Hard Reset is the first game from newly formed developer Flying Wild Hog, which is usually an indication not to get your hopes up, but with ex-Bulletstorm and Witcher 2 staff on board, we still had high expectations for the cyberpunk FPS.
Set in a dystopianfuture amidst a war between man and machine, players become Major Fletcher, a member of the police force defending Bezoar city from its robotic enemies. It’s clear to see the influence of authors such as William Gibson and Philip K Dick, in both the level design and storyline, which is told though the panels of a lovingly animated visual comic, but once you’re in-game it’s all too easy to forget your mission. Once the assault begins, it rarely lets up until the end of the level.
Rather than focus on gritty realism, Hard Reset takes things firmly back to basics, pitting players against a swarm of robot enemies that feels more like Serious Sam than Call of Duty. Mechanical monsters of all shapes and sizes rush you in waves, and you only have two main weapons to defend yourself from them. We were worried that this would lead to a lack of variety, but because each gun can be upgraded into a shotgun, rocket launcher or railgun, there’s plenty of ways to tackle each new wave of enemies.
Interacting with in-game objects also becomes key to your survival; shoot a fuse box and electricity will arc outwards, short-circuiting any robots caught in the vicinity. Explosive barrels, cars and fuel canisters can be equally effective, but for the larger enemies you’ll have to upgrade your arsenal to some of the heavier weapon mods.
It’s all too easy to get swamped by enemies, forced into a corner and overpowered, which is where the games main flaw reveals itself. With no quick-save feature, you’re reliant on checkpoints that are often brutally punishing, forcing you to replay large sections of a level to get back to where you died. Often this will require another trip to the upgrade station, to reapply the same weapon modifications you bought in your previous life. This can be immensely frustrating in the difficult later levels, when progress can hinge on a knife edge as you frantically search for health and ammunition between attacks.
In the rare moments that you aren’t being stabbed, burnt, shot or electrified by your enemies, it’s amazing how much detail the developer has managed to squeeze into each level. As a PC-exclusive title, there was no need to dumb down the game engine to make it compatible with consoles, so the graphics are impressively detailed and sharp as a result. There are plenty of incidental details too; shoot a cement mixer in the early levels and it will sprout legs to try and escape your barrage of gunfire.
Unusually for a new first person shooter, there’s no multiplayer component – by concentrating on single-player only, Flying Wild Hog has stuck to its guns and created a fun game with plenty of action, although it still unfortunately falls short. The constant barrage of enemies feels very outdated now, and although we found it fun, the punishing checkpoint system hampers your progress and the possibility of uncovering secret rooms provides only so much replay value. At £23, it’s slightly too expensive for a budget title too, which makes it difficult to recommend to anyone but fans of the genre.