Sunday, 29 April 2012

Hard Reset: Game Design Review

Created by former developers at People May Fly that created the very fun Painkiller, Hard Reset is a no nonsense old-school action shooter. So how does it stack up to other action games? Unfortunately, not very well. There are lots of things that get in the way of shooting things a lot of things, really fast and really quickly.

Menu is pointlessly animated- The menu has way too many moving parts that delay the time scrolling between menus. The developers seemed to have recognised this and even added a menu speed up button just so the menu animations move faster.

Weapons are unlocked rather than picked up- From the get go, I ran into trouble. When starting the game. In most actions shooters, you pick up weapons when the developers plan for you to pick them. This is usually when the developers will introduce a new enemy. In Hard Reset, you a single gun with two weapons systems and various attachments which function as different weapons. You have the N.R.G System which is blue in colour and grants you weapons which deal lower damage but have special abilities such as slowing enemies down and stunning them. You have C.L.N system which is red in colour and grant you weapons which are more direct, deal more damage and often contain more explosives.

Unfortunately the design of the dual Weapon upgrade system works against the nature of the game because you have to invest a certain number of points in upgrading your existing weapons before the next level of weapons are unlocked. For example, you have to upgrade your starting gun first before the shot gun becomes available. Because I spread my upgrade points across both weapon systems I ended up facing some harder enemies without any of the more powerful weapons such as the rocket launcher, grenade launcher or mortar making things much harder than I anticipated in the beginning when points are sparse.

Weapons are enhancements of existing weapons which makes them hard to differentiate- Because all your weapons are modifications of your one single gun, it's hard to know if you're holding a grenade launcher, rocket launcher or shotgun at a glance. This is very important in a firefight for obvious reasons!

Crowd control upgrades need to be available earlier on- A lot of the crowd control weapon upgrades should be available earlier on. I found my mid game much easier once I obtained several weapon upgrades.

Lots of environmental explosions but sometimes these just get in the way- Part of the game is to try and use the highly explosive objects in the environment to stop horders of enemies. It's fun to see a trap go off right but as there isn't any way to kick or reposition exploding terrain effectively I often ended up any managing to take out one or two enemies at best. Also because there are so many explosive objects in the areas in numerous occasions, I ended up accidentally retreating too close to an explosive object while under fire and dying.

Hard to see enemies- Because of the metallic nature of the environments, enemies are often hard to see and spot on occasions.

Enemies are too hard vs weapon reload times- After a while I had to switch to easy because normal was just too difficult. Even the easiest enemies need at least two shotgun shots to be destroyed on normal!

Dashing is limited and bar is too tiny- You have the ability to dash for a limited time and you can't fire while doing so. Unfortunately dashing is the only way to side step one of the larger enemies. As you can imagine I often died by being rammed death because I ran out of dashing power. Also the dashing energy bar is such a small part of your HUD that its hard to know when you're about to run out without taking your eyes off the action.

Dual weapon system is rarely used- Swapping is so slow that I honestly had no use for the dual weapon system. Instead I sank all my points in the N.R.G system and found that having unlocked the more powerful weapons and abilities, I was in a much better position to deal with the enemies as it's much faster to swap weapons within the same weapon system than it is to switch to the other system.

Overall, its a graphical competent game marred by high difficulty level, poor interface and unintuitive weapon and upgrade system that seems to penalise cross weapon experimentation. I was playing Lair of the Evildoer at the same  and that felt that game had better flow and control than this game despite Lair's lack of variety. I can't really recommend it unless you can get it for dirt cheap like I did with the Indie Royale package. You may as well just play Painkiller or Serious Sam HD, far better games.

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