Now that DOOM has returned, old is new again, and the retro-inspired shooter is the talk of the industry. People can’t get enough of it, cannot stop talking about it, and have taken to message boards to praise the team behind this reimagined take on one of gaming’s most beloved classics. What’s lost in all of this, though, is that DOOM isn’t the only retro shooter to have released within the last month, as Flying Wild Hog has also returned with an updated take on one of its more popular titles: Hard Reset Redux.
It goes without saying, but the team at Flying Wild Hog chose an awful time to re-release Hard Reset in its improved and extended form. After all, DOOM is on the minds of most of its target audience, and it’s going to be hard for a revamped version of a several year old game to really take time away from that behemoth, especially when said game didn’t exactly set the world on fire from the get go.
Hard Reset Redux is not a bad game, though. In fact, it’s quite solid and is definitely worth playing if you’re a fan of the shooters of yesteryear. It’s just not DOOM, and doesn’t have the staying power or polish of its closest competitor.
In this downloadable affair, we take control of an agent named Fletcher, who works for a shady organization and is charged with policing robots. It doesn’t take long before he’s engulfed in an all out battle against the machines, as well as in the middle of a shocking cover-up. At least, that’s what Hard Reset Redux tries to convey with its brief, motion comic cutscenes and limited dialogue, which ended up being more difficult to follow along with or care about than I’d expected. Things aren’t well defined, depth is missing and the whole thing just isn’t very interesting.
Granted, story has never been a big part of these types of shooters. They’re more about doing whatever it takes to make it from the beginning of each level to the end, all while surviving against waves of challenging enemies. That’s what the focus is on here, and it’s no surprise, although the several different types of robots that you’re put up against just aren’t that interesting to do battle with.
That isn’t to say that these robots aren’t challenging, though, because Hard Reset Redux is far from an easy game on its regular or heightened difficulties. It also offers even more challenge for the hardcore, in the form of a heroic mode that ups the difficulty level by limiting checkpoints. Only masochists will want to attempt that, but us peasants can still enjoy testing our mettle against the base campaign and its complementary, score-based survival mode.
For the most part, this is a game about going from point A to point B while blowing away hordes of robots, which come in varying sizes and carry different amounts of armour. There are the small, bug-like grunts, which are easy to get rid of, as well as flying and explosive variations upon them. Then, there are the larger, hulking rammers, who take quite a bit of fire before they go down unless you choose to use explosives. In-between, you’ll find humanistic, zombie-like creatures who shamble towards you like the undead themselves. Those are very easy to take out, though, especially if you use Fletcher’s new samurai sword.
Boss battles start out looking like epic encounters, but end up being based around the “Shoot the highlighted area mentality.” It’s fine, and it works as an overarching design, but it doesn’t show much in the way of creativity or create a lot of intrigue. Nor are the boss battles memorable.
The game’s objectives can be quite vague at times, and most involve killing enemies as you wait for computer terminals to become available, which is something that gets to be rather bland after a while. Then again, repetition is, in all honesty, Hard Reset Redux‘s biggest fault, because it never really deviates from its core gameplay. You’re either killing, searching the environments for half-cracked walls to blow up (thus revealing secret areas with experience pick-ups) or looking for the next terminal to hit. There’s little variety, and it’s not hard to get lost for short periods of time as you try to figure out where you’re supposed to go. Furthermore, some of the levels tend to overstay their welcome and drag on, despite only being upwards of forty minutes long at their maximum.
There are times where Hard Reset Redux shines, but those moments aren’t frequent enough. Furthermore, its dark levels leave a lot to the imagination, its enemies become predictable and its focus on using the environment (by shooting explosive barrels or firing at vending machines that send out arcs of electricity) is unfortunately undercooked. What it does have going for it, though, are its adaptable weapons.
At the beginning of this several hour-long campaign, you’re given two guns: an assault rifle and an orb-shooting tech weapon. Both have their base firing mods, but what’s neat is that they’re fully upgradeable and incredibly adaptable – to an extent that we don’t normally see. By progressing through the levels and doing your best to collect as many orange pick-ups as possible, you’ll earn experience points that can then be used to upgrade your guns, by either improving their basic fire modes or selecting new things for them to morph into. The list is pretty lengthy, and includes grenade, mine and rocket launchers, an arc-lightning mod, and a rail gun setting.
To survive you’ll want to take advantage of each of your guns’ mods, but take it from me that the rail gun and RPG are your best bets. They use a good amount of ammo per shot, but ammunition is never hard to come by as pick-ups literally litter the ground in each stage.
On the Xbox One, Hard Reset Redux is a bit of a mixed bag. While it runs well for the most part, it isn’t without lag and framerate issues. What’s funny, though, is that those problems weren’t all that noticeable during the first third of the game, and also lessened after the middle section, which is where they were at their worst. They did return near the end of the game, though, and were most evident when a lot was going on on-screen, or when flying drones were firing at the ground around me, which caused dust clouds to build up.
A large portion of this game also plays out in darkened environments, and things can become a bit muddy, especially when the zombie-like robots come into play. Their character models leave a lot to be desired and are really quite disappointing. Still, with that said, there are some nice lighting effects to be seen at times, and when colour is introduced later on, it brings forth an appreciated change. I actually stopped and looked around at the colourful, overgrown trash heap that I emerged into after battling through darkened hallways and found it to be quite pleasing. This infusion of colour was very limited, though, as it only really lasted for one stage.
When it comes to the audio, things are okay but ultimately forgettable. There’s not a lot to this title’s soundtrack, but it does have full voice acting during its ‘cutscenes’ and over comms. The actors, and the writing they get to vocalize, leave a lot to be desired, though, as the script is somewhat cheesy and also overly macho.
Needless to say, Hard Reset Redux isn’t up to the calibre of DOOM and has undoubtedly released at a terrible time. Hopefully, for Flying Wild Hog’s sake, it won’t be glossed over and completely overshadowed by the Bethesda and id collaboration it finds itself up against, because what’s here is rather competent and pretty enjoyable overall.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
If you're looking for another retro-inspired FPS to play through now that you've completed DOOM, Hard Reset Redux is a competent option. Although it's dated and doesn't compare to the polish, scope and grandeur that is present in its competitor, it continues to be a decent and challenging game.