There’s a lot riding on Resistance: Burning Skies for Sony. The game marks the first dual analog stick-supported FPS on a handheld ever (seriously, isn’t that strange to realize?). Sony has toted their latest handheld as designed with the core gamer in mind, and what better way to support that claim than by having a system capable of delivering controls tight enough for the finite, twitch reactions necessary for the industry’s favorite genre.
In that respect, Resistance: Burning Skies passes the litmus test. The game is a solid display of the Vita’s capabilities at pulling off a handheld first-person shooter with dual analog controls. The game feels good in your hands, both from a gunplay and console-holding point of view. Developer Nihilistic did a commendable job laying out the controls so your hands never really cramp up, even if you’ve been playing for hours.
But things take a turn when you actually get into the meat of the title’s experience. Putting it bluntly, the single-player campaign of Resistance: Burning Skies is dull. Like, “I’m able to pass out from boredom” dull. You move from room to room and get in cookie-cutter firefights that you’ve seen/played countless times before. Even the larger enemy encounters boil down to the tried-and-true method of circle strafing to victory. Boss fights are a little more imaginative, but not by much – find the glowing yellow weak point and shoot the ever-loving piss out of it.
There’s at least some enjoyment to be found in the game’s arsenal, though. Resistance, as a franchise, has always been known for its imaginative weapons thanks to series creator Insomniac Games, and Nihilistic does a solid job with the weapons here, introducing some neat touch-based controls to take advantage of secondary firing modes. Some are not only cool but practical, like placing down an Auger shield or reloading the crossbow; others scream gimmick, reinforcing Sony’s incessant need to push the importance of touch controls with their first-party Vita titles, but hey, they work and aren’t much of a bother — nothing ever gets as bad as the touch controls in Uncharted: Golden Abyss.
Maybe things would be better in the single-player mode if the actual narrative were worth giving a damn about. The game begins with your character, a firefighter by trade, heading into a burning building to rescue a few fatties and that old lady who won’t leave until she finds all 14 of her cats. However, shortly after entering the towering inferno, aliens pop out of nowhere like some god damn magic show and start shooting at you. Without skipping a beat, your character picks up their alien weaponry and returns fire. He questions none of this.
Just another day at the office, he thinks.
But that’s not what I thought. I know the Resistance franchise and I know how the Chimera invasion began. But these characters inhabiting this world when this game takes place do not (FYI – this game is a prequel). There is no buildup to the Chimera’s arrival and that is a huge missed opportunity on Nihilistic’s part.
It’s storytelling 101: if you want me to care about your world and characters, give me something to chew on before the bullets start flying. Nihilistic does attempt to ground the game’s gunplay with a story about how our lead protagonist is just trying to reach and protect his wife and kid, but it’s undercooked and simply there for a faux sense of dramatic weight.
The single-player mode of Resistance: Burning Skies manages to prove an FPS on the Vita is not only possible, but also comfortable. However, deep down I wish it were another game teaching me that lesson. The single-player effort here is just a tedious exercise that constantly had me rolling my eyes at how clichéd and safe it all felt.
Unfortunately, the multiplayer effort here doesn’t fair much better; it, too, feels safe. There are only three game types available for instance – Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Survival mode. If you’re picking up this game to log into the PlayStation Network and frag some friends/strangers on the go, then the options at your disposal will suffice. However, you probably won’t be able to ignore that nagging feeling at the back of your skull reminding you there are more worthwhile multiplayer experiences to be had elsewhere.
Resistance: Burning Skies is like a kid in school that gets a C- and is proud of it. Getting minimum marks is all that matters; there is no time to concern one’s self with exceeding expectations. Burning Skies is a decent looking, competent shooter, but the line is drawn there. I’m happy to learn a first-person shooter can be done on the Vita, but disappointed that Burning Skies doesn’t apply itself to make the Honor’s List.
Full Disclosure: CraveOnline received one advanced copy of Resistance: Burning Skies for the PS Vita from Sony. We were held to the embargo date of Monday, May 28, 2012. Before starting our review, we completed 100% of the campaign, and played multiplayer for a handful of hours split across two press-only sessions.