Today’s Art (22nd February 2020)

Well, although I’d planned to make a more detailed 1980s-style cyberpunk painting, today’s digitally-edited painting ended up being a slightly more minimalist 1990s/early-mid 2000s-style cyberpunk painting for time reasons.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Station Road” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (16th February 2020)

Well, although I was in a slight rush when I made it, this digitally-edited cyberpunk painting turned out slightly better than I’d expected.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Passage” By C. A. Brown

Review: “Hard Reset Redux” (Computer Game)

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“The End Of The Day” by Claire North), I thought that I’d review a rather cool-looking “AA” cyberpunk first-person shooter game from 2016 called “Hard Reset Redux” (made by the same people who made the modern remake of “Shadow Warrior) which I’ve been meaning to play for ages, but only ended up getting a few weeks before writing this review when it went on special offer on GOG.

Interestingly, this game is an altered/expanded version of another game from 2011 called “Hard Reset”. Since I haven’t played that game I can’t really compare the two properly but, from what I gather, the “Redux” edition includes a new katana-style weapon, possibly an integrated expansion pack and at least one new enemy type.

So, let’s take a look at “Hard Reset Redux”:

Neon lights? Flying cars? Sprawling mega-city? THIS looks interesting 🙂

Set in a neon-lit cyberpunk future, you play as an official CLN operative who has been tasked with protecting the sprawling metropolis of Bezoar City from evil robots and cyborgs who want to gain access to a database of stored consciousnesses in the centre of the city. Of course, in a shocking twist, the robots break into the city and the game begins….

One of the first things that I will say about this game is that, although the gameplay isn’t anything too surprising, I was absolutely gripped during the early-middle parts of it. If you’re a fan of the film “Blade Runner” and thought that “Deus Ex” didn’t include enough fast-paced combat, then the early-middle parts of this game will absolutely astonish you. It’s basically “Blade Runner, but a FPS game” and you have no clue how long I have been waiting for something like this 🙂

Oh my god! YES!!!!

And, yes, there is a “Blade Runner” reference or two 🙂

You’ll notice how I’ve only mentioned the early parts of the game so far. This is because – although I have completed the game – this awesome “Blade Runner” style aesthetic, lighting and location design fades slightly as the game progresses, with everything becoming a bit more grimy, industrial and/or post-apocalyptic in a way vaguely reminiscent of early-mid 2000s FPS games like “Quake 4”, “Killzone”, “Red Faction II” and “Doom 3”. This is really cool, but I’d have loved to see the really cool cyberpunk cityscapes appear more consistently throughout the game. Even so, I can’t praise the general style and atmosphere of the first half or so of the game highly enough 🙂

Although this isn’t to say that there aren’t some cool-looking places later in the game too.

Even so, the later parts have much more of a post-apocalyptic look to them (probably due to the “Redux” edition also containing an expansion).

But, visuals and location design aside, what about the actual gameplay? If you’ve played the “Shadow Warrior” remake, you’ll know what to expect here. This is a “Serious Sam“/”Painkiller”-style FPS game where you have to fight waves of monsters in an arena-like room/area before moving on to the next one to do the same (and so on…), with the occasional boss battle to spice things up. This results in lots of thrillingly fast-paced and frenetic combat-focused gameplay that is also a lot more streamlined than the traditional FPS games of the 1990s.

However, one side-effect of this is that the level design is a lot more linear than you’d expect in a traditional 1990s FPS. Yes, the game does try to compensate for this by having a few “hidden” areas (though easily-findable by 1990s standards) where you can find extra stuff, not to mention that there were at least a couple of moments where I had to spend a minute or two working out where to go next. But, since this game is heavily combat-focused and is part of a well-established (and very fun) sub-genre of FPS games, I can’t criticise the linear level design here too much.

Yes, the levels are fairly linear but thanks to the fact that this game focuses almost entirely on intense, frantic combat , the level design actually sort of works here.

In terms of the combat, it is kept interesting by a good variety of small, mid-level and large monsters in the way that you’d expect from an old-school FPS game. Some of these monsters have different behaviours or attack patterns, which helps to add a slight element of strategy to the combat. Likewise, whilst you’ll rarely be fighting giant “Serious Sam”-style hordes, the monsters still attack in good enough numbers to keep the combat feeling suitably fast-paced and badass.

The design of the cyborg enemies is also strongly reminiscent of the Strogg from the second and fourth “Quake” games, which helps to add an extra level of 1990s/early-mid 2000s nostalgia to the game 🙂 But, that isn’t even the coolest part! There are also “Doom 3”-style zombies too 🙂 Seriously, cyberpunk sci-fi and zombies, it doesn’t get cooler than this 🙂

Woo hoo! Zombies! In a cyberpunk game 🙂

The boss battles are fairly interesting, although they don’t really follow a consistent difficulty curve. The first and second bosses that you encounter are “Painkiller”-inspired giant monsters that, like in the “Shadow Warrior” remake, require you to shoot their weak spots between battles against waves of smaller monsters.

These two bosses present a formidable challenge and, when you begin getting lots of hints and foreshadowing about the final boss, you’re ready for a truly epic battle… Only to fight a smaller robot that, whilst there are a couple of extra puzzle elements (eg: you have to get it to swallow barrels in order to lower its shields), isn’t anywhere near as much of a challenge to defeat. Yes, the final boss battle took me 10-15 minutes to complete, but I didn’t even die once during it! Again, this could be due to the “Redux” edition also including an expansion, but it still ruins the pacing/progression a bit.

This giant, towering behemoth is the first boss. And, yes, he presents quite a bit of a challenge.

This little tin can isn’t the first boss. It’s the final one. Expect a long, but not that challenging, battle 😦

In terms of the weapons, you only get three – an assault rifle-style gun, an energy weapon and a futuristic katana. However, this limited roster of weapons works surprisingly well, because you can collect in-game items (and there are absolutely no micro-transactions here 🙂 ) that allow you to choose and unlock upgrades and/or numerous alternate fire modes for two of them (the katana isn’t upgradable, and isn’t really that useful. But it looks cool) and for your character too. What this means is that the game actually includes something like 11-20 selectable attack types, which makes this game much more like a classic 1990s FPS than a modern-style two-weapon shooter 🙂

The katana looks cool (and is a cool reference to the “Shadow Warrior” remake too), but don’t expect to actually bother using it that often.

However, once you get the “Smartgun” upgrade (and its alternate fire modes) for the energy weapon, there really isn’t much reason or point to using anything else. So, for the later parts of game, expect to stick to just this one weapon almost all of the time.

Another cool 1990s-style element is that, like any proper computer game, you can save anywhere 🙂 Yes, the game auto-saves too and you only seem to get about one quick-save slot per segment/area of the game (and these quick-saves didn’t always load on my computer, although it was cool to see a proper loading menu where you could go back to some older saves). Even so, it is still very refreshing to see a proper “save anywhere” system in this miserable age of console-centric checkpoint saving 🙂

Likewise, another cool thing about this game is that it doesn’t fully use the dreaded regenerating health. Yes, your character’s armour and ammo regenerate slowly to an extent, but this is a game that requires you to actually find health and ammo. But, although the fact that these are dropped by fallen monsters encourages you to play in a more fast-paced and aggressive way, there is also no shortage of random health/ammo items just lying around. So, don’t expect to run out of either that often (compared to, say, a challenging 1990s FPS game).

Yes, this element of the game is wonderfully retro and helps to make things a bit more fast-paced and fun. But, on medium difficulty at least, don’t expect quite the same level of enjoyable challenge here though.

As for music and sound design, this game is pretty cool. In addition to the kind of fast-paced futuristic music you’d expect from a cyberpunk game, the sound design is fairly good. Yes, some of the weaker weapons deliberately sound a bit weedy, but this is probably an intentional design choice. Plus, in the earlier parts of the game, there is also lots of hilarious robotic dialogue from the many random vending machines that you’ll walk past. Seriously, it’s always good to see actual humour in a FPS game.

In terms of the game’s story, it is “so bad that it’s good” in the best 1990s-style way. There are some rather cool comic book-style cutscenes between segments of the game and, not only do these feature lots of gloriously cheesy and over-the-top moments, but the dialogue also uses a hilariously large number of four-letter words (in a way that comes across as immature/ “edgy” in the most ’90s way possible 🙂 ). And, yes, the actual story itself is generic as hell… But, this just adds to the 1990s-style charm.

And, yes, the cutscenes also include comic book-style titles and speech bubbles too.

As for length, this is probably a medium-length game at the least. Although I wasn’t really timing how long I was playing for, it wouldn’t surprise me if it took me at least 8-13 hours to complete it. Like with FPS games of this style, it is at its most enjoyable in relatively short 1-2 hour sessions. This game has a reasonably decent number of levels (again, I wasn’t counting. But, at a guess, probably at least 10-15, if not more). In other words, this game still felt like a full length FPS game, albeit one that was slightly shorter than the classics of the 1990s.

All in all, whilst this game is just another “Serious Sam”/”Painkiller”/ “Shadow Warrior (2013)”-style game, it’s still a really cool one. It has a really awesome aesthetic that is inspired by things like “Blade Runner” and mid-2000s FPS games, which is always awesome to see 🙂 The combat is reasonably fun, even if there are some difficulty curve issues with the bosses and the level design is (as you would expect) fairly linear. Still, for what it is, it is really cool 🙂

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.