Insomniac Games left a strong lasting mark when it stepped away from its Resistance series after the atmospheric and emotionally gripping Resistance 3. With Insomniac Games now hard at work exploring new avenues for us to enjoy, Nihilistic Software has stepped in to send us back into the Chimeran infested world once again, with the first true portable dual analogue first-person shooter — Resistance: Burning Skies. But while the series’ fans will undoubtedly be excited to get back into the fight, maybe the franchise was better left on a PS3 high note.
It's August 1951, and firefighter Tom Riley and his crew are responding to an incoming emergency call. It’s an ordinary day in the life of a fireman, really. But this call isn’t just an every day house fire; this inferno won’t only change Tom Riley’s life, it’ll change the world.
A crashed Chimeran ship lies deep within the burning building. Armed with only his axe, Riley sets out to save his crew from the surviving Chimera. What he doesn’t know is that, outside the building, a full-on invasion has already begun. With no military training, he’s minutes away from taking up arms not only to save his family, but possibly play a part in saving the world as well.
Opening similarly to Resistance 3, Burning Skies starts off with such promise. Vita’s dual analogue controls are instantly fitting for the genre, and the basic weapons that have always defined the series are quickly available: Bullseye, M5A2 Folsom Carbine, Auger, SixEye, etc. This time around, the weapons’ secondary firing modes don’t simply use button presses but creative touch gestures instead. To plant the Bullseye’s homing tag, you only need to touch the desired enemy before blasting away; deploying the Auger’s energy force shield finds you swiping your thumbs from the centre of the screen outward to open it in front of you. The different gestures are intuitively implemented and do a great job of adding another layer of personality to the weapons.
It wouldn’t be a new Resistance title without a few new weapons to blast off some Chimeran heads. The favourite this time is the Mule, a double-barrelled shotgun and crossbow hybrid that's deadly at close range and explosive at distances. Sliding a finger down its barrel locks the crossbow attachment’s arrow into place, making it a perfect weapon for those rushing Grim hordes. The arsenal is defined further thanks to the glowing blue boxes of Grey Tech scattered about that can be used to upgrade each weapon's attributes.
Staying true to its unconventional shooter roots, cover-based shooting doesn’t always work. When cover is needed, Riley auto locks onto cover and can easily pop in and out at will, but oftentimes you’ll need to stay out in the open and make creative use of your weapons’ multiple firing modes to stay alive. The majority of these moments feature towering enemies and are the real highlights of Burning Skies, it’s just a shame they’re few and far between throughout the game’s short-lived campaign mode.
While Burning Skies never actually falls apart, there are times when it feels like it’s held together by a string. Some sections feature uninspiring graphics, with artefacts awkwardly cutting through the seams of adjoining structures. At one point you’re tasked with saving a non-playable character from a crashed plane; the guy sits completely motionless inside the burning cockpit screaming for his life. Even when rescued, he's stiff as a board on the ground as he thanks you for your help. This is a single experience, but this is meant to be a triple-A title — it's clearly been rushed out and appears unfinished. While many parts of the five hour campaign look quite spectacular with lots of on-screen action and polished graphics, there’s an equal amount that’s not so pleasant too.
But what about the online multiplayer — it’s good, right? This is the first title to offer a true dual analogue online multiplayer FPS experience on PS Vita, but sadly there’s not much else to it. It plays well, and Vita’s analogue sticks do indeed bring the same home console controls that we’ve become accustomed to. But muddy graphics, a weak upgrade system and limited gameplay modes won’t keep your interest here for long.
Uninspired multiplayer level design is the biggest blow, since the maps don’t feature advantage points to battle over. When coupled with the terrible respawn system, this finds you being constantly shot from behind by recently resurrected enemies. Another hindrance to the online experience is the audio, or the lack thereof. Weapon sounds and footsteps are the only things heard when playing online — standing in steam spewing out of a pipe or shooting some environmental objects just results in silence. It’s clear that this mode, which very well should be the highlight of the title, was slapped together for a quick release as well.
Resistance: Burning Skies should have been a must-have PlayStation Vita title, but in the rush to get the system's first dual analogue FPS out onto the market, Sony missed the Chimera’s head with Riley’s axe and chopped the legs right out from under it instead. It’s discouraging to see, especially when Vita could greatly benefit from a solid first party release. The only thing burning in these Chimeran-infested skies here is a whole lot of wasted potential.