When it was first unveiled to the public, the PS4 made a lot of promises to gamers, leading us to believe that we were going to witness a new era of gaming. While many have been disappointed at the early wave of games to have been released, one title that didn’t disappoint was Resogun – the latest shooter from Housemarque, developers of the Super Stardust series and Dead Nation. With their pedigree it’s no wonder that Resogun was going to be an instant classic – Housemarque was formed out of two hardened Amiga development studios known for pushing the hardware and getting the most out of the system (Terramarque and Bloodhouse) so it was only natural that their natural talent continued onto current gen systems.
Despite the PS Vita having a stunning version of Super Stardust and Dead Nation, there were doubts when it was announced that we were going to be treated to a port of Resogun. With it’s particle-intensive effects people wondered just how the Vita was going to cope. With the coding duties being handed over to Climax Studios, who previously produced Smart As… and handled the Vita port of the aforementioned Dead Nation, the question remained whether Resogun would work on the PS Vita…
Resogun itself, as with most games from Housemarque, isn’t entirely an original concept. At it’s heart, Resogun is an update of the Williams arcade classic Defender albeit a lot prettier. The core gameplay remains the same – flying over an alien landscape protecting humans from attack and being kidnapped in your trusty fighter using the weapons at your disposal, aided by a limited supply of smart bombs to get you out of trouble when things get a little too intense coupled with a booster to move you around the landscape in short bursts and to avoid danger. Resogun expands on this adding weapon upgrades, a wide range of aliens intent on wiping out you and the humans under your protection, vast end-of-level bosses, all wrapped up with stunning 3D visuals and breathtaking explosions and visual effects.
Moving on from the basics, the game builds on the Defender theme by adopting a twin-stick approach for the control of your fighter. The left stick controls movement and the right stick controls firing making for incredibly precise action and although in principle this should make the game easier than Defender it doesn’t, it just refines the gameplay and makes it far more responsive. The thrust and bombs are still there but the boosters are limited and need recharging between use. A new element is introduced here as they can now be used to destroy advancing enemy craft simply by flying into them at high speed and as you can change direction in mid-boost it’s possible to annihilate vast waves of aliens with a single boost! The final main update on the weapons front is the Overdrive mode. As you destroy each alien craft, what can be described as small green pellets are left behind. Collect these and your overdrive meter charges up. You can unleash this at the tap of a button and an incredibly powerful beam of energy fires from your ship filling the screen destroying everything in its path. Devastating to most aliens you’ll encounter and an essential tool when you’re up against the end of level bosses…
There are three ships to choose from, each with their own characteristics in terms of agility, overdrive power levels and weapon types and these can be upgraded as you play. Unlike made shooters, you don’t lose your upgrades when you lose a life which is a godsend because without a fully upgraded ship you will have absolutely no chance whatsoever of completing the game as aliens get progressively tougher throughout and a lot harder to kill!
What really sets Resogun apart from Defender is the way you have to protect the humans under your guardianship. Rather than being left stranded on the landscape below you, they start off held captive in a series of cells spread throughout the level. To release them you need to eliminate specific waves of aliens that will appear during the stage. Destroy all of them successfully and one of the humans will be released. You’ve then got to get to them, pick them up and fly them to one of the pods flying overhead before they are captured. Fail to destroy the alien attack wave or lose a life while carrying the human in your charge and they’re lost forever. The more you rescue, the higher your score bonus will be at the end of each level.
The new twists to the gameplay mechanics add rather than detract from the addictive nature of the original and it’s just as maddenly compelling as the original smash hit from Williams. No matter which of the difficulty setting you choose to play on for a more hardcore or relaxed gaming session, it will give you an incredible adrenaline rush and the choice of ships on offer provide plenty of variety in the game and breathe extra longevity into what is essentially a simple game. Upon completion on a chosen difficulty level, the strategy you need to employ to play the game changes dramatically just by altering the ship you choose, and changing the difficulty level alters this yet again once the bosses evolve adding further depth to the game.
I can’t continue without talking about how the game looks and this was the biggest selling point of the PS4 original. The PS4 version was celebrated for its use of lavish particle effects for its explosions and stunning effects, with almost everything on screen – ships, landscapes and bosses – being constructed from thousands of small cubes resulting in the PS4s hardware being pushed to manipulate an astonishing number of 3D objects simultaneously at breakneck speed. Surely there was no way that the PS Vita could replicate that…? Well astonishingly it has managed to admirably. The 3D backgrounds look absolutely gorgeous and rotate smoothly but it’s the rest of the visuals that really stand out.
The background is embelished with weather and lighting effects that bring the game world to life in ways that you wouldn’t expect and only serve to showcase how superbly crafted this port is… because the main game runs so well that all of this additional window dressing is testament to how much the developers were able to squeeze out of the Vita. Once you start playing you really do appreciate all of the work that has gone into its development. There’s no let up in the pace of the visuals and no sign of slowdown for one moment no matter how much is on screen at any time – whether there are dozens of ships (bearing in mind just how many ojects there actually are on screen) or how lavish the explosions and visual effects are, the game looks utterly breathtaking and is one of the best looking games on the PS Vita. Period.
While there may not be a great deal of diversity in the background visuals, there is a wide range of aliens to encounter, coupled with some gigantic end-of-level bosses that fill the screen (and look even more impressive on the PlayStation TV) that really do take your breath away while playing. It’s hard not to be distracted by the graphics. One thing I will say before I finish with the visuals is that the screenshots here, despite being official press images from Sony, certainly don’t do the game justice. As I said, Resogun on the PS Vita looks absolutely remarkable and it looks just as good, if not better when played on the PlayStation TV as well.
Players are well served when it comes to multi-system support. The game is Cross Buy across all three major PlayStation platforms and for those of you fortunate enough to have grabbed Resogun on PlayStation Plus when it was first released, you’ll automatically have the PS Vita and PS3 version free to download from the start. At the moment the game doesn’t support any of the DLC from the PS4 version but from the look of the in-game menu screens it does appear that future expansion is planned so this may be added in the future as has been the case with their previous games. Cross Save is supported between the PS Vita and PS3 editions (the lack of PS4 support here makes sense with the additional functionality in the PS4 version) but as for the rest of the game… Both the PS3 and Vita version offer online Co-Op Multiplayer although sadly it is not Cross Play compatible but the PS Vita version does offer ad-hoc Co-Op Multiplayer in addition to the online Multiplayer.
I was very close to awarding Resogun our maximum score while writing this review but stopped myself after my first online experience with the game. Unfortunately, while it was an incredibly fun experience, it did prove to be one of the game’s two achilles heels. Understandably the game is dependent on the speed of your internet connection but I found that whether you used wi-fi or the ethernet connection of the PlayStation TV it bore little difference on the game and I found that both were subject to stuttery performance issues. Don’t get me wrong, I loved playing it online and it didn’t spoil the game or affected the game overall, but it meant that the game certainly wasn’t anywhere near the smooth arcade experience that it is in single player mode. You’ll still be able to have fun playing the game online but don’t expect the online experience that you’ll get from games like Killzone: Mercenary. In contrast, the online co-op mode on the PS3 version experienced none of this lag despite running on the same home network so I can only attribute the connection problems to the PS Vita version of the game itself. At the same time, if the connection to your co-op partner is terminated for any reason, rather than allowing the game to continue as a single player game, it simply ends and you’re presented with a Game Over message.
Also, I found the game to be a lot shorter than I expected and after completing the game, the ending was something of an anti-climax. I was expecting more than just five levels to the game and after completing the final stage I was left underwhelmed at the ending. All that was displayed was the standard end-of-level stats screen followed by a text-based screen with a congratulatory message before the credits started to roll. No real fanfare to speak of and I felt somewhat let down. There are several difficulty levels on offer giving you the chance to extend the life of the game and as I mentioned before the different characteristics of the three ships on offer provides further gameplay variety but once you’ve completed the game once, there isn’t really a great deal new to see. Granted, it’s addictive gameplay will keep you coming back for me as all good arcade shooters do, but it becomes a case of “nothing new to see here”.
Regardless of all of this, Resogun is still one of the best shooters to grace the PS Vita. Whether you are playing it for the first time, or sailing through your 100th run-through you’ll get the same adrenaline rush every time and you’ll never fail to be amazed by the game’s breathtaking visuals, addictive gameplay, heart-stopping action. This really is a game that needs to be a part of every Vita owner’s collection.
At A Glance
- Title: Resogun
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment / Housemarque / Climax Studios
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: Yes (PS3 / PS4)
- Cross Save: Yes (PS3 only)
- Online Multiplayer: Yes
- Local Multiplayer: Yes (Ad-hoc mode)
- PlayStation TV Compatible: Yes
- Memory Card Space Needed: 369Mb