previews\ Aug 15, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Hard Reset Preview


Thanks to Evolve PR's new study on “shortened public relations campaigns”, you may not have heard of Hard Reset yet. The game, which was announced July 13, is scheduled for release next month on PC.

Up until now, not much was revealed about the game, except for a few trailers and some screenshots. In a time when we're used to having at least a year of build up before a game's release, you can understand why we were a little skeptical about the Hard Reset when we received the playable preview build.

Hard Reset environment screenshot HD graphics with old-school gameplay

I booted up Hard Reset and entered the bleak future of 2436. The plot, on it's most basic level, is machines vs humans. In animated comic book style cut-scenes, Hard Reset tells the story of Major Fletcher, a security officer for The Corporation, who is sent to defend Bezoar from hordes of aggressive robots attempting to access the digitized personalities of billions humans. In Bezoar City resides in The Sanctuary, which is home to this human neural network. This is the prime target of these robot bastards, as they attempt to push beyond the limits of their artificial brains. You play as Fletcher, sent to defend The Sanctuary. He's not doing it for the love of humanity, but for the butt-load of money (yes, that was a Spaceballs quote). The plot may sound like The Matrix, but at first glance, the setting is reminiscent of Blade Runner.

The environment is dreary, to say the least. It's dark, it's rainy, and it's colorless, giving you a cold, impersonal feel to the futuristic Bezoar City. Wet concrete sidewalks, littered with trash, and abandoned, run-down sky scrapers are lit only by an abundance of neon signs and automated shopping machines that scream detached, big corporation. With that being said, Hard Reset is simply mesmerizing to look at. Polish developer, Flying Wild Hog, has created an environment that is void of emotion. The meticulous attention to environmental detail is highlighted by the flickering of street lights and pulsing signs, heightening the anxiety of being in a lifeless city overrun by rampant robots.

You will feel alone.

Hard Reset environment screenshot Eerily similar to Blade Runner's version of 2019 Los Angeles

It's you and your weapons, which are split into two categories: the CLN and the N.R.G. While both weapons can pack a punch when fully upgraded, the CLN pays homage to the older-form of weapons, using a more primitive bullet/explosive ammo system. That's not to say the weapon isn't effective. On the contrary, it's quite effective and probably my favorite of the two weapons. Who doesn't enjoy an old-fashioned shotgun? The N.R.G welcomes you to a more futuristic time, using an energy based ammo system. As you progress through the game, you won't find entirely new weapons. Instead, as you blast your way through the streets, you will gain experience points from killing enemies and collecting hidden items. You can then spend these experience points at upgrade terminals scattered throughout the city. By the end of the game, these two weapons will fill any need you may have. My only complaint is switching not only between the two main weapons, but the various forms they upgrade into. An altered reticule and small change in weapon appearance is all you have to judge which variation of the weapon you have equipped. I often found myself just randomly switching in between weapons to take down the enemies.

Watch gameplay from Hard Reset

As you roam the cluttered streets, you will encounter a variety of enemy bots. The smaller ones can easily be taken care of, but as you venture deeper into the city, you will be greeted by larger, heavily armored bots that are capable of soaking up more damage. Luckily in the demo we were given access to the wide range of weapon upgrades available in the game; it made it a lot easier to lay waste to them. The environment does offer some form of help when fighting. You will often find explosive barrels and electrical points that will send an electrical jolt to all surrounding enemies upon being shot.

The primary focus of Hard Reset is to kill, and nothing gets in the way of that. You follow a linear path that will lead to the destruction of many robots. The gameplay is straightforward run-and-gun, reminiscent of Unreal and Quake. The combat is quick and messy. You can attempt to have strategy, but the chaos that ensues after you encounter a wave of robots will leave you scrambling for an alternate plan b. You will always be outnumbered, so look for those friendly explosive barrels. While the robots are quicker than you, their AI brains aren't smarter than you. After all, that is why they seek access to the human brain. They will often charge at you or perform AOE attacks, which can be dodged by side-stepping. Easier said than done.

Hard Reset environment screenshot Meet Atlus: 600 feet of pure metal.

After completing a few levels in the demo, I was greeted by a 600-foot tall colossus that went by the name of Atlas. All good, old-school games culminate with a boss fight, and Hard Reset is no different. He was a scary looking robot-man, indeed, but utilizing my plethora of weapons, I was able to take him down piece by piece. Though just a glimpse of what a boss fight would consist of, I can only imagine what other types of bosses Hard Rest has in store for us.

Hard Reset harks back to the glory days of simplistic shooters, combining old-school, gritty gameplay with glorious HD graphics. There is no regenerative health, no cover mechanic, nor any special “abilities” in this old-fashioned shoot-em-up. It's just you and the mission at hand.

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