HARD RESET REDUX Review
Flying Wild Hog is best known for their reimagined SHADOW WARRIOR and upcoming sequel, but few remember their first title, 2011’s HARD RESET. Like their other title, HARD RESET channeled old school shooters like DUKE NUKEM 3D, SERIOUS SAM, and yes, DOOM. With that famous reboot still fresh off the shelf, it’s little wonder that HARD RESET REDUX has once again flown under the radar. More than a simple port, this update sports a slew of changes, though it’s a mixed bag on how welcome they are.
You play as Major Fletcher, an alcoholic cyborg and enforcer for the CLN corporation in Bezoar City. When killer scrapbots breach the dystopic city’s walls, it’s his job to clean up the mess. As is wont to happen in perpetually rainy cyberpunk worlds, however, Fletcher’s employers aren’t quite what they seem, and the agent ends up joining forces with a rogue scientist to discover the true source of the robotic insurgency.
Do androids dream of electric guns?
Though the world is engrossing, the same cannot be said for the narrative. HARD RESET’s story serves mostly as a flimsy springboard to frame the violence around. Exposition is messily dumped in comic-book cutscenes between missions, punctuated by long, contextless gameplay interludes where Fletcher suddenly becomes mute. This changing of mediums only heightens the tacked on feeling of the plot. At least, that’s how it works in the base game anyway. See, REDUX includes both the original HARD RESET and it’s expansion pack, EXILE. EXILE does a much better job integrating storytelling into the gameplay, and Fletcher even finds his voice, but it’s too little, too late by the time that content begins. Both the base game and the expansion have jarringly abrupt endings, and the plot is so incoherent that most players will have already tuned out by that point anyway.
Combat is solid yet stark. You’ve only got two guns, but each can be configured to five different modes that offer a flexible variety of tactical options, from wall-piercing snipers with x-ray scopes to mine-laying grenade launchers. There’s nothing too wild here, but each weapon handles excellently, with their multiple fire modes fitting just about every situation. There are only a few variants of robotic foes, and few encounters stray from the standard waves of tiny sawbots, one or two big chargers, and a few snipers in the backdrop. Such fights would probably get tiresome with repeated use, but HARD RESET isn’t that long of a game, with the campaign plus expansion clocking in at just under a mere seven hours.
Despite the stilted, rushed campaign, the true focus of HARD RESET is the environment. Even without the killing machines, Bezoar is probably the least safe city on Earth to live in. Exploding barrels and cars, volatile power generators, and exposed gas pipes litter the streets, and HARD RESET’s exceptionally tough enemies will just as often be killed by strategic use of these hazards as your own guns. The countless holographic display terminals can be short circuited to stun robots with electric arcs, and chain explosions often level rooms. It’s a rare abundance of destructible objects, and mayhem they cause matches the ridiculousness of your encounters.
TRON: The Later Years
REDUX introduces a few key additions to the gameplay that significantly help the experience. Both the dash bursts and katana from SHADOW WARRIOR make appearances in REDUX. Vanilla HARD RESET saw players frequently getting cornered and slaughtered by the hordes of spongy enemies, but the improved dash increases player mobility tenfold, a godsend for this genre. The samurai saber is a welcome toy for weapon variety alone, and though it provides little utility, dicing the weaker cyborgs into bloody chunks is just as satisfying as it was in SHADOW WARRIOR. REDUX also rebalances some of the earlier maps to include content from EXILE, and comes equipped with wave-based Survival maps and a new game plus mode, so even the handful of people who played the original game will have something new here.
The other big change from REDUX are the graphics, and this is where things get strange. The game runs silky smooth at 60fps, even on consoles, but visually is… a downgrade? HARD RESET looked amazing for a 2011 title, but in porting the game into Flying Wild Hog’s new in-house engine, something went wrong. Textures are significantly muddier, almost approaching last gen-quality, and despite the slightly improved particle effects, the game manages to look worse than it did five years ago. Does it look awful? No, and newcomers likely won’t notice the changes, but the principle of the matter is pretty egregious.
Ha, more like blade gunner
It sounds like my recommendation of HARD RESET REDUX would be in question after all is said and done. After all, Flying Wild Hog biffed the engine transfer, the story is a mess, and the game itself somehow has a monotonous quality in such a short timespan. And yet, I had a lot of fun playing REDUX. The gameplay is what truly matters here, and REDUX knows it. This isn’t a game out to win any awards, but it does get the job done. If you’re like me and owned the original, the REDUX upgrade is a steal at three dollars, but even first time players will get their money’s worth with the $20 standalone. Give it a shot if you’ve still got an itch that DOOM couldn’t scratch.
Reviewed on PC, also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.