One of the first things people thought when the PS Vita was released is that first-person shooters on a handheld were finally viable. Having dual analog sticks on a portable device meant we could finally have great shooters on the go. Sony is trying to capitalize on that with Resistance: Burning Skies, a shooter that bears the same moniker as Insomniac’s fabled trilogy. Unfortunately, Burning Skies’ only shares its name and lore with the aforementioned series, as the quality of this portable FPS fails to live up to the franchise’s pedigree. What we are left with is an unexciting shooter that, if anything, proves the genre can be done on the system.
Taking place between the first and second games in the original trilogy, Burning Skies sees protagonist Tom Reilly during the original invasion of the Chimera. Tom is a firefighter, which is a clever plot device that puts an axe in his hand. He is a simply family man dragged into this war. His entire goal is to get back together with his family, and he will do anything to achieve that. The problem is that Tom is nearly a silent hero. When he speaks, it is rarely about his family. While the other games in the series invoked emotion, Burning Skies’ narrative feels dry and shallow. I never felt for Tom; to me he was just my catalyst to shoot more alien baddies, or chop them up with my axe.
This seems to be the theme for Burning Skies, though; everything is just kind of ’there’ in a sense. The combat, while competent, never really evolves past that. Sure, it shows that a game of this type can be accomplished on the Vita, but each series of shootouts feels the same throughout, leaving the six missions included feel more like hurdles as opposed to engaging experiences.
The core game will take you roughly 5-6 hours to complete, and to be honest, it feels longer. It’s not because the shooting mechanics are broken, or that the difficulty is absurd, but more because each encounter rinses and repeats the same formula. You enter an area, Chimera jump out from their spawn points and you fill them full of lead. There is nothing spectacular or driving; just six missions of shooting gallery with little behind the characters or their motivations for being there. Again, this is disappointing mostly because the last game in the Resistance series was so well done. Burning Skies works on every level it should, it just isn’t all that compelling.
Controls for Burning Skies work relatively well. The shooting feels great, and really gives me hope for future titles in the genre on the system. The implementation of touch controls also works most of the time. I love the melee button being an extension of the face buttons on the right of the screen; same with grenades. You can drag grenades onto the screen while the action slows down a bit for better accuracy. What doesn’t work is when the game shoehorns you into using the touchscreen for things like opening doors and picking up items. If you have a weapon equipped that uses the touchscreen for secondary fire, you often lob a grenade at your feet. It’s frustrating considering how sparse ammo can be at times.
All of the weapons should feel familiar to fans of the series. Things like the Bullseye make a return, and now you can tap the enemy you want to target, which actually works relatively well. It was clear the developers wanted you to use these methods, as the enemies are really never a challenge, including the bosses. You also collect cubes that can upgrade your weapons, which I must say is a downgrade from the previous game. I liked being able to upgrade based on use from R3, which sadly has been eliminated. Still, all the weapons look and feel great, and were obviously the focus of the title.
In addition to the single player, Burning Skies also features the quintessential online multiplayer. You can play with up to eight people in three different modes on a handful of maps. I will be honest, there really isn’t much here, and I doubt it will really see any type of massive community following. You have deathmatch, team deathmatch and survival. When online, the shooting stands out and works great, when you can get into a match. I had several issues getting booted from rooms constantly, and lag cropped up from time to time. The options are also limited with only weapon unlocks as your perks and no support for anything outside of your friends list. It feels like this mode was simply tacked on because it was deemed required for an FPS.
When we discuss the visuals of Resistance let one thing simmer; the game disables the screenshot functionality of the Vita. That said, the game has some serious issues in this department. Let’s start with the cut scenes. In between levels, or when you quit and continue playing (for some reason we have to watch these each time we leave the game), you are treated to what looks like Internet video running at the lowest resolution possible. It’s amazing considering that these are just still slides with a voice over. These look awful, and being forced to watch them every time we jump back into the game is punishing.
The rest of the game looks good at times, but never anything like the screens you see in this review. There were multiple occasions where entire levels wouldn’t load the textures, and enemies seemingly popped in from thin air. This is an unpolished mess at times, and feels like a rushed product at others. The audio fares significantly better with some decent voice acting and a phenomenal score. It’s too bad the latter doesn’t feel the need to show up often. I’m not sure if that was by design or due to technical issues.
Resistance: Burning Skies is a competent game that simply falls flat in just about every category. The shooting is mechanically sound, but never really interesting. The presentation is simply broken at times, and the cut scenes are downright embarrassingly low-resolution. The online is dismissive and the campaign is short and flat. It really feels like this is more of an example of what can be done with a shooter on the Vita, than a thought-out experience. I was hoping for so much more after the last game in the console trilogy, sadly this is not a solid reason to dust off that Vita just yet.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.