The shooter market has always been very congested. Between Call of Duty and its various imitators, the Battlefield series with its strong PC following, and 'cheaper' shooters like Sniper: Ghost Warrior, the mainstream is clogged with them. Add to these some sensational indie titles like the decent but bugged EYE: Divine Cybermancy , and you would think that a shooter wouldn't be a great choice for your first developed game. Flying Wild Hog disagrees with you. Bringing to the table a wealth of experience at top studios like People Can Fly and CD Projekt Red, it is entering the market with a bang, with the quick two month gap between announcement of Hard Reset and the imminent release. With it looking to be a promising new IP in the FPS market, I couldn't resist getting my grubby little hands on a preview build.
The preview build consists of 3 levels, representing what I can only assume to be a small chunk of the game. You play as Major Fletcher in the year 2436, a Corporation soldier who is tasked with patrolling the last bastion of humanity, the futuristic, cyberpunk metropolis called Bezoar City. Fletcher is tasked with protecting The Sanctuary, a computer network that stores a large amount of digitalized human personalities, from a group of mysterious Cyborgs known as The Machines. The Machines who desire access to The Sanctuary in order to break the limits of their current generation of Artificial Intelligence. Fancy Sci-Fi setting aside this is nothing new, but rather than trying to sneak the clichés through, Hard Reset embraces them by exaggerating them. Fletcher is a typical action hero in every way, right down to the borderline alcoholism. Told through a series of comic-book style cut-scenes that are reminiscent of both inFamous and Max Payne, the story quickly thrusts you into the first of the 3 levels. And that's when the fun begins.
From a technical standpoint, Hard Reset is certainly impressive. Unlike many first-time developers, Flying Wild Hog not only picked an awesome name, but also built its own proprietary engine rather than using one of the industry staples, such as the Unreal Engine. This means that it has been able to technically make the game do whatever it wishes, and what it wished was to make it a beautiful and engaging experience. At least, I think it wished for that, as the game is certainly graphically very fine, with a full range of dynamic lighting effects and high-resolution textures that mean the game easily stands up to its contemporaries. Add to that the partially destructible environments, which are impressive, if not on the same kind of scale as the Frostbite Engine, and Hard Reset can stand up to the big boys.
And then it can pull out all its retro toys. You see, Hard Reset doesn't want to play with Call of Duty. It doesn't have the right feel. Instead, Hard Reset much prefers to play with Doom 3 and Quake. This is an old-school shooter trapped inside a beautiful Deus Ex-style world. It's what Duke Nukem: Forever eventually tried to be, but without the frat-boy attitude.