Date: September 16, 2011
Author(s): Rob Williams
Hard Reset is an interesting game. It was announced and then released in the span of a couple of months, is a PC exclusive, and has no multi-player mode. Its goal is to deliver old-school FPS gameplay and deliver some of the most adrenaline-pumping boss battles we’ve ever seen. Sound good? Read on.
To make sure that a game has the best chance of flying off the shelves, some game developers strive to deliver a unique gameplay experience, a compelling storyline, and a robust multi-player mode. With Hard Reset, developer Flying Wild Hog shunned those ideas, instead focusing on a single-player experience that is about as action-packed as it gets.
Hard Reset is the kind of game that can relieve tension. After a rough day at work, what better way to unwind than to blow things up? Story doesn’t matter in cases like these, and it’s a good thing… the one found here is boring. In fact, it’s the real-world story behind the company and the game’s development that’s interesting.
Flying Wild Hog is a Polish developer comprised of people from three different companies; People Can Fly (Painkiller and Bulletstorm), CD Projekt Red (The Witcher) and City Interactive (Sniper: Ghost Warrior). Development-wise the game is interesting because no one heard of it until just this past summer. The progression moving from first hearing of the game to actually being able to play it was refreshingly minimal.
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Hard Reset takes place in a cyberpunk-themed world sometime in the future, where machines are working to take over the city of Bezoar. Your goal, as army vet Mr. Fletcher, is to do whatever it takes to figure out who started this mess, and then put a halt to things.
That about sums things up. I’m unsure if the developers were simply disinterested in producing a compelling story or if it was made simple on purpose, but given the noir comic book style cutscenes that barely inform you about anything other than what you need to do next, I’m willing to bet that it’s the latter.
Not every game needs a deep story, however, and not everyone even wants one.Serious Sam has never had the best of stories, and it’s obvious that’s a title where Hard Reset gets some of its inspiration from. The game has not a lick of humor throughout, but the run-and-gun gameplay you’ll be experiencing will definitely remind you of the game that inspired it -seriously.
Unlike Serious Sam though, Hard Reset’s first level almost looks like its last. There’s little differentiation in textures or even enemies, but given the fact that this is a five-hour game, it almost doesn’t even matter. If you’re a fan of cyberpunk themes, like those found in Deus Ex (read our review of DE: Human Revolution), Dystopia, Anachronox among others, you’re likely to love the sights and sounds here.
While it’s clear that the developers of Hard Reset didn’t strive to deliver the most unique game on the planet, there are a couple of things about it that stand out. The first is the fact that there are just two weapons in the game; a standard gun with regular ammo and also an energy gun. Well, calling it “two weapons” is a little unfair – so let me explain.
In their innate state, the real ammo gun acts as a rifle, and the energy gun as a plasma rifle. With N.A.N.O. currency picked up throughout the game, you’ll be able to purchase both upgrades to the current gun-type you are using, along with upgrades for that particular type. For example, you can extend your plasma rifle to become a “shock blaster”, which is in essence unhinged electricity bursting forward. An upgrade to that weapon is the ability to paralyze enemies that are hit with it.
While it looks like there are only two guns in the game, there are in fact five of each, for ten in total. Then there are three upgrades to be purchased for each of those ten, upping the variety quite significantly. Some might not like the idea that ten weapons are skinned as two, but in a way it’s a little convenient; “Q” equips the real gun and “E” the plasma gun, then 1 – 5 for each of their respective types.
The other benefit is that there are just two ammo types, so you never need to worry about picking up a certain type. More powerful weapons consume more ammo per shot, as we’d expect. Running out of ammo isn’t something that will happen too often, as it drops everywhere. Blue ammo fills up the plasma gun while red takes care of the regular gun. Blue and red cubes that drop will fill up both guns in full. There wasn’t a single instance in the game where I ran out of ammo on both guns.
Hard Reset isn’t a complex game, if you haven’t guessed already. Progression is almost entirely linear, though there are many secrets to be found throughout, should you enjoy exploring and finding every last piece of N.A.N.O. – the more N.A.N.O. you pick up, the faster you can upgrade your abilities.
Despite its simple design, the game encourages you to play through the game multiple times in a couple of different ways. First, you are graded at the end of each level to see how much of a completionist or skillful player you are. The “Total Points” score is compiled by considering your number of kills, how many you killed by way of the environment (blowing things up), damage done, secrets found and so forth.
The other way the developers encourage at least a second playthrough is by opening up an EX Mode after you complete the game for the first time. This simply starts you over from the beginning at the same difficulty level, but retains all of your upgrades, allowing you to go through the game again and by the end acquire every upgrade in the game. Past this, achievement hounds will have fun replaying the game at the highest difficulties, as Flying Wild Hog awards a total of four separate achievements for most things – based on the difficulty.
The replayability factor for this game is important, because while it does cost only $30 at this point in time, it’s hard to feel satisfied after a mere 5 hours of game time – and that assumes you die every so often. If the game had a quick save option, the game woudl have taken me only 4-and-a-half hours to complete. It’s without question the shortest FPS game I’ve ever played through.
What’s interesting about Hard Reset is that while it’s a $30 game, it looks like a $60 game. It offers some mind-blowing graphics that will run just fine on most recent machines, has some great audio (ambiance is excellent), and is in general a visual treat. It’s a dark game as you can tell, but at the same time there’s lots of colors in the UI, ammo drops, billboards and other things. I never thought a cyberpunk world could look so pretty.
Being that this game is so exciting in terms of graphics and gameplay, I hate to refer to this as an indie title, but it is. There are some things that prove it throughout, such as overused textures. In one example, there’s a small area that has three near-identical “FISH” shacks. It’s things like this that kind of cheapen what’s otherwise a stellar presentation.
A couple of other factors confuse me as well though, including the inability to crouch. When is the last time you played an FPS that wouldn’t allow you to crouch? Could it have been the original Doom? In another example, I passed onto an area where there was no going back. But I wanted to go back to get some more ammo, and even though there’s a huge opening in the fence, I was unable to get back through since I couldn’t crouch.
There are also a fair number of areas in the game where you can’t pass because of a hidden barrier – even though you are indeed able to get to the area ahead via an alternate route. There were times when I either tried to hop or a fence or jump over a road barrier that looked like it could be jumped over, only to be blocked.
On the topic of graphics again, a common sentiment I’ve seen around the Web about the game is that a lot of it looks alike, and, well, it’s true. This hit me the hardest when I went to throw a bunch of screenshots I took in to a folder and noticed the trend. Of course, I couldn’t help but draw up some comparisons. Below are my screenshot folders for four games, Hard Reset, Duke Nukem Forever, The Witcher and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. What you’ll notice is that while the latter three have great variation throughout, much of Hard Reset looks the same.
This isn’t a bad thing, per se. What matters is that the game is fun, and it is. It just become so clear that there is a lack of variation with the game that I felt compelled to mention it. On the upside, Hard Reset, despite its common graphics throughout, offers some of the most interesting level design I’ve ever seen. Most of the levels in fact take place in one central area, but you may spend a half an hour going from point A to point B. There were points where near the end of a level, I could see near the start of the level – it seems simple, but it’s creative.
If Hard Reset is one thing, it’s fun. Those who like action-packed FPS titles, look no further. This is about as action-packed as a game could get. It offers the action of a Serious Sam but has a much darker tone. The music is good, voice acting mediocre, but ambiance excellent. The graphics are also some of the best I’ve ever seen in a game. There’s no DX11 here, but Flying Wild Hog has proven that they know how to take full advantage of DX9.
Past all that, the game is about as tight control-wise as it gets. It reminds me a lot of Unreal Tournament in that it supports twitch gamers, even though that style isn’t required. Movement for the most part is quite good, and aiming fluid – just how it should be.
There’s no one major complaint I have about the game, but rather just a bunch of minor ones that seemed to add up. The overuse of certain textures was a little off-putting, for example, while the inability to crouch still boggles my mind. The impassable hidden barriers I can let slide, and the same goes for the story. After a while, the story became so dull to me that I just skipped all the cutscenes. I wanted back in action, not to try to piece together a story that sounds similar to a million others.
None of those things are game-breaking, however. In the end, Hard Reset is a blast to play, is extremely challenging, offers outstanding graphics and control, has a great level design and is sure to get your adrenaline pumping on multiple occasions. If you don’t mind the fact that the game can be beat in 5 hours, it’s well worth a look.
I am hoping Hard Reset sells well, because after playing through it, I cannot wait to see what else Flying Wild Hog has up its sleeves.
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