It takes less than ten seconds for Hard Reset to define the kind
of shooter it truly is. There is no crouching, no cover, and no reloading. It
has exactly two guns; one of 'em is an energy gun that shoots lightning-lasers,
and the other is a rifle whose targeting reticule is always red. If the terms
of its gameplay don't paint a clear enough picture, we'll spell it out: Hard
Reset doesn't care about anything other than killing everything.
Above: Rage, eat your heart out. Hard
Reset looks incredible
The aesthetic values of Hard Reset, though, are what we noticed
first. It's what The Fifth Element might have looked like if Christopher Nolan
had a hand in it. The graphical fidelity rivals that of Rage or The Witcher 2, and
the soundtrack, born straight out of 80s sci-fi flicks like Tron, rounds out
the awesome atmosphere. Attractive as it is, the world has a long way to go before
we actually care about what's happening in it.
Walking robots big and small rule the last bastion of humanity.
Naturally, our main man Fletcher, robot-hunter extraordinaire and alcoholic
asshole, is the only dude who can save it. Not that the story explains this in a
comprehensible fashion, mind you. The plot, characters and voice-over
performances are unanimously embarrassing, and the game would have been better
off without context for our actions. The pew-pew-pew is excellent in its own
right, and we eventually just started refilling our coffee between missions.
Not to mention Hard Reset has the Judas of game endings - just as it lured us
into the most alluring part of our beautiful friendship, it plunged a knife
deep into our back and cut to the credits.
For developer Flying Wild Hog, the action obviously mattered
most, because the vehicle propelling it is utterly worthless. Sick as it may
sound, killing robots in games rarely meets the thrill of killing a human or
monster or otherwise living thing. Robots
in Hard Reset deteriorate when wounded, and they leak and bleed... whatever
that substance is. Hard Reset nails its shooting better than most modern FPSs, and
it gives us plenty of ways to play with our victims in the process.
Above: Even the usually predictable AI surprised
us a few times
Fletcher only has the two guns, but he can widen their
versatility in a quick and efficient way: kill robots, get cash, buy mods. Attaching
new parts to our machine-gun, for instance, lets it morph into a
rocket-launcher with a scroll of the mouse wheel. The upgraded energy gun is
even more impressive - we grew particularly fond of the X-ray and homing
Secondary fire modes reinforced our capabilities in combat as
well. The paralyzing shotgun rounds and charged energy blasts played important
roles in the thoughtful enemy encounters. Verticality and distance often mix up
the typical shoot-down-the-hallway approach by forcing us to think of new ways
to deal with different enemies. Using the environment to our advantage was
important, too. An exploding barrel or electrical conduit was at least as
dangerous as our grenades and beams. It helps that they're everywhere, which
also makes the world a dangerous place to play in. We were just as susceptible
to standing too close to a lethal object as any robot, so we had to be aware
and on our toes at all times.
When it wasn't kicking us square in the balls, Hard Reset was
one of the most exhilarating action games we could think of. Those challenging
and satisfying enemy encounters frequently devolved into waves of too-strong
enemies abusing their one-hit kill tactics, though. The enormous flexibility of
Fletcher's arsenal didn't feel like enough on the too-tough default difficulty.
On the lower one, it was empowering but easy. Pick your poison, because neither
setting is as balanced as it should be. If we weren't shouting deplorable
profanity for the six hour duration of the Normal campaign, we were cruising
along effortlessly on Easy for three. Hard Reset also restricts the use of
quick-saves for whatever unholy reason, so we could only rely entirely on its
spotty checkpoints to save us from losing our mind. They didn't.
Above: This is Atlas. You know, the
Greek guy... with missiles
Flying Wild Hog had some strokes of serious brilliance
throughout Hard Reset, and it's these moments that supported the weight of its
confusing problems. This is the kind of hard-and-fast shooter that got us into
PC gaming in the first place, and Hard Reset remembers where it came from while
making some strides of its own. Its most impressive feat, though, is that it
throws down the gauntlet and laughs in the face of every competing developer. We're
still trying to wrap our mind around this as an indie game, because, in terms
of quality, it's on the same level as any AAA shooter out there.
Sep 13, 2011