Hard Reset – No Paperclip Required

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Normally I consider a game’s story and setting to be more important than the actual mechanics.

Hard Reset proved a very notable exception to this rule, because it does not have a deep story.  It’s more like “Once upon a time, there was a man with a lot of guns who hated robots, so he shot them all.  The End.”

This is unfair to the author of the ACTUAL story, I admit, because there’s a heavy cyberpunk thing going on with an evil corporation and malevolent AIs and nanomachines and a robot uprising and oh for the love of God just go and re-read some back issues of Mondo 2000 and watch Blade Runner for the 30th time, then come back when you’re ready to shoot robots.

So, let’s talk about the mechanics a little bit, because the story isn’t the important bit for a change.

Hard Reset is, in just about every way, a love letter to Doom and other FPS games of its era.  There’s no regenerating health, no cover system, no iron sights, no 2-weapon limit.  You pick up med kits to heal, ammo boxes to refill your bullet supply.  Every level has a ton of secrets to reward exploration, and you are given a score at the end of each level based on how many secrets you found, how long you took, how many things you blew up and so forth.  Enemies almost never come one or two at a time and you are almost always fighting a swarm of mixed nasties.  The best thing you have on your side is that you can use the environment against the swarm; every level is full of stuff that explodes or electrocutes, and steering the oncoming hordes into harm’s way is fantastically satisfying.

The environment, being mostly ruins and wastelands, is fairly bleak, but it IS pretty, and also full of all kinds of sexy physics objects to get knocked around by explosions.

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There are a couple of notable differences from the Doom formula.  First, the game uses checkpoints rather than allowing you to save freely.  This is usually OK, but there were a couple of places where checkpoints were spaced maybe just a LITTLE far apart and I wound up seeing the start of one particular level far too many times for my liking.

Second, you don’t pick up weapons.  You earn currency from blowing up robots and from finding it scattered throughout the levels.  You use this to buy upgrades, and the same currency is used for upgrading armor and abilities and for buying and upgrading weapons, and this is where I went terribly wrong in my playthrough.

If you are smart, you will spend your first few upgrade points on buying the Railgun, which is a gun that SHOOTS THROUGH WALLS, and has an optional scope upgrade that lets you SEE THROUGH WALLS.  Oh, and it’s a hitscan weapon, meaning that there is no lag between clicking the mouse button to shoot and when the thing you are trying to shoot gets hit.  This differs from the game’s rocket launcher, which has a significant travel time from firing to impact.

If you are dumb, you will not buy this until you are nearly done with the game and incredibly frustrated with the apparent difficulty level.

So, yeah, it’s possible to really do yourself a disservice there.

I also ran into a compatibility problem with my AMD graphics card.  It turns out that, if you are forcing antialiasing through the AMD drivers, there are no menus and no videos when starting the game.  You see a blank spot where there obviously should be menus, but you can’t actually do anything.

Need I mention that trying to search for information on a game called “Hard Reset” is not the easiest thing in the world?  Google returns page after page of people trying to reboot their phones or other electronics.

Sometimes PC gaming can be an exercise in frustration.

When Hard Reset originally came out, it was a seven level game that ended abruptly after five or six hours and left a lot of folks confused and wanting, so the devs added five extra levels and made them available to anyone who’d bought the original game.  That’s pretty solid on their part.

Short version: minor gripes and one AMD-specific issue aside, this was one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played this year.  Seriously recommended.

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