In the future, robots will assail Bezoar, the last human stronghold. You’ll play as Major Fletcher, a surviving human that must stop the robots from devouring the stored human consciousnesses in The Sanctuary which will allow them to… rule the world… or something. Nevermind. Story isn’t a strong point for Polish developers “Flying Wild Hog”. In their debut title, ‘Hard Reset’, their focus is on what happens when you arm the player with a never ending bag of ammo and set him loose against an army of fast-moving, hard-hitting metal targets. The results are undeniably fun and visually spectacular.
The nature of the gameplay on offer can be surmised from looking at the roots of ‘..Wild Hog’ which draws talent from three existing studios. People Can Fly are best known for Painkiller and Bulletstorm so you can expect hordes of fast moving enemies and interactive environmental kills. CD Projekt are known for my favourite RPG series ‘The Witcher‘, so you can expect to see highly detailed environments formed with cutting edge technology… and City Interactive brought us Sniper: Ghost Warrior so they’re clearly responsible for any crap elements that you don’t like (maybe they wrote it).
Before we go any further, this is what Hard Reset looks and feels like on a high end PC:
You see, Hard Reset is a return to the purity of the cursor and the player’s reflexes. In this singleplayer only game, you follow simple quest objectives that take you into quiet areas that are then overrun by screaming hostiles. If that sounds like Serious Sam and pulls out an anticipatory giggle, then this game was made for you. The core concept is just so familiar that your hands and eyes immediately synchronise as you spin and shoot and awake several hours later with a great big grin on your face. The action is incredibly fast and the teeming enemies sit ever so slightly on the uncomfortable side of overwhelming without ever being unfair. Not all kills will come from your weapon either, every level is packed with explodable cannisters and vehicles and if you shoot anything electrical, lightning will spark out in every direction; a single explosion can set off a calamitous chain of colour and sound for enormously satisfying group kills. Because most enemies take a fair amount of ammo to take down and may not have heads to shoot, you’ll soon instinctively lure them towards a killzone and unleash.
Another hallmark of a classic point and shoot game is the level of difficulty. I’m pleased to say that hard difficulty made me want to rip my face off and smash it through the monitor. Driving this is the varying engagement ranges of enemies. Thickly armed Hulks will charge you into walls, tiny little Claptrap’s will try to buzzsaw your face while ghostly power-suit bots will fire from long distance. Throw in a larger ‘boss’ to beat in some stages and managing the various levels of damages and distances can become frantic. On Hard difficulty I was experiencing a death every few minutes and brilliantly, rather than frustrating me to the point of ragequitting, I’d adopt a different approach until I hit on the magic solution to clear the area in the correct order. Even on Easy difficulty (which I ultimately adopted so I could finish the game for this review) there’s plenty of death to be had. Learning this kind of sequencing is a classic FPS element and full credit goes to the developers for having playtested their game well enough to achieve that balance.
Dystopian cyberpunk best describes the gameworld that’s been created here. Bladerunner was definitely in the source material for crafting the levels with the dank nature of the city brilliantly backlit by billboards, flying vehicles and glowing lights. When firefights light up, the dazzling weaponry effects, explosions and hordes of robots make Hard Reset a delightfully attractive game. The ‘Wild Hog’ team have created a winner with their own ‘Road Hog Engine’, even on dual NVIDIA 580’s the framerate would occasionally take a dip into the 30’s during busier moments but mostly sat well above 60fps. Some of the later battles almost completely overloaded my CPU with the massive number of phsyics-affected elements; Hard Reset really is a poster-child for modern tech.
Continuing with the cyberpunk theme, scattered regularly through most levels are upgrade terminals where you spend earned nano-points in return for suit/health boosts and add-ons for your two main weapons. This is possibly the smartest part of the game. Rather than create a range of futuristic weapons in the standard templates, you’ll have a machine gun and a plasma rifle which you select with Q or E. With each upgrade your weapon gains a new ability and switching to that using the number keys will morph the shape of your weapon to reflect its new purpose. Most of the abilities model well known fps tropes with grenade launchers and rockets a-plenty. Wild Hog have created some enjoyable new weapon types with their ‘NRG’ gun that has a lightning shotgun and lightning grenade, both of which are immensely fun and pretty to watch. Learning to switch types on the fly becomes pivotal when dealing with some of the swarms you’ll encounter. Dropping some traps, launching a lightning ‘nade and then hammering the swarm with your shotgun creates a ‘Super Soldier’ feel that the almost unlimited ammo and no reloading alone can’t provide.
All in all, Hard Reset is a spirited return to the purest essence of the first person shooter. The gameplay is unrelentingly quick and the range and ferocity of enemies will ensure you use every square foot of the playing area to stay alive. While the storyline is forgettable with an abrupt ending, the only motivation that’s really needed is to kill everything in sight. Graphics and sound are impeccable and will keep your eyes glued to the screen, but you will need a high-end GPU and CPU to truly see everything it has to offer. The inclusion of co-op and multiplayer could have lifted Hard Reset to cult-status and that absence along with the brevity of the singleplayer campaign (I finished it in 4 hours with the last 3 hours on easy) means there is next to no replayability. The budget price properly reflects what’s on offer here and Flying Wild Hog have delivered a memorable but short-lived title that will (sadly) be quickly buried under the onslaught of Q4 releases.
Here’s the rundown:
+ Stupidly fun old-school shooter gameplay
+ Ridiculously pretty on a high end PC
+ Upgradeable weapons allow for multiple play-styles
– Storyline is a waste of space
– Will punish all but the beefiest rigs
– Over way too quickly with no replayability
Learn more about the RipTen scoring system and what this score means. Visit our review scoring page
Hard Reset was developed and published by Flying Wild Hog for PC only, bitches. It was released on September 13th, 2011 for $29.99 USD which is roughly over 9000 cyberpunk credits. According to Murray, he “”Started on hard. Cried. Went medium. Cried some moar. Pussied out and went easy, STILL DYING” He managed to beat it a few hours later and write this review. A Steam code was provided by Flying Wild Hog, they have a pretty sweet logo. The rig used was as follows: