Fallout came along as the second open-world RPG wherein the player’s choices had far reaching implications (the first was Wasteland). Forget about the obvious — of course killing certain NPCs would negate completing their quests later on, but what about the subtle decision to accept one mission over another? Or to agreeing to fetch back an item for a particular mission, then changing your mind about who to give it to? That is where Fallout did Wasteland honor and differentiated itself, and a franchise was born. Now we have Hardboiled, supposedly designed to pay homage to the illustrious series — which is still going, still developing and improving on prior games. If only Hardboiled showed the same signs of innovation, or even did a good job ripping the originals.
Hardboiled starts strong, but don’t hold your breath for cut scenes. Playing as Max, a survivor in the harsh nuclear apocalypse-stricken world, you begin the game with the horror many a 1980’s city dweller has suffered; you return to your car to find it has been stripped of every valuable part. There’s a guy there that tries to talk tough when you ask him what the hell happened. The game lets you practice your fighting skills on him and then you’re off, questioning scavengers and strangers in search of your missing car parts.
Sadly this is where things take a turn for the worse. “Worse?” You’re thinking — “You’re on foot and nearly broke in a post-apocalyptic city. How could this get worse?” You could encounter one of the unfriendly denizens of the town during your quest. If it’s a beast, the contest should be relatively easy. If it’s a bandit, gird your loins for a fight. The turn-based nature of the combat gives you time to plan your moves; your ability to hit – or disarm or slow — is determined by your weapon skill and your action points, as is familiar from the franchises that inspired this game. If more than one enemy decides to join the fray, you can run for your life, but how far you can get per-turn is still dictated by action points — every point is a step. One unfortunate truth: it’s nearly impossible to get away, and other enemies may join the chase if you run near them. If you lose a fight, you get knocked unconscious and wake up on the outdoor couch of the only nice guy in the city. Of course, most of your stuff will likely be missing.
Sure, there are neutral parties, like the stranger who gave you the bad news about your car — they appear as yellow dots on the radar. These are strangers, scavengers, marauders, traders and guardians, and all of them are rather blasé about your presence. Scavengers and strangers generally mind their own business; they can be good for trade and info. If you kill them without cause, it may negatively affect your reputation. Every once in a while, a yellow dot might turn on you, too. Generally these are marauders demanding you give up some of your stuff (bandits, by comparison, will simply try to kill you on sight and take it all). The traders might ask you for things and trade with you, but unless your reputation warrants attention, the guardians wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire. You can try to run to them for help if you’re being attacked by bandits; I did, but it didn’t do me any good, even though the guardians are supposed to be the only force holding the bandits at bay and keeping the city intact.
And that brings me to what is ultimately missing from Hardboiled and what is possibly the biggest oversight in a game like this — the feeling of playing a part in a broader world. The Guide tells us the guardians and the bandits are enemies, yet they don’t fight when they come near each other. What’s more, the interesting, crazy and unpredictable NPCs for which Fallout and Wasteland are so famous (not to mention their equally kooky missions) are missing from Hardboiled, at least early on. This was very cut and dry stuff. Since there’s not much backstory for any character, including Max, we’re not so involved with the persistent world. The game in general is a little thin on story and quest content — too many of the missions are straight-up step and fetch it. Unfortunately, these are lame interpretations of decisions like, “should I wipe out this entire town or not?” Granted, that particular example is a decision from Fallout 3 instead of the original, but as much as I might like to pretend all the newer games in the series never happened and opine that Hardboiled should stick to its main inspiration, I can’t. I’ve already eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and there’s no going back to ignorance now. Hardboiled was supposed to be “inspired by” the great games of the past, not a poor man’s mobile version of them.
Unlike the quests, most of the character development factors are handled well. The turn-based combat and action point system is clearly defined and integral to any Fallout nod. The skill points are also done well — you can improve your skills with different combat and weapon types — melee, shotgun, pistol, automatic, etc. Alas, this game area is small, and the missions available are basic. The main mission — reclaiming your car parts — is made nearly impossible by your weakness and lack of reputation; you’re too weak to fight your way into bandit-controlled camps, and since you’re a nobody, the guardians won’t let you into their pristine and policed areas. Therefore, early on your objective is to explore the map, take down enemies that won’t kill you, and complete any simple missions you come across, of which there are too few.
During this exploration, the music, both in combat and out, is repetitive. We’re not expecting miracles and it isn’t grating, but if the gameplay itself does little to alleviate that repetitiveness, a lack of variety in music only exacerbates the situation. On the bright side, there are no in-game purchases and for post-apocalyptic game fans, or gamers looking for a bit of Fallout nostalgia, this is a fair purchase for $2, down to the sound effects.
According to responses in the Play Store, the developers are attentive, so it’s possible there is more coming to the HardBoiled world. For now, however, the meager content makes it a bit of a wasteland, pun intended. I would still recommend it to those players looking for a classic game for Android; it definitely hits all the notes of a classic. By now though, I’m not looking back at the pixels of the past with totally unadulterated fondness.
Is it Hardcore?
Good for a mobile and miniature post-apocalyptic experience, but Fallout is hard to live up to.