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I had played Hard Reset, the Extended Edition, specifically, once before years ago and got to a point where things became frustrating so I gave up. For this review, I decided to give it another shot and was able to beat it and I also played through the Redux version which I beat back when it came out. Developed and published by Flying Wild Hog, Hard Reset was released for PC in September, 2011. In 2012, the free expansion titled Exile was released and the game was eventually bundled with the expansion and titled Hard Reset: Extended Edition. Hard Reset: Redux is a re-balanced version of the Extended Edition and also includes a new weapon, new enemy type, it changes enemy placements, and includes other changes. It was released for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 in 2016. Hard Reset is one of those shooters where the story takes a backseat to the gameplay and you get to shoot a ton of shit. It’s kind of like Painkiller except with robots.
The story goes that humans are almost extinct and all those that are left live in the city of Bezoar. Machines have basically taken over and their ultimate goal is to control The Sanctuary, a network that holds billions of digitalized human minds. You play as Major James Fletcher, a soldier of the C.L.N. which is a corporation established to protect the city. The story is told through comic book-styled cut scenes and voice communications during gameplay. I’ll be honest, I had to look up a plot summary because I lost interest in the plot very early on. It just never hooked me in. The voice acting is far from incredible and while the plot failed to keep me interested, the gameplay is a different story.
The game plays out in missions or levels broken up by checkpoints and whether you play the Extended Edition or Redux version, they’re both very short. You can beat the game in about four or five hours. I never did play this before the Exile expansion released but, yes, that means the game was even shorter at one point. You can run, jump, and sprint, and you’re technically only equipped with two what I’ll call “modular” weapons that can be upgraded. Redux adds in the Cyber-Katana which has no real place being in this game but it is kind of fun to use. Unfortunately, it cannot be upgraded. If you’ve played the original, the katana may feel very out of place and feels more or less like some kind of weird foreshadowing to the Shadow Warrior reboot which released in 2013, also developed by Flying Wild Hog. Redux lets you perform a dash move so you can move around quicker and it’s great for avoiding attacks. Some say this move alone can make the game too easy but I honestly think it helps to make navigation a bit more fluid and the gameplay faster-paced. I will admit, Redux is noticeably easier than the Extended Edition and that’s not just due to the dash move but also the gameplay rebalancing. However, I don’t see it as that big of a deal since there’s numerous difficulty modes to choose from in both games and there’s also two other game modes which need to be unlocked. The EX mode is kind of a like a new game plus where you get to keep your current upgrades and blast through the campaign again. Heroic Mode is the hardest mode in the game, even more so than the Insane difficulty mode. Quicksaves are disabled and you can only activate the initial checkpoint in each level.
Instead of carrying all kinds of different weapons, you’ll only be equipped with the C.L.N. and N.R.G. weapons. And the katana if playing the Redux version. The C.L.N. uses traditional ammunition and the N.R.G. fires high-voltage energy projectiles. Health and ammo can be found throughout the environments and destroyed enemies will often drop these items. You’ll want to be on the lookout for orange items known as Nano. When you acquire enough Nano, you’ll earn a point that can be spent at Upgrade Terminals to upgrade your weapons and combat gear. I call these weapons modular because you can essentially purchase other fire modes and upgrades for said fire modes. For example, the C.L.N. comes equipped with an assault rifle module but you can purchase a shotgun, grenade launcher, rocket launcher, and a proximity mine launcher. The N.R.G. comes equipped with a plasma rifle but you can purchase a shock blaster, great for dealing with multiple smaller enemies at close range, an electric mortar launcher, a railgun, and a smartgun which will lock onto enemies and can fire homing projectiles. You can switch between these modules at any time. You can also upgrade your combat gear. You can purchase upgrades like increased maximum health, faster shield regeneration, increased perception at low health, a tactical scanner that shows where enemies are, and other things to help you survive in the hostile world.
I will say the upgrade system is kind of addictive because I always felt like trying something new. However, I soon learned that some weapon upgrades are simply better than others or should at least be prioritized over others, especially in the Extended Edition which is the more difficult game. Some weapon modules are better for dealing with certain threats but as you progress you may find yourself relying on the heavier firepower more often than not and if you bought the upgrades for those, you should be able to get through the more challenging areas without too much of a problem. All of the weapon modules can be further upgraded with different fire modes but not every fire mode is really worth it in my opinion. For example, the assault rifle can be upgraded with a scope that allows you to zoom and a turbo engine that allows it to fire at a faster rate. I never really found the scope useful but the turbo engine felt like a necessity. The rocket launcher’s razor aiming module upgrade allows you manually guide rockets. You can purchase the nebula gravity grenades upgrade for the grenade launcher which can be very helpful since they will suck in enemies or at least slow them down. And the smartgun’s increased projectile damage upgrade is a no-brainer. I would say purchasing all of the weapon modules as soon as you can should be a top priority and not doing so is probably why I found the game more difficult when I first played it years ago. Every weapon module is useful but purchasing the appropriate upgrades can make certain areas less frustrating and you’ll have to learn what those are based on your playstyle and what you’re up against.
Hard Reset is all about shooting robots or machines. There’s a small variety of them and many times, you’ll have to deal with swarms. There’s small types that will rush and attack you and some of them can explode. These little types always arrive in numbers and it can be very easy to get overwhelmed, especially if they’re accompanied by the larger types like Gorillas. Gorillas will come charging straight at you and when they’re close enough they may stomp on the ground which can cause damage. They prove to be one of the most dangerous standard enemy types in the game and some of the tougher variants can fire rockets. This is where the new dash move introduced in Redux becomes extremely useful. In the original game, you need to pay attention and time your strafes accordingly to dodge Gorilla attacks but the dash move makes evading them a lot easier. Other enemies include large bug-like machines that can fire lasers and they also come in smaller forms that can boost into you. Grenadiers and other similar-looking types can launch grenades or projectiles at you and some rush you and utilize melee attacks. Flying types appear late in the game in the Extended Edition and in Redux, they first appear much earlier. One of them will shoot at you and the other can fire explosive projectiles. CLN Gunships are like flying police vehicles that will shoot at you. Redux adds Cyborg Zombies into the mix but they’re not much of a threat. It doesn’t take much to kill them. A few bosses appear throughout the game and they’re all large and dangerous. I found the bosses, themselves, to be rather easy to take down but the challenge comes from dealing with the enemies trying to kill you during the battles.
You’ll be traversing through a lot of urban environments like city streets, alleyways, and buildings, and later in the game you’ll navigate through a junkyard, railyard, and factory. I believe the Exile campaign was just tacked onto the base campaign so it’s all combined into one. I think Exile added in the PDAs that you can collect which provide some backstory to the events but they don’t really do much to make the story any more interesting. There are some dangers you have to look out for like fire and crushers but these can be avoided if you’re careful. Littered all over the place are explosive objects. Vehicles, barrels, and electrical objects can all explode and damage or kill nearby enemies. Enemies caught in the blast radius of a Fusion Cell will temporarily freeze. Blowing stuff up is great for dealing with swarms which in turn will help you save ammo. But you need to be careful because you, too, can be hurt by explosions. You just need to be aware of your surroundings. You’ll want to be on the lookout for secrets which always house a good chunk of Nano. It may be as simple as exploring and going off the beaten path. Maybe you can blow through a wall. And sometimes, basic jumping and platforming will lead you to secrets. You’ll have to interact with things to progress and the environments are fairly linear. However, I did find a few areas a tad confusing because I couldn’t easily locate the objectives. Some areas are blocked off by barriers that require you to power down something or destroy the power source but there’s usually power lines that lead you to exactly where you need to go. In the Extended Edition, I found some areas to be a bit too small for the amount of enemies that are thrown at you. Some areas just seem overly difficult due to there not being enough room to maneuver which really means you need the right weapon modules and upgrades to deal with the threats. This is the kind of game where constant movement and strafing are essential for survival and if there’s not enough room to easily move out of the way from tougher types like the Gorillas or swarms in general, then things can become very frustrating. The environments are the same in Redux but because of the dash move and re-balanced difficulty, it’s less of an issue.
In addition to the extra game modes is the Survival mode where you try to survive as long as you can against waves of enemies. You start with the default weapon modules and no upgrades but after each wave you can purchase stuff at Upgrade Terminals. The waves do get harder as you progress and this mode will really make you think about what you purchase because the maps are small and you need to know what weapons work best against specific enemies. There’s a small selection of maps to choose from and you can also select the difficulty but I do wish there was an option to play with all upgrades from the get-go.
I absolutely love the look and feel of Hard Reset. It’s got this cyberpunk theme going on. There’s a lot of atmosphere in the environments and I often felt isolated and alone in the gloomy city of Bezoar. Rain will fall as you navigate the dangerous streets and the environments have a sleek look to them while giving off a dark and grim vibe accompanied by bright and vivid colorful lights scattered everywhere. The game includes a good amount of detail and I like watching the weapons transform whenever you switch between modules. I like the smoke and debris effects that kick up from shots that hit the ground or walls. The Hard Reset: Redux Steam page indicates the game includes enhanced visuals. Either I’m blind or the developers have a different idea of the word “enhanced”. From what I can tell, Redux doesn’t look as crisp as the original game. That’s the best way to describe it. It still looks good but I can’t say it looks better. As for the music, the soundtrack isn’t terrible, although I can’t say it’s memorable either. I think there’s some rock and metal tunes in there but I found the soundtrack easy to drown out. The sound effects aren’t bad but I think most of the weapons fire could sound louder and more powerful, specifically the C.L.N. When it comes to the technical aspects and performance, I had no real issues. I noticed the frame rate dip in one or two spots in both games but that’s about it.
Hard Reset is a fast-paced action-packed first-person shooter and I adore it. I had a great time with it but it’s biggest problem is its length. Even with the expansion, it’s way too short. Plus, I found the plot to be rather forgettable which is a shame because I think the developers created a cool stylistic and atmospheric world. But there’s nothing to really immerse you into it or the lore. There’s nothing to really care about. I would love a sequel but wouldn’t be upset if it included an entirely different storyline, lore, or characters. The gameplay here is solid and is the sole reason I kept playing. The upgrade system has an addictive quality to it and while the I think the Extended Edition can lean towards frustration in some areas, Redux alleviates much of that frustration. The new dash move makes a big difference and the addition of the katana and Cyborg Zombies seems unnecessary but in my opinion neither of these things really bring the game down. Redux does change up some of the enemy placements, there’s new extras to unlock like artwork, and it gives you some more options to tweak. From a gameplay standpoint, I think I prefer Redux to the Extended Edition just because of the re-balancing alone. Plus, the numerous difficulty modes allow you to ramp up the challenge so you have plenty of options when it comes to difficulty.
I would absolutely recommend Hard Reset to fans of first-person shooters. I personally prefer Redux but if you’ve already played the Extended Edition and have no intention on revisiting it, I don’t think Redux warrants enough new content to buy it unless it goes on sale. It all depends on how much you enjoyed the original game. There’s no doubt the Extended Edition is more challenging but I think Redux is more accessible and less frustrating. If you’ve never played either, I would recommend both. Just pick one. I still say the game as a whole needs more content in general but there is a decent amount of replay value thanks to the extra game modes and multiple difficulty modes. There’s no multiplayer to speak of so it’s strictly a solo experience. If you just like to run around and shoot shit or just enjoy action-packed games, then there’s no reason not to check out Hard Reset.