I know what you’re thinking, a fully-functioning first person shooter (FPS) on a portable gaming device? Have we all died and gone to Gamer Heaven or did someone just dial FUTURE on the Time Machine? I don’t know about you but ever since I first played Doom (all those many gaming centuries ago), one of my greatest desires (in gaming) was to take the simple pleasures of first-person violence and put in my pocket.
While there have been previous attempts to translate the FPS genre onto a handheld (with Medal of Honor Heroes 2 and Call of Duty Roads to Victory for PlayStation Portable and Metroid Prime Hunters on the Nintendo DS being some of the best so far), they’ve never been able to capture the elegance of gaming with a keyboard and mouse or even the simplicity of the dual analogue sticks on a game controller. The limiting factor it seemed, has always been the controls.
It’s on this point that the PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) should be perfectly suited for mobile first-person shooters, or at least so the theory goes. After all, Sony’s latest gadget comes with a respectable list of tools, tricks and technical wizardry. It’s a list that should leave first-person franchise publishers salivating, or Sony’s shareholders grinning, given the popularity of the genre. With the stakes so high, you’d also think that the powers-that-be, would be serious about their franchises or at the very least that Resistance: Burning Skies would deliver on all the gratuitous violence and add a meaningful chapter to the Resistance story.
If you were an impressionable gamer, who enjoyed Insomniac’s Resistance games, you would eagerly assume that the PS Vita version would capture the essence of its PS3 brethren. However, Nihilistic Software’s take on the Resistance universe oozes contradiction and inconsistency. This is irrespective of the fact that Burning Skies could rely on the lore from the previous games or that it can carve its own path towards a new (spin-off) series (set within the same universe). Instead, Nihilistic Software’s game falters, and fails to add to the existing lore in a meaningful way. It merely exists, because presumably the PS Vita needed a first-person shooter (from an established franchise) at (or near) launch.
It also doesn’t help that the main character, Tom Riley is as bland as a bowl of unflavoured mealie-meal, or that the contrived storyline plods along familiar territory, as it paints by numbers towards a snore-filled reveal. The story does attempt to humanise Riley, by focussing on his effort to rescue his wife and daughter from the Chimera, but the whole chapter rings hollow and barely registers on the Emotion Meter. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that throughout the game, Riley, a firefighter comes to embrace his inner Rambo and without flinching picks up and uses alien/Chimera weapons. The fact that he is seemingly proficient in the use of alien technology barely registers with those around him, nor is it a topic worthy of discussion. Worse, a little later in the game, his sidekick, a member of the Minute-men resistance, finds a “Grey Tech” cube and almost instinctively knows how to use it. There is no explanation other than providing a means to upgrade your weaponry (and to fill your backpack with all manner of useful death-dealing toys of maiming).
Ironically, while the game’s story leaves you craving for something more substantial, the core gameplay works surprisingly well. The PS Vita’s twin analogue sticks are a decent alternative to a game controller, with minimal adjustments needed for aiming and movement. In fact, if there’s one positive side to Burning Skies it’s that first-person shooters are possible on a handheld. Where the wheels come off a little is with the implementation of touch screen functionalities. First of all, the game doesn’t even need superfluous touch screen features, and secondly the implementation is just terrible. For instance, grenades, melee and weapon-specific special attacks require touch. To throw a grenade, you have to tap the grenade button on screen, which invariably means either removing one of your thumbs from the analogue sticks, or using some other extremity. This is the same for melee attacks and even weapon-specific special attacks. There’s no reason why you should touch the screen when these commands can be delivered far more conveniently using a button.
Resistance: Burning Skies features a remarkably tight control scheme. The only blight is an over-reliance on otiose touchscreen features. Quite simply, there is no reason why special attacks or even melee attacks couldn’t have been mapped to the face buttons.
Design and Presentation: 5/10
When compared to the likes of Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Resistance: Burning Skies disappoints visually. Poor design decisions and moronic AI add to the suffering, with texture pop-in and clipping leaving you feeling like Lazygamer end-boss, Erwin Kempff after opening his package and finding Katy Perry Sims lurking within.
If Resistance: Burning Skies was a TV game show, hosted by comedian, Drew Carey, Carey would have probably started the first episode by saying “Resistance: Burning Skies… the show where everything is made up and the multiplayer does not matter”. The game features a standard mixture of Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, across six unique maps. Apart from the novel third mode (an interesting take on classic Survival mode), the selection is nothing special. It’s obvious that the insipid singleplayer campaign forms the meat of the game. Even, on Hard difficulty, the game can be completed in under 10 hours. On the other hand, it is one of the easiest games on the Vita to gain a platinum trophy for, and those who care about their trophy count may want to give it a go.
While I enjoyed some parts of Resistance: Burning Skies, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the game is essentially a “glorified tech demo”. It’s a bold affirmation of the viability of first-person shooters on a mobile platform. However, instead of dazzling us, Burning Skies plays it safe and delivers a mediocre shooter, set within a promising game universe.
Reviewed on PS Vita: Spanked on Hard Difficulty and “Platinum-ed”
Last Updated: July 23, 2012