Feeling hot hot hot!
A first-person shooter on a handheld system, they said it couldn’t be done. Well, that is until the PlayStation Vita came along, with its dual analog sticks and the impending release of Resistance: Burning Skies. Our previews have been immensely positive, but does the final product live up to the promise? Read on to find out.
Game: Resistance: Burning Skies
Developer: Nihilistic Software
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Whilst still focusing on the invasion of the Chimera, Burning Skies goes back in time to the initial invasion of North America in 1951. You play as Tom Riley – an exceptional Fireman, loyal husband and devoted father – thrust into the battle against the Chimera and all the chaos surrounding their invasion. Apart from stopping the Chimeran invasion, Riley has another, quite an important objective placed upon his shoulders. It’s this task that adds some emotional weight to the story, but for the most part Burning Skies’ tale is just there to serve the gameplay. It’s certainly not an awful story, but it never quite reaches the levels of human desperation replicated so wonderfully in Resistance 3. Some of the characters you encounter on Riley’s journey attempt to add an element of human struggle to proceedings, but sadly never manage to fully succeed due to their brief appearances.
It never quite reaches the visual heights of Uncharted: Golden Abyss or Gravity Rush, but Burning Skies is still one of the best looking titles currently available on the Vita. Whilst the majority of environments, character and weapon models look great overall, they are let ever so slightly down by a few low resolution textures. Whether or not this shows the constraints of the system, or it’s a case of Nihilistic needing more time, it’s disappointing that something so trivial brings Burning Skies’ visuals down a notch. That said, the game does feature some impressive lighting and explosive effects, adding to the experience during set piece battles.
Even though it’s on a handheld system, the majority of Burning Skies’ characters are fully voiced, just like its home console counterparts. It’s not exactly the best voice acting you’ll come across in a game, handheld or otherwise, but it more than serves its purpose. The main character Riley is the best of the bunch, delivering a few emotional lines of dialogue throughout the course of the game. Other characters are voiced well enough too, but the majority lack any sort of punch, leaving you less interested in what he or she has to say next. Sound effects such as explosions and gunshots sound great though, living up to the audio quality featured in the Resistance games on the PlayStation 3.
Here is where Burning Skies truly shines, delivering a gameplay experience akin to its console counterparts. As you’d expect, the Vita’s dual analog sticks play a massive part. It might take some people 10-15 minutes to get used to the Vita’s analog sticks, but after that initial adjustment period, you’ll be moving around in the first-person view and shooting Chimera almost like you were playing a recent Resistance on the PlayStation 3. There’s an almost there, and this down to the lack of L2 and R2 buttons on the Vita. You can aim down the sight of your weapon with a press of the right trigger, but other actions such as secondary fire can’t be performed in the usual way due to the exclusion of the aforementioned buttons. That’s not a major problem though, as the Vita replicates both of these buttons via its fantastic touch screen.
If you’ve played any of the previous Resistance games before, you’ll know that each weapon has a secondary fire mode, activated by press the R2 button. In Burning Skies you do go into secondary fire mode by using the touch screen in various different ways, depending entirely on the weapon your currently holding. Take one of the series’ iconic weapons, the Bullseye. If you have enough tag ammo left, you simply touch and hold the enemy you want to tag, and you’ll unleash a barrage of bullets into his body. Another example is the Auger, which allows you to put up shield and take cover for a while if you perform a pinch gesture on the screen (think of zooming out on your iPhone). It’s all extremely intuitive, and never once will you think any of the touch screens gestures are tacked on just for the sake of it. In fact, quite a few of them feel more natural than the usual “press a button” method. The sprinting and grenade throwing work extremely well, with the latter performed by tapping the back touch pad a couple of times and the former initiated by dragging the grenade icon to the area of your choice.
Whilst most first-person shooter choose not to feature a cover system, Burning Skies goes against the grain and throws one in there. Rather than use the touch screen, Nihilistic has chosen to go down the automatic route, and it works extremely well. You simply crouch, move behind a piece of the environment, “rub” against it and you’ll pop into cover. To show you that you’re in cover, an indicator will appear on the screen, avoiding any confusion whatsoever. If you want to, you can then shoot from cover too, in the usual first-person shooter way.
This is all backed by some very solid shooting mechanics, akin to what you’d expect from a home console Resistance title. So if you liked that old school feel to the gunplay and mechanics in previous games, you’ll be right at home here. Each weapons feels different, and it’s a genuine joy to pump enemies full of bullets as you progress through the campaign. Whilst the quality levels fall towards the end, for the most part, Burning Skies single player facet consistently keeps you engaged via some genuinely exciting and tense battles. Nihilistic has thrown a couple of new enemy types into the mix, but the majority of Chimera you’ll be familiar with if you played any of the previous entries in the series. Enemy AI could do with some fine tuning, as the lower level enemies don’t pose much of a challenge, but as you move through the campaign you will definitely encounter some more “intelligent” Chimera. Boss battles are also present, with one particular encounter impressing quite a bit thanks to it wonderful, old school approach.
Designed around the Vita itself, Burning Skies’ campaign isn’t particularly long. First-person shooter veterans will take around 6-7 hours to complete it, but unless you’re a completionist or trophy hunter there’s no real reason to go back for more. Online multiplayer is present though, and if you can find a stable Wi-Fi connection, there’s plenty of fun to be had. The number of players is understandably limited to eight players, but that doesn’t hinder the experience, as the maps are designed around it. Modes include free-for-all, team deathmatch and survival, with the ability to unlock and upgrade weapons via XP earned also present. Chaotic and manic, the multiplayer facet of the Burning Skies is exactly what you’d expect from a home console Resistance game, but this time it’s on the Vita.
Much more than a teaser of what to expect from first-person shooters on the Vita and future handheld systems, Resistance: Burning Skies is a fantastic example of the genre in its own right. It’s not perfect, as the story and visuals could do with some extra polish. The length of the campaign is also a slight issue, but the fact that it puts most home console first-person shooters to shame speaks volumes about its overall quality. Ladies and gentlemen, the first-person shooter has finally arrived on the handheld. If you own a Vita and are a fan of the genre, don’t hesitate, buy this now.