Feeding Robots Arcing Electric Death in Hard Reset Redux

It’s only been a few short years since Hard Reset came out as the first release from Flying Wild Hog, picking right up where many of the studio members’ former company, People Can Fly, had left off. Hard Reset was exactly the kind of FPS you’d have expected the company behind Painkiller and Bulletstorm to create, with its feet firmly in the all-action side of the genre. The industrial cyberpunk setting was filled with plenty of destructible bits to inflict explosive and arcing electric death on the enemy robots, and its style coupled with how good the game looked got Hard Reset a decent amount of attention. Since that time Flying Wild Hog has been busy with the two Shadow Warrior games (plus the all-ages platformer Juju), but Hard Reset was just sitting there, looking for one last round of polish and updating.

Hard Reset Redux is a full rebuild of the original, complete with rebalancing the levels, plenty of graphic polish, a quick dash move, and a new “cyber-katana” (all weapons are cooler when they’re cyber) with its basic combat moves borrowed from Shadow Warrior. It’s a good addition to the original two guns, adding even more attack options than the different firing modes provided. While two guns doesn’t sound like much, each of them acts like a mini handheld Transformer with five unique methods of projectile dispensation plus alt-fire for each. The projectile weapon can switch between acting as an assault rifle, shotgun, and a few different methods of explosive dispenser, while the energy gun can act as a railgun, shoot homing bolts, etc. Throw in the new sword and there shouldn’t be any situation without at least a few viable robot-elimination options.

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All the weapons were unlocked when I got to go hands-on with the demo, which on the one hand made it fun to play with the big toys but also pointed out how important it is to learn their strengths and weaknesses one at a time. Switching between one gun and the other is straightforward enough but knowing which configuration is best for sniping rather than throwing a useless mine by mistake? That’s the kind of thing that takes experience, but thankfully a friendly developer was there to look over my shoulder and let me know when I’d chosen exactly the wrong weapon for the job. Apparently scrolling through the firing modes just to see what each one does isn’t a great way to survive a hostile robot swarm.

Once I’d memorized how to access the most useful guns, however, Hard Reset Redux turned into not just a good action-fest but one with a huge amount of detail in every aspect of its levels. Destructible machinery is everywhere, and knowing how it breaks is key to working the environment to take out enemies for you. An exploding collection of propane tanks packs a nice punch, but a transformer shooting out electric arcs over several seconds does a nice job of hampering enemies while still clearing out the small fry. Each area has plenty of things to break, to the point where you’re left wondering how this is supposed to be a city built for human habitation. Then again, seeing as it’s being overrun by a robot swarm maybe that’s a moot point.

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Blasting through the levels, moving and dashing and slicing up enemies was as good a time as you could hope for from a twitch FPS, and like all good games of its type the area ended at an epic boss fight. A giant lizard-robot wrapped itself around the spires of the surrounding buildings and filled the rooftop confrontation with laser fire and plenty of enemies, making it more than a little tricky to target its glowing legs with the railgun.  A more realistic game might not have a giant neon sign of obviousness pointing out the weak spots, but Hard Reset is more than happy to be a video game first, filled with transforming guns, robots that die when sliced with a cyber-katana and multi-limbed laser-firing lizard bosses.  The original Hard Reset came along a few years before the twitch-FPS had its current revival and it’s great to see it polished off and updated to get a new and well-deserved second chance.