Sep 19, 2011

Hard Reset Review

Lights Off
4 Awesome
Retails for: $29.99
We Recommend: $24.99
  • Developer: Flying Wild Hog
  • Publisher: Gambitious Digital Entertainment
  • Genre: Action, Indie
  • Released: Sep 13, 2011
  • Platform: Windows
  • Reviewed: Windows

Following the quickest turnaround from the announcement to release, comes Hard Reset. A futuristic cyberpunk, robot-hating future, set in Bezoar City. I wrote about this game a month ago with my hands-on time with the preview build.

Upon loading in the first level, I was quickly reminded of how beautiful it is. Top to bottom, the art design and engine powering this game produce some phenominal graphics. One of the first thing you’ll notice immediately – is the HUD. It’s striking for something so simple. The display has scan-lines and displays everything you need to know. Each section is color-coded: Health (green), Armor (yellow), Sprint Stamina (blue), N.A.N.O (orange), firearms count (red), and energy count (light blue).

The story starts out simple enough, investigating a situation with civilians being murdered by the cold, mechanical hands of robots who were thought to be under control and pose no threat to humans. You’re sent in to investigate what happened in the sector. Over time, the game feels overly complex to somehow instill the fact that this world has existed long before you inhabited the body of the game’s protagonist, Fletcher. Once investigated, Fletcher goes off the grid to stop the menace with the help of someone guiding him over his comm-link. Isolation sells this world, as most of the humans are dead. There are roughly 10 humans you encounter in the game, but they’re all dead and mutiliated by the robots that killed them. Story elements are also told through  motion comic cutscenes that are shown while a level is loading – a popular trend these days. It serves the purpose of telling a narrative, but it’s not very compelling or interesting.

The game is a throwback to classic PC gaming where cover and ammo conservation are at a premium.Though it appears pure nostalgia, but comes with some modern twists though. First off, you can only carry two guns – and you only get two guns in the entire campaign. Now before you get enraged at this thought – the guns transform. Yes, each gun has 5 modes it can transform into to deliver hot lead or electricity to machines. At the flick of a scroll wheel or button press, the gun transforms into the desired weapon. The CLN is the firearm has multiple modes: Rifle, Shotgun, Grenade, RPG, and Mines. The NRG (get it? energy?!) shoots electricity as it’s form of energy. It’s five modes are: Plasma, Blaster, Mortar, Railgun, and Smartgun. While they seem similar in nature, behave differently. There’s even a bit of strategy when swapping between weapons to minimize your death.

Though I found at times, hard to swap between weapons when you want to. To get the firearm, is Q. To get the energy, E is bound. Sometimes the game does not interpret the button press properly costing you time and some damage to you. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to why you do not switch immediately, but it happened at the most inopportune times.

Upgrades are crucial for survival. There are multiple difficulties to Hard Reset, but Normal is any other game’s Hard – so you may be in for a shock. Once you earn 1 point to spend, you’ll have to visit the very cool looking Upgrade Stations. These stations are placed bountifully around nearly every corner. Here you enter a Dead Space-style interactive HUD where you never leave the game for a separate menu to purchase upgrades. You should be encouraged to explore as you’ll get to upgrade at a faster rate.

Collecting N.A.N.O. builds up a bar and then provides you the ability to upgrade the CLR, NRG, or your Combat Gear. Combat Gear upgrades are Health, Armor, recharge speeds, how much is picked up, etc. The N.A.N.O. is collected from the bodies of dead robots, pickups strewn about a level and even in hidden areas of levels. You get huge bonuses from killing the larger enemies and bosses of the level.

There are only a couple of finger’s worth of boss battles, but the ones that exist are grandiose and a lot of fun. However, there’s one boss that required me to shoot him…in the crotch – which removes an armor panel to to get to the next stage of the battle. The multi-tiered boss battles are lengthy, but also challenging. I enjoyed them and didn’t have to repeat them too often to get the pattern right. The checkpoint system comes into play here as may either save you time or cost you time setting you back before the first stage of the boss battle.

The city of Bezoar lives and breathes around you. The floating barges you see around the city are filled with glowing advertisements and lights are interesting and awe-inspiring, this isn’t the case the level design and mission structure for Hard Reset. Levels are artificially lengthened by the fact that if any robot is in the level with you, the panel locks down until the robot is dealt with – or something breaks and you must repair it before returning to the original objective to complete the mission. Most objectives are arbitrary, requiring you to power-up a device and then activate a switch on a panel to open a door. There isn’t much you can do for an FPS with such straight-forward design, but I can’t help but wish there was more.

Now the game isn’t with faults. Lucky for it, the game doesn’t have any apparent bugs or issues. A lot of the secret areas are essentially “locked” away as that particular upgrade isn’t available for you to break the wall to get the secret N.A.N.O. piece. The placement of the “EX Mode” is welcome. EX is a New Game+ for you to restart the game with all of the previous playthrough’s upgrades. Though the game’s campaign is a very shortly experience, lasting only 4-5 hours depending on difficulty – and rather abrupt. Just when you thought it was getting exciting – it just…ends.

A pre-release Steam code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.