Author: Niall Coleman
Essentially Hard Reset which is released this September combines all of the best bits of classic shoot ‘em’ ups and sets it in a Blade Runner/Cyber Punk 2020 style universe. This coupled with between level cut scenes reminiscent of a Frank Miller comic makes the game stylish and engaging even before the trigger is pulled.
Set in the year 2436 in Sector 6, European District, Bezoar city. We play as Fletcher, a proud soldier of the Corporation, a Sentinel of the Sanctuary, defender of Bezoar from enemy machines. The levels follow the standard and familiar FPS path to the end but combine this with secret areas, interactive scenery and performance related achievements which make our route through Bezoar City engaging.
The controls are familiar, WASD controlling the movement, spacebar produces a jump, left click is the primary fire and once the weapons are upgraded right click is the secondary fire. As well as these basic controls, left shift makes Fletcher run, Q and E switch between weapons , R calls up an arrow pointing the way and O replays Fletcher’s last objective.
Unremarkable as they are, these controls typify Hard Reset. They are well thought out, easy to use and don’t get in the way of some enjoyable gameplay.
The level design is reminiscent of Doom and each level has plenty of opportunity to explore, searching for the game’s many secret areas. Although this gives some feeling of freedom we never get too far from the main route as sections are blocked off with doors, gates or other scenic and impassable obstacles which push us back on the right track.
The levels are littered with, flickering neon signs, electrical street furniture, ubiquitous red barrels and cars that would not look out of place in The Fifth Element. All of these can be blown up by gun fire or shot to produce electrified areas that help defeat the various malevolent robotic foes. Use of the environment to takeout the enemies is a key tactic because even on the “normal” difficulty level the game is challenging. Also, be warned, our character takes environment damage as well. Linger too near or stand still too long and we’ll find ourselves toasted by our own trap and beaten by the metallic menace.
Other than the aforementioned raging robotic enemy and the occasional corpse the levels are bereft of NPCs. The only contact Fletcher has with anyone is through a Metal Gear Solid style com-channel which supplies the basic controls at the beginning of the game and provides hints and objectives throughout. The objectives themselves are the undemanding “go there and press that button” type that adds to the familiar feel and produces a nostalgic charm for us “old school gamers”.
In terms of items the equipment used by Fletcher seems basic as we only get two guns… as the game progresses though we discover that it is much more that “just two guns”. Fletcher is initially equipped with an assault rifle and a plasma rifle, an energy weapon and a solid projectile firing weapon. As we progressed through the game we pick up N.A.N.O (in game currency) which can be used at upgrade booths. Each weapon type has five modifications and each mod has a primary fire upgrade and a secondary fire upgrade. This means that the game has much more variation than it first seems and although the overall look of the weapon stays the same the use changes significantly. The assault rifle for example gets an extra section added to make it into a combat shotgun, rocket launcher, grenade launcher and proximity mine launcher. Similarly the plasma rifle can be modified into a shock blaster, particle cannon, electric mortar and smartgun.
Of course each weapon has its pros and cons and picking the right gun for the fight can make a big difference.
As well as modifying the weapons at the upgrade booth it is also possible to improve health, shield and ammo. Additionally a Tactical Scanner can be purchased and the Hard Reset version of “bullet time” can be enabled and improved in the same way. In total we are given three distinct areas to change with five specific modifications all with two additional upgrade. In all there are some forty five difference tweaks to the basic weapons and stats that we feel will satisfy any gaming style and help the player create a screen shaking, colourful, sensory assault of metallic gore.
Graphics and Audio:
The visuals in Hard Reset are impressive and the designers have expertly captured the aesthetic and characteristics of a Blade Runner style city. Each level is packed with detail and each distant background is filled with motion. From flickering neon signs to distant flying cars it all adds up to give a slick, engaging environment which really enhances the game.
As well as the stunning backgrounds most of the objects can be moved or at least blown up. They have weight, textures which seamlessly change when damaged and are crisp and clear. The visual effects are also outstanding. Each weapon type creates a different type of pyrotechnic which not only looks different but affects the surrounding area uniquely creating a distinct pattern of light, shadow and damage. Overall a work of cyberpunk art.
The audio is similarly well executed. The background noise enhances the feel of the level without being too distracting, each weapon and metallic monster has its own unique sound effect and this is only enhanced when the chaotic combat is accompanied by alarmingly loud explosions.
Hard Reset is extremely enjoyable, it has a retro feel to it but does everything well and will appeal to those of us bored with the market saturating FPS modern day war games. The controls offer pick up and play familiarity and the objectives are never too complex. Additionally the look and feel of the levels, gameplay and enemies creates a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere reminiscent of the creepier parts of Resident Evil in places.
Overall Hard Reset, from Flying Wild Hog, is the lovechild of Doom, Quake, Deus Ex, Halo, Cyberpunk 2020 and Blade Runner… and it’s beautiful…