|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: Nihilistic Software|
|Pub: Sony Computer Entertainment|
|Release: May 29, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 544p||Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Violence|
by Shelby Reiches
It was as my first multiplayer match came to a close that the notifications popped up in rapid succession: First the Incite trophy, then my Platinum. It had been an ignoble victory: a survival match when I'd expected a simple deathmatch led to a two-on-two hunt, Chimera chasing down the only remaining humans and converting them before the match finally came to an abrupt close, a jarring transition from frenetic motion to glacial static. Against the still-frame of gameplay the match had frozen on at its end, I felt a sad smile turn my lips upward.
I had been playing Resistance: Burning Skies for approximately seven hours.
That was my total playtime when I got my Platinum award. Mind, it had been spread out over days due to server issues that had to be patched, preventing me from testing the multiplayer and receiving my final trophy—the sole multiplayer offering of the lot—due to a complete inability to connect with other players. It's far from the first time a game has had a rocky start to its multiplayer, though, and there are certainly examples of great titles that have had such an ignominious beginning, but those titles are far from the rule.
Am I saying that Burning Skies is a bad game, one that you should avoid? Yes, that is the basic thrust of my argument, but despite a storyline that contributes nothing of consequence to its series while doing so very little to make you care about its characters and graphics that look like the framework of something great perverted by either ineptitude or time constraints, Resistance: Burning Skies has elements that need to be lauded, and held up as examples for the games that will come to the system, now that this proof of concept has shown that they can be done.
The Vita has the unique advantage over the DS and iPhone of being a twin-stick handheld. While those other portables have tremendous libraries on which to draw, the Vita can offer a tactile response to two thumbs on two different sticks at the same time. It's a beautiful piece of hardware, and one clearly designed with traditional console gaming in mind. Enter Resistance: Burning Skies, which does right by the system's slightly awkward sticks and offers a very precise sensitivity scale. It doesn't take a lot of experimentation to find a point on the scale that is right for you and, once you hit that point, all of your console shooter reflexes will kick in and you'll be headshotting Chimera left and right with extreme prejudice.
The true ingenuity on display in Burning Skies, however, comes from its weapons. As with the Insomniac-developed Resistance titles, and the Ratchet & Clank games before them, weapons are the name of the game. They're varied, here, allowing one to tag enemies to shoot them around corners, or use the Auger to kill them through said barrier. And, while all of the guns are, in some way, variations on the traditional point-and-shoot mechanic that gamers expect (with analogues for "the carbine," "the sniper rifle" and "the shotgun" pointedly on display), each also possesses a fairly unique secondary fire. For some, it's a grenade or an explosive charge, but others are able to lock onto multiple enemies (or the same multiple times) before filling them with rockets, or unleash a drone that fires at nearby enemies as it glides past.
These are all activated with a touch or a swipe of the touchscreen, which can close the Mauler's heat valve or launch the Carbine's grenade at the point you've touched on screen. This is also how one activates either of the game's two types of grenades or the melee attack, either by simply touching the icon or touching it and dragging a lens over to one's target. These controls are, for the most part, intuitive and fast, allowing a player to engage them quickly and then hop back out of the line of fire. The one exception is the Auger's shield, which involves moving two fingers in two opposite directions on the screen. It's awkward to do and covers up too much screen real estate, while also being prone to failure.
The other great thing about weapons in Resistance: Burning Skies is that they're with you at all times. Once you've collected them, all eight are available through the weapon wheel, which is intuitive to use (controllable with either the touch screen or the sticks). Further, they can be upgraded using gray tech you find lying around, though few of the upgrades feel truly interesting; they're mostly just increases in clip size, range, that sort of thing. There is one that adds a scope to the Carbine, and another that makes expiring tags from the Bullseye explode (the upgrade that causes the Sixshot's projectiles to explode on headshots is a hoot), but most of them are sort of plain. Choosing them also uses the most obtuse interface possible: rotate a cube to find the symbol corresponding to the upgrade you want to unlock.
In the way of gameplay, Resistance is a tight shooter with satisfying controls, including a first-person cover system. For the most part, this works swimmingly, enabling you to crouch behind chest-high walls or peek from around corners so that foes can't immediately melt your face off. It is occasionally inconsistent, though, and certain objects or certain sides of objects won't offer to let you peek around them. It's fairly arbitrary, but it's better than the complete absence of the cover system in multiplayer mode.
I don't know, maybe my client is just glitched in some way. I'd believe it based on the load times I've had to endure post-online-fixing update, just to get into the game from the Vita homescreen. Or what about when it's given me the opening cinematic for a single-player level instead of throwing me into a multiplayer map, only to begin a single-player level sans character models? Talking to Cheat Code Central editor Josh Wirtanen, though, who has also been playing the game, variations of these problems are not specific to me and only me. A small comfort. Still, we were at the lack of cover in multiplayer, which is particularly odd since the maps are littered with chest-high walls for you to duck behind.
Was it considered unbalanced? Did Nihilistic simply forget to put it in, or run out of time? I don't know. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that there's inexplicable lag between when you deal the killing blow to an opponent before they actually fall down, dead (this works in reverse, too; when you die, it will be a split second after the lethal salvo hits home). This occurs in matches that are otherwise lagless and smooth.
While we're on multiplayer, what about the game's penchant for putting players right in harm's way when they spawn, or conversely spawning enemies right behind them? And only three game types, all variations on "kill the other team dead"? In a game all about variety, that comes across as a bit lacking, especially since I was under the impression that multiplayer was the focus of this game, despite only having one achievement tied to online play (you get that achievement just for finishing a match—win, lose, or ragequit by host).