Resistance: Burning Skies is the first twin stick first person shooter available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. The game is essentially a spin-off from the PS3 trilogy as the narrative is told from a completely different perspective in regards to the character you are controlling throughout the story of the game.
The single player story mode is set before the events of Resistance 2 as the Chimera are invading the East Coast of America on August 15th 1951. You experience the opening days of the Chimeran invasion through the eyes of a New Jersey firefighter called Tom Riley. Things get interesting when they are called upon to tackle a blazing inferno at a power station only for things to get out of hand pretty quickly when Riley begins to witness the Chimeran invasion and shortly afterwards joins up with the leader of the Minutemen called Ellie Martinez. What does honestly not make any sense and something that is never really explained is how Riley suddenly becomes a weapons expert by knowing how to not just fire Earth based weapons, but Chimeran weapons, such as the Bullseye and Auger with precision accuracy.
There are a number of enemies including: the Hybrid Chimeran soldiers, drones, grims, leapers, longlegs and steelheads, while the rarer enemies tend to make appearances only as huge, menacing end level bosses, such as the Abomination, Executioner, Impaler and Leviathan. There are different tactics for taking out certain enemies. Drones, grims and leapers can be killed by just riddling them with bullets, a quick motion of the axe to take out one of them or a well placed grenade to take out a group of them at once, while all of the enemies are susceptible to headshots and overheating their heatstacks with a few well placed shots.
There are a total of eleven weapons including: the axe; standard grenade; Hedgehog grenade; M5A2 Folsom Carbine; Bullseye; Mauler; Sw.A.R.M; SixEye; Hunter; Auger and Mule. Each and every one of the ammunition based weapons can be upgraded using Grey Tech. There are a total of six upgrades to implement with only two upgrades allowed for the same weapon at any given time, although either or both of those two upgrades can be swapped for another two providing that you have enough Grey Tech to unlock more weapon upgrades. Grey Tech is collectable throughout the game and comes in the form of light blue blocks, so keep a look out as they are not always in plain sight. This is a great feature of the game that provides a certain level of customisation and preference to your gameplay experience, but it would have been great to see the Grey Tech upgrades system applied to the grenades and axe, such as more spikes for the Hedgehog grenade or to make the axe tougher and more powerful in order to inflict more damage on your enemies.
The intel documents and video cut scenes provide a great and important narrative to the game, but are not without their own flaws. The intel documents could have been better with a voice over to yield more of an emotional response from the player, while the cut scene videos seem to be quite pixelated and grainy in places without the option of skipping them regardless if you have already watched them or not. It doesn’t stop there though, as the short instructional videos are displayed in a smaller window and feel rather washed out and grainy even despite the old film look that they have been given, almost as though that part of the game is based on pre-alpha code.
The controls are easy to master and are well mapped to the Vita’s face buttons and touch screen as they are mostly in line with the controls you would expect to be provided with by a first person shooter. The controls consist of pressing R to fire your chosen weapon, L to zoom in to improve your aim, X to jump, square to reload, O to crouch, tapping triangle to quickly change your weapon, holding triangle to open the weapon select cycle wheel, changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move, changing the direction of the right analogue stick to look around the environments, the down button on the d-pad or tapping the rear touch pad twice and pushing the left analogue stick forward to sprint, start to open the options menu, select to open the Grey Tech menu where you can choose your weapon upgrades and holding select during online multiplayer for the scoreboard. Press O while behind an object to duck behind cover, while using the left and right buttons on the d-pad to move from side to side along cover and to peak out from the left or right edge of the object that you are taking cover behind by continuing to hold that particular button, press up on the d-pad to peak above cover and press L to peak out from cover while immediately aiming your weapon or press L to aim after having peaked out from the left or right side of cover.
There are also touch screen controls to wield your axe and throw grenades based upon a single tap of their on screen icons; along with being able to use your weapons’ secondary fire, such as preparing an explosive bow for the crossbow by drawing it back with a swipe of your finger across the touch screen and tagging an enemy with the Bullseye’s by tapping the screen where the enemy is situated, while you can also open doors with a tap of the touch screen. The only issue with the touch screen controls being that on occasion it is as though they are used for too many actions and the sensitivity of the controls confuses the Vita into thinking that you are not tapping the touch screen to open a door, but instead to fire at it with your weapons’ secondary fire.
The graphics are generally good with some moments of graphical flare that stand out above others. However, there are some issues with pop in/pop out textures on occasion throughout various areas of the game, such as textures realigning themselves as you look at them from different angles whether you are closer or further away from them with these texture issues usually being limited to the detail in patterns upon grids, vents, steel girders and such objects. Unfortunately, the technical problems don’t end there as there are an alarming amount of non-interactive objects and backgrounds, such as cars that are incapable of exploding no matter how many bullets penetrate through them and particles sent flying from damaged objects during an air raid on the bridge in chapter three; only for the object to remain completely intact and without any sign of damage when the air raid is complete. The running animations of the Chimera looks rather inadequate at times as though they are running in treacle and some of the characters that you work with through the game seem to only spring into life when you are standing right next to them; whereas they were previously still before you took five paces towards them only for that one or those multiple characters to suddenly spring into their actions, such as Ellie Martinez in the third chapter that stands still until you are within a couple of paces before vaulting over a fence, while there are rare occurrences of poor collision detection at times particularly at the far edges of certain areas, such as the broken railings on the third chapter that you can walk through and invisible barriers before some of the outer walls meaning that there are some walls that you cannot walk up to or take cover behind.
The presentation of the game is solid with a combination of a touch screen and face buttons based navigation of the user interface across all of the various in-game menus and functionalities, alongside the options menu. The audio in general throughout the game is pretty good across all manner of sound effects including pulsating weaponry, the Chimera exploding when their heatstacks have overheated and screams of pain at times when they have been shot, jumping over obstacles, collecting weapons or ammunition and an amazing orchestral score. The orchestral score composed by Jason Graves and Kevin Riepl does a great job of adding depth to the atmosphere of the game. Jason Graves has composed for world renowned games, such as the Dead Space franchise and 2013’s reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. Despite the audio being mostly top notch throughout the game; there are audio drop outs on occasion with one example being during a video cut scene on the third chapter were two of the characters are speaking, but all you can hear is the orchestral score rather than any of their speech, although it is an issue that should not have been overlooked; it is fortunately not a consistent problem.
The trophy list includes twenty-five trophies with ten bronze trophies, seven silver trophies, seven gold trophies and one platinum trophy. There is a helpful trophies area available from the in-game options menu, which allows you to view how close you are to achieving a particular trophy by providing percentages for your progress towards each of the trophies, such as how close you are to killing one-hundred Chimera with headshots and even your progression towards the platinum, along with a description of how to achieve each of the trophies and the images from each trophy that unlock once you have earned that trophy. The trophy list is generally easy and the trophies mostly pop naturally, such as completing chapters one through six; killing the end level bosses and upgrading weapons. There are some trophies that will come with time and are dependant upon a certain level of skill as there are trophies for killing fifty Chimera with Riley’s axe; killing fifty Chimera by detonating their heatstacks and killing one-hundred Chimera with headshots in the single player story campaign. There is only one online multiplayer trophy for quite simply completing one round of any online game mode, although it is worth mentioning that you will need an online pass to obtain that particular trophy. There are a couple of trophies that may require a second playthrough of the game, such as killing one-thousand Chimera and killing any combination of eighteen Impalers or Executioners. There are also no trophies for completing the game on particular difficulty levels, which means that you can complete the trophy list on the casual difficulty level, rather than the hard difficulty level. This makes obtaining the platinum trophy even easier and based upon the precision of your aiming when killing fifty Chimera by detonating their heatstacks and killing one-hundred Chimera with headshots, along with the availability of an online pass to complete one round of multiplayer; I would estimate it to take between five to ten hours to earn the platinum trophy!
An online pass is required to play the online multiplayer component of the game, so you should certainly consider this as a factor when purchasing the game pre-owned as it will be costing you an additional £7.99 to play Resistance: Burning Skies online, although this should also be taken into consideration when purchasing the game brand new and unused that the online pass is included in the value of the retail price.
The online multiplayer comprises of three game modes including: deathmatch, team deathmatch and survival. Deathmatch can be played in a small group of four players or a large group of six to eight players and sees a group of Chimera fighting against each other with the player having achieved the most kills at the end of the round being declared as the winner of the game, while team deathmatch can be played in a small group of four players or a large group of six to eight players and sees teams of humans and Chimera fight against each other with the team having achieved the most kills at the end of the round being declared as the winner of the game and survival is a variant of team deathmatch, but can only be played in a large group of six to eight players and sees the humans begin to outnumber the Chimera with every killed human converting to the Chimera team, although at least one human must stay alive until the time runs out to win the game for the human team. There is also an all modes feature that can only be played in large group of six to eight players with every match presenting a new map and mode combination that players can vote on between rounds.
There are three custom loadouts allowing you to choose your weapon from any of the eight weapons the game has to offer, although when you start out you are restricted to just three weapons with the rest of the weapons unlocked by reaching certain levels of XP; while there are two upgrade slots allowing you to add any two upgrades from the six available, although all of the upgrades must be unlocked by reaching certain levels of XP; you can change between the fragmentation grenade and the hedgehog grenade, although only the fragmentation grenade is available when you start out with the hedgehog grenade unlocked by reaching level two XP; you can choose whether you want to be a human or a Chimera by default and you can name the custom loadout.
My experience attempting to join an online multiplayer game was initially rather frustrating, as selecting deathmatch, team deathmatch and survival was greeted by long periods of time spent in the lobby without anything happening and no online multiplayer game ever seeming as though it was about to start. This was a consistent and serious issue for those particular game modes that was brought about by being placed into a lobby without any other players and seemingly no option to create your own online lobby and host your own online game meaning that if you want to play in a small group of four players, then you have to wait until the maximum of four players have joined the lobby and if you want to play in a large group of six to eight players, then you have to wait until the minimum of six players have joined the lobby. This issue resulted in people losing interest and quitting the lobby due to the game not starting within an appropriate period of time, but then came the saving grace. It seems as though everyone only plays the all modes feature, rather than the individual game modes themselves. This is an issue in itself that surely could be rectified by having one of the individual game modes, such as deathmatch connecting to an all modes deathmatch online game for that particular round, which would at least make the matchmaking process significantly more efficient and easier to use.
When I used the all modes feature; I had connected to an online multiplayer game with a full lobby of eight players within five seconds and the online performance certainly matches up to a smaller scaled version of its PS3 counterparts with no deterioration of graphics in comparison to the single player story mode, no lag and a consistent speed. Even more important than all of this is the fun factor and I am pleased to say that Resistance: Burning Skies’ online multiplayer has it exponentially; as you will find yourself quickly getting to grips with your competitors and even more so once you have levelled up enough to unlock new weapons and weapon upgrades, which inevitably bring you even further into the battle across all types of online play. The XP system is based upon kills, kill assists and key events, such as pulling off kills while surviving near death experiences and paying the opponent back who killed you last by returning the favour.
While the online multiplayer is rather fun and extremely entertaining; there are only three game modes and six maps and although the six maps are quite diverse from one another, there are certainly less than the offerings provided by any of the Resistance trilogy on the PS3 and Resistance: Retribution for the PSP. In addition there are no clan or hosting options and the map voting process only allowing two maps at a time means that it is only a marginal possibility whether you will even have the chance to choose the map that you prefer from the available six. The lack of these particular features, along with no co-operative gameplay for the story mode definitely reduces the value of the online multiplayer, although if you can look past these strange omissions, then you will find an incredibly entertaining online multiplayer experience in the palm of your hand.
The online leaderboards take the approach of providing statistical analysis for online multiplayer matches, rather than also covering the statistics of the single player story campaign, although all of the statistics automatically sync with the MyResistance website. The leaderboards cover a wide range of statistics including: total score/XP; total kills; kill/death ratio; total assists and overall accuracy for all game modes, while average finish is covered for deathmatch and deathmatch small; wins and win/loss ratio for team deathmatch; total time survived as a human in survival and humans killed as a Chimera in survival. Each of the ten leaderboards provides three categories consisting of displaying the top of the leaderboard, your position and only the positions of your friends with all of the leaderboards covering the position of the player, the players’ PSN ID and their score. Your personal statistics are accessible from the stats menu and includes the majority of the statistics from the online leaderboards, but with the addition of total shots hit and total shots fired.
There are three difficulty levels including: casual, normal and difficult. You can change the difficulty level at any point during the game, so if you think that you are progressing through the story far too easily, while playing on the casual or normal difficulty levels, then there is always the chance that you will still be able to find the difficulty level that is appropriate for your skills by increasing it all the way up to difficult to give yourself more of a test. You can also choose from any of the chapters that you have already completed from the main menu and replay them in whichever difficulty level you would prefer to choose.
Resistance: Burning Skies certainly has a good enough level of replayability to make the purchase worthwhile with a solid story mode containing six chapters and online multiplayer featuring three game modes and six maps. The ability to customise the improved capabilities of your weapons with two of six upgrades available per weapon via Grey Tech collectables and further customisation provided by custom loadouts for online multiplayer both add further depth to the game.
Resistance: Burning Skies is not a bad game; in fact it is a very good game. It just could have really benefited from about an extra two months time within its development cycle to improve the length of the game with at least a couple of further levels and additional polish and refinements. There is even video footage to prove that Nihilistic developed at least one level and a weapon that never made it into the game; as showcased at their Gamescom 2011 live demo of the game running on the Vita. Unfortunately, this was not the case as the development team behind Resistance: Burning Skies at Nihilistic Software had to move onto Call of Duty: Black Ops – Declassified. If only Sony had not disbanded Big Big Studios (Pursuit Force) or Zipper Interactive (SOCOM, MAG and Unit 13), then one of those development teams could have taken up the development duty for Call of Duty for the Vita, rather than overloading a development team with two top class franchises. The Resistance franchise could have found a new home for itself on the Vita as the Syphon Filter franchise did on the PSP, but due to poor execution on Sony’s part; we may never see another Resistance game again.
Overall, Resistance: Burning Skies is a very good game that comes very close to greatness and first person shooter perfection in the palm of your hand, but falls just short due to a development cycle that was unfortunately cut short. Another two or three months of development time would have provided more than enough time to make the tweaks and add the polish required to have added at least one more chapter; more weapons; improve the animations; collision detection; occasional texture issues; made the non-interactive objects and backgrounds more lively and added more game modes and maps to the online multiplayer package. The thing that is clear to see here is that KillZone: Mercenary will eclipse Resistance: Burning Skies immediately upon release, but if you like the Resistance trilogy on the PS3 and if you could find the game on sale for around £10 to £15 brand new with an online pass, I would still recommend this as you would be more likely to look past the flaws and enjoy the game for what it is; a solid first person shooter that reaches for greatness, but falls just short.
At A Glance
- Title: Resistance: Burning Skies
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE)
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PS Vita Card / PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Cross Play: No
- Online Multiplayer: Yes (2-8 Players)
- Memory Card Space Needed: 23Mb (PS Vita Card) / 2,910Mb (PSN Download)