You know those two analogue sticks stuck on the front of your PS Vita? Well, here’s the reason they’re there, Resistance: Burning Skies (if nothing else) proving that Sony were right to include them – and largely demonstrating that Nintendo made something of a mistake by not including them as standard on the 3DS.
You see, for a first time ever on a handheld, a first-person shooter feels natural to control (or at least as natural as a FPS ever does on console).
Burning Skies places you in the tough-as-old-boots frame of fire fighter Tommy Riley, a man who would just as soon bury his axe into the head of any passing Chimera as look at them. He’s out to rescue his family, save the planet and quite possibly get-off with NPC companion, and fellow resistance member Ellie, as events unravel.
For those new to the franchise said Chimera are a Borg-like alien race who have descended upon Earth to conquer and assimilate humanity. They’re mean, they’re ugly and they come in all kinds all unlikely shapes of sizes; the make up of their ranks the equivalent of us invading another planet with a collection of baboons, giraffes, elephants and tyrannosaurs leading the charge.
Set in an alternative 1950s where WW2 never happened, Europe has fallen to the alien menace and America has taken the decision to remain on home soil in order to barricade its own interests, rather than aid the rest of the world – alas for them when 1950s tech meets high-powered laser guns there’s only really one winner.
No, make that two winners as Riley not only wields his fireman’s axe like a knight of Camelot, but also actually picks up alien weaponry and uses it against them. Quite why nobody else had the same bright idea is never explained, but soon he’ll be packing a whole host of guns and ammo, Burning Skies eschewing modern conventions and allowing the player access to every gun at all times.
Shoot-outs remain the game’s bread and butter and, aside from a couple of minor against-the-clock mad dashes, they are all you’ll find yourself engaged in. Lateral thinking won’t be required, nor will exploration; simply a degree of deftness and accuracy as Chimera playfully leap in and out of cover like cardboard cutouts on a shooting range before, occasionally, charging head first at your weapon of choice.
Backgrounds change, the aforementioned Ellie lends a hand (not that she’s much help) and armaments from the “shoots through walls” Auger to multiple lock-on rocket launcher break up proceedings a little, but essentially you’ll be plodding through the same situation over and again. A criticism which could be levelled at most shooters for sure, but in a game with a colour scheme which runs from grey to brown it soon becomes an issue.
On the visual front, Vita’s Resistance has more in common with the franchise’s first release during the PS3′s fledgling days – that being slightly juddery animation and a dull colour palette. Compare it to the best in the genre today, or even Resistance 3, and suffice to say it won’t be blowing anyone away. Perhaps more damning still, there were instances where cutscene speech suddenly petered out and textures were replaced by purple blobs – not good.
It’s a shame because there are elements of Burning Skies which provide entertainment. I like interacting with my weapons via the touchscreen – pulling back the bow on my crossbow or “Mule” to load it for example, or swiping across enemies Panzer Dragoon-style to lock onto multiple enemies with the rocket launcher – and a few of the bigger gun fights are intense, but again, there’s nothing here beyond the adequate (or less).
First-generation titles have a tendency to under-deliver and only time will tell if that’s the case with Vita too. Take a look back at the PS3’s first Resistance and it’s hard to believe it was a PS3 title at all, so lacklustre is its presentation. Burning Skies at least has more going for it than that, and most assuredly points other Vita FPS developers in the right direction, but, for a full price, first party title, imagination and energy is sorely lacking – strange considering Burning Skies was surely meant to be a system seller.