Boss battles are no less imposing on the Vita's screen.
With the release of Nihilistic Software’s Resistance: Burning Skies, the PlayStation Vita finally has one of its promised console-like experiences in the form of a first-person shooter. While Burning Skies receives the honor of bringing the first true dual analog FPS to handheld platforms, that title is also its biggest weakness. The fact is that, because it is the inaugural head of its kind, many aspects could use improvement or need to be fixed.
Burning Skies' single-player takes place between the events of Fall of Man and Resistance 2 when the Chimeran invasion hits the United States. You fill the boots of FDNY firefighter Tom Reilly who is thrown into the fight while investigating a burning building. When Reilly's family is abducted by the Chimera, he rallies to save them. However, Reilly's wife and daughter are not captured until the second to last chapter of the game, making the first four chapters seem drawn out or needless. When discussing an FPS, an exceptional story framework rarely comes to mind. The Resistance franchise has, for the most part, been one with a narrative on the more interesting and well-written side of the genre, leaving this title to fall a bit flat.
Even before the release of the Vita, Sony promised us quality console experiences on the go, and visually, Burning Skies is not up to snuff. The game looks extremely similar to the PSP release Resistance: Retribution - as if Burning Skies was developed for the previous generation and then later updated to meet the Vita's resolution. The problems do not end there, though. Texture pop-in is a constant hindrance when entering new areas. On one occasion a bridge's pavement texture took nearly a minute to load. Problems with character models were also present though not frequent. At its worst, all but an ally's firearm appeared invisible.
The environments look clean in comparison to Resistance 3's grimy locales.
Like the previous Resistance titles, the music is well-composed and does an excellent job of adding to the atmosphere. The only downside is how often you hear the subtle scores over the cacophony of your surroundings. For the most part, the soundtrack consists of footsteps and bullets firing. Dialogue drops out at points, but its infrequent and lasts for a few, brief seconds.
As stated earlier, Burning Skies agonizes over testing the waters of Vita shooters. The control scheme suffers the most in this case. Being that the Vita lacks L2 and R2 buttons, as well as the ability to click the thumb sticks, the melee, secondary weapon fires, and grenade functionalities have been mapped to the right side of the touch screen. Melee works fine aside from being a bit slow (Reilly does swing a fire axe after all), but the grenades and secondary fires are the biggest detriments. Rather than being thrown where the reticle is aimed, grenades must be lobbed by dragging the icon to your intended target (this is also very inaccurate). The secondary fires controlled through a multitude of onscreen prompts would not be as problematic if the Vita's screen was smaller as stretching to use these actions can be cumbersome.
To compensate for the rough controls, it seems that the Chimeran AI has been dumbed down, so using the weapons' additional abilities is possible. Weaker enemies will stand in place firing at you or, at times, charge you to fire from point-blank range. This happens so often in fact that the only real danger of dying comes when multiple Chimera blitz you.
The shotgun-crossbow hybrid obliterates the opposition.
In an effort to prolong the life of this short FPS, multiplayer is included with new copies through an online pass. While the multiplayer works well enough, it suffers from the same problems plaguing the single-player. Unfortunately, "matchmaking" incorporates the grouping of players, no matter their rank, in a lobby (much like Resistance 3). This may deter newer players from enjoying themselves due to the skill level of the more experienced competitors. And at the moment, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Survival (an infection game type) remain the only three modes.
Overall, Resistance: Burning Skies is a bit underwhelming, partially because it does not quite live up to the pedigree of previous Resistance titles, mostly because of the myriad control, visual, and audio problems. Burning Skies manages despite these flaws once you accept the plausibility of a full-fledged FPS on a handheld device. Players looking for a reason to dust off their Vitas now have one, but just in the form of a rental or a purchase down the line.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Nihilistic Software
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign), 2-8 (Competitive)
Platforms: PS Vita (Reviewed)