Hard Reset Review
It's short and occasionally frustrating, but the fireworks display that is Hard Reset is still a blast.
- Varied weapons lead to crazy, entertaining shoot-outs
- Challenging action forces you to use all the tools at your disposal
- Striking cyberpunk environments
- Hidden items and EX mode encourage replay.
- Too many cheap deaths
- Unresponsive weapon switching
- Comes to an abrupt end.
If you're into ridiculous, kill-it-if-it-moves PC shooters like Painkiller and Serious Sam, Hard Reset is the kind of game you want to love. Armed with crazy weapons and an itchy trigger finger, you shoot robots until they erupt in brilliant displays of fire and light. The game is a cyberpunk fireworks show, all glowing neon, sizzling streams of electricity, and gorgeous pyrotechnics. The enemies swarm about and you annihilate them, the battles interrupted only by a plot so abstract and nonsensical that its entire existence is wholly unnecessary. At its best, Hard Reset is an explosive and challenging blast, rewarding clever use of your weapons with a sense of hard-earned triumph. It falters, though, its challenge sometimes lapsing into cheapness. And if you play just once, you only get to play with a too-small fraction of the game's wonderful toys before you reach the abrupt conclusion. But overall, this budget-priced game is really fun--an old-fashioned shooter treated with a dazzling visual sheen that gives it a modern feel.
Just don't expect any proper context for the mayhem. Between levels, handsome hand-drawn panels try to tell a humans-versus-machines tale. Lines of dialogue such as "It will devastate the quantum entanglements, thus scrapping the matrix," like the entire story, take a lot of time to communicate absolutely nothing at all--or at least, nothing that make sense. And that's too bad because the setting screams for elaboration. Hard Reset's world nods to Blade Runner and its science fiction ilk. Shiny skyscrapers stretch into the heavens, their gleaming signs announcing such fictional corporations as World Strategy and SBNC World News. Grungy car parks and cluttered alleyways are defaced with graffiti. Sights like the rounded fenders and chrome details on abandoned vehicles give everything an art deco vibe. The pervasive darkness is pierced by phosphorescent lights and softened by that urban glow that lights the night skies above a large city.
Indeed, Hard Reset is a looker. It doesn't push your system with extravagant textures or vast environments, but it's loaded with architectural details and energized by the constant explosions and snazzy light shows that erupt amid the chaos. Graphics aren't everything, but in Hard Reset, watching giant robots detonate in a flash of sparks and metal shards generates much of the fun. Combat arenas are loaded with explosive barrels, generators, and other objects designed to go boom. One of your primary tactics, actually, is to aim not for your enemies but at the hazards surrounding them. Generators catch little bots in their electrical radius and zap them into bits. An electronic sculpture becomes a weapon of mass destruction. Hard Reset is a colorful circus of fire and lightning that makes you marvel at all the bright and shiny things dangling in front of your eyes.
At its core, Hard Reset doesn't do much that any other shooter hasn't done in the past decade. You move from shoot-out to shoot-out, occasionally stopping to press a button, ride an elevator, or jump across some beams. There aren't a whole lot of different enemies; little scurrying automatons, some explosive spheres with legs, and giant charging junk heaps are among the few. You won't encounter the typical changes of pace that give most shooters variety either. There are no turret sections or escort missions on your lonesome journey. The levels are straightforward corridors and smallish arenas, and the environments are lovely, but they rarely look that different from one chapter to the next.
It would be unfair to call Hard Reset just another pretty shooter, however. Variety comes not from mission or level design, but from the delicious opportunities your weapons grant you. You have two main weapons: a traditional assault firearm and an energy weapon. The trick is that both main weapons can be upgraded, allowing them to transform into other configurations. The CLN firearm morphs from an assault rifle to a grenade launcher, a shotgun, and more. The N.R.G. weapon lets you stream a continued flow of electricity, drop lightning mortars, and fire homing projectiles. Each form can be upgraded further, granting secondary modes of fire and unlocking a wonderful array of opportunities for zapping and scorching your foes. You can also purchase passive upgrades, such as an automated bullet time when you run low on health, or greater damage resistance.