There’s this constant complaint heard all too often by the PC gaming crowd: why don’t more PC games come to consoles? The reality is some combination between controls, marketability, and code development, but I always like to say, “it’s just more of a PC game.” That wasn’t always the case though, as we’ve seen in the past with the original first person shooters like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D that seemed to have mass appeal beyond the keyboard and mouse. Hard Reset felt like it was airlifted out of that time period in the way it played and handled game design and it made more sense that developer Flying Wild Hog’s first effort come to console gamers. Now the updated Hard Reset Redux seeks to ask how interested console gamers really are. It has updated controls for gamepads, it has seemingly enhanced graphics (although PC players may disagree), and it has a re-balanced campaign all for the sake of the console gamer. This is a tailor-made conversion from the world of PC and if you’re wondering if it was all worth it the answer is a resounding, absolutely.
Hard Reset is based in a cyberpunk future where man and machine are at constant conflict and the city of Bezoar, the final human city, is under attack. You play as Major Fletcher, a former decorated officer who’s sent in to combat the bots and protect mankind. Your plot is told in a comic book form that resembles smart panel in mobile readers but with voiceover. Even as I write it the concept seems stripped right out of the 90s with love and it was a great setup to this title. Hard Reset plays just like those games of the 90s where you have tons of weapons, each with crazy effects and damage models, in addition to large areas for which to do battle. There’s no regenerative health (although your shields do refill with time), there are no weapons hidden around the map, and there’s place to hide in combat. In order to make your way through Hard Reset you have to be assertive, facing enemies head on and dispelling of them as best you can to grab coveted drops like health and bullets. An ongoing experience system earns you points through kills and XP boxes laying around the map as well as large dumps in secret locations. You’ll be doing awkward platforming, thankfully without any true pits to fall in, and blowing up walls to find secrets. You’ll be circle strafing and staying far away from opponents when using explosive weapons with heavy splash damage. Yep, it’s that kind of game.
The changes that Redux brings about aside from the visuals is the use of a quick dash, which is mostly a dodge that side steps the more aggressive enemies. This is a very useful addition when compared to the awkward running you were doing against the bull-like bots that ram into you. Now with the addition of the dash you can play a bit more of the matador game and it feels like it was always supposed to be there. The katana that was added in – I’m guessing because of the studio’s sophomore effort Shadow Warrior (2013) – is a different story. It’s introduced at a weird spot about a quarter of the way through the game and while it works to dispel of semi-organic enemies with ease, the way foes cluster together in Hard Reset doesn’t offer much use for it. After trying my hardest to embrace the new weapon and dying for my efforts, I decided to ignore it completely and my experience was better for it. Still, I’m sure there’s someone out there determined to do a katana run (which is totally possible after completing the game and doing a new game+) that will gain a much closer relationship with the weapon. Other notable features include some new enemies, which I barely noticed the difference from the original game, and “re-balanced” gameplay and enemy layouts. This is the part that I feel was a misstep because I found the Normal difficulty to be a cake walk. Granted, there are some that aren’t as used to the hyper aggressive 90s shooter that may struggle at first, but in the end I didn’t feel at all that challenged. Fortunately the higher difficulties definitely offer plenty of challenge so it’s best to jump in at Normal for your first go and to get to know all the weapons for your true test the second time through. Performance has also been given an overhaul and on PC I noticed nearly no load times although I have to concede that I didn’t really notice them back with the original either.
Boss battles offer massive scale and spectacle, although they are few and far between, which is pretty consistent with 90s shooters but I was hoping to see more. There are also moments where you’re thrown an instant cheap death that you could have only avoided if you had known it was coming, but fortunately those are usually near a checkpoint. There are a few airborne enemies that are a complete annoyance and waste of time, but of course are overused as you get later into the campaign. You have a weapons specifically suited for them, but the better solution would have been to remove them altogether when doing the Redux. Some of the encounters later on also require you to overcome multiple massive waves of more difficult enemies and to fail means you have to start the whole section over, but I only needed a handful of tries so it didn’t bother too much. Every achievement in the game, and there are quite a few, have an incredible icon and guitar riff that echoes your perceived success outside of your platform’s own specific notification that I welcomed with a smile every time it happened. I also have to commend the particle effects, physics, and destruction effects that definitely separate Hard Reset from the 20-year-old games it pays homage to, something I noticed less in the original but very well may have been present. Despite some odd quirks, handful annoying moments, and not always knowing exactly where to go next this was a treat from start to finish.
Hard Reset Redux is a love letter to 90s shooters and a welcome addition of a proper PC game ported to consoles. I admit that a first person shooter is much easier than, say, an RTS to make the conversion but it’s welcome nonetheless. Still little things like the way you select a weapon or the the way your character rotates with a toggled stick sensitivity definitely reveal its mouse and keyboard roots. The single player experience will take you around 6-8 hours your first time through and there’s plenty of reason to dive back in and tackle harder difficulties as well as achievement hunt. My only concern is that newer gamers may not be all that into the classic formula and if you said the enemy barrages seemed repetitive it would be hard to argue. It didn’t seem that way while I was playing through it, but I could admit it would be a justified complaint. PC players come out the most on top because this title is only a handful of dollars for anyone owning the original Hard Reset or Shadow Warrior (2013) and of course the same price on Steam as consoles if own neither. As a console gamer who spends most of his time on PC this was a welcome hybrid that packed the perfect weekend single player experience, especially for the summer. If you want a frantic high spectacle title that hearkens back to the days of the id shooter, Hard Reset Redux is a no-brainer pick.
Final Score: 4 out of 5
A review code was provided for the purposes of this review, although the reviewer owned and had played the original Hard Reset Extended. Hard Reset Redux is available on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Steam for $19.99/£14.99. It also has an 85 percent discount on Steam for anyone who owns the original Hard Reset or Shadow Warrior (2013) that the publisher states is an automatic discount that will be valid for the lifetime of the product.