I have to admit, since TPG previewed Hard Reset last month, I’ve been excited to get my hands on this title. It was being hailed as the return of old school PC shooters, using elements from classics like Serious Sam and Duke Nukem, combined with a presentation in the comic book style of Max Payne. Well, the hype was all true. It takes all the promised elements, tosses in a sprinkle of modern graphical magic and mixes them all together. Unfortunately, the final product only offers a slight taste of the original ingredients. The magic then wears off quickly and you start seeing flaws everywhere.
I’m not going to lie to you folks, I have no idea what the plot to Hard Reset was. I mean, there are a few points that seem clear at first. You seem to be some sort of cop in the last remaining human city of Bezoar, the rest having been taken over by robots. Alright, simple enough, let’s go blow up some robots. Okay, now…chase that guy. Why? What did he ever do to us? Just…okay, done, got him. Alright, now apparently we have special powers. What kind? I have no idea, but…wait…did he just plug something into his head? Are we jacking into the matrix? No, apparently we are…injecting this guy’s voice into our head. At the very least, games like Painkiller and Duke Nukem had some resemblance of a story. The player understood on a basic level why things were happening and the motivation behind your characters actions.
Cyberpunk stories are known for being deep and thematic, often very hard to follow, but…this is something else. Nothing that happens in the story makes any sense and it’s hard to justify most of the actions on any character’s part. Then, out of nowhere, the game is over with no warning or ending. There’s a boss fight, and I thought “cool, the first boss fight, finally!” and when I beat it, the game just ended. Couple with the confusing story, the voice acting was nothing to write home about either.
When I opened the game, the first thing I did was look at the options. Everything looked pretty standard, the menu was a bit annoying (it shouldn’t take more than a second to navigate between pages!) but nothing seemed off until I got to the keybindings. I had to make sure crouch was set to CTRL and not C like most games seem to do these days but strangely, there was no option for crouch. I felt something amiss but it’s supposed to be a run and gun with no time or need for silly things like crouching. I pushed the feeling to the back of my head. I played for a while and had a lot of fun. I thought the two upgradable weapons were a great idea and pulled off flawlessly. I liked that the nav arrow could be turned on and off with the push of a button. The over the top action was pretty good, it was indeed challenging at times and really cool at others.
After a while, that grim feeling began to return. It started with small things. I saw some cool looking areas blocked by knocked over pillars so I went to crawl under before I remembered there was no way to crouch. A couple of times I saw stone ledges I could probably walk along and find secrets but instead found parts of the world that had no textures because they weren’t finished. One of the things that impressed me at first was the variety of objects in the environment that you could interact with, but after a while I realized they were all the same. I then started to feel something different…boredom. Nothing interesting happened. Besides pushing through waves of enemies, there was nothing to do and there seemed to be no reason to do so. There’s no goal, no intent. The game was indeed as difficult as advertised for most of the game. The enemies come in large waves and for the most part you will be strafing for your life. There is a decent amount of variety in the enemies for such a short game and unless you have superhuman abilities, you will get killed, a lot.
This wouldn’t be that bad of a thing, if it weren’t for one major issue: the checkpoint system. The developers stated that a quicksave system would reduce the difficulty too much and that they feel the checkpoints are done well enough that it would negate any issues that previous games have had with checkpoints. Well, the bad news is they were wrong. If there is a game that makes checkpoints work, this isn’t it. There were plenty of times where wave after wave of enemy would attack and I would get to the last one and die. That’s okay, thanks to the perfect checkpoint system, I wouldn’t be far back. It would put me right before this wave, right? Wrong. The checkpoint system is not even close to perfect. It would put me right back to the first wave, and often an unnecessarily long walk away from the fight. Quicksaves wouldn’t reduce the difficulty, they would reduce the amount of times you have to play the same section over and over again.
Robots with Personality
The area where this game shines the brightest is the amazing visuals. If you look up in an outdoor section of the game, you see everything you could expect from a cyberpunk setting – buildings as far up as you can see, flying cars presumably taking people on their daily commute, a dim sky and some very interesting and beautiful architecture. The entire world is very detailed, and so are all the enemies. The robots you encounter are fairly varied and they all look great. The one thing that completed the atmosphere for me was a small one, many times looking up at ledges you would see a can or a bucket get knocked over and see the shadow of a small robot scurrying away. The comic book style was illustrated beautifully as well, even though the writing was sub-par. The game really manages to make you feel like part of a cyberpunk world filled with rampaging robots.
Bland and Forgettable
The musical score is nothing special. It fits the theme well enough and when you get down to fighting, the music gets down with you, getting much more intense and fast paced. It’s really just background noise aside from the fighting though. The sounds in the game all work well, from the noise of a large robot charging around in an area I can’t quite see, to the sound of objects falling over as a small robot knocks it over in an attempt to flee. It all does a good job of further setting up the atmosphere and at times scaring the player.
Is It Worth Your Money?
Unfortunately, Hard Reset doesn’t make the cut. It feels like the overwhelmingly positive response from the game’s announcement made the developers feel like they’d done enough and that they didn’t have to add any more to the game. It does all that it promised, but it seems that it just didn’t promise enough. My playthrough on normal (and I died an embarrassing number of times) took me 4 and a half hours. The game is being launched at a price of $30 and even though it’s lower than a shooter from a AAA studio, 4 hours is just too short. It’s mediocre, rough around the edges all the while dressed up in a pretty package, and it agonizes me to say so. Perhaps the next entry from Flying Wild Hog will address these issues and offer us a true masterpiece. While I may not have felt the game was worth the price of admission, there is a demo via Steam for those who want to try for yourself.
Hard Reset Summary
- Time Played – 6 hours
- Widescreen Support – Yes
- 5.1 Audio – Yes
- Bugs – Some unfinished areas and looped dialogue
- DRM – Steamworks
- Control Scheme – Customizable Keyboard and Mouse
- Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
- Availability – Steam
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