Part of the appeal of the PlayStation Vita is the promise of console quality experiences, largely due to the addition of dual analog sticks—something that is necessary for a smooth FPS. Resistance: Burning Skies marks the first ever twin-stick shooter available for a handheld, and Nihilistic has indeed brought all of the components of Insomniac’s vision to make a cohesive package on the PlayStation Vita.
After seeing first-hand how Nihilistic dragged iconic characters through the mud with PlayStation Move Heroes, I was worried when I discovered that they’d be taking the reigns from Insomniac to create the first-ever Resistance game (a series I’m personally fond of) for the PlayStation Vita. Not only that, but they’re tasked with providing proof-of-concept for how the most-popular game genre in the world should run on Sony’s new portable. I’m equally relieved and thrilled to say that this time, they got it right.
Resistance: Burning Skies is a separate branch of story within the Resistance universe, taking place shortly after the Chimeran invasion of the eastern seaboard of the United States had begun. You won’t find series’ staple Nathan Hale, or Resistance 3‘s Joseph Capelli. Instead you take the role of Tom Riley, a honorable Fireman who does what all Firemen do best: save lives. Battling blazes is a breeze compared to the Chimeran forces Riley faces in Resistance: Burning Skies, but he faces the odds for humanity, and for his family.
Nowhere near as bleak or as desperate as Resistance 3, Burning Skies feels a lot more like Resistance 2, but with a little more emotion. The storyline is flimsy, and supported almost entirely by NPC companion, Ellie. In the closing moments of the game, you begin to see Riley’s character and story develop, but it’s too little, too late. But not without at least one heartfelt moment, something I feel earlier Resistance games were sorely missing.
Since story is simmering on the backburner, Nihilistic makes gameplay the delicious main course, and they’ve stuck by Insomniac’s recipe every step of the way. As with all Resistance games, the variety of the weapons is the most satisfying aspect, and where the lion’s share of strategy can be found. Using certain weapons to approach particular situations can make a difficult situation seem simple, so taking note of what weapons and ammo happen to be laying around certain areas will be of benefit. Making changes on the fly is easy thanks to the return of the weapon wheel.
The dual analog sticks on the Vita make true-to-console first-person-shooting possible, but from the moment I picked up my first weapon in Burning Skies, I realized that something was still missing from the Vita. With no L2 and R2 buttons, I wondered how alt fire would work—ever so important in FPS games, but even more so in Resistance, where each weapon’s clever alt fire separates the series from run-of-the-mill shooters. Within a minute, a tutorial explained to be just how this worked (there’s a new tutorial each weapon), and soon, it felt just as natural, maybe even more intuitive, than using the R2 button for alt fire. Some weapons called for a simple tap of on the screen, while others, like the Auger’s shield requires an outward spreading pinch gesture, much like you if were zooming in on a smartphone or tablet. If never gets in the way of the action, and serves to be a refreshing twist on alt fire.
Much less important than alt fire, the Vita is also missing that clickable L3 button most FPS titles use for sprinting. But with the D-pad’s close proximity to the analog stick, holding down on the D-pad suffices, just isn’t as well-done as alt fire. It seems that Nihilistic has preempted any of the Vita’s shortcomings with smart design.
Adding to the overall enjoyment of the gun-play in Resistance: Burning Skies, Gray-Tech can be used to upgrade weapons. Similar to the weapon wheel, another wheel is included for upgrade-able abilities, six per weapon. Only two can upgrades can be equipped at once, which makes choosing upgrades part of your strategy. You absolutely could stick with the same two abilities the entire game on each weapon, and many will. But those who prefer to tinker will find that some upgrades lend themselves better to certain situations. The last boss, for example, was a pain in the ass until I upgraded the speed of my projectiles (make note of that tip to save you some grief).
The Gray-Tech needed for upgrading is strewn about the war-torn environments, along with Intel, adding at least some layer of exploration to Burning Skies.
Chimeran forces are more varied than in previous games, adding two brand-new Chimera breeds for Riley to take on. Aside from the new additions, you face plenty of standard issue Chimera soldiers, leapers, hybrids, and hoppers, first introduced in Resistance 3. Each enemy type encourages different weapons to make short work of them. Massive, towering bosses round out Burning Skies‘ Chimeran assault on American soil, though, I wish there were more climactic boss fights.
The single-player campaign lasts roughly 5-6 hours, and offers very little in the way or replay. At the very least, Nihilistic has included a new game+ option where you keep all of the weapons and upgrades in any consecutive playthroughs, making hunting for more Intel of trophy set completion more enjoyable. However, where the single-player experience fails to add replay value, the multiplayer does so in spades.
Multiplayer is restricted to competitive, and while co-op is sorely missed, what is here is a boatload of fun. The maps are small enough to keep the shooting intense, but detailed enough to where you’re not being killed as soon as you respawn. There are only three modes—deathmatch, team deathmatch, and survival—and up to four-on-four player matches. This seems tiny in comparison to Resistance: Fall of Man‘s 40-player free-for-alls, but the small size benefits immensely from having focused bouts of action. Kills and other factors earn you XP to unlock weapons, skills, and other upgrades for use in multiplayer. Again, true-to-console is what Nihilistic was after, and they nailed it.
I was utterly surprised and impressed at how smooth the online matches were, and just how much I enjoyed it overall. For the first of its kind, Burning Skies does a hell of a job replicating the online multiplayer experience found on consoles—complete with lobbies, matchmaking, voice chat via Party, social aspects via Near, and leaderboards.
Resistance: Burning Skies it the total package for the PlayStation Vita. Insomniac’s franchise is in good hands with Nihilistic, and they’ve done a respectable job in bringing the first twin-stick FPS game to a handheld. Vita’s few remaining limitations are overcome with genius design. The single-player, while on the short side and lacking in replay value, is excellent. Gun play is grand, and multiplayer stacks up to many console shooters. If you have a Vita, and like the Resistance franchise or enjoy FPS, buy this game.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+True to the Resistance franchise.
+First real FPS on handheld, and it performs very well.