Hard Reset Hands-On Preview

Outlandish weaponry and killer robots collide in this delightfully retro PC shooter.

Hard Reset is a deceptive game. On the surface, this PC first-person shooter from upstart developer Flying Wild Hog feels pretty simple. There's no reload button, there's no crouch button, and there's no magical duffel bag full of grenades, flash bangs, or other tactical items you need to memorize a dozen hotkeys in order to use. You just sort of run and gun like it's 1995 all over again. At least that's how it goes for the first few minutes. Then you stumble upon an upgrade terminal and suddenly that whole business about Hard Reset being a simple shooter gets thrown right on out the window.

Don't even think about feeling sorry for that robot.

Hard Reset is a sci-fi shooter through and through. The story is pure cyberpunk noir, a tale about a guy named Fletcher who works for a massively powerful corporation that he discovers a few none-too-pleasant secrets about. The world instantly recalls images of Blade Runner with its rainy nighttime cityscapes and bright neon signage, and it feels as though most of the residents that populate this place are murderous robots instead of actual living people.

Those futuristic sensibilities take on a large role in the gameplay, specifically in regard to those aforementioned upgrade terminals. While you start the game with only two weapons--one that fires regular bullets and one that fires plasma blasts--you routinely collect bits of glowing orange currency called N.A.N.O. that you can use to upgrade either of these two guns--or yourself!--to high heaven. So while you start the game with two very basic weapons, you soon unlock the ability to upgrade either gun to the point where it can use five different firing modes, each with three upgrade slots. The same goes for upgrading your own combat gear, granting you a total of 45 different upgrade slots to mix and match for your preferred play style.

That boss may be a thousand times your height, but you've got one advantage: a great angle to shoot him in the crotch.

Want to take that plasma rifle and make it so that it can also fire a crippling lightning grenade that slows down any enemy in its path? Go ahead. Want to upgrade that assault rifle so that it can instantly morph into a double-barreled combat shotgun? Feel free! But maybe consider further upgrading that firing mode so you can shoot EMP buckshot and reduce the reload times while you're at it. And then think about upgrading your own gear to enhance your weapons shield, add a tactical visor, and a pre-death "enhanced perception mode" that grants you an upper hand when you're really on the ropes. Oh, and did we mention the gun that shoots through walls? Yeah. There's a lot you can do with those upgrade terminals.

None of this means Hard Reset is any less the run-and-gun shooter that it starts out as. It's still a fast-paced game where enemies come at you hard and fast and you can sprint around like an Olympic athlete. But as you're running around, you'll be constantly flicking the mousewheel to switch firing modes, with the onscreen gun stylishly morphing on the fly into something altogether different. The little grunt robots that look like Wall-E, if Wall-E had a radial saw attached to his torso, can be taken out with a single shotgun blast, but you soon encounter big charging robots that you need to maintain plenty of distance from, at which point ranged rocket attacks become more handy. And these encounters tend to mix up enemy types, so you'll need to respond by flipping around firing modes rather frequently.

For the most part, we really enjoyed Hard Reset's brand of frantic shooter action. The weapons are ludicrously extravagant in the best way possible, and there's a genuinely intimidating level of challenge on normal difficulty. But the level design doesn't always harmonize with the weapon and enemy design. At one point we had to take on a group of those heavy charging bots on a narrow street filled with demolished cars and other litter. The amount of physics-enabled debris is impressive from a technical perspective, but not so much when you're trying to sprint away from an enemy hell-bent on pancaking you, and suddenly that garbage can that tumbled into the road stops you mid-sprint. And the narrowness of the street wasn't much help, either, making strafing side to side a nearly useless tactic. But fortunately, this sort of thing was more the exception than the rule, with other levels offering more space to play cat and mouse with your robo-foes.

The world of Hard Reset is very cyberpunk.

From the moody cyberpunk atmosphere to the final boss encounter against a skyscraper-size cyborg, we liked what we played of Hard Reset. It's a throwback game that seems to know exactly what made '90s-era PC shooters fun, and while it stumbles here and there, we had a good bit of fun with it. Hard Reset doesn't appear to be the second coming of the single-player PC shooter, but it still does a fine job of reminding you why the best part of the future will be blasting killer robots into bits of scrap metal. Expect to see this PC-only title released next month.

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25 comments
Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Just wonder if PC gamers want linear shooters like this any more, however nice they look. I think we love STALKER type shooters, or game like E.Y.E. Divine Cybermancy, an FPS/RPG hybrid with character stats like Morrowind, a gameworld like Deus Ex and a weapon load up and research with a choice of how many scientists to utilize, like X-Com! The gameworld is pure cyberpunk, looking a cross between Vampire: Bloodlines and the original Deus Ex. So with STALKER and E.Y.E.being what we seem to want - FPS+, and with more and more sale of RPG's out of Europe, like the Witcher 1 and 2 and Risen 2, it'll be interesting to see how PC gamers react to a straight forward linear shooter like this,,,,!

inola2
inola2

Excellent for the pc for a change!

Shep66
Shep66

This looks promising. Some elements remind me of Doom (health/armour/ammo readout), Bioshock (upgrade slots) and Borderlands (fight for your life).

Vojtass
Vojtass

Polish developers are attacking. Good luck with this! :)

Zverugin
Zverugin

This is it. This game is a real Painkiller sequel, not that idiotic Bulletstorm...

shaunmc
shaunmc moderator staff

@Gelugon_baat Yeah, I kind of felt like it was just a fancier version of weapon-switching at first. But as you unlock more upgrades you kind of realize that it's not ten weapons you're carrying, it's more like two distinct weapon pyramids that branch off into crazy directions. A lot of those alternate fire modes have alternate fires themselves (like the EMP buckshot I mentioned). You're switcing between the bulelt gun and the plasma gun, then drilling down into your other options after that. Does that make sense? It's kind of hard to describe.

eynonz
eynonz

Duke Nukem Forever should've been like this

Okplay
Okplay

September,ahh it will be a great present for myself :)

never-named
never-named

The level design issue might irk me a little since twitch-based shooters REQUIRE large, open environments to ably move across levels. I remember the firs few levels of 'Half-Life 2' falling into the same narrow corridor shooting slog, but that didn't stop it from being one of the greatest shooters in videogame history!

NickyWithATicky
NickyWithATicky

I'm not a PC gamer so I'm really hoping my computer can take this game - it's worth a try.

prohogo2
prohogo2

I would rather have reload button than those darn upgrade terminals! It's not retro at all, retro would not force you to upgrade things!

Mortos13
Mortos13

Definite buy. Gotta support the devs y'know? They deserve it for bringin' us a classic shooter. Looks great!

GreyViper
GreyViper

Sounds promising, hope it gets a sequel.

Kefvka
Kefvka

Bring it to mac. T_T

darkzelda7
darkzelda7

Waiting for this one, I hope it's a great game and it sells pretty well.

aniskhan001
aniskhan001

Good luck to Flying Wild Hog.. Let them release the first installment, hopefully we'll get more great games... Anyway, this games rocks as the trailer shows, waiting for this.. \m/

edittheRA2world
edittheRA2world

man i hope the weapons are going to be like the ones from prey. and this looks absolutely amazing, have my babies!

Cataclysmm
Cataclysmm

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Rocker6
Rocker6

It looks good,I will gladly buy it to support PC exclusives.Hopefully it will sell well,I wish luck to this Flying Wild Hog company.

GabrielOnuris
GabrielOnuris

Old school shooter, cyberpunk world, upgradable weapons, upgradable character and PC exclusive? It will be a pleasure to give you my money, Flying Wild Hog.