Hard Reset Redux is certainly a refreshing shooter, one that celebrates a more classic form of play. But it comes with more than its fair share of annoyances too, which can chip away at the charm and threatens to ruin your enjoyment. Whether you can stomach the flaws depends on how much you miss this older style of FPS title.
Hard Reset Redux embraces the days of yore, where weapons fired from the hip, secret areas can be discovered, and health pick-ups and ammo are strewn across each level as brightly illuminated neon collectables. There’s no cover, iron sight aiming or even reloading. It’s arcade spraying from the hip and strafing. It’s gloriously free-flowing and frantic, although it soon becomes a predictable affair. Enemy AI follows a strict set of behaviour in combat that makes each battle routine after the first few encounters with an enemy type. The small robotic foes swam, and the larger foes charge, spray bullets or rockets, or get in close to hack at you. Mind you, despite the predictability and repetition, it’s always challenging. Once you’re up against larger numbers of enemies, as well as different types simultaneously, the adrenaline really gets pumping and you’ll certainly relish the frantic action with a heavy side of fun. Die, however, and you’ll feel nothing but frustration.
Harking back to a less fondly remembered aspect of classic gaming are the sparseness of checkpoints. It’s particularly frustrating to face a large wave of foes only to die shortly after and be forced to face the wave again. Furthermore, reloading a checkpoint after death takes a little bit of time.
Outside of combat, Hard Reset Redux has you traipse across an attractive cyberpunk city in search of power switches to unlock the way forwards, with encounters against waves of enemy robots around every corner. It follows a paper thin narrative that’s tricky to initially grasp and poor told with even poorer voice acting, but there are hints of something grander beneath the weak and confusing tale. The machines and humans are at war, with the humans producing a quantum matrix to store human consciousness that the machines want to access so to try and surpass a theoretical limit to their own intelligence. It hints at the fundamental question of what it is to be human and sentient, but an in medias res start makes things confusing. Meanwhile, badly weaved exposition between levels fails to set the scene and when it all winds up a lot of questions remain unanswered. The inclusion of the previously released DLC for the PC version aids at least, and adds some extra levels and weapons to experiment with and enjoy.
The repetition of the environment and combat certainly lets the title down. Every encounter feels exactly the same, frequently offering a challenging, action heavy bout of firing and striating, but taking the fun of it with its sameness and predictability. The level design trips itself up slightly as well, blatantly showcasing the large, multi-wave battles with liberal placement of explosive objects in the dark, rain filled streets, or the equally dark, blue tinted interiors that all look identical. Additionally, it’s not always clear precisely where you need to go, a further side-effect or every corner of an environment looking the same. However, some terrific particle effects and destructible scenery does make a nice impression.
As enemies charge towards you they’ll smash trough pillars and city signs, as well as barging other obstacles out of the way. It’s incredibly ominous watching a charging robot fast approaching and powerfully tearing through any and all obstacles. It’s part of Hard Reset Redux’s charm, in fact. Despite the clear flaws, it’s still remarkably enjoyable as well as a spectacle. Explosive objects not only explode in beautifully bright flames but make a huge difference in turning the tide of battle. So too do the electrical sources which spit out streams of electricity to fry nearby foes.
Weapons are also hugely satisfying to use. You only really have two, an energy weapon and a machine gun. However, as you progress you gain experience points which allows you to upgrade your combat gear including your weapons. Weapon upgrades allows your energy weapon to fire different properties of energy, from standard bolts to exploding balls. And as for your machine gun, it twists and like a Rubik’s cube into different weapon types, such as a shotgun and rocket launcher. They also sound and feel powerful, tearing off shards of metal from foes as well as the occasional limb.
Hard Reset Redux continues to trade on nostalgia with the design of enemies. The majority of your robotic foes strongly resemble the Strogg from the Quake series with their melding of flesh and machine. In fact the arcade action is very reminiscent of Quake overall.
Indeed Hard Reset Redux is a mixed bag. It’s classic FPS style would have been a better selling point if Doom hadn’t so recently shows us all just how good that can be when done right, but due to the fundamental enjoyment you still get from this kind of arcade style shooting paired with the attractive visuals, it’s hard not to be immersed in its charm.
Thanks to Xbox and Flying Wild Hog for supporting TiX