Review by Phange
"Resistance: Hot Air"
It's safe to say that Resistance is the second high-profile Sony first-party exclusive for the Vita, behind Uncharted: Golden Abyss. While titles like Wipeout, ModNation, and Hot Shots fill their respective niches (quite well, actually), Resistance, like Uncharted and Killzone, is one of Sony's big-budget blockbuster series. Unfortunately, whereas Uncharted: Golden: Abyss proved that a capable developer like Bend Studio can produce a capable, albeit not quite as good, offshoot of a PS3 staple, Resistance: Burning Skies proves that a consistently sub-par developer can't be depended upon to produce a grade-A title, regardless of its heritage. Perhaps the most egregious of Burning Skies' sins is that the framework for a much better game is here - the controls are good, the action can be intense and satisfying, and the weapons are well-designed and functional. Where Resistance fails is in fashioning an actual game around these fundamentals. Simply put, it's a hollow shell of a game that does a better job of proving the FPS genre can work on the Vita than it is a good game with solid replay value.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that Resistance: Burning Skies looks like a PS2 game, because it does. Though I dislike long, drawn-out comparisons, Uncharted: Golden Abyss was an impressive approximation of the PS3 titles that only showed its seams upon close inspection. Resistance, on the other hand, is not only bland and uninspired artistically, its muddy textures and poor character models do little to impress on the otherwise very powerful Vita hardware. This is by no means a showcase title. There are a few hints of graphical prowess here and there - particularly in the final level, which looks and feels more like Halo than the rest of the game - but the vast majority of the game takes place in apocalyptic 1950's cities and warehouses. Lacking artistic vision is bad enough (all areas look virtually identical), but the technical graphics are perhaps the most inexcusable. This game looks like a blurry mess, save for the sharp HUD and the good-looking weapons. Continuing the disturbing (and hopefully not long-term) trend of Vita games running at sub-native resolution, Resistance is blurrier than most. That the final level looks so excellent is even more perplexing - it's as if developer Nihilistic spent the vast majority of their time designing the ending and left the beginning and middle as an afterthought.
You'd have to do at least a few things right to even score a 5, and Resistance: Burning Skies nails the one thing that matters most - mechanics. If nothing else, Burning Skies is a competent shooter. The weapons feel right - from the pseudo-sniper Augur which can shoot through walls, to the Mauler whose secondary fire is a satisfying close-range explosion, to the old mainstay Bullseye which can lock onto enemies - Burning Skies has a perfect blend of weaponry and most are impressively balanced. Unfortunately, this is offset by an inexcusably small selection of enemies to fight (less than 10, as far as I can tell, and usually around 4 or so for most of the game). This lack of variety defines the entirety of Burning Skies, and makes the game much less exciting that it honestly should be. Enemy AI is all over the map, but oddly the game's various difficulty settings, including the final Inhuman, all seem roughly the same in terms of AI.
Burning Skies uses stock Resistance audio to good effect, though the weapons sound a bit tinny - especially the melee attack with Tom Riley's axe. There's little to write home about with the soundtrack - it exists, it works moderately well. My only major complaint is the voice acting which is generally mediocre at best and terrible at worst. Ellie in particular has a grating voice.
There is a brief moment, at the end of the game, where there is a semblance of emotional attachment to anything going on. Other than that moment, Burning Skies can best be described as being highly similar to Half-Life 2's semi-story-less meandering through linear paths, though nowhere near as interesting and well-designed. One of the most obnoxious design choices is that the player is forced to re-watch the entire opening scene of a chapter as it loads - no matter where you've saved within the chapter. Some are quite long, and none can be skipped. They are all, unfortunately, narrated by the annoying and intensely overacted Ellie Martinez.
Burning Skies proves that twin-stick FPSes work on a handheld. That alone is impressive. Unfortunately, the game wrapped around this proof-of-concept is dull and uninteresting. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the game, and those dying for a competent FPS may actually be pleased with Burning Skies' consistently capable mechanics, but as a game/handheld grows closer to Console-quality presentation, expectations rise. Burning Skies would have been considered an excellent PSP game - but this isn't a PSP. As Golden Abyss proved, bite-sized epic adventures are possible on the Vita, and Burning Skies simply fails to meet the expectations of a top-tier first party series.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 05/31/12
Game Release: Resistance: Burning Skies (US, 05/29/12)
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