The original Hard Reset was released on PC in September of 2011, which was a transitional period in the world of first person shooters. Simply put, there just wasn't a lot of room for something so inspired by the old-school in a year that saw games like F3AR, Homefront, and RAGE coming out. Therefore, it's only fitting that Hard Reset Redux comes along and settles in where it always belonged, alongside DOOM, STRAFE, and a swath of arena shooters that are prioritizing action over storytelling. 2016 should be much more welcoming to Fletcher and his mission to destroy every robot that evil cyberpunk corporations send his way.
As with many old school shooters, the narrative of Hard Reset has never been the main draw, although fans of cyberpunk and cheese will find something to like in the game's motion comic cutscenes that bookend each level. The game tells a tale of an evil company, a subjugated populace, and an ultimate superweapon or two. However, none of that matters once you take control, as you'll almost always be pointed towards some robots and told to go nuts.
The enemies are a good variety of foes that take on the classes you'd expect. You have your standard fodder, suicidal drones, flying annoyances, and bruisers that can take you out with a single charge if you let them. Each encounter felt unique, with combat arenas that encouraged changing up your weapon choice and keeping your finger on the sprint button. I did find it tedious to methodically lock-on to flying foes over and over, especially once everything else was cleared out, but otherwise every bot was equally fun to tear apart.
One of the original selling points of Hard Reset was its unique weapon system. It adapted the two gun limit of Halo while also reviving traits like no reloading and an armory that encourages taking action over taking cover. You have two separate guns, one based on energy and one that uses more traditional projectiles. Each one of them can transform to one of five forms, giving you options that range from rockets to proximity mines to big balls of electric death.
Redux retains everything but allows the player to explore its combat options thoroughly in a way that wasn't possible in the original. Weapon upgrades are plentiful, and it was easy to get close to maxing out your firepower before the end of the game. Sadly, you'll find that not every upgrade is equally balanced, and you'll be able to find one or two weapons that work for you and stick with them pretty reliably. Add in the fact that the secondary fire modes of most of the guns aren't that attractive, and this array of options is pared down quickly.
In addition to the increased pace of upgrades, this remaster tones down Hard Reset's notorious difficulty a few notches and makes it more accessible to everyone. The challenge is still there if you want it, but Redux welcomes those players who were turned off by the original's unforgiving nature, myself included. Whereas you might have gotten stuck early on in the original, the rebalanced difficulty almost guarantees that you can break through eventually by the liberal scattering of health packs around each stage.
The game shares a trick with DOOM by having enemies drop ammo when they explode, encouraging players to charge into the fray rather than staying back and waiting to die. Combined with the game's new sprint function, these changes make Hard Reset's combat feel blisteringly fast. In the first release, it was easy to become cornered by charging opponents, but sprinting gives you options and keeps you ahead of the competition, which is a big improvement.
As far as presentation is concerned, Redux doesn't stray too far from the original. It is full of beautiful vistas and neon lights that had me staring in appreciation often. The game is running on a new engine, which has changed a few things in regards to lighting and how textures are loaded in, and this has caused some concerns with people who are directly comparing it to the original. Despite this, the game generally looks like you remember it and runs a bit better, but it's certainly not going to blow away anyone who already blasted through the campaign a few years ago.
My impressions of Hard Reset way back when were not positive. I dug the game's retro ambitions, and I wanted to see all the ways that my gun could transform. However, the game's lack of controller support made it hard for me to get into, and the punishing difficulty made progress a struggle. Redux has corrected all this, delivering a definitive version of the original that fans of both incarnations of DOOM can dive into without regret.
Hard Reset Redux was reviewed on Xbox One with a code provided by the publisher. It is also available on PC via Steam and PlayStation 4. Screenshots featured in this review were provided by Evolve and not taken by the reviewer.
Hard Reset Redux remixes the original cyberpunk shooter in smart ways while still retaining what made it unique years ago.