Hard Reset Review (PC)

In rather an odd situation for the games industry, Hard Reset was only announced two months ago and it’s already out on the shelves (so to speak, it’s digital only). For a new FPS that’s quite a big deal, especially one from a new developer made up from members of CD Projekt (The Witcher), People Can Fly (Painkiller, Bulletstorm) and City Interactive (those terrible games clogging up the PC budget section at your local store). Are Flying Wild Hog completely mad or giving the public what they want?

Hard Reset is a futuristic FPS set in Bezoar City, where the Authority are at war with the Machines… or the Authority are all machines and you’re fighting them… look, I’ll be honest with you, the plot went straight over my head. The story’s told almost exclusively through comic book-style cutscenes on the loading screen and has very little appearance or impact on the game itself, which involves shooting robots a lot. It’s also utterly incomprehensible at first, and only slightly comprehensible later. Then it’s over, but that’s a problem we’ll get to later.

I could literally take a screenshot at any point in the game and it’d still look good

Getting the graphics out of the way first, this is a very, very pretty game. Debatable on whether it could make it to consoles or not (if Crysis can this bloody should be able to), but making it PC exclusive and designing their own engine has certainly paid off. Bezoar is an amazing-looking cyberpunk city, although don’t expect to explore it Deus Ex-style. The only things you’ll find are robots, ammo, upgrade points, dead bodies and the occasional walking cement mixer. Nevertheless, I can’t really fault the visuals. Unfortunately I can’t share this unanimous praise with the rest of the game.

First of all, the game breaks one of the most basic laws of the First-Person Shooter genre, laid down by The Great id Lawgivers in The Holy Wolfenstein 3D and carried forward amongst their followers to this day. This rule states that all guns should be immediately identifiable in a split-second’s notice, and no matter how intense the firefight you always know what the weapon you’re holding can do. Call of Duty may have similar weapons due to them being realistic, but you can always tell a shotgun from a machinegun. Hard Reset doesn’t give players the same luxury.

This is basically down to Flying Wild Hog’s big innovation, having just two weapons but being able to modify them dramatically. Q and E change between the two, but the 1-5 number keys change modifications. The ‘Q’ weapon can be a Shotgun, Rifle, RPG etc. so the Shotgun uses the same ammo as the RPG, but not the same as the Energy Mortar or Railgun which are assigned to the ‘E’ gun. While this does mean you’re rarely worrying about ammo for any gun, it does mean that both halves of your weapon set will look very similar – furthermore it’s a pain to remember what button combinations call up which gun/modification. It feels like innovation for the sake of innovation, when in reality Doom did things much better. Would it have been so bad to just make 10 unique-looking guns and assign them to the number keys?

Fortunately shooting those guns is fine. While at first glance they don’t seem much improved beyond Quake II’s arsenal, the ability to upgrade them in several interesting ways gives the game the unique flavour it needs. Yellow upgrade points can be found scattered around the levels, so it’s always advantageous to explore. It’s a bit of a shame however that Flying Wild Hog set up their game so you only fight robots, which as any player or developer could tell you are just not as satisfying as fighting things that bleed.

Shocking! [You’re fired - Ed]

There’s also a severe deficit in enemies – not in number, as Hard Reset sticks to its old-school formula well by often presenting scores of robots to battle, but in variety. You’ll literally meet about four enemy types with a few tougher variations throughout the entire game. Amazingly the game fails to get boring despite this, mostly thanks to some tight and playable level design. Having a wide array of environmental triggers to look out for was certainly refreshing too, something the devs clearly learned from making Bulletstorm.

Normally I’d be able to get over the lack of a crouch button, but when the developer continuously shoves its absence in your face using a load of walls with massive foot-to-neck high gaps in them it gets annoying. Far more annoying however, to “F**K THIS F**KING GAME” levels of frustration, is the lack of a quicksave button. I prefer to save wherever I want, mostly because it is very rare for developers to place checkpoints correctly all of the time, but Hard Reset utterly fails to even try. On higher difficulties I rage-quitted a lot just because I got put back so stupidly far after already facing several waves of enemies.

Nevertheless on Normal difficulty and a first playthrough, despite the problems above, I certainly enjoyed my time with the game. And then it ended. “Duh” I hear you say? Well, how much game time would you expect from a single-player-only game, without any multiplayer whatsoever, nor any Challenge Modes or anything? One that costs £23 on Steam? If you said 4-5 hours, then congratulations, you guessed correctly. You also should start learning the value of money sometime, kid.

Not my groin! My only weakness!

Seriously, despite thoroughly exploring the game world for secrets I clocked the game in less than 5 hours. There’s a New Game Plus mode and four difficulty settings, not to mention more secrets to find, but I don’t feel the pressing need to play it again. Both in story and gameplay terms Hard Reset feels like it’s missing a third (or fourth) Act, and it ends abruptly after the second boss just as the plot is starting to get actually interesting. I can’t think of any other games that only have two bosses. It’s like Flying Wild Hog just forgot to include the final chapter.

So amongst the other problems, it’s also short and clearly rushed. It was only announced two months ago! If you needed more time guys we really wouldn’t have minded! Consequently, with the game as it is now, I just can’t recommend it. With another two chapters and a bigger range of enemies this would’ve been in the 7s or 8s, but without at least co-op or any compelling reasons to replay I can’t imagine anyone feeling that Hard Reset is worth its current price. If it goes under £10 in a Steam Sale by all means snap it up, but until then Serious Sam 3 will have you covered for an old-school FPS. And that one has delicious meaty enemies too.

Top Game Moment: Taking on the gigantic Atlas boss. And that one’s then dwarfed by the final boss. Lucky there wasn’t a third one then or we’d get neck-ache.

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By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Sep 16, 2011
Ouch! That's a shame, but at least it comes with a demo. I personally would have preferred a new "Painkiller" installment. 4-5 hours for a SP-only game? Not worth the time, as it really is just an extended demo.
By axen (SI Newbie) on Sep 14, 2011
City Interactive publishes some decent games lol, they're not by definition "terrible", sure they do many point-and-click murder/mysteries, but some of them are genuinely good.