The Resistance series has made an impression on the FPS genre with its unique array of weapons, memorable setpieces, and engaging multiplayer. The series continues on the PS Vita, making use of the system’s dual analog sticks and touch capabilities with Resistance: Burning Skies. Unfortunately, Vita’s first FPS doesn't hold up to the caliber of previous Resistance games.
Resistance: Burning Skies starts at the beginning of the Chimera invasion of North America. You play as Tom Riley, a New York City fire fighter who encounters the alien threat on the job, in the middle of a burning building. After leaving his wife and daughter during the initial chaos to help hold back the incoming Chimera, Riley helps the Resistance on his way to reunite with his family.
This all sounds like a good start to another epic story, but nothing particularly substantial happens during the five hour long campaign. Throughout, the narrative feels glazed-over and rushed, and Burning Skies takes limited time to familiarize players with the characters. Riley’s instant transition from common, civilian firefighter to freedom fighting, alien butt-kicker gives him no character whatsoever. He’s just a hollow vessel for a campaign that feels like a glorified shooting gallery.
But a shooting gallery shouldn’t be much of a problem, given the series’ history -- under Insomniac Games -- of inventive weapons. There are some staples that make a return, like the wall piercing Auger, the military Carbine, and the bullet homing Bullseye. But if you were looking for new, innovative weapons, you’ll have to look elsewhere. The weapons roster is disappointingly generic for a Resistance title. You won’t be jumping on any mounted turrets or experiencing any mind blowing setpieces either. The action basically boils down to finding cover and taking pot shots until all the Chimera are dead.
The action also doesn’t get much of a boost from the sound effects, which lack polish and realism. Burning Skies’ gunfire misses the feeling of heft when squeezing off some high caliber rounds and gives no real weight to the action. Automatic weapons sound more like firecrackers than flesh-shredding gunshots and the sound of explosions just feel empty. Ammo pickups from dropped weapons sounds more like Riley munching on a bag of potato chips than grabbing a magazine full of bullets and loading a clip. Most notably, in some cutscenes, there were specific instances in which the sound effect for explosions or for getting smacked by a massive Executioner Chimera failed to play, leaving us disoriented and confused as to what was going on as we tumbled to the next checkpoint.
The controls are either hit or miss on the Vita, and that’s a huge disappointment, considering the history of cut corners for first-person shooters on Sony handhelds. Don’t be deceived by the fact that the hardware has twice the sticks of the PSP. The dual analog sticks make the FPS manageable on the handheld, but it is far from the precision we’re used to from consoles. The short sticks don’t easily allow subtle movements, especially in the heat of battle. The cover system also felt clunky, since aiming over cover would auto-center on occasion (instead of on an intended target) or the pop-out function simply didn’t work on some walls.
Some of the touch controls don’t help much either. Secondary-fire on weapons requires using the touch screen, which can be a little troublesome in some cases. It never feels natural to take your hand off the control sticks to touch an enemy on-screen, but stringing an explosive bolt on a crossbow-shotgun was intuitive. When you need Riley to run -- activated by double tapping the Vita’s back touch sensor – it’s seldom responsive, forcing you to repeat the gesture till it works. The grenade and melee icons are placed on the right side of the screen for quick, one-touch convenience. When you want to quickly toss a grenade, tapping the icons work great, but the icons’ placement may also cause you to accidently swing Riley’s fireaxe while turning a corner or mistakenly toss a grenade during the more frantic multiplayer moments.
Multiplayer doesn’t stand out much; the fare isn’t much different than the last Resistance handheld game, Retribution, only minus two of that game’s multiplayer modes. You’ll only find three game types: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Survival played in small four player matches or large six to eight player matches. Survival isn’t too different from Retribution’s Assimilation mode, though it provides the only semblance of variety. All but one player start as humans against a single Chimera player. When a human dies, that player respawns on the Chimera team. If the humans survive for five minutes, they are the winners. The added strategy of working as a team and sticking together on the human side gave the mode a bit more depth than the traditional deathmatch modes.
Scoring kills and winning matches earn players experience points that unlock new weapons and bonuses. Newcomers will run into tough opposition from experienced players though, since higher level players will be equipped with much more devastating weapons while the beginners are stuck with the weaker starter guns.
Resistance: Burning Skies doesn’t offer the Resistance experience you’d expect, period. The weapon variety that defines the series is flaccid at best, the story is forgettable, and the multiplayer isn’t even as varied as the last handheld game in the series. It’s hard to even recommend this one to gamers who’ve spent the last six years popping Chimera skulls. Even if a few rounds of Survival are rather fun, there isn’t enough unique content here to attract many people, be they long-time Resistance fans or folks looking to get their FPS jones from the Vita. Resist the temptation.