I'm going to gloss over the plot, not because I don't think it's good, but because it isn't why I enjoy the game. The plot, to me, feels a little like The Matrix in that you're guarding a hub that houses human intelligence from machines. If they're able to get their hands on it their intelligence exceeds theoretical limits. The narrative plays out via comic book style animatics, similar to Mirrors Edge.
You're given a couple of options when it comes to killing. You can take full advantage of the weapons and their upgrades, or you can rely on the environment to do the work for you. The base rifle can be upgraded to a shotgun and then to a grenade launcher. You're able to switch between the different firing modes on the fly via the mouse scroll wheel. The mode you're in is indicated on the bottom left of the HUD. When upgrading you're able to choose various ammunition types, or upgrades for reload speed.
The work Flying Wild Hog put into the weapon animations is astounding. I've not seen a developer put so much detail into weapon effects before. The weapons transform as you change modes, and it looks awesome. To reload your weapon all you need to do is find the ammo that's strewn around the area. When firing you only need to hold the trigger down. The longer you hold it down the hotter the gun gets. As it fires the gun shakes violently, to the point where it looks like it may fall apart.
As you move through each area you pick up shield(orange), health(green), and blue stuff that allows you to sprint, There are names for each of the colored collectibles but knowing them isn't integral to the experience. If you need health go and get the green box.
The game features Doom style secret rooms that can be accessed by blowing up barrels, or using your grenade launcher next to walls adorned with cracks. The rooms are often filled with health, ammo and various other pick-ups.
The weapons and your suit of armor are upgraded through machines with interactive menus. As you approach an upgrade stand, holographic menus surround you and your cursor turns to a hand allowing you to select either of the two guns, or your armor so that you can upgrade. Once you select one of the three you're presented with options for each firing mode for that weapon, or with upgrades to speed and damage resistance for your armor.
As I mentioned before, you do have the option to dispel enemies with the environment, which is my preferred method. There are machines that when fired upon send out arcing electricity that zap multiple enemies, or explode in spectacular fashion to roast anything nearby. There's no shortage of things to blow up, it's always pretty and it never gets old. Battles quickly turn chaotic, utter pandemonium is how I like to explain it. Machines that moments before were attacking you are now exploding and pieces are hurled around the level.
If possible I suggest playing the game with headphones. Your ears are relentlessly bombarded with bullet ricochets, explosions and arcing electricity. It sounds fantastic.
While the game looks good, the environments tend to look the same throughout. I got to the point where I entered a new zone, found the explosive items and tuned everything else out. I feel like there's definitely a tactical approach to most zones. To a point each level boils down to moving forward enough to activate the enemy hoard, and then kiting them through the explosive choke points. That isn't to say those moments aren't enjoyable. That's how I chose to play, you could just as easily run around the zone using the different weapon options while ducking in and out of cover.
The game's hard, but not in a way that makes you feel like you've been cheated. It gives you plenty of opportunities to make each encounter fun and simple by using the environment, and I contend finding a dumpster to stand on while you launch grenades at enemies is a fair, legitimate tactic. Be wary though, some enemies will fire projectiles leaving you defenseless if you choose the dumpster method. It's also easy to find yourself surrounded by the smaller Grunt type enemies. Once that happens they'll whittle down your health and the lager foes will move in for the quick kill.
The game features a solid, straight forward survival mode. You survive waves, collect points for upgrades and destroy everything. It's utter chaos and that's always a good thing.
Hard Reset is as solid a shooter as you're going to find. The developer made sure your interaction with the world is solid and fun. The guns feel good and the menu interactions are interesting. The only problem I have with the game is that the environments all feel the same. I feel like something should have been done to vary the aesthetic a little.
Hard Reset was developed by Flying Wild Hog, a Polish developer comprised of industry veterans, and I think it shows. The game is $20 and there is a demo on Steam.