Developer: Nihilistic Software
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PS Vita
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Reviewed by: Joshua Williams
Resistance: Burning Skies Review
After three entries on the PS3 and an outing on the PSP, Resistance finally makes its way to the Vita. For the first time ever we’re given the opportunity to experience an authentic FPS within the palm of our hands, surely we must be in for a treat. Yes and no! The biggest adversary associated with Resistance Burning Skies isn’t the Chimera, its timing. Without a doubt Nihilistic has crafted the greatest portable FPS (for the time being) but with a little more refinement it could’ve been a contender down the line. (Note: This review is based on the Hard difficulty before and after the first patch release.)
In Resistance Burning Skies you’ll find yourself in the boots of a new protagonist. Tom Riley, a firefighter on the East Coast is forced to make tough decisions when the Chimera invade America. Later joined by Ellie and a host of insignificant characters, it is up to you to fight for your family and for your country.
The problem with the story is that time constraints prevent the user from developing an attachment to the characters. This is presumably in an effort to progress the mythology that is the Chimeran invasion. I can imagine the development team looking at a fleshed out story but being forced to trim and cut valuable components due to time and or hardware constraints.
You Call That a Gun!?
The biggest thing going for Burning Skies is that it feels very much like its big brother. The weapon types we’re familiar with are all here and we’re able to interact with them in new ways. With all that is thrown at you in terms of alternate fire tutorials and such, it can seem overwhelming in the beginning but you’ll get the hang of it. In all the areas that Burning Skies may come up short, it is important to note that this is an authentic console FPS experience. Tapping, swiping and dragging the screen complement the traditional experience and serve as a sign of things to come. The weapon wheel from Resistance 1 and 3 makes a welcomed return and unique to the Vita is the ability to upgrade weapons with a variety of perks.
Oh yeah! What kind of fireman would you be without an ax? In the bottom right side of the screen you’ll find an ax icon as well as icons for your grenades. A tap of your onscreen ax will quickly handle most of your enemies and by dragging grenades to your desired targets you’ll hardly notice the missing shoulder buttons. Also, running is handled by double tapping the rear touchpad, a simple yet un-intrusive way to take advantage of the Vita hardware.
There’s a decent variety of Chimeran bullet sponges and on the hard difficulty you can expect a degree of challenge. Boss battles and certain instances may require some trial and error but only until the right weapon and strategy can be determined. When you come from an era where text conveyed stories and gameplay kept you returning, it’s a disservice to be over critical at what Nihilistic has accomplished.
The Art of War
Visually Burning Skies doesn’t run the risk of winning any awards but it doesn’t stray too far from what you’ve experienced on PS3 (style-wise). In a less than favorable review, I read that the lips on the characters don’t move. This isn’t true (for the most part)! In fact, if Golden Abyss is the gold standard then Burning Skies is at least the silver. The Chimerans however haven’t had a lot of the same attention; this can probably be attributed to their numbers and their tendency to explode into little pieces. Another visual misstep comes in the form of the FMV tutorials. Maybe the developers figured sub VHS quality would both tie into the 50’s motif and save cart space but it’s a shame to waste such a beautiful screen. (Note: The screenshot feature is disabled throughout Burning Skies.)
From a design standpoint there are a couple of things that could’ve been implemented more effectively. When approaching doors or other items that require interaction, a hand icon appears in the center of the screen. It makes no sense to have to remove your hand to tap the center of the screen and the fact is you don’t have to. As long as the icon is present just tap the screen with your left thumb.
It may turn out to be simpler than it seems but I found it complicated just cycling between available weapon upgrades. The checkpoint system can have you scratching your head at times and it doesn’t help things anymore that cut-scenes can’t be skipped. These otherwise minor flaws accumulate and take away from the experience as a whole.
Quiet! I Can’t Hear Myself Shoot!
The majority of the gameplay is quiet with the exception of gunshots, footsteps, explosions and groans. I guess you can say this creates an atmosphere of being out on the battlefield but it’s a lot more intense when the orchestral soundtrack does accompany the gunfights. The voice acting is just okay; again don’t expect any awards in this department either. Based on your preference you can’t really fault what is in place. Minute details like the sound of Riley’s boots on different surfaces can be noticed and there are times when dialogue intertwines with gunplay.
Be All You Can Be!
The multiplayer component got off to a rocky start. When the game first came out I was unable to join any matches period. Once the patch was released I was finally able to get my feet wet and for what is offered, it is pretty well done.
The largest matches contain only up to 8 players but the maps are sized accordingly and lag was non-existent. There is a leveling up aspect that allows you to unlock weapons and such as you progress as well as XP bonuses based on certain conditions. What it basically boils down to is the fact that it works and it’ll keep you coming back if you’re at all into shooters.
Purple Heart or Dishonorable Discharge?
When I think of how Golden Abyss compares to Uncharted on PS3, (I have to keep using this comparison.) it compares very much the same way that Burning Skies does to Resistance 1-3. Golden Abyss was a watered down pocket sized enjoyable romp within the Uncharted Universe. There were some things such as tossing back grenades, over-the-top set pieces, varied locales and multiplayer that didn’t make it into Golden Abyss. Still, Drake was there, Sully was there and without a doubt it was Uncharted in your pocket. Why then is Resistance Burning Skies judged so harshly when it captures the essence of the Resistance experience so well?
Review scores of 5 and below out of 10 are unjustifiable unless the multiplayer issues were at fault. The fact of the matter is that the gameplay is intact and it is enjoyable. Any self respecting gamer will not play on the normal difficulty and complain that it was too easy. And any respectable journalist will review (or withhold a review) a title without bias if kinks aren’t completely ironed out in this post release patch era that we live in. Resistance has never been as successful or favored as much as Uncharted (genre irrelevant) but has this fact played a role in how Burning Skies was received?
I think down the line we’ll start to see a lot more favorable reviews for this title. A lot more “What game were those guys playing?” moments but as far as Metacritic is concerned, the damage has been done. We already know it’s unlikely we’ll see Resistance again on PS3 and that may now be the case for the Vita as well. That’s a shame because a second go around could result in a proper send off or a resurgence for the (handheld) franchise.
+ Authentic console FPS in your hands
+ A decent challenge on the Hard difficulty
+ All the familiar weapons from the Resistance franchise
+ Decent lag-free multiplayer experience
- Horrible checkpoint system
- Bland color palette, inconsistency in character models
- Poor FMV quality
- Questionable design choices