Every once a while we get lucky here at the HUD and receive something special, today it’s a hands on look at the upcoming FPS title Hard Reset. Made by new studio Flying Wild Hog, this cyberpunk blast fest looks to emulate the gun fun of old but also carries the spirit of some the studio member’s past games. The studio is made up of members of some of Poland’s most notable developers: People Can Fly (Painkiller and Bulletstorm), CD Projekt RED (The Witcher 2), and City Interactive (Sniper: Ghost Warrior) are all represented. Anyways back to the game the premise is that you are Major Fletcher a somewhat despondent member of a group of futuristic space cops that protects what is essentially the Matrix’s central server from evil robots by blowing them apart with massive overpowered death tubes. It’s Blade Runner meets the Matrix meets Crank all wrapped up in a shell of modernized DOOM. If that interests you which in all honesty it really should then read on and see how our run at the demo turned out.
So the demo we were sent consisted of three levels and about an hour and a half of gameplay that showcased the game’s various weapons and gameplay systems. First off was the opening level of the game that took place in the city streets and tasked you with taking out some evil mechano-men at the end of the level. As I walked through the bleak empty streets I wondered where all the people were and that’s when I looked up, the buildings rose high into the sky and lanes of flying cars flitted in between them. The sight was truly impressive and scale of it made for a truly immersive experience. Focusing again on the level in front of me I got to see the rainy street slowly fill with robots and gave me the chance to draw iron and start seeing exactly what this game could do. The weapons system is a curious one, rather than carrying a whole armory Fletcher wields only two guns-a bullet gun and an energy gun-however there’s more to these firearms than meets the eye. You see the game employs what could be best described as a transforming weapons system, each gun has five modes you can unlock and use each of which has a primary and secondary attack. This dearth of attacks means a lot of flexibility in gameplay, generally certain weapons are better for certain situations but playing around with all the options definitely feels encouraged. There is one problem though with this system though and that’s the fact that it can sometimes be hard to discern what you have equipped. You see when you switch attack modes on your weapons it only causes a minor visual change to the weapon itself (generally to the barrel) which can be hard to discern from each other. There is also a symbol in the HUD that represents what you have equipped but they’re kind of on the obtuse side and it can be a little hard to figure out what each one means in the heat of battle. As the level ended though (with rampaging robo-gorillas, obviously) I definitely started really feel like I had gotten the hang of the weapons I had unlocked.
The second level of the demo takes place in an abandoned hospital that sounded like it was about mid-way through the game, this time we’re working with an unseen computer voice to try to retrieve some lost personality files. This level is far more reigned in regarding scale than the last one and it really gives me a chance to see some more of the gameplay systems at work. Basically the game works in a way similar to the frag fests of old with a focus on movement and sheer firepower rather than using the cover mechanics and more precision headshot based gameplay we’ve been become accustomed to in recent days. The game takes the Serious Sam/Painkiller routes of pretty much just always be shooting and it’s an incredibly refreshing thing to see in this day and age. Oddly enough the game lacks many of the controls not necessary for the just shooting dudes but we have none the less become accustomed to; there is no crouching, no iron sights, and even no melee attack (or at least none of these were ever mentioned and I couldn’t find them). At first it’s weird doing without these controls but there is a utilitarian elegance to it that makes very comfortable once you get used to it. The environment is also well designed to interact with the run and gun gameplay as it’s absolutely filled various bits of volatile and electrically charged crap to blow up and have cause environmental damage to your foes which is highly encouraged part of the game. Properly manipulating the various explosive crap in the world can also lead to finding a lot of secret areas. Just like in the classic sense secret areas contain caches of health, ammo, and currency for upgrades (called N.A.N.O. in this universe); while these resource bumps are always nice it does feel like if they maybe added some more specific power ups (atomic health a la Duke Nukem style) to the game it might give these areas some more worth.
The last level shown was a small section on city streets followed by a massive boss fight. The boss I fought was a big metallic statue of Atlas from Greek mythology animated by a bazillion sentient nanobots all bent doing something indistinctly bad; I also needed some code or something out of its head, keep in mind all the levels I played were out of sequence and context so my grasp on the story here is tenuous at best. The boss was a multi-stage arena based affair that really relied on good old school boss fight tropes. All of the things you know boss fights to be are here: glowing weak spots, dodging of large projectile attacks, and the boss summoning minions to bug you and provide you with opportunity to get ammo/health pickups. For as unimpressive as it may sound it was actually incredibly fun and easily my favorite part of the demo due the boss’ speed, size, and tenacity.
My overall impression is that this will be a game to watch and could end being the fall’s dark horse success story; it has some incredibly frenetic gameplay with a classic sensibility something plenty of older FPS fans have been grasping for. The presentation is also neat with the visuals in the gameplay looking like pretty much what you’d want a crazy ass Blade Runner game be sandwiched by some decent motion comic cut scenes. There’s also some fairly good sound design here with rocking ass music, damn good explosions, and some VO of maybe questionable quality. That said this is a preview and the build I played is not the final build so there’s still a lot of room for change here as most of it isn’t fully set in stone. Put simply I’m looking forward to this title and seeing what it becomes when it releases in a couple of months and I hope now you are too.