It seems almost inevitable that our future will include robots performing many tasks we humans do today. But what if their Artificial Intelligence was corrupted, and they turned their beady red glowing eyes and strong sharp pneumatic arms toward us?
Flying Wild Hog, based in Warsaw, Poland is the game production studio that brought this cyberpunk vision to life back in 2011 as Hard Reset. Along with Gambitious Digital Entertainment, they have brought back this hardcore first person shooter with new improved gameplay, enhanced visuals and additional content. Hard Reset Redux includes all the content of the previous editions, as well as new pacing and difficulty modes, a new enemy type, and a new weapon, the energy katana.
The game is set in a bleak dystopian cyberpunk future similar in style to Bladerunner. Tall cement buildings cast deep shadows into the narrow valleys of the Barrens, the abandoned street level area now controlled by machines. Far from sunlight thanks to the tall buildings, the environment is grey and drab, punctuated only by garish neon or vending machines shilling their wares to customers that will never materialize.
The player interacts with the world of Hard Reset as Major Fletcher, a hardboiled contract soldier with a cybernetic eye working for the CLN corporation. He is gruff, violent, loves his booze, and cusses almost as much as he slings bullets at the robots swarming the Barrens.
Fletcher gets plenty of firepower to mow down those pesky killing machines. Along with an energy katana (that is definitely not a light saber!), his two main weapons are the CLN Modular Assault Rifle, and the EEF-21 Plasma Rifle, each with their own ammo. Each weapon can be upgraded with an alternate fire mode, and also upgraded into different weapon types, like shotgun, railgun, grenade launcher, and my favorite, the smartgun.
The currency for unlocking these upgrades is the amber glowing NANO crates dropped by enemies and sometimes hiding in secret areas. Other crates dropped by fallen foes include green for health, blue to recharge the plasma rifle, and red for ammo for the assault rifle.
Many of the hidden areas of the game can be found by shooting explosive barrels next to cracked walls. In fact, if you shoot anything that isn’t uniform grey, chances are it will blow up. Besides barrels, you can blow up cars, garage door openers, vending machines, signs, generators, pretty much anything with any color probably explodes. A key strategy while playing Hard Reset is to wait until enemies are next to an object, then shoot it. Electrical objects like vending machines or generators arc electricity before they explode, creating a wide field of damage like a free grenade.
You’ll need these exploding crowd control measures as you fight your way through the Barrens; Hard Reset will throw a lot of enemies your way. There is no cover system, you must constantly be moving, firing at the chasing robot horde while looking for ammo and health refills and environmental damage opportunities. The enemies after you range from saw-equipped dog sized robots, two legged charging Gorillas, humanoid robots with their own guns, to my least favorite, flying drones that are hard to hit and always fly in packs. When the stages flare out from narrow corridors to open arenas, the fire fights can get quite intense, and often result in having to start from a prior checkpoint after being overwhelmed.
This frenetic combat of Hard Reset is where it shines. Mowing down waves of enemies as explosions detonate all around you, switching weapons on the fly to deal with a new threat, and escaping by the skin of your teeth can produce a fantastic adrenaline rush. But if an area is stacked with too many flying enemies shooting you from above while charging Gorillas attack from below, you may be frustrated and have to restart several times. Several areas in the game were extremely difficult and a bit frustrating in my experience.
While the grey corridors and alleys of the game suit the cyberpunk setting, they feel empty when there are no enemies directly attacking you, and the maps feel often feel repetitive. I could swear I went through the same layout twice in two separate levels. Energy gates require finding and destroying generators, and secret areas with NANO crates give the player some reason to explore, but mostly you’ll just want to get through quickly to engage in the next robotic slaughter.
It’s a good thing the explosive combat is fun, because the story of Hard Reset is confusing and nonsensical. Apparently the robots want to control and assimilate ‘The Sanctuary’, a network that holds billions of digitalized human minds. It’s never really made clear why they want to raid the brain bank, and speaking of brains, your character has a few extra voices in his head for no discernible reason. In a plot twist you’ll spot almost as soon as you start the game, the corporation you are working for may not have the best interests of humanity at heart. I found myself taking the advice of the lower right screen of every comic book style cutscene and “pressing any button to skip.”
I just wanted to get back to shooting robots in the face.
- Fast paced explosive combat
- Cool cyberpunk future setting
- Full featured but simple weapon upgrade path
- Repetitive level design
- Steep difficulty at times
- Nonsensical story
A copy of Hard Reset Redux was provided for review for PlayStation 4. If you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on other games, check out the weekly Plug and Play podcast.