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Hard Reset: Redux

Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Gambitious Digital Entertainment
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ First Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Flying Wild Hog has a reputation as a modern developer of classic style shooters, and it only took them two games to establish that. Weíve already accorded high praise to their second game, the reboot of 3D Realmsí Shadow Warrior, and eagerly await its upcoming sequel. Their debut effort Hard Reset, while not as complete or well-designed, has a place among modern arcade shooters. Perhaps its greatest contribution is in its insistence that genre doesnít have to be an amalgamated mess of iteration and rehashing. It proves that simplicity can indeed be a good thing. When done right, certain kinds of games can be comfort food. Hard Reset: Redux is the definitive version of an attractive and exciting, albeit flawed cyberpunk shooter.

Hard Reset: Redux isnít exactly of the current generation of video game consoles, so it naturally doesnít look as good as its contemporaries. However, if you go in knowing that, you will be pleased with what it brings to the table. At its best, the art design is evocative of Blade Runner. The city of Bezoar is a total stranger to good weather, and its streets are absolutely saturated with commercialization. Advertisements are somehow even more in-your-face than they are in reality; special kiosks light up with a discombobulating orgy of attention-grabbers, each more obnoxious than the last -- if you try to make sense of it all, your head will be hurting within moments. Enemy design is slightly campy, but in a good way. After all, youíre essentially fighting a robot uprising. Hard Reset features its share of visual shocks, especially later in the game. Story cutscenes are as visually striking as they are incomprehensible, and thatís saying a lot. A heavily-muted color palette combines with graphic novel aesthetics to present something that may not be terribly unique, but is no less intriguing for it. The action is where Hard Reset looks its best. Fletcherís two primary weapons and all their assorted modules look fantastic, but theyíre straight up magical when used. Iíll put it this way: Hard Reset almost does with electricity what BioShock does with water. The game unmistakably shows its age, but itís never unattractive.

Since Hard Reset is a guns-blazing rampage through the ghettos of the future, it's only natural that the game pairs the sounds of high voltage and synthesized warblings of both weaponry and voices (yes, I said that) with the very best in urban decay. Everything you hear lends a sense of oppression and unrest, which makes the world extremely intriguing. Even though the story being told is incompetently-told, the voice acting is solid. All of this helps create a world that, again, might seem a bit derivative, but at least is cohesive in its vision. And for that, I give Flying Wild Hog kudos.


Gameplay:

Hard Reset: Reduxís story could have been vomited out by William Gibson after a really bad amphetamine bender. I canít explain it. It teases its dystopian cyberpunk world and then yanks the player through a series of incredibly bizarre events that, based on my experience, are supposed to provoke some deep metaphysical thinking. Sorry, no. Hard Reset is entirely about blowing the ever living sh*t out of a bunch of robotic monstrosities. Luckily, itís quite good in that regard.

Get from the beginning of the level to the end. Slaughter absolutely everything in your way. If you donít, those things will slaughter you. Do some exploring while youíre at it. You might find health, ammunition, or a special currency that allows you to purchase more things with which to slaughter absolutely everything in your way.

If I make Hard Reset sound simple, thatís because it is by its very nature, a simple game. Despite its speculative science fiction trappings, it isnít pretentious. It doesnít waste much of the playerís time with exposition. It gives just enough to provide the bare minimum of context for all the mayhem. Fletcher, the protagonist, is a tool. A weapon. You donít have to do much thinking, apart from the strategy involved in reducing the mechanical hordes to scrap.

Not having played the original release on PC, I'm unable to speak to the improvements that give Hard Reset: Redux its fancy subtitle. But I can talk about what's actually new to the game. Graphical improvements and balancing fixes aside, Fletcher has two new abilities at his command both of which make me wonder if he took lessons from Lo Wang. One is a Cyber-Katana that sounds exactly like a lightsaber. The other is a quick dash move. Both are useful tools in overcoming Hard Reset's biggest problem: difficulty spikes.


Difficulty:

Unfortunately, Hard Reset: Redux slips a bit in this department. Challenge in a shooter is a good thing, but only when itís applied with the right pressure in the right place. Hard Reset frequently hearkens back to the good old days when your only concern was staying alive. Every move you make counts; after all, you move so quickly that one wrong step might land you in the middle of a mob. And just like in those old classics, once youíre surrounded, youíre dead. Hard Resetís level design occasionally causes situations like these. Most of the encounters can be survived by managing crowds: kiting enemies around while dealing a steady amount of damage. But there are a few instances in which you canít maneuver efficiently. When this happens, youíre forced to engage in close quarters combat, which is far more difficult and far less satisfying than the arena style engagements. Compound that with the unholy amount of splash damage in the game, and youíve got a handful of supremely frustrating moments.

Game Mechanics:

Hardcore single player shooters tend not to pride themselves on their mechanics unless you're talking about the arsenal at the player's disposal. In the case of Hard Reset: Redux, it's solid. If you're looking for something varied in appearance or something that will take up half the screen, you won't find it here. Hard Reset's arsenal is split between two core weapons: the C.L.N. Firearm and the NRG Weapon. Both of these guns are modular in function and take on a number of different firing styles. Unlocking new functions for weapons and combat gear is handled through vending machines and a collectible currency called N.A.N.O. You won't be able to acquire all of it in one playthrough; there are so many upgrades to purchase and the game is markedly short, even for a shooter.

Hard Reset emphasizes a staple of hardcore single player shooters, and that's environmental collateral. Shooting enemies is fun. Shooting electric devices that spray arcs of electricity when damaged? Even more fun. With a burning car and a few explosive barrels nearby, it's straight up hell on earth. Some weapons better facilitate these kinds of insane moments, but part of the joy in games like Hard Reset is in developing your own combat style.

I'm so happy that classic first person shooters are having a renaissance. It's long overdue; there's a certain something about the way these games play. The levels encouraging exploration. The combat being fast and chaotic. And with only the minimum of context behind all of it, at that. Hard Reset: Redux isn't the standard to which all other single player action shooters should hold themselves, but it's a damned good time.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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