Hard Reset is modeled on "old school" video games such as Quake and Unreal, which results in more straightforward gameplay than most modern first-person shooters. The various stages have secret areas with hidden pick ups such as health and ammunition. The environments are designed similarly, as there are explosive barrels and various vending machines outfitted with electro-shock anti-vandalism defenses, that can trigger splash damage by being shot at, scattered throughout the levels, which the player can use by luring enemies near them. The game lacks a multiplayer mode, which was a chief criticism.
Unlike most old school first-person shooters, which feature a liberal variety of guns and throwable weapons that can be stored in a magic satchel-like inventory, Hard Reset features only two weapons, the CLN Modular Assault Rifle, and the EEF-21 Plasma Rifle. Both weapons have unlockable firing modes, the Modular Assault Rifle including the option to strap add-ons such as grenade and rocket launchers, and the plasma rifle allowing railguns and stasis modules.