Hard Light Exotic Review

Contributing author: Joel; updated 3/27/15

Ionized polymer synballistic attack platform. The system’s lethality is dynamically robust across tactical spaces.

Hard Light is an Exotic Auto Rifle.

This weapon can be acquired as a random reward from the Crucible or PvE content, or from Xûr for 23 Strange Coins.


The good: High rate of fire, Volatile Light perk is fun.

The bad: Impact and range are low.

Conclusion: Needs more Impact and/or a non-Kinetic damage type to be truly effective.

Read the full review here

This is an Exotic Weapon
Auto rifle (Primary Weapon)
Kinetic Base Damage/Upgraded260/300
Quality Lvl70
Rate of Fire
Magazine Size

Equip Speed
Aim Assist

Video Review

Weapon Review

Hard light is an Exotic auto rifle that can be won in the Cryptarch lottery, as a reward from PvP/PvE, or sold by Xûr. Its signature Volatile Light perk allows for overpenetrating targets, and ricochet rounds.

Okay, so if we’re being encouraged towards giving it a shot, what are we looking at? Unfortunately, not much. Before we delve into it too deeply, you should know that Hard light is a middling-to-outright-bad Exotic weapon, even in the best of hands.

It might be fun to use, and has its upsides, but all-in-all you’d be better served with another Exotic. Still, if you want to hose down enemies in style, we’re here to help you make the best of it.

The Good

The Volatile Light perk that gives overpenetration and ricochet rounds is actually very fun to use, but not very practical. While you won’t be shooting things around corners, the ricochet rounds can add some unexpected damage to an encounter. Coupled with the overpenetrating rounds, this weapon can turn any corridor into a meat grinder of sorts.

Once the weapon is fully upgraded it really does shine. It’s easy to dominate mid-range fights with Hard Light.
dark light concept destiny exotic

The weapon does a bit better in PvP. As it shares damage output with For the People and Up For Anything, it does possess the ability to down opposing Guardians in a timely fashion. Predictably though, this still means getting up close and personal; you’re not going to be picking anyone off across the map with its abysmal Range. And with that pesky Auto Rifle nerf, Range has become all the more important.

Its sights are unobtrusive by themselves, allowing for a nice Field of View, but once you begin firing you may entirely obscure your target with the bright blue flash that Hard Light emits. This is particularly annoying when in one-on-one strafe fights, as you may be unable to find the head of an opponent at a critical juncture.

The Bad

Until you upgrade this weapon, there’s much better Legendary/Exotic auto rifles that you could be using. Once you at least unlock the Glass Half Full perk though, it starts to feel much more controllable and powerful.

The high rate of fire coupled with the high recoil means you’re going to be spending a lot of time reloading and missing rounds if you’re not really careful. Thankfully the stability upgrade that comes with Aggressive Ballistics is very helpful, but the Impact is still going to be very low.

The perks don’t allow for much customization, since most often you’re just going to go with the increased stability over anything else.
hard light exotic review
Glass Half Full is basically a worthless perk. Its scaling as the magazine approaches zero is pitiful, offering marginal extra damage even on the last few bullets. It may snag you a rare extra kill in PvP, but the overall effect on DPS is literally negligible. It does function best on large magazine sizes such as Hard Light’s, but Hard Light would be better served by almost any other perk – for example, Persistence.

Finally, we arrive at Hard Light’s signature Exotic perk, Volatile Light. Volatile Light is a flavorful combination of Armor Piercing Rounds and Skip Rounds, but for an Auto Rifle. It’s a cool idea, and we can see where Bungie was angling with this one: a high magazine capacity automatic weapon whose rounds stay in the fight to ricochet and overpenetrate for maximum damage on several foes – unfortunately, Destiny isn’t designed for this weapon.

There are very few situations in which Volatile Light truly stands out. It works well for lines of thrall, of course, but what doesn’t? You could work into a gimmicky strategy of shooting around corners or at the ground in front of enemies, but this is all just ignoring the principle role of a weapon, which is to dispatch single foes quickly with accuracy. Ultimately, Volatile Light is a disappointment.

Like most Auto Rifles, Hard Light is currently struggling to keep up in PvE. Its damage is simply too low. It requires a constant stream of uninterrupted critical hits to dispatch enemies reliably, and this is difficult and a chore with its exaggerated, unpredictable recoil pattern and obtrusive visual effects. Although it theoretically is able to compete just fine in the category of DPS, the reality is you have to be too close and out of cover for too long to make use of its strong points.
hard light exotic review
Most Hand Cannons, Legendary or otherwise, outperform it in close-to-medium range fights, where minimizing time out-of-cover and making shots count is paramount. At medium-to-long range, the newly buffed Pulse Rifles and always-solid Scout Rifles are better options that can reliably string critical this together.

Hard Light unfortunately has no way to patch its Range to workable levels. Up For Anything sneers at it with Rangefinder coming standard on the Vanguard Vendor’s option, and other Legendaries have the potential to roll Hammer Forged, etc.

Hard Light is doomed to be an aggressive front-liner, where it is still completely outclassed. To top it off, it costs you an extremely valuable Exotic weapon to use it. Although you may have fun with Hard Light in low-stress content such as strikes and the Daily Heroic, you are doing your fireteam a disservice if you insist on using it in Raids or Nightfalls.


This weapon is a little bulky, and takes up more of your screen than other weapons do, though it’s not distractingly large. It has the same aesthetics as a pulse rifle (rear loading magazine, general bullpup design).

Hard Light has a very signature sound. It almost sounds as if you are firing off concentrated rounds of light. It has a very airy noise to it that is easily recognizable, utterly unique and enjoyable. The gun oozes power in its feel, it’s just too bad this isn’t replicated in its performance.

As the City’s understanding of Golden Age methods expands, foundries continue to push the cutting edge of tactical armament. The Hard Light prototype is a showcase, built with the rarest recovered materials and the most computationally demanding design methods. The design team included several specialist Exos and at least one Warlock thanatonaut.

In its current iteration, the Hard Light design fires a superheated polymer round with exotic capabilities.


Hard Light has a very interesting effect on its wielder. It quickly grows on you, and is deadly in PvP once you’re able to master it, but worthless for PvE.

Glass Half Full is a drop in the bucket at best, while its ballistics and third row perks are barely enough to patch it to the standards set by its Legendary counterparts. It has a minute niche of suppressing fire with its large magazine Size and fast reload, but this is hardly enough to compensate for its shortcomings.

Volatile Light is a neat idea with very little practical application, and the “coolness” factor of the weapon is almost a slap in the face for how little it has to actually offer.

It would benefit greatly from more Impact or a non-Kinetic damage type (such as Arc damage).

For PvP Hard Light gets a 7/10, for PvE 6.4/10

Patrick Casey

Howdy! I am a contributing writer. If you think I overlooked something about a weapon, feel free to comment below and let me know. I’ll see you in the Crucible.


  • Bruce Wayne

    This gun needs the fibber upgrade and a 15% damage reduction. This would make it an amazing weapon in all modes, but still retain an extra skill needed to use it well.

  • Callum

    Should give it Arc Damage

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  • Thunder_93

    I really like this weapon. The Review brings it to the point, at the beginning, this weapon isn’t that great, it just… sucks. but after you get used to it (I used before SUROS Regime, so it was a big difference), it’s great, specially when you get the few last upgrades… can’t wait to bring now the damage to 300

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  • Cameron Carlson

    I got this gun from a chest in the vault. I love it! it really is fun to use and once its fully upgraded this thing wrecks.

  • delta 6655

    i think the hardlight is perfect, sure the impact is low, but its freaken rate of fire more then makes up for that, once you upgrade its stability, its better then the suros. and the periceing damage is amazeing when fighting vex, in the raid i sware i killed roughly 30 fanatics withen a short time and very few reloads becouse of how one clip can penetrate enemays and kill its buddy behiend it. id give it a better rateing if i had reviewed it. i dont dissagree with the reviewer, he made a lot of good points, but this weapon is a little bit better then he gave it credit.

    • Gobo

      “Periceing”? “Sware”? “Amazeing”? “Withen”? “Becouse”? “Enemays”? “Behiend”? “Rateing”? “Dissagree”? Some of those are funny. Like, enemays! Try saying it like “dynomite!” Like JJ Walker in What’s Happening. But, you seem to need to understand a lot of words lose the E on the end when ing is added.

    • Collins

      Please go back to school and learn how to spell

  • scole45

    I’ve been using this for about 2 weeks and i have to agree that now that it is almost fully upgraded it is a very good weapon. I think the only negative is the recoil, but once you reach the perk it’s good to go.

  • Jesse

    just got this can’t wait to upgrade it further. got that and vision of confluence doing VoG.

  • Larry

    please arc dmg

  • Lee Juriet

    This weapon I have been trying to get for a month now… the gods of the RNG shit on me constantly, though.

  • doctorhillbilly

    Once the 1.0.1patch hit, and the stock upgrade (which maxes out stability) I find it a joy to use and awesome in mid/close pvp. I hated it at first but now it just rules.

  • doctorhillbilly

    BTW, it showed up in my mail out of nowhere, from Rahool. And I hadn’t passed a new Cryptarc level, so it was a nice surprise.

  • ProfessionalCitizen

    Hey! I feel you guys should re-review this weapon, as its biggest weakness, the harsh recoil, has been fixed, and it now considerably out performs just about every other weapon in its weapon archetype (though thats debatable). I would be happy to write up an article if you would like, subject to your review. In any case, I hope you guys take another look at this exotic.

  • Kenshiro Genjuro

    With a name like “Hard Light”…any damage other than Arc really doesn’t make much sense.

  • Charles Burch

    This is my favorite auto rifle. Though I run out of ammo a lot. It staggers enemies in PVE. This review seems outdated for this killer auto rifle.

  • Helliouse

    The v2 review needs an update. The stability have been changes, and you didn’t cover PvP like you do for all other weapons.

    Please redo your review.

    • Will be updating it soon

      • the3rdduke

        Cuz Of xur?

  • Ian Feagins

    “Needs more Impact and/or non-Kinetic damage to be truly effective.”

    I would like to point out that is completely wrong. Yes, the weapon would benefit from higher impact, but you show me a weapon that wouldn’t, and non-Kinetic damage would only be relevant during Nightfalls, and even then, only if they had a burn to start with.

    I honestly don’t understand this site’s obsession with primaries having elemental damage- after all, the weapons that do are only notable because they’re scarce in number. If you just went and gave out primary elemental damage willy-nilly, then the Necrochasm’s big, redeeming feature would suddenly cease to be! Oversoul Edict would suddenly cease to be seen anywhere, and people would just start rolling Timur’s Lash with Arc Damage and Firefly to act as a ridiculously powerful Fatebringer.

    Elemental damage really ought to remain scarce among primaries, else those big, special raid weapons suddenly cease to be special in any meaningful way.

    • Kenshiro Genjuro

      I don’t think elemental damage should be commonplace among primaries either, but we’re talking about an exotic, here. That is named Hard Light. Because that’s what it shoots. It only makes sense. Along those lines I actually was surprised Thorn doesn’t deal Void damage seeing as it was a critical component of completing its bounty. There should probably be a solar exotic primary too, not sure which one would be a good candidate. Something otherwise a little underpowered.

  • YH

    I think bungie should buff the weapon by allowing it to ricochet off surfaces more than once, like say maybe 3 or 4 times.

    • Kenshiro Genjuro

      Exactly like light does. And make it Arc damage too. Makes sense because it’s light. Hard light.

  • KeltikFox

    As a casual player still working my way through the ranks of Destiny, I find this gun to be a lot of fun to play with. I picked it up from Xur and started down the upgrade path. However I do find myself switching back to my Badger when running a tough strike or heroic. I might do that less when all the upgrades are opened up.
    I will say that I am satisfied with it in crucible. I still really suck at PVP but shooting players out of the air with this rifle’s high rate of fire and decent impact brings a grin to my face every time.
    Adding something like Arc Damage would make this gun a realistic choice in tougher missions, but that desire has more to do with how much fun I find this thing to shoot. Not sure making yet another primary weapon have special/elemental damage is the right way to keep Destiny fun and fairly balanced.