Like many others, I have been waiting with bated breath to see what a first person shooter on the Vita would be like. The unit obviously has the potential to be great and with the sales not going too well, perhaps a FPS is exactly what the system needs to jump start its popularity. Resistance: Burning Skies is the first of the genre on the Vita and being a first-party title you would expect it to come out guns blazing and showing off exactly what we can expect. Sadly that isn’t quite what has happened.
I want to preface this by saying that I was really hoping R:BS would be the game that brings people en masse to the Vita by proving its potential. I love my Vita, and I believe that it’s perfect for the FPS genre given that it has such great graphical and processing capabilities, and of course the dual analog sticks. Resistance: Burning Skies fails in almost every respect though.
The game is set around the same time as Resistance 2, in 1951, and begins on the day that the Chimera invasion of the east coast of the United States begins. You play the beloved New York fireman Tom Riley on a quest to find your daughter and wife after losing them in the mayhem of the initial attack. With a premise like that you might think the story that plays out would be interesting and you would be close but not quite right. The story is perhaps the best part of the game, but that isn’t saying much as it’s pretty clichéd and downright silly in some places. Despite the fact that you are searching for your family that you obviously love, there are moments of sexual tension between Riley and his partner Ellie during the game that make you wonder what the hell the writers were thinking.
At only 5-6 hours long and with only 6 chapters, the game really feels too short. It wouldn’t be that bad except that the level design of those 6 chapters is shabby to say the least. Entire sections of levels provide an illusion of challenge by throwing a multitude of enemies at you with minimal cover. The worst of these moments comes in the final chapter of the game, ironically at the time when you most want to finish the levels quickly so you don’t have to play it anymore. On the upside the AI is so scripted that after you die once or twice in each section you will know exactly where the enemies will spawn and where they will move to, removing any sense of challenge there may have been and becoming a game of Memory.
The overall finish of the game is extremely lacking in polish, making me wonder if developers Nihilistic were short in the budget department or if they were just made to rush the game out. The cutscenes use a comic style which should be easy except that the quality is low, like they appear in a much lower resolution than the Vita hardware is capable of. The in-game graphics look jaggy, suffering from really bad aliasing which may have been passable if we hadn’t already seen what can be done with graphics on the Vita in Uncharted. Another telling point of a lack of polish was the shoddy texturing and mipmapping of the levels so I repeatedly saw light shining through joins in the terrain. I would show you a screenshot so you can see what I mean, except the game disables the Vita’s inbuilt screen capture ability. I wonder why. Keep that in mind when you look at the screenshots in this article as they are provided by the publisher, not taken by me.
The one thing Resistance: Burning Skies does well is prove that the Vita’s controls can work well in a first person shooter. The dual analog sticks are responsive enough to be serviceable and the use of the shoulder buttons to aim and shoot feels as natural as you would expect. The use of the touch functionality is a bit iffy though with some uses being quite good and some just annoying and unnecessary. The grenade and melee buttons on the right hand side of the screen are handy, mimicking the way that Uncharted and Unit 13 used that kind of thing, but that’s where the smart use of touch stops. Every door you get to cannot be opened with a button but you must touch a little icon on the screen, which means letting go of the controls with one hand which is the last thing you want to do with an FPS.
The secondary weapon abilities are all controlled using the touch screen as well, from sliding your finger across the screen for some, or just touching on enemies to activate other effects. The problem with this is that if you miss while touching an open door icon you can quite easily waste secondary ammo. The rear touchpad is utilised simply with a double tap to start your character sprinting, however this can also be done by pressing down on the D-pad which turns out to be easier anyway.
The multiplayer could be the saving grace of this game as it is with a lot of FPS’s, however again the ball is dropped. Although the game-breaking connection issues were fixed in a patch yesterday afternoon, the actual multiplayer gameplay is hardly worth bothering with. With a lack of intelligent spawn points and no respawn timer, the deathmatch and team deathmatch modes become slaughterfests where you can spawn and then instantly die depending on your luck. Meanwhile the weapons are unbalanced to the point where I ended up giving up on shooting people and just ran around tight corners meleeing cheaply to get kills because that was the easiest method. Overall the multiplayer is boring, extremely uninspired, and the low framerate and dodgy graphics mean it lacks lasting appeal.
As one of the most important elements in a game like this, you would think more care would be taken with the sound design, but apparently not. Across both single and multiplayer the sound of weapons is hollow and sounds like it’s coming from all around you even if you use headphones. This of course means you have a lot of trouble figuring out which direction enemies are shooting from, but that’s not the only thing. A number of times in the single player I heard an NPC say “Hey I’m over here, come help me”, except I had no idea where to look because it sounded like he was everywhere.
I know this is a very scathing review and I tried to be fair, but the game is severely lacking in all areas. I really wanted to like this game but in the end I couldn’t. If after reading this you still want to pick this game up then I would definitely suggest you wait, there’s no doubt that the price will drop quickly and there is no way it’s worth the AU$60 that it is on sale for at the moment. As I said above though, this game does succeed in showing that an FPS can be done on the Vita, this one just doesn’t do it well.
The copy of Resistance: Burning Skies which was used for this review was provided by a PR company representing Sony Computer Entertainment Australia.