Review: Hard Reset
Just two months prior to its release, Polish developer Flying Wild Hog announced their debut game – Hard Reset. Along with the debut trailer, the developer promised an FPS with old-school sensibilities, designed exclusively for the PC. It sounded like a promising first game for the new studio. Did Flying Wild Hog succeed or fail?
Hard Reset piqued my interest from the day it was announced. The old-school FPS has gone the way of the dodo for the most part. These days, FPS games have branched out in many different forms but there are still those among us that enjoy the frantic, over-the-top nature of the FPS games of yesteryear. Increasing my interest in the title was the pedigree from which it came. Flying Wild Hog is a super-group of sorts, formed from members of CD Projekt Red (The Witcher), People Can Fly (Painkiller) and City Interactive (Sniper: Ghost Warrior)…OK, so it’s mostly a good pedigree. The trailers left a lot to be desired however, so by the time I got my review copy, my feelings were a mix of optimism and apprehension. Having completed the game, my feelings are pretty much the same, except now, I feel optimistic for the developers but apprehensive in recommending the game. Let me explain.
In Hard Reset, you play a sentinal for Bezoar City, a megalopolis controlled by The Corporation that’s frequently attacked by angry robots. Your job is to investigate and stop these attacks and you do it with the help of your two big-ass weapons. “Just two weapons?!” I hear you ask. Yes, in Hard Reset, you only have two weapons. One is projectile based while the other is energy based. Thankfully, these two weapons are an all-in-one deal and as you progress through the game, you can unlock new modes that effectively turn them into other weapons. You start out with an assault rifle and pulse rifle mode and soon, you’re using grenades, rockets, energy mortars and more, all confined to your two base weapons. This actually works pretty well in the game, hampered only by the cooldown which prevents you from switching weapons immediately after firing – something you’ll want to do at critical points in battle. Thankfully, Flying Wild Hog had the good sense to fill the environment with electrical and explosive objects that you can use to help defeat the robots.
Unlike modern shooters such as Call of Duty or Battlefield where enemies will go to cover and force you into playing a digital form of whack-a-mole, the robots of Hard Reset come charging at you in high number. There are a handful or two of different enemy types that range from small sawblade wielding bipeds and their explosive ball-shaped cousins, that come in scores and go straight for the jugular, to big hulking robots that charge straight for you, and their cousins who fire salvos of rockets in quick succession. Although the enemy variety is small, their unique patterns of attack make for a welcome return to the old-school when most modern FPS games just use generic soldiers with different loadouts. The small robots side-step rapidly to avoid your fire as they close in, and the big hulking chargebots do a powerful foot stomp whenever you get too close for comfort. The battles often come in waves, starting small and building in intensity as the waves go on. This is great and keeps you on your toes but the lack of quicksaving and the positioning of checkpoints can be frustrating from time to time.
The level design has a similar ambivalence to it. While the proprietary engine ‘Road Hog’ looks (and runs) fantastic, the levels are designed around the path you follow, which is, for the most part, linear. That may be the greatest failing of Hard Reset. When I heard Flying Wild Hog were going old-school for the game, my greatest hope was that the game would feature labyrinthine levels, the likes of which could be found in Doom and Quake. I was sorely disappointed. Alas, my disappointment didn’t stop there. I finished the game in just under 6 hours and every one of those 6 hours played out much like the other. The environment never changed dramatically and by the half-way point, you’ve pretty much encountered every enemy the game has to offer. The story isn’t too memorable either. Although it’s presented with some nice animated-comic sequences while the next level loads, these amount to nothing more than a framing for your roaming and reaping.
Let’s finish on a more positive note however. The aiming is rock solid. Unlike many recent games where aiming has felt sluggish or unresponsive (often due to the unnecessary forcing of mouse acceleration), the aiming in Hard Reset is on par with the best of its PC brethren. There’s also no health regeneration; the bane of many old-school gamers. Unfortunately, health pickups are common enough that the lack of regeneration is rarely something the player has to worry about. Of lesser import but impressive nonetheless is the fluidity in which you use control panels and in-game menus. Look at a control panel when you’re close enough and you lower your weapon to take control of a generic cursor. There’s no button to activate this, you just enter it and it works like a charm.
All in all, Hard Reset is a solid debut game from Flying Wild Hog. With just a little more time in the oven and some different design decisions, it could have been an unforgettable entry into the industry. Unfortunately, we’re in the business of reviewing games for gamers so all I can say is that it’s not the game it should have been and anyone interested in playing it would be advised to wait until it’s on sale at a discounted price. Flying Wild Hog has created a good example of what they and their proprietary engine can do. Sadly, it was only an example and we’ll have to wait before we see what they’re really capable of delivering.
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Time: 6 hours
Gripes: Too short, too linear and no quicksave.
Get it for the: Great controls and the old-school leanings.
Full Disclosure: PXOD received a review code for the game.