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This week, Shooter Season 2011 continues as Zero Punctuation reviews Hard Reset.

Transcript Edit

Do you like real-time strategy games? Do you like the satisfaction of sending hordes of loyal trench foot-infected fathers and husbands to die while you hover fifty feet above them eating crumpets? Well then, piss off! This is Shooter Season 2011, the time for real men!

This week, I'd like to take things in a slightly more independent direction. All this talk of brown space marines stomping snarly monsters with their techno-wellies is all very well but represent but a single dismal facet of the intricate jewel that is shooters, and the most interesting stuff goes on in the independent circles (as is the case with every creative medium, including ritualistic serial killing). And it would almost be cruel of me to embark on a slew of shooter reviews with a hastily concocted theme to in some futile way dull the pain of repetition without giving time to Hard Reset, an old-style Steam-based counter-argument to the modern shooter. It was either this or Space Marine. And given options, I'll go for the one that infuriates tosspots.

Now, a first on a big spotlight on Hard Reset, as choirs of angels sung from on high, was the fact that it was developed by some of the guys who worked on Painkiller, that now-classic traditional FPS that is still more fun than any mortal sinner has any rights to have. Presumably not the same ex-Painkiller guys who were brought onto Bulletstorm and found themselves polishing CliffyB's silverware while Epic rolled up their sleeves and diligently ruined everything. No, these are the ex-Painkiller guys who still have their self-respect, whose stated goal in creating Hard Reset was to recreate that same run gun fun that characterizes all the nineties shooters.

Unfortunately, the older nineties shooter that seemed to end up influencing them the most was Quake II, an experience with about as much variety and entertainment value as drinking the entire contents of the washing-up bowl the morning after a lard tasting party. And Hard Reset 's status as the product of former People Can Fly employees makes it comparable to George Harrison's solo career after The Beatles: no longer the glory days, but at least not as bad as Ringo's.

Hard Reset is a dystopic cyberpunk tale about a bloke named Fletcher, some kind of field agent or police officer detective thing, in a sprawling corporate future nightmare city, which is to cyberpunk what Tokyo is to the giant monster genre. And I'm going to throw a little impromptu competition here. If you haven't played Hard Reset yet, I want you to download it now, play through the entire game once to the end - don't worry, its not very long; it's independent, so the money ran out faster - and then come back here and explain to me what the plot was about in 25 words or less. It's something to do with evil robots invading the city because of an evil scientist, but it turns out he's not evil or something, and they use the word "nanomachines" like Hideo Kojima's Dictaphone broke.

They tried to have this rich, full-on, Philip K. Dick story between gameplay sections, but they keep throwing out curveballs that have nothing to do with anything that happens in the game and just confuse me. Something about your job being to defend an archive of billions of digitalized human beings, but I only remember blowing up robots and having the occasional epileptic fit. But then, Painkiller 's story was fucking woeful; the journey of a copy of Painkiller through a packaging facility is probably a better story than what Painkiller itself had. And like Painkiller, Hard Reset reserves the story to in-betweeny bits, in this case loading screens. That sort of illustrates its incomprehensibility: there's literally nothing else you could be concentrating on and it still makes less sense than a shouty homeless man enacting Klingon opera.

But Painkiller made up for itself with incredible environments, creative weapons and hordes of enemies with nice soft tummies to use them on, and I'm sad to say Hard Reset lets itself down on every one of those points. The comparison to Quake II comes because Quake II was a game that never got past one kind of environment, namely the interior of a cardboard box that had been used to store exploding chocolate. And Hard Reset is a succession of blue-tinged urban industrial areas where everyone's really paranoid about losing things so they strap multicolored neon lights to absolutely fucking everything. This is another one of those cyberpunk prerequisites, I think, but the connectivity of it all is cyberridiculous. There's one level where you start off in a subway station and a few corridors later you're on a rooftop. Did they design this city by throwing pocket calculators at a centrifuge?

But we've danced around this enough: what about the actual shooting? It's true the game does the Painkiller thing, making multitudes of monsters to mop you mercilessly, but as with the environments they forgot the whole variety thing, and you only ever seem to fight two kinds of aggressive Roomba and a few palette-swapped wheelie bins. There's really no way of saying this without giving ammunition to conservative anti-game campaigners, but there isn't as much fun to be had in shooting robots as there is in shooting organic lifeforms. When I fire a rocket into a cluster of charging monsters, I like to know that the cleanup will have to be done with a mop rather than a broom. It's hard to explain, but surely we can all agree that the lawnmower scene from Braindead just wouldn't have been as memorable if it'd been taking place in the audio-visual department at Harvey Normans. Which is to say nothing of the inherent problem of exclusively fighting shiny, metallic enemies covered in bleepy lights in a shiny, metallic environment covered in bleepy lights. It does get visually confusing and frustrating when you're trying to spot a distant sniper while a charging wheelie bin is trying to use you to redecorate.

Call me crazy, but if your weapon system is based around having two separate guns with four or five unlockable firing modes apiece, then yes, I suppose you do have a pretty fucking stupid weapon system. But since we're stuck with it, surely it would make more sense to have one key that toggles between the two rather than having one key for each. But now I am nitpicking. Is it fair to criticize an indie game for not having the resources to be as blinged out as previous, better-funded games? Certainly isn't!

Hard Reset does end rather abruptly after the second boss, but at least it's not so long that the repetition gets too dull. Maybe if I had the time, I could play through the plot seven or eight hundred times and finally get what's going on. And let's fall back on the capitalist's argument that you can't expect too much for under thirty bucks. Treat Hard Reset as a short, snacky rush of violence one can enjoy to cool down between big, stodgy AAA titles, like having a slightly poorly made cappuccino and a Twix before going back to your desk and shoving your head in another bucket of crabs.

AddendaEdit

  • Founder of the cyber-luddites: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • I gave your mum a hard reset last night and it certainly rebooted her operating system if you know what I mean
  • Where's Asimov when you need him


ScreenshotsEdit

Hard Reset 1

Do you like the satisfaction of sending hordes of loyal trench foot-infected fathers and husbands to die while you hover fifty feet above them eating crumpets?

Hard Reset 3

More fun than any mortal sinner has any rights to have

Hard Reset 6

Maybe if I had the time, I could play through the plot seven or eight hundred times and finally get what's going on

External LinksEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5

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