2011 was a great year for games. We got the excellent Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the epic Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings and the fun but little known Hard Reset. This was the first outing for Flying Wild Hog and Hard Reset stood out from the crowed at the time with its old-school shooter gameplay. Fast forward to 2016 and Flying Wild Hog have rereleased Hard Reset as the Redux Edition, a collection of all the DLC with the bonus of an engine upgrade. The console people who missed Hard Reset first time around can now play it on Xbox One and PS4. It is time to dust off the old guns and explore the city of Bezoar once again.
Hard Reset: Redux is cyberpunk to its futuristic core, but you probably already guessed that just by reading its name. Bezoar, the city that the majority of Hard Reset is based in, brings back strong memories of Blade Runner’s dystopian Los Angeles. Alleys are vaguely lit by neon, skyscrapers with giant TVs advertising the next must-have product and the ever promised but never delivered flying cars race over head as you explore this corridor like city. The majority of levels within Hard Reset bring back the feeling of DOOM’s corridor-like level design with some areas later opening up to include massive arenas. Bezoar makes for a grim but sometimes pretty setting, although you never really get the chance to take in your surrounds as you are often trying to keep Fletcher alive from an assault of killer robots.
Major Fletcher is the hero of this adventure. A grizzled veteran of the CLN, he now spends most of his time drinking himself stupid in the dive bars found within Bezoar. The mechanical terrors that are the robots have somehow found their way into the inner walls of Bezoar and it is down to Major Fletcher to get out there and push the reset button on these mechanical monstrosities. What are these robots? Why are they mercilessly killing innocent people? Why does Fletcher have a drinking problem? What does CLN stand for? Lots of questions are presented within Hard Reset’s story but few are every rarely answered. The Redux edition did flesh out the story a little more than the original but not enough to get the player truly invested in its world. It still falls very short of being a fully fleshed-out story but who really plays old school shooters for the story? You are here to maim and destroy robots and Hard Reset has plenty of that on offer.
The chaos hardly ever lets up. Killer robots of varying sizes will come at you from all sides. Some are small annoyances on their own but as a huge group can quickly rip your health to shreds. Others are huge rocket-spitting colossals that quickly rush you and pound your skull into the ground. However, the enemy variety does start to quickly go stale as you start to encounter the same two or three enemy types grouped together. Even within the later levels you will only encounter a few new enemies and they are often used sparingly. The bosses are giant machines that tower over Fletcher. While they are entertaining to fight they can sometimes be a pain with the last boss being especially frustrating. When your game is slowing down on a modern console because of too many enemy spawns then you should probably reduce the amount of enemies in that area.
To battle these death-dealing bots Fletcher comes equipped with two very different guns. One is the more traditional bullet-spewing machine gun while the other is the neon blue laser gun. While this may sound strange to only have two types of guns in an old-school shooter these guns can be upgraded with all kinds of mods that change their firing style. The machine gun can become a shotgun, grenade launcher and much more, while the laser gun can become a short range lightning gun and a smartgun amongst other things. The problem however comes down to the fact that both ends end up feeling very similar towards the end. Both have a take on the grenade launcher and the shotgun. They both also have the overpowered weapon that you will just default to using towards the end. The machine gun becomes an RPG that is perfect for long range crowd control while the laser gun can become a railgun that lets you take down targets from a long distance. The two-gun system is never fully realised though. Having only two guns seems like the perfect opportunity to create an Ikaruga-style enemy system where you can only take down enemies with a certain gun. It really feels like a missed opportunity on the part of the developers. The game also had a laser katana now because Shadow Warrior, Flying Wild Hog’s excellent remake, had one. It never really reaches the full potential that the sword-play in Shadow Warrior achieved. The enemies either all attack you from the front or rush you so you never get a chance to really use the Katana. A nice addition to the game but it never feels necessary to ever use the sword over the guns.
Hard Reset was a great game when it was first released in 2011. The Redux edition has a graphics overhaul and a story pacing rebalance it still retains the gameplay of the original. While that was great five years ago when old-school shooters were in decline, Hard Reset now feels somewhat dated. With the likes of Wolfenstein: The New Order, DOOM and Shadow Warrior serving as the revival of the traditional shooter Hard Reset: Redux is going to have a hard time standing out.