Hard Reset review

By Ozzie Mejia, Sep 14, 2011 3:00pm PDT

Flying Wild Hog are no strangers to shooters. The studio is largely comprised of former designers from People Can Fly, the developers behind Painkiller and the more-recent Bulletstorm. So it’s no surprise that Flying Wild Hog has arrived on the gaming scene, guns blazing, with Hard Reset.

Hard Reset takes place in a dystopian future, where machines have taken over and humanity is largely in hiding. While Hard Reset’s story is set in the future, the gameplay mechanics are inspired by the past.

This game fully embraces old-school shooting mechanics from the 90’s and eschews many of the modern tropes found in today’s games. There’s no cover system, no melee combat, and no regenerating health. Instead, I had to ration health pack use, and manage my limited sprint to escape attacks.

In many ways, Hard Reset feels like a horror game, with machines ready for ambush around every corner. I could always hear the whirring and clicking of nearby machines. As soon as the music would intensify, I knew dozens of small killer machines would start stampeding in my direction. The constant ambushes made me feel like I was taking on a malevolent AI, one that was enjoying making me sweat. Thankfully, smart players will be able to take advantage of the surrounding environment. In a future where everything is run by machines, there’s ample opportunity to shoot a nearby electrical post and destroy enemies with the resulting discharge.

While the game's survival horror feel is one of its strengths, it's also one of its weaknesses. Fletcher’s movements feel stiff, and become especially problematic during boss fights. Bosses often tower over Fletcher and use attacks that follow his every movement. Many of the game’s bosses use heat-seeking lasers and missiles and Fletcher’s clumsy movements made it incredibly difficult to dodge these attacks, especially since I often found myself sprinting myself into a wall or a corner.

The plot also falls short. While its familiar premise starts simple enough, the narrative goes off on several nonsensical tangents. Thankfully, none of the plot elements that unfold affect actual gameplay, outside of taking Fletcher from point A to point B. But, the story feels like a chore to sit through. It’s a shame, because the cutscenes are beautifully illustrated with a keen graphic novel style. An art style such as this deserves a more coherent plot.

In spite of its flaws, Hard Reset is a fun throwback to the 90s, powered by current-gen tech. A good number of today's FPS titles feel formulaic, in terms of control mechanics and features. Hard Reset brings a distinctly different style to the table and it's a welcome change from the norm.

[The Hard Reset review is based on a final version of the game, provided by developer Flying Wild Hog.]

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