Free DLC where you shoot lots of shiny stuff? Sign me up.
I like free. We all like free. Free DLC? Even better. A chance to revisit Hard Reset and let loose on more shiny robots? Hell yeah! The Hard Reset: Exile DLC brings you back to where the main game ended – a poor choice, as DLC should always be a supporting story arc, not a direct continuation…if paid. Since this is free, it’s perfectly fine. I like to think of it as an extension to the main game; if you’re playing the entire thing for the first time, there really isn’t “DLC” in the traditional sense. The developers could have hyped that the main story would be extended with the DLC a little more though.
Warning: There may (read: will) be spoilers. Nothing plot related, but there may be some surprise ruination in store. Fair warning.
You start the DLC by losing the giant robot suit, and being plopped in the middle of a trash compactor. With Novak at your side (corporeally, of course), you set out to…well, initially you just want to escape the compactor and survive. As you traipse along, you’re contacted by some mysterious humans. Yes, humans. Non-Bezoar humans. And they want to help you, and find you, and snuggle you, and call you Fletcher Pookie-kins. Lots of robots are blown to smithereens, lots of power generators are activated, and lots of Nano is spent upgrading existing guns (yeah, no new swag; sorry artillery aficionados). I write it this way because the plot…was confusing in how little it actually explained/revealed/made sense. People suddenly know who you are, people you’ve never met. Bezoar has apparently been lost to the robots, but the police are still chasing you well past the boundaries of Bezoar to lay the smackdown. As a comic book, this would be a little easier to deal with, and given that the main game deals a lot in comic-inspiration, the literary approach makes sense, if not the plot itself. I will say this: the plot does have its share of shocking developments, and a very interesting twist in the plot; you spend the entire main game being told that robots live outside the walls, that Bezoar is the last remaining human settlement, and suddenly this is all wrong. I commend the style of writing, if not the way the content is directly presented. Some (read: most) of the writing is b-movie awful; sometimes though, a gem pops up, like the almost “arrow to the knee” joke that had me stopping and smiling. Nice.
Enemies in Hard Reset: Exile are mostly remodelled or recoloured versions of old enemies, but the few that are new are more interesting and require a little adaptation of strategy to beat. Interesting to note the copious amounts of hybrid human-robotic enemies. And robots with human parts inside of their metal casing. This could have been a bigger plot element, or it may be addressed in future Hard Reset-related media. The new enemies come in the form of flying robots, the fuzz (Bezoar Police Department Aerial Special Forces), and some bug-like robots. The flyers are all pretty interesting, and force you to pay attention to both ground and air enemies during battle. The smaller bug robots reuse the “Monkey”‘ mechanic of bum rushing, while the bigger brothers are stationary, and track you with a laser while firing the explosive equivalent of a laser-guided pimp-slap. I have to admit, it’s all really cool stuff. Oddly though, the only new “weapon” is an environmental one – EMP Explosive Barrels – that figure heavily into the final boss fight. They’re incredibly useful though, as they bring the environmental strategy of blowing up the wall conduits with the room-wide mobility of the regular explosive barrels.
The environments in Hard Reset: Exile are defintely something to write home about, especially if you know other people who love to shoot shiny stuff. The lands beyond Bezoar carry a definite “abandoned trash heap” motif. It’s a stark contrast to the shiny, clean and orderly Bezoar city, which is refreshing. Nothing peaks interest more than a change in scenery. A lot of story detail was there as well; things like scattered PDA’s, unopened cigarette packages, etc. They added to the feeling that humans were here, and maybe still are. Those seemed to be more of a “secret” than the not-so-hidden nano scattered about the place. There was a distinctive lack of comic book-style cutscenes, which was disappointing – the dual art styles added a lot of flair and made the main game visually interesting; there weren’t any until the very end, which made me sad. Why do you want me to be sad?
The changes to the gameplay were disappointing at best, and frustrating at worst. Enemy AI seems to be improved in Hard Reset: Exile, and fights require a lot more thought and precision; this was demolished by the tedious repetitive nature of the fights. They honestly all felt the same. It was almost as if the environments could have been swapped out mid-combat, and I wouldn’t have noticed. It was rare that the environment mattered to the fight, and it was rarer still that a unique mechanic or “puzzle” appeared. It’s something that this franchise could definitely use, and would only make the great parts of this game even better. The irradiation section felt very tacked on for the sake of difficulty, and ended up being frustrating more than fun or difficult. There were enough health packs to make it super easy, so the frustration was just that the irradiation added more of that damage indicator nonsense to the UI. Also, I still hate the damage indication stuff on the UI, in case you were wondering. Developers really need to reprioritize innovation versus cluttering my UI with nonsense. Developers, stop it. The boss fight was ultimately disappointing: the fight it self was interesting, fending off waves of enemies until the boss runs out of gas and has to make an emergency landing. Gas is expensive, I don’t blame him for not filling up. The difficulty, and therefore the fun of the challenge, was augmented with the sheer number of enemies, as opposed to more interesting mechanics (the vacuum thing notwithstanding. That was kinda cool). Had there been fewer enemies for the sake of difficulty, the fight would have been the best part of the DLC. It made use of the environment, it had an interesting fight mechanic (aforementioned vacuum thing), and it even took the whole “pew pew in arena” thing for what it was, and literally gave you an open arena to fight in. There just could have been more of it, and I think that’s what disappointed me most. Too little of the good stuff, too much of the same old stuff.
Overall, the DLC felt really tacked on. It’s too short, too boring (more of the same, not much change or innovation), and the plot generates more questions and plot holes than it answers. The unique dual art style and initial “cool” factor of shooting a bunch of shiny stuff is all but gone, and all that remains is another tired, reused recipe of “fight in big room”, rinse, repeat. It’s a generic shooter recipe which works, but there wasn’t much that made it new or especially interesting. I suppose if you’re playing the game for the first time, and you just chew all the way through til the end of the DLC, it’ll seem like a longer game. I would have liked a little more plot (even if it’s unlockables that you have to read) that explain the human-machine hybrid enemies and the mysterious ‘losing’ of Bezoar. There is such an interesting story here though; the developers can do so much with it. I really think they should expand the backstory/franchise universe a lot more in future Hard Reset media. Bottom line is it’s not a bad DLC, by any standards; it’s just superbly mediocre. It has some really awesome and interesting moments, and coupled with the main game, it’s definite value and fun if nothing else. If you want to shoot lots of robots, and you don’t mind a game that’s fun for the sake of fun then by all means, pick up the Hard Reset: Exile DLC. Relive the glory days of shooting shiny stuff, because the world needs more of that.