I could never really get into shooters on handhelds. You’re missing such a crucial control element – the analog sticks – that it either feels old-fashioned or just plain clunky. And of course, you never get those super high production values we so often associate with top-quality FPSs. Therefore, I was excited to put the Vita’s sticks to good use in Resistance: Burning Skies , which actually does feel a lot like its console counterparts. It’s just a little underwhelming, that’s all.
In terms of graphics, we get the benefit of some great character detail and spectacular outdoor vistas; the natural and urban landscapes have often been high watermarks of this franchise, after all. The effects are solid and the cut-scenes are well-paced and nicely presented, and as usual, enemy design – especially when it comes to bosses – is quite impressive. But the textures are sort of disappointing and too many of the indoor environments are repetitive and bland, which makes the player pine for the out-of-doors throughout.
The audio has its own highs and lows, as the soundtrack is appropriately epic and fitting (check our interview with the composers to learn more about the fantastic music). The only problem is that Nihilistic doesn’t take enough advantage of those effective tracks. There’s simply too much of an emphasis on the effects and when those dissipate, the music isn’t always given the opportunity of filling the gaps. That being said, the voice performances are pretty good (even if the main character doesn’t talk much) and despite a few audio issues during multiplayer, the sound is solid.
Although the story takes place between Resistance: Fall of Man and Resistance 2 , you don’t play as Nathan Hale; you play as Tom Reilly, a New York firefighter who finds himself in a dire situation. The Chimera are running amok in America for the first time and when the invaders kidnap his wife and child, he angrily and desperately steps into the fray. He has earned his hero stripes as a firefighter but now it’s time to engage in a very different kind of “fire fight.” It’s a decent background for a plot, even if it’s a little clichéd and predictable.
Now, the Resistance campaigns have always been relatively lengthy and always – at least in my opinion – satisfying. Perhaps the biggest downside of Burning Skies is that the single-player quest only runs about six hours or so, and worse, too much of the adventure feels repetitive and generic. As I mentioned when discussing the visuals, the indoor environments are a little bland; they’re bare and stereotypical and a little boring. This disappointing feeling kind of infects the rest of the game, too, as the Chimera don’t feel as dynamic as they have in the past.
It’s not that the AI is bad; it’s actually pretty decent. But the pacing isn’t quite as tight as it has been in this vaunted series, and furthermore, the story seems a tad disjointed. There are too many different character perspectives; we’re often left wondering what the main character actually thinks about all this. Then you just head into the action again, hiding, aiming, taking down legions of foes, and generally following a set path. The latter has never bothered me before in the Resistance games, but Burning Skies feels more like a corridor shooter than the others.
That all being said, I think it’s very important to note that overall, this game really does feel like a console iteration of one of my favorite franchises. One might assume this would allow me to be more lenient but in fact, I’m far stricter when it comes to a series I really love. So when I begin the gameplay breakdown with negatives, it’s only because I care. 😉 I still have to say I had great fun with the game because in short, just about all the mechanics work very well. Even the touchscreen elements don’t detract from the fun factor; in truth, they enhance it to some extent.
Those dual analog sticks are Godsends. You’ll slide right into the FPS routine as if you really were playing with a controller in your hands. Using the touchscreen to melee, interact with the environment, and tag doomed Chimera with the Bullseye weapon is just a pleasure. On top of which, I’m convinced the developers toned down the enemy difficulty just so you can really appreciate the slick technological capability of the Vita. Normally, I really hate taking my fingers away from the standard buttons but here, I had a blast. I still prefer to use regular means of cycling through my weapons, though.
Oh, and the weapons rock. They rock because they always rock in Resistance . I maintain that Resistance 3 has the single most diverse and entertaining array of weapons of any shooter this generation. Yeah, I said it. And while Burning Skies doesn’t quite measure up to R3 in this regard, it’s still worthy of the franchise name. Plus, with a new feature that allows you to upgrade your weapons with “Grey” tech (produced by the Chimera), you just can’t help but love your ever-expanding and enhancing arsenal. Experiment and customize, baby!
The multiplayer isn’t all that impressive, however, as it’s mostly standard fare for up to eight players. There are only a handful of maps, three modes (Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Survival) and the perks are unlockable weapons and mods from the campaign. For a portable experience, it isn’t bad, but it may feel a trifle lacking to those who are used to more robust and in-depth multiplayer action typically found on consoles. Even so, it all works quite well and if you have fun with the single-player, you’ll likely want to give the multiplayer a shot.
Resistance: Burning Skies holds true to the franchise spirit and gives gamers a reason to play a handheld FPS. The weapons are fantastic, the nifty touchscreen elements work nicely and add flavor, and the overall control is responsive and reliable. It’s just too bad that the entire production didn’t live up to expectations. There’s a bit too much in the way of the generic, the been there, done that, and the clichéd. For a portable shooter, it’s really quite good but for a Resistance entry, one finds it somewhat lacking. Still, it’s well worth a look.
The Good: Great music. Touchscreen elements are simple and effective. General feel of a console FPS. Overall control is very reliable. AI is competent, if not necessarily challenging. Totally awesome arsenal.
The Bad: Textures are iffy. Soundtrack not allowed to shine often enough. Sometimes feels bland and generic. Blasé multiplayer.
The Ugly: “This warehouse battle is making me yawn.”