Resistance: Burning Skies Review for PS Vita

Resistance: Burning Skies Review for PS Vita

A Less Enjoyable Futility

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.

Resistance: Burning Skies Screenshot

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.

Resistance: Burning Skies Screenshot

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.

Resistance: Burning Skies Screenshot

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).

I might have assumed that multiplayer was to be the game’s saving grace since single-player is only five or six hours long. Six all-too-brief missions with an uninteresting story that uses its main hook—the player character is a firefighter—in exactly zero compelling ways. You won’t really care about what’s going on, which would be fine if the gameplay was interesting. But it’s not.

Burning Skies reduces the Resistance experience to a set of shooting galleries, with enemies popping up in predictable patterns (seriously, if you pay attention at a part where you’re dying, you can just memorize enemy patterns by rote and find an optimal way to kill them). The environments feel cramped and the graphics are early-PS2 quality on most fronts, especially with regard to the solid blocks of shiny hair that top characters’ heads. There’s not a lot of enemy variety, for the most part, and two very similar set-piece battles against massive Chimera. Further, enemy bodies don’t remain behind for long, by which I mean at all . They hit the ground and almost immediately disappear, even after cinematic melee kills with the fire axe, which is especially jarring.

Resistance: Burning Skies Screenshot

There’s even a scene that goes for both pathos and shock value near the end of the game, spoiled by the graphics engine: it’s impossible to tell if the shrunken arm of an infected character is the result of the Chimera virus or an unintentional error with the model. While we’re on that, making you complicit in assisted suicide through an unavoidable touch of the screen seems awfully trite; Snake Eater did it better by offering the ability to look at one’s surroundings while Gears of War 2 took it in the opposite direction and made it a non-participatory cinematic. This is a case of the middle-ground not hitting as strongly as either extreme.

Resistance: Burning Skies feels like an unfinished proof of concept. It works, in that it functions and does what it promises to do, and even has some great ideas from a technical perspective, but the game that surrounds it never put me on the edge of my seat, or compelled me to play through it, unable to stop at a checkpoint and take care of important events in real life. It doesn’t suck one in and its multiplayer, despite a level-unlock system and eventual access to the upgrades from the campaign, feels tinny and incomplete.

This almost feels like a trend, as Uncharted: Golden Abyss, a launch title also based on an existing PS3 property, was not as great as its big brother predecessors, but that was a launch title and feasibly rushed out the gate. Resistance: Burning Skies had months after that for spitting and polishing to occur, so why does it still feel so rushed? What’s its excuse?

P.S. Nihilistic, if you’re going to have people full-on cursing in your alternate-reality 1950s alien invasion game, throwing in silly exclamations like “Jeepers!” during your climactic ending sequence provides neither contrast nor humor. It just seems silly and denigrates the moment.

They’re not just average, they also have impressively prevalent glitches and strange decisions as to what to do with enemy corpses. 4.0 Control
Yes, sprinting is awkward. The controls aren’t perfect, but they are, by far, the strongest element of this game, and serve as a tremendous example for future shooter developers on the Vita. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
While weapons sound satisfying, multiplayer is oddly quiet. The campaign also rarely has music of note, and often relegates one to silence. The voice-acting, though, is good, though there isn’t a ton of it. 1.0 Play Value
A five-hour campaign that’s barely worth playing once compounded by multiplayer that is both lacking in content and seemingly broken. Resistance: Burning Skies barely warrants one playthrough, much less a greater investment of time. 2.2 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • The first ever touch-screen first-person shooter on PlayStation, developed to showcase the functions of PlayStation Vita.
  • Featuring a frenetic campaign mode.
  • A social networking feature that links players and non-players into a vast worldwide Resistance community.

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