Resistance: Burning Skies Not Quite a Bullseye [Review]

By Ryan Winslett in Reviews
Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 8:00 am
RBS cover.jpg
Let's just cut straight to the question everybody is asking concerning Nihilistic's Resistance: Burning Skies for the PlayStation Vita: Was the developer able to successfully translate the first-person shooter experience to a portable console?

The short answer is "absolutely." I was pleasantly surprised with how good it felt to play RBS on Sony's new handheld. I spent much of my time torn between two mindsets; one that kept geeking out over how cool it was to be playing this kind of a game without the need of a Sixaxis controller, the other arguing that just because it's a portable game doesn't mean some offenses should be too easily overlooked.

If what you're looking for is a half-decent FPS adventure that will supply you with a good six or so hours of single player action and a bare bones online offering, then Resistance's trip to the Vita is going to leave you one happy camper. If, however, you've come to expect a bit more out of your shooters (specifically in the content department), you could be in for some disappointment.

Burning Skies actually improves on the Resistance formula in several areas and is clearly designed by a group of people who know and understand the universe. Quite a few rough edges and little attention paid to the portable nature of the console, though, keep this from being a must-buy.


The story of Burning Skies takes place between the first two console Resistance games. Players take control of Tom Riley, a New York firefighter who becomes separated from his family at the onset of the Chimeran attack on U.S. shores. While the tale isn't all that compelling and it's easy to forget where you are or why you're there, what's provided is steeped in Resistance lore, recalling characters, locations and events from previous games in the series, as well as the books.

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But, let's face it, none of us are popping in Burning Skies to be swept away by a riveting Sci-Fi epic. We want competent FPS action on a portable console, and this is exactly where this latest Resistance delivers. The controls felt extremely smooth, and I had absolutely no trouble integrating the touch features into the hustle and bustle of blowing Chimera into tiny little pieces. Be warned, though: Pretty much everything else about the game runs straight down the middle. It's an average experience through and through, but that didn't stop me from enjoying myself.

Nihilistic has done an admirable job in the controls department, creating clever workarounds to the lack of two shoulder buttons or the ability to click in on the thumb sticks. To run, for instance, you either slide your left thumb up to the D-pad and hold down or double tap the back touchscreen. Grenades and melee are relegated to a set of touch commands on the far right of the screen. You can quick tap the screen to chuck a grenade to the center of where you're aiming, or you can drag and drop a grenade exactly where you want it to go boom in some poor alien's face. The action even slows to a crawl while you're doing this, meaning you're never left vulnerable simply because you want to chuck an explosive or introduce an enemy to the sharp end of your trusty fire ax.

The ax is the area in which just about every other FPS could actually learn a lesson. Similar to Killzone 3, Riley's melee action is seldom the same two animations in a row. He may hack into one Chimera's throat and follow that up by shoving the pointy side through the next one's jowls. There are half a dozen ways for Riley to get up close and personal, meaning melee kills are now far more interesting than simply watching a knife swipe across the screen.

And, as I said, the shooting is fun. RBS features eight main weapons, all of which are a delight to unleash. Alt fires depend on which weapon you're using, but all utilize the touchscreen in creative ways. Want to tag a particular Chimera with a homing round from your trusty Bullseye? Simply hold your finger over its body and, wham-o, the thing is tagged. Want to throw down a protective shield using the Auger? Place both thumbs somewhere on the screen, pull them apart and watch the translucent barrier pop up in front of you. It's quick and actually quite a bit more fun than just clicking the R2 button.

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When it comes to the actual shooting itself, RBS provides great precision and a handy slider to adjust to your preferred sensitivity. Burning Skies even offers a cover system, something sorely lacking from its console siblings. Stoop behind a crate or barrier and you're in cover mode, able to shoot blindly or pop up quickly for more accurate aiming. This works peeping around corners, too, and leaving cover is as simple as walking away from the object. It's not perfect, but it adds a whole new degree of depth to all of that trigger pulling you'll be doing.

While the early areas you'll be visiting are a bit uninspired and barren, the locales, much like the shooting, becomes more and more interesting as you make your way further into the game. Locations are varied, too, meaning you'll constantly be switching between your up-close weapons (Like the awesome new shotgun/exploding-crossbow combo known as the Mule) and mid-to-long range arsenal like the burst-fire Hunter or snipe-happy SixEye (Get it!)

Burning Skies is also pretty easy on the eyes, for the most part, and it sounds excellent, too. Unfortunately, two of the main guns (Carbine and Bullseye) sound like a high school drum line member came down with a serious case of ADD. It was upsetting enough that I stopped relying on the weapons, which is a shame since, like I said, I enjoy using them.

Perhaps the campaign's greatest fault is how closely it sticks to the road well traveled. The developers took care to make controls that work and shooting that's interesting but, other than that, you're left with a run-of-the-mill story, little variety and mostly underwhelming boss encounters. Not that every FPS needs a driving section or a scene where you take control of a mounted turret, but Burning Skies offers nothing beyond running and gunning to keep you busy.

Online, pretty much everything from single player carries over, including the lack of any substantial content. My time online was lag-free but, honestly, nothing here sunk its hooks in. The 4v4 player cap isn't the problem, nor are the initial six maps (which I thought were decently laid out, offering lots of routes, sneaky corners, dangerous bottlenecks and multiple levels to shoot from). It's the lack of modes that had me grumbling, which are limited to deathmatch, team deathmatch and survival. If these types of modes are where you usually spend most of your time in multiplayer, you'll probably be just fine. I'm a fan of strategic online modes, though, and Burning Skies is just begging for capture the flag, zones and/or a horde mode.

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A solo horde mode (or at least bots) would also help squash my biggest gripe with Burning Skies, which is an utter lack of consideration for its portable nature. Outside of the single player campaign (and a New Game Plus for those who want to tackle it more than once) there is absolutely nothing left for the player to do on their own. I understand that challenge rooms or additional modes solely meant for blasting through wave after wave of baddies can be seen as filler but, in a portable game, that can make or break its extended entertainment value. I broke out my Vita while waiting on an appointment thinking it would be fun to get in a little shooting on the go, only to realize my only option in this wi-fi-free zone was to jump back into the campaign (less than ideal in public or when I only have 15 minutes to kill).

The only voice chat options are through the Vita's Party features, too, which means you'll need to jump in with friends and play private matches if you ever want to strategize or trash talk online. Again, it feels like the technology is there, but the game simply doesn't take advantage of it. Small things like this start to add up, making for a somewhat underwhelming total package; one that feels incomplete. 

What's provided feels decently polished and works well enough. The problem is that, as a full-priced game, it feels like too many FPS staples are missing from the equation. Maybe those extra pieces will be added as future DLC, but I'm not in the business of judging a game on what it could become.

Maybe I'm being too hard on Burning Skies. Then again, given the technology packed into the hardware running it, I'm finding it harder and harder to let the fact that a game is portable excuse some big missteps or ommisions.

It's probably hard to believe after all of this complaining, but I actually quite enjoyed my time with Resistance: Burning Skies. The shooting was a blast and the presentation was good, and that's the main thing I look for in this type of a game. But after I completed the campaign and spent a few hours online, there was nothing left to bring me back for more. That's the real shame here, as I absolutely wanted to have more reasons to keep returning.

The Official Verdict: 3 out of 5

This review is based on a PlayStation Vita copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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