Back in ’06, Resistance: Fall of Man was one of the very first games to be released for the debut of the PlayStation 3. The series went on to see a trilogy and even spawned a spin-off on the PlayStation Portable. And now, Resistance: Burning Skies has the honour of being the first twin-stick shooter on a handheld console. It’s an unenviable task of going first, especially considering veteran Resistance developer Insomniac Games wasn’t leading the charge. Instead, the duties went to Nihilistic Software, a developer notable for their middling effort on PlayStation Move Heroes.
So, does Resistance: Burning Skies for PlayStation Vita not only distil all the things we’ve come to know and like from the Resistance universe but also make good use of the handheld’s distinct features? I head to the front lines to find out.
Set between the events of the first two games, Resistance: Burning Skies (henceforth shortened to Resistance: BS for the sake of my laziness) takes the player back to 1951 as the Chimera launch their first attack on North America. Our protagonist is Tom Reilly, a New York firefighter who unwillingly becomes ensnared in the conflict. It is at so early in the proceedings that the story takes a turn to a familiar place, the sprawling populace called “Been There Done That”. Reilly is separated from his wife and daughter, and must take arms against the hostile invaders to rescue them. Cue the strong female warfighter, her ragtag crew of resistance fighters, and a mysterious military project. With the characters and their motivations being paper thin, it’s difficult to connect with any of them, and it doesn’t take long before Resistance: BS devolves into the very first formulaic, mindless twin-stick FPS on the Vita.
While the plot may be straightforward, the gameplay shows some potential. The true dual-analog control scheme means that FPS basics such as moving, aiming, and shooting come easily. Double-tapping the rear touchpad sends the character into a run, as does holding down on the d-pad and controlling the direction with the right analog stick. Perhaps it’s just me but I found running awkwardly implemented, and would have far preferred a simple tap and hold of the rear touchpad to engage it.
The other touch screen features work much better, though. The guns in Resistance: BS range from rudimentary rifles to high-powered Chimeran weapons, each of them upgradeable via colourful cubes known as Gray Tech. Each weapon also has a secondary fire function, which is mapped to the touch screen. For example, you can swipe down to load the Mule (shotgun+crossbow FTW!) with a napalm bolt, or touch an enemy to tag it for the Bullseye bullets, or use two fingers to drag out a protective Auger Shield. Tapping the grenade icon tosses it willy-nilly in the direction of the cross hairs, but dragging the grenade icon to a specific enemy makes for an accurate throw. It’s these interactions that add some tactile fun to the otherwise humdrum proceedings. However there are times when the touch mechanics can be (a touch) irritating, especially when you tap a door hoping to open it but find that you’ve accidentally launched a grenade at it. A ’50s door is surprisingly bombproof, but you’re certainly not.
Speaking of dying, the checkpoints in Resistance: BS could have been better placed. Because of this you’ll have to repeat entire firefights at times, or worse, you’re forced to listen to the conversation you just heard before the bullets begin to fly. Because of the spikes in difficulty, certain parts of the game can be irritating and utterly frustrating. The timed sequences are the worst example of this, where you have to timeously escape a certain situation under heavy fire. I lost count the number of times I retried that section. And if you switch the Vita off and return to the game at a later stage, you’ll have to endure an unspeakable horror—a low-quality unskippable cutscene that you have seen before but must watch again before you can get back into the action. This is your cue to make a soothing cup of tea. There’s time for it, trust me.
Your linear path in this conflict is paved with rather lackluster visuals. It may be war time, but the environments in Resistance: BS aren’t all that pretty to look at. The music isn’t that impactful either, often times it’s the sound of your footsteps that you’ll hear the most clearly. Sadly the atmosphere is simply not there.
After the six-chapter tale is finished, you can take the fight online. When you switch to the multiplayer, you can take part in one of three modes—deathmatch, team deathmatch, and survival—in either a small or large game. The former has four players in it while the latter hosts a maximum of eight. There are loadouts you can customize, and competing in matches net you XP that you can use to purchase new weapons and upgrades. Resistance: BS also uses the Vita’s location-based Near app to give players certain XP incentives. Different viruses can be spread to other players allowing them to accrue XP at a faster rate for a specified amount of time. There are six maps available, but some are not that roomy and often times the match just becomes a shotgun shootout. Because it is only available at level seven, newer players to the game will invariably be canon fodder until they too can kill with double-barreled power of the Mule.
Overall, Resistance: BS fails more than it succeeds. While the touch screen mechanics add some new interest to the gameplay, the forgettable storyline, uninspiring characters, and lackluster visuals drag it down. The multiplayer, with its simple straightforward approach, redeems the game a tad. Heck, the fact that there is online multiplayer in a Vita shooter is impressive. And it can be downright fun at times.
With Resistance: BS, Nihilist Software has shown that FPS on a handheld is entirely possible. It just set the bar a little lower than I would have expected.
Final score: 5 twin-stick prawns out of 10
Developer: Nihilistic Software
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Distributor: Ster Kinekor
Platform: Playstation Vita
Age Rating: 16