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Hard Reset is Old School. In some sense this is a great thing, the pace of the action, the no-nonsense approach to weaponry and the acceptance that it is a video game rather than some sort of life simulator are most welcome. There are other elements shared with its gaming ancestry that would have been better left in the history books, or at least old tattered copies of PC Gamer.
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Taking place in a futuristic cyber punk world, there is a vague waft of a storyline breezing through Hard Reset. There’s some references to all the world’s robots going apeshit and having to be destroyed- and there’s a lot of robots. These days it would be simple, a few shotgun rounds into the Honda ASIMOs and the job would be over in a matter of minutes. Not in Hard Reset. It seems that practically every bit of spare storage space left in the world has been littered with robots that appear to inexplicably have been fitted with huge buzz saws and explosives. How inconvenient.
So the storyline is so thin you wouldn’t want to use it as toilet paper for fear of tearing, but no matter, surely that old school shooter action will put enough gaming meat on those bones? After all, the concept has elements that have also worked on the mighty Serious Sam and Painkiller titles, both of which offer shooting and destruction on ridiculous scales.
There are several distinct differences with Hard Reset. The environments are much smaller and more confined than those offered in the other sprawling series. The main mechanic in Hard Reset is to despatch of the incoming waves of robotic attackers by using the environment around you, either by damaging electronic elements such as ATM and Vendor stations, causing electricity to arc throughout the robots, or by attacking the frankly ridiculous amount of explosives littered across the levels. Seriously, if this was real life, no one would leave the house for fear of sneezing for the incredible chain reaction of fire and death it would cause. There are literally badly-wired electronics and massive explosive devices everywhere for you to use against your metallic foe.
Whilst this may sound like some excellent arcade fun, the player is far too often caught up in random explosions, streaks of electricity and possibly backed into an invisible wall or even more explosives, meaing deaths will be many and often. This is not as a result of lacking in skill, but more the tight environments, coupled with huge waves of enemies and too many explosives in close proximity. There are times when you pull off the ideal shots into these objects, causing exactly the destruction you desire and smugness can rightfully ensue. However, this is too often in the minority, leaving survival feeling like a random event rather than a rightful progression.
Weaponry consists of two firearms, a traditional ballistic projectile firearm and an energy gun. These are expanded and upgraded throughout the game as the player unlocks extra modes for each weapon. Essentially although there are only a couple of weapon models, you will end up with a varied arsenal including a shotgun, grenade launcher, assault rifle and energy based versions of the same, such as electrical mortar rounds. These all do their respective jobs and look good, but the slower projectiles such as grenades are often far too slow to prove really effective against the speed of the smaller minions you will face, often leaving you reverting to directly attacking the environment again. This does remove some of the impact of the combat as you frequently attack your enemies indirectly leaving you feel a little disconnected from the results.
Graphically Hard Reset shines bright. The blade-runner styling is nothing that hasn’t been done before, but Reset manages to push huge numbers of enemies, explosions and all manner of effects through a great looking and efficient engine. The frames-per-second remain high even with all the carnage on screen and in the quieter moments the engine has some beautiful weather effects as rain runs down the screen and soaks the environment. The overall presentation looks great if a little disjointed occasionally, particularly the painted cut-scenes between levels, as they are very different in style from the bulk of the visuals .
Hard Reset is a great looking and well-presented shooter but with gameplay mechanics that negatively impact the combat and a seemingly random difficulty level. The action flows more and becomes easier as you progress, but the core of the game does not evolve from the first levels. Once you have your head around the concept of using the environment, it makes more sense, however it isn’t really why you want to play a game like Hard Reset. Like Serious Sam and Painkiller before it, you want to accurately aim your weapons and feel you’ve taken down each foe using skill and the right tool for the job. Hard Reset gets the job done, but in a less satisfying way.
Overall Hard Reset is fun but also an exercise in frustration, so often harking back to the days of dodgy design choices and questionable gameplay mechanics that so many others have tried to refine and evolve over the past 15 years or so of First Person Shooters. If you’re hungry for an arcade shooter then it’s worthwhile, but realise that some of the meat on these bones is a bit tough.
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