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Richard Cobbett

Nov 13, 2011

Hard Reset

Bezoar isn't a city. It's an explosion with streets. Every plaza is piled high with toxic barrels, every kiosk and ATM wired so that a single overly-enthusiastic sneeze can spray arcs of lightning at anyone in sight.

Why? Because Hard Reset isn't just a reference to what you're expected to do to the army of killer robots infesting the city: it's what the game tries to do to shooter design itself. It's a back-to-basics FPS in a shiny modern engine, not so much throwing out such things as moral choices and fancy physics puzzles as declaring them officially irrelevant. It's you versus roughly seventy squillion enemies, hoping to save at least slightly more of your futuristic home than you blow up.

There are at least three reasons not to fight here. All are labelled EXPLOSIVE.

There's a bit more plot than that, but it's not worth worrying about. Hard Reset's story bits, which mostly serve to give you something to look at while the next level loads, are a confusing, barely coherent mass of graphic-novel type scenes that fail miserably at introducing any of its characters, or even explaining why an army of machines is attacking a city named after a lump of hair dug out of the digestive system. Beyond 'shooting stuff', I honestly couldn't tell you what I was doing for most of it, right up to the point where Hard Reset just decides it's had enough and ends with nothing actually resolved.

Luckily, it's a much better shooter than storyteller. Members of the team worked on both Bulletstorm and Painkiller, and it shows. Weapons and environmental explosions have terrific weight to them, and enemies attack in hordes of whirling-blade death machines instead of just a couple of tough guys at a time. You spend most of your time circle-strafing and running backwards: cover mostly exists to be blown away by a charging tank and scenery is every bit as deadly to you as the enemies. Ammo is plentiful (and recharges on its own if you run out), as is health. That doesn't mean you won't be seeing your own splattery death a lot, however, especially in multi-wave arena fights where you have to ration your pick-ups carefully to survive.

Sometimes your best weapon is a smile. Not here. Here, it\'s the shotgun.

As good as all this feels, it doesn't take long to get repetitive. There are very few enemy types, and none of them require any more advanced tactics than dodging a charge or switching to a rocket launcher to hit a boss's brightly glowing weakpoints. Bar a spectacularly hateful final boss, you feel like you've seen it all very early on... and actually will have before very long. On Normal difficulty, I polished off the campaign in a casual afternoon's play and was left with no incentive to replay it. There aren't any multiplayer modes, and you'll have all the weapons you actually want long before the end.

As a one-of-a-kind game, perhaps the nostalgia factor would be enough to compensate. Unfortunately for Hard Reset, it has company from both the original Painkiller and the balls-out cheer of Bulletstorm, with Serious Sam 3 close on its tail. In comparison to any of them, its back-to- basics charm feels firmly in tech-demo territory – albeit really good tech, and with great combat for the short while it actually lasts.

Hard Reset

An explosive ride of a game, but limited long-term satisfaction, priced roughly £10 too high for its own good.

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