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Hard Reset: Extended Edition (PC) Review

/ Jul 26th, 2012 No Comments

Hard Reset Extended Edition Review

There are two things about Hard Reset that you need to know: it is hard, and you will reset. A lot. Now that we’ve gotten the obvious out of the way, let’s get to the actual game. Hard Reset is kind of a love letter to old-school shooters, the ones where you can’t just call in an airstrike to wipe out all your enemies for you.  Developed by some of the staff behind the 2004 classic Painkiller, it asks the age-old question: how many evil robots can one man shoot, blow up, eviscerate, electrocute, disintegrate, and otherwise consign to the great junkyard in the sky? It’s not going to win any awards for originality, but then again, it doesn’t need to; what it does do is heap oodles of shooter goodness on your lap, at least for a few short hours.

Hard Reset Extended Edition Review

Hard Reset Extended Edition Review

If you played any of the classic shooters (think Doom and Quake), you’ll be very familiar with the gameplay. This is FPS in its most stripped down form: no scripted on-rails sequences or cinematic interludes to break up the running-and-gunning. Cover is mostly an afterthought, as the enemies tend to get up close and personal, and most battles involve a horde of at least thirty enemies swarming all around you. The bots range from small suicide orbs to Edward Scissorhands wannabes to behemoths whose preferred modus operandi is charging you with their metallic heft. While you only have two weapons with which to lay waste to your foes, you can upgrade each weapon with a number of attachments, so that your basic plasma gun can shoot seeker projectiles and your standard machine gun lays down mines. This leads to a number of interesting combos; my personal favorite was dropping a stasis field to trap my enemies, and blasting their helpless metal carapaces to pieces with an RPG. Take that, Cuisinart! The only gripe I had with the weapon system was the unresponsiveness of the controls; trying to switch to a different weapon attachment when moving sometimes took me several key presses, which is inexcusable in a game as fast-paced as this one.

You’ll definitely need to learn the ins-and-outs of all the weapons at your disposal if you want to survive; the difficulty in this game can be brutal, even on normal difficulty. Unlike certain contemporary shooters, where I can get by on hard with mostly just a knife, you can’t just hide in one spot and take potshots at enemies; if you don’t go to your enemy they will come to you. Taking down a metal behemoth is hard, but taking it down with fifteen chainsaw bots in your face is even harder. It helps though, that the environment is littered with explosive barrels (which are helpfully labeled EXPLOSIVE) and electric generators that arc lightning to anything near them when you damage them. While many of the fights give you wide open city streets and skyscraper tops to work with, at times the game decides to throw incredible numbers of enemies at you when you’re in a narrow corridor or room. It certainly ups the challenge, but it can feel kind of cheap when you’re getting pasted in a room that a hobbit would turn his nose up at. The game uses checkpoints instead of a save-anywhere system, but they’re just frequent enough that it’s not a huge hassle when you die. There are a few boss encounters, but they’re nothing to be excited about; just shoot glowing weak points, dodge the lasers, and repeat.

It's hard to find dialogue this scintillating these days

It’s hard to find dialogue this scintillating these days

If an angry robot is ripping out your innards, it at least helps if the surroundings look nice, and Hard Reset doesn’t disappoint. You spend most of your time in a future cyberpunk-influenced cityscape that looks like something from the Matrix. Car hulks dot the landscape while omnipresent neon advertisement displays give the darkened metropolis a feel of eerie abandonment. The only music of note is a fast-paced track that pops up at the onset of combat and disappears just as jarringly once you blast the last robot in the area, as if someone is flipping a switch. It kind of took me out of the atmosphere, but other than that Bezoar is an interesting place, and it’s a shame that it’s not more fleshed out in the story, which is mostly conveyed through comic book-esque videos in the loading screen. You play as a hardened veteran of the security force of the Corporation, a behemoth organization which controls the city of Bezoar. You start out following orders given to you by your faceless superiors, but later your foul-mouthed character races to unravel a conspiracy that threatens the entire city. It’s pretty threadbare, and none of the dialogue is particularly memorable, interesting, or even well-written; the voice acting is just as bland and uninspired.  In the free DLC expansion Exile, you’ll travel outside the city to more arid locations, but the story is even less well developed there and the ending confused me in how it introduces more questions than it answers, and not in a good way. It feels like they took cyberpunk tropes and a dartboard to come up with the mess of a plot, which is a shame because the setting definitely had potential.

When it comes to things that go boom, Hard Reset's got you covered

When it comes to things that go boom, Hard Reset’s got you covered

Assuming that your shooter skills are up to par, you should blow through both the original game and Exile in well under eight hours on normal difficulty. If you have the DLC, the game simply continues on when you reach the end of the original, so I didn’t even realize that I had completed the first part until I consulted the internet later on; it was that short and uneventful. The DLC is less an expansion than it is what should have been the end of the original game, so I guess it makes sense that it’s free. Even so, without a multiplayer component, the game feels a little emptier than it should. Old-school gunplay just screams for deathmatch, and its exclusion feels like a missed opportunity. There are standard survival modes in which you are (surprise, surprise) pitted against unending waves of robots, and it feels like these also could have been improved with the inclusion of multiplayer. For the more adventurous (and suicidal) gamer, there is also a Heroic mode, in which there are no checkpoints and the difficulty is through the roof. I died more times than I care to admit just on normal difficulty, so wuss that I am, I wouldn’t try Heroic without a good supply of Valium on hand and AC/DC blaring in the background.

It’s not a bad game, but Hard Reset feels like with a little bit more tweaking, inclusion of multiplayer, and a story that actually made sense, it could have been something special. As it is, Hard Reset is a refreshingly straightforward shooter that ignores the bombast of recent titles in the genre and boils everything down to the basics. You won’t take very long to burn through what the game has to offer, but you’ll have a blast doing it. Hard Reset: Extended Edition, which includes both the original game and the Exile DLC, is on sale on Steam until July 23rd, and if you’re at all a fan of exploding barrels, exploding robots, or guns that make things that explode, it is well worth the price.

Overall Ratings – Hard Reset: Extended Edition (PC)











Dustin Liaw

Dustin Liaw

Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
A polymath in every sense except for that of reality, Dustin Liaw is a historian, critic, writer, musician, poet, dreamer, scientist, programmer, linguist, bureaucrat, and all-around geek who happens to enjoy tabletop RPGs, anime, and video games in his spare time.
Dustin Liaw

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