First person shooters have, for the overwhelming majority of my gaming history, been a solid staple. It’s a genre that kept me occupied during long summer holidays and even longer school terms. Heck, I’d go as far as to say that they were the only variety of game that I dared explore during my teenage years, and were certainly the reason I had such disdain for the rest of the gaming universe. There’s just something thoroughly satisfying about being so close to the action, seeing the weapon in your hand and all that jazz; more to the point, however, a shooter (of any variety) provides a certain steam-letting conduit, particularly if said shooter is centered around destroying as many robots/aliens/demons as you can, as fast as you can, whilst making as much of a mess as you can. As it happens, Hard Reset: Redux is one such shooter.
Developed by Flying Wild Hog, an independent Polish game developer, Hard Reset works with an unashamedly simple purpose in mind: to recreate the joys of old school shoot-em-up-style games for those of us who were too busy learning to walk and talk to fully appreciate its ancestors from the mid 1990s. In fact, simplicity is the name of the game where Hard Reset is concerned, particularly with regards to gameplay.
There are only 2 core weapons to choose from, using either conventional rounds or plasma; both can be upgraded with a surprisingly wide array of extras at the many upgrade stations located within each level, which just about manages to make up for the lack of choice. The aim of the game is equally basic: use your weapons and your surroundings to wreak havoc and annihilate the fairly constant stream of robotic creatures as you work your way through the dystopian steampunk themed world. Generators, pipes, and explosive barrels can be used to cause substantial splash damage, and will also occasionally blow through walls to allow access to hidden areas.
If I’m being honest, the pure mindless violence that Hard Reset offers somewhat limits its potential, but for what the game is, I found it incredibly satisfying. Granted, this was for all of ten minutes, after which point the level of satisfaction dropped a little. But if the brutalising of robotic enemies with big, highly customizable weapons is what you’re after, there is nowhere better than Hard Reset.
I do have one major complaint though. There is a weapon wheel system in place, which allows for movement between standard rounds and plasma (and any upgrades you might have in between); until such time as you manage to fill said wheel with options, it is extremely difficult to navigate the menu without having to wiggle the analog stick repeatedly until something gives. As this rather defeats the purpose of an easily accessible weapon wheel, and is downright infuriating to behold, I’d have to say that it dulled my experience of the game just a little, particularly seeing as all in all, Hard Reset is one seriously hectic game, and so speed is fairly crucial.
If constant streams of machine gun fire are not enough for you…
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and argue that we don’t really play games like this for the plot. Do we. When you’re firing for your life to cut down swathes of metal monstrosities, I don’t even think it matters all that much the reason why: the score is key, the level progression is key, but the plot? More of an added bonus. That said, Hard Reset does have a basic storyline to it, and so I shall give it fair assessment. You are James Fletcher, an operative working for the Corporation – and an all round badass who “won’t drink alone” – whose sole purpose is to hold off the hordes of borderline sentient robots as they try their utmost to gain access to the Sanctuary, Bezoar City, home to millions of digitized human minds.
Flying Wild Hog display an admirable dedication to this story, littering the game with cut scenes done in comic book fashion and making sure that your objectives advance the plot in some way or other. And sure, it’s often a little convoluted, which makes the gravelly sincerity of the voice acting seem a little overwrought, but I have to say, I was surprised to see any narrative, let alone one that had been at least vaguely developed, and so in all honesty I can find no complaints.
Like Batman meets Ghostbusters.
Hard Reset may be reminiscent of games that were first released whilst I was still struggling with solid foods, but it certainly doesn’t look like them. The wonderfully named Wild Hog Engine was meant for the PC, sure, but that doesn’t stop the game looking really very good on console; the city itself, although deserted, still feels alive, as flying transports loom overhead and billboards crackle with advertisements for… well, something. It reminded me of Gotham, as depicted in the Arkham series, if said city were in Japan.
Hard Reset is graphically strong, particularly in its multitudinous explosions, eruptions, and bursts of electricity; I especially enjoyed the minute details, such as the holographic adverts that unfurl each time you wander too close to a vending machine. But again, Ill be totally frank here, and say that this game was not designed to be beautiful. The graphics are what you would expect from a game of the 21st century, but are not meant to be the focus of our attention: Hard Reset is gameplay orientated, ultimately, and in that area alone, it really excels.
Gonna need a bigger gun…
After many hours spent blasting my way through mechanical cannon fodder, I have reached the conclusion that whilst Hard Reset might be one of the most straightforward games I have ever played, it is still one of the more downright entertaining. Yes, it is all over quickly. And yes, the plot does tend toward Hollywood trash. But what it lacks in depth and longevity, Hard Reset: Redux makes up for tenfold in terms of sheer bloody carnage.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
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