Good lord, I’ve become a FPS pussy.
That was the thought that started bouncing around in my head the first time I played through the Hard Reset preview build. Immediately a miniature version of R Lee Ermey popped into my head and yelled:
“GOD DAMMIT SON, YOU’RE A WASTE OF A GAMER. THAT FANCY PANTS COVER BASED SHOOTER CRAP HAS MADE YOU SOFTER THAN JELLO IN THE HOT SUN. THAT REGENERATING HEALTH CRAP HAS MADE YOU WEAKER THAN A NEWBORN SUCKLING ON HIS MOMMA’S TEAT. YOU CALL YOURSELF A FPS PLAYER? YOU MAKE ME SICK YOU CANDY ASS”
As much as I wanted to ignore him, my mental mini-Emery had a point though. Hard Reset is a throw back to the original FPS games of yore and by that I don’t mean the original Call of Duty. I mean Doom and Duke Nukem 3D. If you know what “IDDQD” means then Hard Reset is a game worth checking out.
I say this because the game’s action heavy focus kept resulting in me watching the reset screen over and over again as I was trying to get cute by hiding behind cars and walls which is not the strategy you need to take. On my second play through I realized that by upgrading my weapons and health a bit I could get through the areas without dying so frequently.
Of course we’ve seen other FPS make the callback to the good old days of gaming. Painkiller, Duke Nukem Forever, and others have already blazed this path but it’s Hard Reset’s environment that separate it from the rest Set in the future the game delivers a Blade Runner style universe replete with buildings and slow moving dirigibles decked out with video boards. Other games have tried to deliver this look but Hard Reset takes it a bit further with its attention to detail.
I won’t espouse to know exactly what the plot of Hard Reset is. The cool comic book intro style of the game mentions something about a human personality matrix and robots but it really just feels like an excuse to introduce the gritty Agent Fletcher and get him started in his quest to blow lots of stuff up.
The demo build I was sent contained about three or so levels of the game and provided a decent taste of what to expect. I get the feeling that the build was the first few levels of the game but I don’t have a lot of context to back that up.
For the most part Hard Reset follows your basic FPS conventions. You move, you shoot, you move some more, and then you shoot some more but there are some cool twists. The first of these is the weapons system. The game limits you to two upgradeable weapons which doesn’t sound like a lot until you realize that each weapon can transform into four different weapons giving you a total of eight, each with an alternate fire.
As you play through the game you will collect NANO which you can then use at certain stations to upgrade you weapons. The first gun is the CLN firearm standard machine gun which can be upgraded to a shotgun, grenade launcher, and rocket launcher. The second weapon is the NRG energy weapon which can be upgraded to an AEO shock attack, an energy mortar, and a smart gun which automatically locks on to enemies and allows you to see them through walls.
You switch between weapons by pressing the E key for the machine gun and the Q key for the NRG. From there you scroll the mouse wheel to move between the different forms of the weapon or you can use the 1-4 numeric keys if you’re that kind of person. The system does take a bit of getting used to and for some reason the game doesn’t allow you to keybind one key to toggle between the two weapons or assign the commands to extra any mice buttons which you might have. Hopefully this is something that will be fixed before the game ships or released in a patch.
The final bit of novelty in Hard Reset is that the game never takes you out of the perspective of the game. All interactions in the world are done by wandering up to a console and interfacing directly with the system via cursor. If you played Doom 3 you’re familiar with this system. It’s not a big deal but it is a very cool way to keep the player invested in the universe of the game.
Like the games it’s emulating, Hard Reset’s difficulty level is based around the quantity and type of enemies rather than complex AI routines. With the exception of a few long range attack robots, almost every enemy in the game will simply charge you. I spent close to 70% of my combat time in the game running backwards from enemies and firing. The remaining 30% was broken up between spent sprinting out of the path of enemies (20%) and firing while moving from one wall to another (10%).
This style leads to a frenetic, non-stop action experience that helped kick start the FPS genre. The game is one well paced string of heavy metal themed, balls to the wall battles where you’re constantly running and gunning. The game does succumb to a few FPS cliches like the not so subtle battle arenas but it’s fun enough that you can overlook some of these foibles.
Another nice old school touch is that at the end of every level you’re told how long it took you to get through it, the number of kills (by type), and how many of the secret areas you found. It’s not a big deal but it’s a nice retro touch that struck a bit of a chord with this old school gamer.
The game does have a few nice modern touches here in there including the ability to sprint for short durations. It’s not much and it recharges slowly which makes it a bit less useful for those who are used to having unlimited sprinting.
There are a few problems with the game. For all the great scope the game has created I never felt like I could explore much of it. The game does have secret areas and some alternate paths but I never really felt like I was exploring the world. There’s an implied “verticality” to the game's environment that never got executed in the preview code. Hopefully there’s something more in the final build of the game.
The preview build also had a few guffaw inducing moments including one sequence where our hero, a man who absorbs a ton of damage, can be killed by one rogue hospital gurney. I’m not sure what’s worse, that this moment exists or that it took me three attempts to get past the +5 gurney of insta-death.
The dialogue is also best left un-discussed as it includes the phrase “Time to blow sh!t up” as it's high mark. This is a shame because the graphic novel style cinematics between levels are otherwise well done.
Pricing for the game hasn’t been announced yet but if it’s in the $20-25 range the game is an easy buy recommendation. If it’s more than that then it gets a little squishy as the game doesn’t contain any kind of co-op or competitive multiplayer component and I’m not sure there’s going to be a lot of re-playability past an initial run through the game.
If the pricing is right and the game lives up to the promises set in the build I saw I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised by what Flying Wild Hog has delivered. The game will also be a chance for gamers like me to reclaim their FPS credibility cards from the man purse of modern FPS games.