Resistance: Burning Skies review

Since its release a few months back, players have been clamoring for Sony to release a first-person shooter for the PlayStation Vita.  After all, with its twin dual analog stick set-up, it seems to be built for it, compared to previously released games on the PlayStation Portable (with its analog nub and face buttons).  Well, your wait is over, as Resistance: Burning Skies is now on store shelves.  And while some folks may feel that it’s not as “epic” as it could’ve been, there’s no question that the game sets a moderately good standard for the genre on the handheld.

The game’s events actually take place before other games in the series, so don’t go looking for Nathan Hale.  Instead, you’ll control firefighter Tom Riley, who becomes an unlikely hero battling against the first invasion wave of the Chimera.  After seeing his family off to safety and barely surviving an encounter, he finds himself teaming up with a rebellion faction to strike back – while at the same time striving for an opportunity to reunite with his loved ones.

While the campaign doesn’t tell the most compelling of stories, it does set the stage for plenty of firefights with Chimeran soldiers and big, bad enemies strewn throughout.  And though it lacks the tank and turret sequences of previous games, there’s no shortage of action in Burning Skies.  You’ll get a feel for the familiar weapons in mere seconds, switching through them with a helpful weapon wheel, so you can always have something on the draw.

The gameplay teeters between typical function with the dual sticks and face buttons and the touch sensors on the Vita.  Controlling your character with the sticks is quite smooth, and the face and trigger buttons react with very few problems.  As for the touch stuff, it’s a little tricky in spots.  Having to tap the touch sensors on the back of the system to run is kinda weird, though understood since Nihilistic, the game’s developer, didn’t want to clutter the main touch screen with too many functions.  Also, grenade throwing takes getting used to, as you have to drag the grenade icon to the trajectory you want to throw the grenade.  In the heat of battle, this might prove a little more difficult than it looks.

Other than those minor issues, the touch screen controls work great.  The melee function, which uses a cool fire axe, makes for perfect one-hit kills on Chimerans, and some of the weapon effects are cool, like having to wind up a crossbow with an explosive charge or using the Bullseye to lock onto an enemy.

Once you finish the campaign (which will take a few hours), you can log on to the PlayStation Network for online competition, in the form of deathmatch and Survival sessions.  Deathmatch is okay, but if you want pure excitement, go to Survival, as you’ll find the odds turning against you as fellow soldiers fall and turn into Chimerans.  If you survive the match, you win, plain and simple.  While there are hitches in frame rate and the time it takes to start a match, the online battles run efficiently enough that it shouldn’t be too much of a bother.

Visually, Resistance: Burning Skies may not have the muster to live up to previous PS3 efforts (it is a different development team, after all), but there are moments of sparkle that really light up the Vita screen.  Some of the weapon effects are outstanding; bigger Chimeran enemies really stand out; and explosions rock the screen.  Some of the human models could’ve been done better, but overall, this is a fairly good 3D shooter that holds its own on the platform.  If there’s any sort of problem, it’s with the audio, as the weapon effects aren’t as meaty as they could’ve been, and some of the dialogue is a bit weak.  On the bright side, the soundtrack is quite good.

Resistance: Burning Skies may not live up to the high standard of the original game, and does offer quite a bit of change from what Retribution did on the PSP.  But despite its flaws, it’s a pretty good debut for the genre on the PS Vita, and a precursor for better things to come, in the form of new Call of Duty and Killzone games.  If you’ve got an itchy trigger finger, these Skies should fulfill the need.