Hard Reset hands-on preview

There’s a reason that people are making a big deal about Hard Reset featuring developers from People Can Fly, as they come from a team responsible for one of the best FPSes of the last decade, Painkiller.A refreshing break from the increasingly formulaic modern shooter, Painkiller clung to old-school, frantic gameplay not out of nostalgia, but because it was fast paced and fun. We sat down with an early build of Hard Reset, and we’re happy to say it looks to be following in its predecessor’s footsteps.

Above: A circle strafe won’t save you from getting crushed

The demo openedwith a comic book styled cut-scene that resembled Ashley Wood’s work from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, jagged and stylized. Our protagonist Major Fletcher, is sent in to quell a robot attack on Bezoar, the last human city. Hard Reset’s dystopian Cyberpunk future is the kind of miserable craphole we’ve grown to expect from the genre, all grime, neon and leather trenchcoats. Players looking for the gaming equivalent of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep might want to adjust their expectations though, as Hard Reset’s focus is squarely on the shooting.

Like Painkiller, Hard Reset avoids almost every trope that plagues the modern FPS: No regenerating health (though there’s a regenerating shield), no cover mechanic, (there’s not even a crouch button), and guns don’t need to be reloaded. By cutting out all these unnecessary elements that don’t involve you shooting stuff, you’re left with a razor sharp focus on shooting stuff. And like any good game focused on the shooting of stuffs, you’re going to need lots of stuff to shoot.

Above: That’s Atlas, the first boss, he carries the world on his shoulders and you under his foot

After the cutscene, we dropped into the first level, which immediately reminded us that graphics have come a long way since Painkiller. Looking up revealed sky scraper buildings, signs, lights and tubes, while the ground around us was littered with all kinds of futuristic clutter. Glowing shopping machines automatically turned on as we walked by, shilling products at us and chiding us for being cheap as we walked away. After a few steps we were ambushed by some tiny walking robots with saws, all of which made a bee line for our face. While shooting them directly was a perfectly acceptable solution, Hard Reset scatters explosive barrels and energy reactors aroundeach level, allowing for environmental kills.

Above: Dystopian nightmare or modern day Detroit?

After taking out some more of these tiny bots, we were greeted by a larger, heavily armored gorilla-like bot. He was capable of soaking up significantly more punishment, and used both a charging attack that could be dodged with a simple strafe and and AoE ground pound that was easily avoided by keeping away from him. Later enemies took on a bio-mechanical feel, with human torsos locked into robotic bodies. The demo we played culminated with a boss fight, a 600 foot tall colossus named Atlas that needed to be taken down piece by piece.

Hard Reset’s weapons are split into two categories, the energy based N.R.G gunand the bullet/explosion based CLN gun. Instead of acquiring totally new weapons, you spend experience points gained from killing enemies and collecting pick ups on upgrading existing ones. Each weapon also gets an upgrade that gives it a secondary fire mode.We really liked the ElectricMortar, it fired AoE mines that trapped and damged smaller enemies in a miniature lightning storm. The Particle Cannon was also fun, resembling Quake’s Rail Gun and Painkiller’s Stake Gun, a slow firing, but highly accurate and powerful option for shutting down armored enemies.

Above: Fee-fi-fo-fum I smell the B.O of a gamerman

One of the only complaints we had was that weapon changes were indicated by an altered reticule as opposed to clear indicators in the HUD. When you switch between guns, the graphic on the weapon widens/transforms a bit, but not really enough to easily tell them apart. Since each weapon shares ammo and is a variation/upgrade of the standard CLN/N.R.G weapons, this can make combo attacks a bit difficult unless you’re using the number keys, as it takes a minute to figure out what weapon you’ve switched to.

Above: The red means he’s angry

UI quibble aside, we’re glad to see Hard Reset offering the same kind of aggressive shooter gameplay that’s become rare as of late. Healthpacks, circle strafing and skyscraper sized bosses are a welcome respite to the endless wave of brown, cover based modern military experiences. Hard Reset’s lack of multiplayer may turn off some gamers, but in our books that just means we can expect a more focused single player experience. Hard Reset will be available exclusively on the PC and is scheduled for release this September.

Aug 9, 2011

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