Originally released for PC back in late 2011, Hard Reset has made its way to consoles under the modified title, Hard Reset Redux. Being entirely unfamiliar with the original, I approached Redux with a healthy level of skepticism based on the rather spotty history of non-retail console shooters (Blacklight: Tango Down, Breach, Rekoil, Takedown: Red Sabre, etc.). As it turns out, such skepticism was unwarranted.
Although Hard Reset disguises its largely humble roots quite successfully, there are a handful of issues that crop up to create a bargain feel. The most damaging of these is a strange delay when trying to aim quickly in a given direction. Instead of a smooth transition, things basically become stuck for a moment before speeding up briefly to compensate. It’s not all that detrimental, but it definitely hurts your ability to track multiple enemies quickly.
There’s also some kind of issue with controller feedback where if you hold down the trigger long enough — such as when you’re firing the basic rifle — the rumble function will give out. While it doesn’t affect anything else, it still feels incredibly foreign not to have the controller providing that shaking sensation. Other issues include a lack of precision when switching between weapon configurations and the absence of both ducking and sprinting.
Ultimately, though, none of those problems affect moment-to-moment gameplay. What functions are available are well laid out, and both the shooting and melee fighting (there is no quick melee strike, but you do gain access to a sword that you can equip) are satisfying. A little more elusiveness would’ve been nice as the game’s dash doesn’t fully make up for an inability to sprint, but it’s solid enough.
It’s hard not to be impressed by how good Hard Reset Redux looks. The Blade Runner inspired cityscape hosts the action nicely with a decent amount of destructible objects, and although enemy variety isn’t great, what’s there is cleverly designed. Some concessions were made with mostly linear levels and corridors, but it’s a worthwhile tradeoff for keeping the frame rate up (except one key moment).
Audio isn’t nearly as strong, featuring some really annoying voice acting from a main character that goes down in gaming annals as one of my least favorite ever. Music and sound effects fare better, but this is clearly one of the game’s weaker elements.
Things start off straightforward enough: robots have entered a human populous center, and it’s up to you to investigate and assess the situation. Where Hard Reset goes from there, though, is difficult for me to even summarize or explain. I think you were some sort of vessel — an experiment that doesn’t know he was an experiment — but between the ugly graphic novel cut scenes and insipid protagonist I confess to having trouble following along.
Thankfully, a coherent story isn’t necessary to enjoy the core shooting elements, which are quite good. You have shield and health meters, though in an odd move your shield doesn’t have to fully deplete to start losing health, and one that represents your available currency. Upgrade stations are frequent, and you’ll have the opportunity to unlock different variations of your guns (for example, your rifle becomes a shotgun and an RPG launcher and so on), increase health and more.
Enemies can be tricky, particularly before your loadout starts to increase, and it’s not unusual to find yourself staring at a “Game Over” screen early on. As you become more powerful, however, the game gets easier, due to no small part to its reliance on recycling enemies rather than introducing new ones or at least more powerful variations. Instead, Redux adjusts by throwing greater numbers at you.
That’s never my favorite move, but it keeps the challenge level reasonable, even if you’re far less likely to die. Unfortunately, repetition isn’t limited to enemy encounters, and far too often your objective seems to consist of “go here, activate/cut power and proceed.” The game is also very linear with exploration limited to slight deviations from the prescribed route.
Redux throws in some large-scale boss battles as well. While epic in scale, there’s a sameness that infiltrates that experience, too, with every major set piece centered on chipping away at a massive foe’s armor and fending off packs of lesser robots during phases of invulnerability.
Oh, and that key moment of frame rate trouble I noted earlier comes during one of these battles when the screen becomes so overrun with robots and explosive objects that the game can’t even hope to keep up. Spectacle is great, but I’ll take playability every single time.
In some ways price shouldn’t be a consideration when judging a game, but I can’t fully divest Hard Reset Redux‘s shortcomings from the fact that it costs a mere fraction of retail shooters. And at its current price it’s an excellent bargain with its rock-solid 10-plus-hour campaign.