Resistance: Burning Skies Review
Resistance: Burning Skies
Nihilistic Software / Sony Computer Entertainment
Taking over the development of a flagship franchise from an acclaimed studio can be a frightening task. There is a lot of pressure to “get it right” and “live up to” the previous installments in the series. Nihilistic certainly had these pressures with Burning Skies, only they were also expected to shoehorn the massive Resistance universe into a handheld experience with an untested genre on a brand new platform. Those do not seem like fair, reasonable expectations for the FPS first-timers, Nihilistic Software. Despite this, Nihilistic still did their best to do the improbable. Did they succeed? Not completely- but they did not fall flat on their faces, either. While it has its flaws, Resistance Burning Skies certainly does the franchise justice, and is easily the best game that Nihilistic has ever made.
First and foremost, yes. This is the first FPS game on a handheld that features true dual-analog controls, and it works. Anyone familiar with the Dualshock 3 will feel right at home here as they strafe and aim. The game proves that the system can function competently as a platform for FPS titles- so bring it on, devs! There are a few improvements that can be made here though, starting with the complete lack of customization options. For one, X and Y sensitivity cannot be adjusted separately- and Y desperately needs to be faster than it is. And Nihilistic’s control scheme is set in stone; there is no control mapping, which proves particularly frustrating at times. The two methods of sprinting are awkward, and would be bested by simply double-tapping the left stick forward. Melee being mapped to the touch screen can be aggravating, especially in the heat of the multiplayer matches when you reach over and miss the button, resulting in your own death. There are also some touchscreen controls forced by the lack of L2/R2 on the system, but we found them to be rather natural – Targeting with the Sw.A.R.M. rocket launcher by touching the enemy is strangely satisfying.
Resistance fans will have mixed reactions to the campaign. Fortunately, the game does a good job of filling you in on the events leading up to Resistance 2. The Chimera have begun their invasion of the United States, and Nihilistic does a great job of creating the drama of that event. References to the events of the other games work to draw you into the new story, which does not conflict with the canon. The huge drawback is our protagonist. The development of Joseph Capelli’s character in Resistance 3 was extremely well done; it was easy to develop a connection to him, to feel for him. It is hard to say the same about Tom Riley. Riley was meant to be an everyman- a firefighter with a wife and daughter, fighting for his people. But he is not presented or developed in that way. He is made out to be a mute, emotionless, killing machine like Nathan Hale, when he could and should be more like Capelli. He has hardly any interaction with the people around him, other than an awkward, forced intimate moment with a companion that ultimately does nothing but cheapen the moments meant to be touching later on.
Overall, the campaign is fun to go through. The structure feels a bit like Resistance 2, with hordes of grims interspersed with giant bosses and corridor showdowns with the foot soldiers. The AI is not super-intelligent, which can make taking them down a bit dull on lower difficulties. Fortunately, there are a dozen different chimera in all, which adds enough variety to keep you interested and swapping weapons out frequently. Clocking in around six hours, the campaign felt a bit short compared to its unusually lengthy predecessors. After the credits roll, the Superhuman difficulty is unlocked as well as a New Game + option that will allow the player to replay the campaign with the weapon wheel fully stocked and upgraded. Unfortunately, intrinsic motivation will be required for multiple playthroughs, as trophies do not provide an incentive to start over- the platinum trophy is pathetically easy to obtain, and only requires one playthrough on the lowest difficulty setting and about 10 minutes of cleanup. Great for those trophy hunters looking for easy platinum, disappointing for those that enjoy working for them.
Finally, there is the multiplayer element. This is what will keep you coming back to the game again and again. The modes are pretty standard fare with team deathmatch and free-for-all modes leading the way, all tied together by a level-up and unlock system. Going with the Resistance 3 approach, up to eight players play in tight quarters, which allows for intense, chaotic action. There is also a Resistance-centric mode that pits chimera against humans, where humans respawn as chimera until there are no humans left. It is an interesting take, but the matches often end quickly. All of these modes can be played with random players or with friends, though it is not completely obvious how to accomplish the latter. When you boot up the multiplayer, there are no party options visible. To get there, you have to boot up the Vita’s “Party” app and either create a party or join someone else’s. Once you’ve done this, you will notice a new option in Resistance’s multiplayer menu for “Party Matchmaking”. This was all very confusing for us at first, as other online titles have had integrated party systems. Why the option was not immediately visible with instructions on how to party up, we do not know. But it is definitely there, works like a charm, and provides crisp, clear voice chat communication.
Bottom line, this is the FPS Vita game you have been waiting for. It is by no means a perfect experience, but it is a great one that will certainly fulfill the needs of any FPS fanatic itching for the genre on their shiny new system. It will also give Resistance fans a little something to take the sting off of Insomniac’s abandonment of the series- it looks, feels, and sounds like Resistance. There are improvements to make, but all-in-all Resistance: Burning Skies is a great effort from Nihilistic, and great starting point for many FPS Vita titles to come.