Very old style FPS gameplay (read aloud with a positive inflection)

Cons:
- Exceedingly simple levels
- Poor initial load times
- Very old style FPS gameplay (read aloud with a negative inflection)

Game Info:
Platform: PC
Publisher: Flying Wild Hog
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Release Date: 7/12/2012
Genre: FPS
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Steve has been playing video games since the start of the 1980s. While the first video game system he played was his father's, an Atari 2600, he soon began saving allowances and working for extra money every summer to afford the latest in interactive entertainment. He is keenly aware of how much it stinks to spend good money on a bad game. It does things to a man. It makes stink way too much time into games like Karnov to justify the purchase.