THE NEXT LEVEL Despite its flaws, Resistance on the PS Vita is the first competent handheld FPS
Did the Resistance series ever really take off? It’s had a decent run, with a trilogy of good, if not spectacular games on the PS3 and a PSP outing. The series now returns in the form of Resistance: Burning Skies on Sony’s latest portable for what could be its swansong, with the publisher possibly looking to pull the plug on the franchise. We will probably see it being entirely abandoned (which is a shame considering the premise has potential) or rebooted, but for now, we’ve got one last instalment in the series albeit a portable one, and it’s pretty good. Burning Skies’ story occurs at the start of the Chimera invasion, with you playing as Tom Riley, a New Jersey fire-fighter and future hero of the Resistance. That means you get an axe, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Over the course of Tom’s journey, he is separated from his wife and kid and sees several American lives claimed by the invasion. There’s a conspiracy somewhere in the plot as well. It’s typical fare, and while most of the content that is designed to evoke emotion falls terribly short, the plot fits well into the lore of the series, even if it doesn’t break new ground. And as a result, you’ll see the ending coming from a mile away, but that doesn’t make the ride any less fun. This is all in spite of some average writing, characters that aren’t particularly memorable and long (now ubiquitous) retro-themed cutscenes that can’t be skipped.
Now let’s get back to Tom’s axe. A simple finger’s tap of the ‘axe’ icon will see Tom swing it with considerable venom at whatever is in the centre of your Vita screen, often with gory results. Grenades can be tossed with a simple drag-and-drop, while targets can be ‘tagged’ so that your Bullseye assault rifle’s secondary fire can home-in on targets, raining bullets down on it; the touchscreen controls are nifty, to say the least. And they’re greatly complemented by the Vita’s dual analog sticks. While the dual sticks aren’t as accurate as their console counterparts, they definitely work, making Resistance: Burning Skies very playable both offline and online. One great example of great use of touch and dual stick controls is Burning Skies’ new shotgun/crossbow hybrid weapon, the ‘Mule’, which can be switched into crossbow mode by a diagonal swipe of the screen that results in an explosive arrow being loaded. The gun can also be used as a regular sawed-off shotgun. Admittedly the touchscreen controls can be annoying at times, particularly since you need to abandon one of the analog sticks to use them, and then there’s the risk of wasting precious secondary ammo with inaccurate screen taps, but that’s something you can learn to live with — unlike the game’s choppy frame rate, blocky textures and poor character models, which are the real culprits when it comes to adversely affecting the overall gameplay experience. It’s amazing that the Vita has a game that looks as impressive as Uncharted: Golden Abyss and one that looks like Resistance: Burning Skies. Apart from the issues mentioned previously, the special effects are particularly disappointing — it doesn’t look like the development team leveraged the PS Vita’s hardware effectively.
But despite its flaws, Resistance: Burning Skies can claim to be the first FPS to actually work well on a handheld platform thanks to well implemented controls. Fans will want to play it, but might leave disappointed if they set their expectations too high. On the other hand, if you own a Vita and want an FPS to play, it might seem like you don’t have a choice, but Burning Skies is competent enough to warrant a purchase.