Resistance: Burning Skies is the latest, and first, FPS to hit the PS Vita. Developed by Nihilistic Software this time around (as opposed to the series creator, Insomniac Games) and published by Sony Computer Entertainment America, is this a war you should take part in?
Resistance: Burning Skies takes place between the events of Resistance 2 and 3. This time around, you will play as New York City Firefighter, Tom Riley, as he receives a dispatch call to clear out one of the burning buildings in the city. However, it is here where Tom will witness the Chimeran invasion and be caught in the middle of war he never thought he’s take part in. Tom’s wife and child are transferred to a Protection Camp in Union, New Jersey while he fights for his survival with the aid of Ellie Martinez, a survivor who fights amongst the resistance. Ellie believes the government is involved in some way with the invasion and tries to find any evidence to expose it.
The story has a few twists and turns that will keep the player’s attention the whole time. Fans of the series will nod to several pieces of continuity scattered throughout the game’s plot as well. While cutscenes between chapters are told in a digital comic art-style, there is a decent amount of in-game dialogue shared amongst the characters. Ellie proves to be an enjoyable supporting character while Tom provides a solid amount characterization, making him an likable character to play as.
Resistance: Burning Skies is the first FPS to strike the PS Vita and while Insomniac wasn’t behind it, Nihilistic Software did an excellent job bringing the Resistance “feel” to the handheld. Almost everything that made Resistance great is still intact here, along with a few more interesting mechanics that were incorporated. The weapon wheel is back, holding eight different weapons (six of which are entirely new to the franchise). I have to commend Nihilistic for getting a bit creative and not just copying and pasting weapons. The “Mule” is one particular weapon that is pretty badass; a sawn-off shotgun with a crossbow attachment that shoots explosives arrows. The upgrade system aspect also returns from Resistance 3 except it works entirely different this time around. Instead of just upgrading your weapon the more you use it, you have to find “grey tech” cubes scattered around the environment of each chapter. Interestingly, each weapon has six different perks that you can choose to upgrade and add-on. However, you can only equip two separate perks (one on the left column and one on the right) which makes for some interesting experimentation to figure out which perks will pertain to you the most. For example, you can install an ACOG scope on your Carbine (which is on the left column) and have Faster Reload (right column), but if you want to “increase your bullet damage upon reload” and it happens to be in the same column as the Faster Reload, you’d have to choose between the two and can’t have both equipped.
Nihilistic pushed to utilize the PS Vita’s touch screen and touch pad, and it works incredibly well for the most part. Due to the lack of a few extra physical buttons, they compensated with the touch controls as opposed to dumbing down an experience such as this. Since the control stick doesn’t click in (ala R3 on DualShock controller), you must double-tap the rear touch pad to sprint. It responds pretty well and while it may not have the same second-nature “feel” as pushing in R3 to sprint, it’s a perfectly functional substitute. Also, you’ll be able to melee, throw grenades and shoot off alternate fire modes for your guns by utilizing the front touch screen. Simply tapping the “axe” icon on the screen, Tom will swing his axe at the Chimera, which normally initiates an “instant kill” animation should you be close enough. However, the one thing that personally set a new standard for FPSs is the way you throw grenades. Simply pressing and holding the grenade icon on the screen, you can then drag your finger across the screen to plot exactly where you want the grenade to go. Thankfully, the game slows down a bit to give you a chance to aim your throw and launch it. Even the alternate fire modes on your guns fully utilize the touch screen. Want to lock-on to four enemies at once with your rocket launcher? Just swipe your finger across the screen, then pull the trigger. Need to reload an explosive arrow into your crossbow/shotgun hybrid? Swipe you finger diagonally downward as if you were pulling the cord back yourself. The control scheme in place here works exceptionally well. The only time is became a slight issue was when you would have to open doors (which requires you to tap the “action” icon) and you would shoot off the alternate fire mode of your gun instead. Nothing game-breaking but definitely worth mentioning.
In terms of the actual gameplay itself, Resistance: Burning Skies does a great job of translating the console feel to the PS Vita. The analog sticks provide for some precision aiming and never came across an instance of lag. The enemy AI isn’t as advanced as Insomniac’s trilogy but the Chimera generally try to flank you when you’re in cover, keeping you on your toes. Regenerating health is in place for this installment, whether you’re a fan of it or not, but it makes sense for pacing purposes on a portable device. While there are technically only two “big” bosses, they’re pretty epic in scale and provide for intense encounters. One particular boss has you fighting it on the creature itself during most of it’s duration. The final boss on the other hand…well, fans of the series will pick up on what you’re fighting and I won’t spoil anything here.
The game takes place across six chapters, each lasting between 45 minutes to an hour. On a Normal playthrough, I clocked in about roughly 6 hours or so. The multiplayer intact here consists of your average Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, while having an intense Survival game mode. Everything ran lag free (after the 1.01 patch released) and matchmaking was pretty effortless, which is always a good thing. While it’s nothing groundbreaking or amazing, it’s still solid fun and enjoyable.
Visually, Resistance: Burning Skies looks great. The environments are, for the most part, well detailed and character models look pretty nice. There was even a scene when it was raining and you saw the characters actually have that “wet” detail to them, which is certainly a nice little effect. The game runs pretty smoothly at 30 fps, with only a few instances of frame-rate slowdown. However, there were a good amount of times where items in the environment or objects part of the level design would pop-up, detaching you from the immersion a bit.
Unfortunately, while the audio is decent, there’s nothing amazing here. The soundtrack was appropriate, yet entirely unmemorable. It’s a shame because Jason Graves (Dead Space) and Kevin Riepl (Gears of War 1) scored the soundtrack but nothing ever came off as “memorable”. Sound effects were also a bit compressed and the fact that the Bullseye and Carbine have different (and significantly inferior) sounds really irritated me. Both of those weapons had such distinctive sounds in the PS3 trilogy and while I’m not trying to compare the PS3 versions to this, it’s substituted audio just never sounded as effective here. Plus, there were a few instances where the music would just cut out and not play…and there’s already not much music playing during gameplay which is a shame. The audio isn’t exactly poor by any means. It’s pretty functional and provides some solid voice work and ambience as well. It’s just a shame it couldn’t have been as effective as the series has been known for. Again, it’s serviceable but never excels to greatness.
Overall Score: 15/20 = 7.5 out of 10
Resistance: Burning Skies isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but it’s an incredibly competent first go at a portable FPS on the Vita. Despite it’s unmemorable and occasionally weak audio, the gameplay is really solid and the story is intriguing enough to hold your attention. While it may not be the same caliber as Resistance: Fall of Man and Resistance 3, it’s definitely a very good title for the PS Vita and one that FPS fans should certainly give a go. Did I mention that you practically get the Platinum trophy for beating the game?
+ Intriguing story
+ Tight gameplay
+ Clever touch screen/pad controls
– Weak audio effects
– Unmemorable soundtrack
– Some visual inconsistencies
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