There are first-person shooters, and there are first-person shooters. These days, you’re as likely to be spending your in-game time fleeing a collapsing warehouse, or driving dune buggies, or base-jumping off waterfalls as you are actually shooting anything. Back in the day, of course, when the FPS genre first got started, you were given a gun and pointed at the bad guys. That was about it.
Do you pine for the honest simplicity of this bygone age? Do you still have sepia-tinted memories of good times on Unreal Tournament’s Morpheus map? Does all this new-fangled storyline gubbins and ‘deep character interaction’ get in the way of the simple purity of just pointing a gun at a robot and shooting it? If I’ve got your attention, you might want to read on…
You see, that’s what’s going on here in Hard Reset. A first-person shooter of the classic school. It’s played from the first-person perspective and you shoot stuff. The stuff that you shoot generally comes in two categories: robots and explosive containers.
I won’t bother you with what little storyline there is. Suffice to say, you find yourself in a futuristic urban setting fighting hordes of robots. Everything in Hard Reset feels a little bit like something else. The tiny nippy little bladebots that make up the vast majority of early-game enemies look a bit like Mousers from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the tougher bruiser-droids look a bit like the Builder from Rise of the Robots, and the whole game has a smattering of Deus Ex about it and, for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, it also reminds me powerfully of Malice, an early Total Conversion of the first Quake game. All of which leads us to two conclusions: Firstly, this is a pretty derivative game, and secondly, Squee’s psyche lives somewhere between about 1995 and 2001.
But enough about me. I’m going to tell you exactly what you’re up to in Hard Reset. You’re armed with two weapons, a straightforward assault rifle and a glowing energy-ball zapper thing. All of the ammo you collect is for one of these two weapons. Aside from the aforementioned roboticide, you’ll collect NANO (read: cash money) which can be used to upgrade these two weapons to take on other roles, such as mortars, grenade launchers, shotguns and the like. There’s nothing particularly revolutionary in terms of weapons, and most of the time you’ll find that enemies can soak up so much damage that they can feel a little underpowered.
While the environments are beautifully crafted (albeit in a pretty generic cyberpunk style), there’s not really much to most of them except for the odd barrier that needs to be switched off, which is really just a way of making sure you go where the game wants you to go. What there is, however, in abundance, is blow-uppables. Everywhere you go there are explosive barrels, fuel tanks, weird explodable things on walls, and cannisters that look like dustbins that spout electrical energy at all and sundry. Basically, it makes every level look a little bit like something from the first Highlander movie… there I go again, showing my age.
So all of this boils down to a shooter that’s very limited in scope. The most complex decision you as the player are likely to make most of the time is whether to focus on shooting the robots or shooting the explosive scenery, and once you have some kind of grenade weaponry, even that choice is moot because you can do both at once.
So there’s no new-fangled cover system to learn, no complicated list of weapons to sort out in your head, and no real interaction with the environment besides blowing it all to merry hell. And I can see this dividing gamers. See, if you’re after a complex and novel innovation, Hard Reset is unfortunately going to live up to its name very quickly. However, it is the sheer simplicity of the thing coupled with the gorgeous graphics and sheer frenetic energy of the thing that’s going to draw what I imagine will be a rabid cult following. Because what it does do, it does really well. The decision to not include a multiplayer mode for a game that seems perfectly designed for the pick-up-and-play ethos of multiplay seemed a little strange to me. Maybe in a later patch, eh?
There are two more reasons why I feel particularly good about Hard Reset, and neither of them are direct reflections on gameplay. Firstly, it’s been a chance for me to really see what Game Debate’s new test machine, the Chillblast Fusion Vector, is capable of in terms of a modern shooter. Naturally, there was no slowdown on the highest graphics settings whatsoever, despite Hard Reset’s relatively high-end system requirements. The second thing is that this is an indie game. Or, at least, a full-price release from a new studio – the distinction between the two is getting a little muddy. Nevertheless, it’s a chance for a new company on the scene to shine, and I take my hat off to them for putting out a solid, workmanlike shooter that’s thin on innovation but big on fun.