If you count the Japanese launch of the Vita, June makes it six months since release. For a portable that promised console-like gaming, it’s a little odd that it’s taken so long for a first person shooter to emerge, and perhaps even more strange that when the genre finally had a showcase, it was with the Resistance franchise – hardly Sony’s finest example in the field when many were hoping the publisher would be rolling out a brand new Killzone.
But here we are, with Nihilistic’s attempt to inject some life into the machine after the post-launch lull. For fans of the series, Burning Skies doesn’t stray terribly far from the standard, but by the same token it’s very much a by-the-numbers, middle-of-the-road affair that perhaps plays a little too safe. The only real diversion – that you’re playing as a fireman, not a soldier, hardly makes a dent.
The awkward moment he finds himself on top of another character is uncomfortable for all the wrong reasons, for example, but Riley’s somehow a dead-eye shot with a weapon he’s never fired before and yet seemingly attracted to scorching hot flames, staggering about and stumbling into them when he’s tasked with ferrying a fallen comrade past lethal storms of gunfire and rows of equally painful razor-sharp teeth.
The Chimera, as with Insomniac’s last entry into the lineage, are the stars. The aliens are still ferocious and deadly in number, their limited but dangerous AI enough to keep you on your toes and the trigger pulled back, even if the playful combinations of foreign and native arsenal no longer feels as deliciously experimental. Too few new items make the cut, though, and they all sound like air popping. Via a Gameboy fed through an AM radio.
And so whilst the triggers fire and zoom as expected, the touchscreen implementation will undoubtedly divide players. Grenades are cooked and lobbed by holding down on a target; the Bullseye locks on with the same method; new toy Mule needs a horizontal swipe to load up explosive bolts – you get the idea, and whilst the game slows to accommodate you’ll need a little patience before everything finally falls into place.
Aiming too hasn’t been tweaked since the preview build. This is especially frustrating because there’s literally no excuse for not having separate X and Y sensitivity sliders (or, at the very least make them equally responsive) and not having the option for gyro aiming when looking down the sights is both baffling and more than a little annoying – if Bend can pull this off flawlessly, at the very least we’d expect others to have a go.
Fine aiming with the thumbsticks was always going to be Vita’s true test, and with Burning Skies the jury’s still very much out. There’s not a great deal of play with the small area of movement, and a frame-rate that doesn’t really remain constant can result in over-exaggerated cross-hairs and an often tricky exercise in fine adjustment. Tilt control would help here, so let’s hope Nihilistic can patch that in in due course.
Visually there’s enough here to convince that the Vita’s capable of great things – there are moments of true beauty and when the lighting hits a good note and there’s Chimera closing in this game can look really solid. Architecture is simple, though, geometrically basic and angular, and some of the textures are blurry up close, but over the game’s smattering of levels there’s a fair amount of diversity in the environments on offer.
Things struggle when there’s a lot going on though – Grims are meant to be encountered in number (and taken out with a shotgun) but when the game piles on the pressure the frame rate drops considerably, and the same happens the few occasions civilians and allies are involved, making delicate shots all the more tricky; a particular disappointment given the sub-native resolution of the game (and some literally hideous jaggies).[drop2]The story’s alright, though, even if it’s a little more threadbare than the others, but some may find the multiplayer aspect lacking in longevity, given that there’s only three modes spread across six maps. It’s a decent enough experience, but feels considerably smaller in scale and scope than the other Resistance games, which have always pushed what a console can do in terms of numbers – let’s hope the Vita isn’t as hamstrung as Burning Skies might suggest in this regard.
But perhaps none of this really matters – the game’s hardly ground-breaking but nobody can deny that this is a decent enough attempt to squeeze a traditionally visually powerful brand onto something you can fit in your pocket. Taken as a solitary unit, Burning Skies is a playable, reasonably enjoyable six hour blaster which fans of the PlayStation exclusive consecution will appreciate perhaps more than I’m giving it credit.
- Reasonable, if somewhat uneven visuals
- It’s the Vita’s first FPS
- Comic level loading cut-scenes are nice, at least the first time you see them
- Couple of decent set-pieces
- Multiplayer is a little bare bones
- You probably won’t go back to single player once it’s done
- The load times can be really long, even on death restarts
- The audio is well under par
- Some terrible sections (the ‘escape’ bit is ridiculous)
Hardcore Resistance fans will no doubt like what Nihilistic have managed to get the Vita to do, but for everyone else this is little more than a competent, hard working game that ticks the right boxes but never really pushes the boat out. The graphics are hit and miss, the sound generally terrible and the controls need some work. But it’s not a bad game, it’s really not – and for the premier first person shooter on Vita it’s likely to gain a decent enough following.
Authors note: it would be disingenuous to pretend that the screens supplied for review are indicative of the game. They’re not – they’re much higher resolution and smoothed considerably. Resistance Burning Skies does not allow users to take direct screenshots.
Addendum: apologies, the review was published with the wrong score – it should have been a 6 – this has now been changed in the review.