Take Serious Sam, place him in a Blade Runner environment, change the adversaries to machines and you have Hard Reset. Now, add the ability to use the environment for splash damage by shooting explosive barrels and all things electrical and go and destroy everything in sight. Fun, fun, fun. The philosophy of Hard Reset is Old School Shooter within a cyberpunk environment.
I really have to rave about the visuals in this game. The graphics are just awesome and the model renditions meticulous. It's a delight to just gaze at the fictional city of Bezoar where the game takes place. There is just something so compelling about the slightly futuristic setting rendered in exquisite detail. While the atmosphere is dark and brooding with a post apocalyptic feel, the streets are littered with jewel colored holographic shops and signs. High above you, the slow moving airships used for advertising navigate between the tall structures. Even the mobs of machines thrown at you have all their nuts, bolts, cogs and wheels exquisitely rendered.
The main game is not particularly long, which is perhaps for the best for although the graphics are wonderful, the sameness of the levels and the machines does start to wear thin after awhile. However, there are quite a few modes and oodles of achievements and after the first go round, you can start a new game in X-mode with all your upgrades. Upgrade machines are scattered plentifully throughout the game. They require collecting enough nano to spend on them. You have two basic weapons that allow for the addition of five modes to be mounted as well as some secondary fire. You toggle between these two guns and then choose the mode you want by scrolling or assigned number. You can also upgrade your health, shields and ammo capacity. The interface for this is a virtual display very easy to understand and use. Click to place an X beside what you want, then click the checkmark to accept.
Some health and ammo are permanently placed for collection, but some of it is spawned by dead machines and will disappear shortly thereafter. There are also plenty of secrets to unlock, so make sure to scour the environment and hidden places because you cannot go back through many doorways and area changes. What any particular pickup does is distinguished by its color; green for health, red for rifle ammo, blue for plasma ammo and gold for nano bars.
If you've been away from first person shooters for a game or two, Hard Reset might seem quite hard even on normal. Very quickly, you will have to deal with a mob of various machines. You could start on easy and change the mode to normal later or vice-versa, but this will affect the achievements. For the most part, once you enter an arena, the way back will be closed and the only option is to fight. There is no crouching, leaning or cover mechanics. You'll have to duke it out, keep on the move and dodge those big guys charging at you.
One bone of contention amongst players is its lack of quicksave. It relies on the checkpoint system and because it can be hard to play, this irritates some people. I personally like quicksave for various reasons, but the checkpoints in this game are quite fair and don't require much backtracking when you die, so this didn't bother me at all.
Some people have commented that the colors of the environment and the colors of the machines are too similar, often making it hard to see the enemy. I would somewhat agree with this, but didn't find it a huge flaw. Where Hard Reset really falls down is in the story. Although a game's success is not always dependent on having a story - Serious Sam is an example of that - the difference is that Serious Sam did not attempt any real story, whereas Hard Reset seems to. If you're going to attempt one, then you have to deliver. Instead, we have a jumble that leaves you totally confused. It's played out in comic-book-style cut scenes that do nothing to explain what's really going on or why our character, Fletcher, is doing what he is doing. It's all very hazy about what his connection to the AI is or why he's "the chosen". His bursts of outrage also don't seem to be appropriate, as if we've missed a past story that would account for his attitude. It's really rather a jumbled mess in addition to failing on an emotional level that would make us care about the character. To make matters worse, the dialogue is hugely stereotypical tough guy, chip on his shoulder stuff.
At the time I played this, the Steam version did not include the DLC that comes with the retail version. It was released approximately two months later by which time I had to relearn the effectiveness of the weapons and died many times in the process. I therefore found the first level very hard as it takes place in confined spaces and entails several steps without the ability to save. It was very irritating to have to replay previously beaten areas so many times. In the end, it seemed like only the plasma rifle and rocket launcher were the most effective throughout the new levels. One vast improvement was more normal dialogue amongst the characters where one could actually understand and get a better sense of the story.
If you like a challenge, then Hard Reset will fit the bill. The developer, Flying Wild Hog is made up of former members from People Can Fly, CD Projekt and City Interactive who have all been involved in previous blockbuster games. Hard Reset shows lots of promise of good things from this team.UPDATE Feb 2016: Flying Wild Hog is working on a redux version of Hard Reset that promises enhanced visuals, new weapons and enemies, a new quicksave feature, and other improvements. No release date has been announced at this point.