Game: Hard Reset
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Publisher(s): Flying Wild Hog, Kalypso Media
Reviewed: February 2013
Game Type: First Person Shooter
I've always loved a futuristic setting, and a cyberpunk theme, and so I decided to pick up Hard Reset now that it has dropped in price to bargain levels. I had remembered seeing someone post screenshots of the game in a forum on the game's release, and thinking how it looked like quite a cool game, with a nice setting. Sure enough, after playing the game for myself now, the game has a nice setting, the graphics do look good, with plentiful use of colour, at times some excellent lighting, and it takes a lot of its style in the early levels from Blade Runner, before changing to other locations.
The game starts you off in a city called Bezoar. Apparently, this is the last human city after robots have taken over the world (now I'm thinking Matrix) and you are thrown straight into a situation where the robots have somehow appeared in the Sector 6 area. The information is presented in comic-book style sections that appear while the levels load, and while presenting at least some sort of story, at the beginning it's hard to work out just what the hell is going on, as quite often what appears in these sections seems either nonsensical or so vague that it is meaningless. There is an option to skip them as soon as the level has loaded, and I did this accidentally a couple of times as I was pressing a screenshot key at the time.
The game takes you through a few parts of the city, trying to catch up with someone who might know what has caused the robots to appear there. You are given updated information through a headset with a 'guide' contacting you to tell you what the next objective is. Usually these are just simple tasks, such as destroying the power supply to forcefields, putting generators on, to power-up doorways, and just simple opening of doors to make your way to a specified area.
|The futuristic setting can look great at times, and the game pulls off the look well|
Once getting down into the action itself, you'll realise that the gameplay is pretty basic. It has some interesting features like using the environment to kill your enemies, which can be done for the most part by luring enemies towards areas which can be of use in disabling them. The first are electronic devices which you shoot, and these will then electrocute the robots, and the second are basic exploding barrels, which have been around forever, and later in the game EMP barrels appear. There is a section late in the game which allows you to lure the robots between crushers in a factory setting, but other than that, there isn't anything that advanced which is a shame.
For the most part the enemies just charge straight at you, which is neither exciting for gameplay, nor any more advanced than what you'd get in Wolfenstein 3D, the very first FPS style '3D' game. I played the game on easy settings, but I still died quite a few times, often because if you choose to find a place to take cover, and then find yourself backed into a corner, the enemies swarm in so much that you can't move, and so death is inevitable. This is further punished by a checkpoint save system, which while not having saves too badly spaced, is still annoying if you have to redo a section over and over.
Most of the fighting is either done in tight corridor areas, or in big open arena spaces, and while you can jump onto boxes/crates to find hidden areas (oh joy!) you can't duck for cover, which would have improved the gameplay a lot. You can sprint, which allows you to get away from enemies, but sprinting doesn't last long, and some of the larger enemies charge at you so quick and powerfully that you'll be dead within a couple of hits, even on the easy settings I was using.
The game uses powerups found in classic FPS games like pickups for health, shields, and the ammo for the two types of weapon that you use throughout the game. Now don't get too worried about that; although there are only two weapons, one for standard projectile firing, and the other an energy based weapon for electrocuting/shorting out the robots, there are multiple functions to these two weapons which can be added through upgrades. The game allows you to pick up upgrades as you go and install them at upgrade stations dotted around the levels. There are lots of them, so you don't need to worry if you miss using one when the path back becomes blocked. You can upgrade the weapons to have modes like rocket launchers, rail gun effects, and an auto-targeting weapon for example, and each of these modes can be further upgraded to improve the potency of the weapons. You also get upgrades for improving shields and how many hit points you can take.
|The game makes great use of colour, a nice trend among a lot of recent games I have played|
Initially the gameplay seemed very weak, largely due to the boring default modes of the weapons you have, but once upgraded, these can make the fights seem that little bit more satisfying and interesting to watch. Although it never gets anything beyond what I'd call average gameplay enjoyment.
Sound quality in the game is something that is subjective, as I found that while the music seemed futuristic, it got a bit old as it was repeated too much and sounded the same pretty much all the way through. I wasn't that keen on it to start with, though, so like anything, if you like it, then you won't mind hearing it again. After playing this game straight after Mass Effect 3, it just sounded slightly tacky and 'cheap'. Voice acting is quite poor too, mainly due to the nonsense script that the voice actors are having to read, but still, there aren't any star performances to be found here. Weapons sound is just about ok, but nothing that you haven't heard before in countless other much older games.
As I progressed through the game I found that I liked it more, which is good because at first I thought it was awful. The story/plot is weak throughout, but particularly poor at the start where it just doesn't explain anything, and comes out with stuff that is about as useful as when you overhear two people gossiping on a bus.
The graphics, as mentioned before, do look pretty damn good at times, although at others it just feels like you've stepped into a level of Unreal Tournament. Regarding the latter, the same could be said for gameplay too, as it feels like nothing more than an extended version of the Assault mode in Unreal Tournament, or something you'd find in the original Quake or Doom.
With the enemies constantly charging towards you too, you'll probably be thinking of Serious Sam too, but whereas Sam has a fun and silly setting that makes fun of the basic style of play, this game doesn't have that option as it is trying to be Serious.
The weapon upgrade system is a 'highlight' of the game, which says a lot, and there are some destructable physics going on, but these aren't used to an advanced level.
It is a shame that such a promising setting, and such nice looking levels, aren't used in a more advanced way. It feels like they got all the groundwork done on the levels and then just stuck some average game over the top of it. It is a game that showed promise but delivers little, however, it is just about good enough to call average. You may find that you enjoy it, and indeed some people have, mentioning replaying it multiple times! It all depends on what you want out of a game. If you want depth, and substance, and combat that requires intelligence and tactics rather than fast reactions and an itchy trigger finger, this won't be the game for you though.
+ Great graphics
+ Cyberpunk Theme
- Weak 'oldschool' gameplay
- Very basic plot that isn't expanded on well
- Poor story telling ability
- Average Sound, with backing theme getting repetitive
- I had got through the game without crashes, but skipped the ending bit by accident (press any key appeared while taking screenshots again!). On reloading to replay the last battle again, and get the bit I missed, it crashed to desktop! Doh!
- Short; it lasts only 7 hours, and using my usual penalty system, loses half a star for being under 10 hours.
Arbitrary Final Score:
If you like this, you might also like: Serious Sam, Painkiller, Red Faction: Armageddon
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