If you’re anything like me you’ve probably been yearning for a compelling First Person Shooter on a portable device for a very long time now. When Nintendo first unveiled the DS during E3 2004, the company assured us that the system’s innovative touch screen interface would revolutionize the genre in the portable gaming space. Eight years and several broken promises later, handheld devices still lack a definitive FPS that looks and feels like the console titles that we all know and love.
The main reason for this is controls, or lack thereof to be more specific. The DS/3DS, PSP and other mobile devices all lack dual analogue sticks which are essential for providing a console-like experience. The one exception to this rule is of course the Playstation Vita. Sony’s sleek new handheld almost seems tailor-made for First Person Shooters and with the company owning franchises such as Resistance and Killzone, it was always inevitable that a game like Resistance: Burning Skies would be on the horizon.
Officially billed as “The first ever portable first-person shooter with true dual-analog controls” Resistance: Burning Skies is an impressive first step for the portable FPS genre and gives us a glimpse of what could be a bright future for the Vita. It’s not without flaws and for the most part the developers at Nihilistic play it a little too safe but what the game lacks in scope and immersion, it makes up for with sheer fun factor.
The story in Burning Skies could have been written on a bar napkin. It’s the same old “Aliens invade, family kidnapped, government conspiracy” tripe that you’ve no doubt heard at least a dozen times already. The game also lacks the sense of panic, desperation and urgency found in the likes of Resistance 3 and as a player you gain no emotional attachments to any of the characters or the war-torn universe you’re trying to protect. About 3/4 of my way through the game I suddenly realised that I didn’t even know what my character’s name was, nor did I care whether he or his family lives or dies. This is a huge problem and by the end of the game when I was faced with what should have been a gut-wrenching decision, I struggled to feel anything other than numbness. Needless-to-say Burning Skies is more ‘Independence Day’ than ‘Alien’ but at the very least I did appreciate the aesthetically pleasing Public Service Announcements which preceded each of the game’s 6 chapters.
Burning Skies is also a very unambitious title that looks and plays like an upscaled PS2 game. You walk in to an area, kill all the enemies within, move on to another area and repeat. The game never diverges from this formula and the lack of set-pieces or satisfying boss bouts will leave you wanting. The campaign is also disappointingly short with only six chapters that can be completed in roughly 45 minutes each. Other annoyances include terrible checkpoint point placements and the fact that you’re forced to watch the chapter intro whenever you continue from the main menu. Rounding off my list of complaints is the game’s sound issues. Music is used very sparingly throughout the campaign and when the orchestral score does kick in it will often end abruptly and without warning.
…And yet, despite all of these issues I absolutely loved my time playing Burning Skies. The controls are fantastic and using the touch screen for secondary firing, grenade tossing and to swing your skull burying axe works almost flawlessly. The weapons which you accumulate (and carry with you at all times) transforms what would have been rudimentary shootouts in to epic, murderous playgrounds! I loved walking in to enemy-filled rooms and firing missiles before taking out flying enemies with my Bullseye targeting and despatching a Drone to take care of any remaining survivors. The weapons allow you to deal with each enemy encounter in fun and creative ways, something which really resonated with me.
There’s also a competitive multiplayer mode which seemed serviceable, if a little bland. The multiplayer offering features 3 modes, 6 maps and a basic upgrade/levelling up system which gives you an incentive to keep playing. Personally, I’ve never been much of a competitive gamer but if you’re in to the Killzone’s and Call Of Duty’s then maybe, just maybe Burning Skies will manage to keep you hooked for several weeks or months.
This review was based on a retail download copy of the game for the PlayStation Vita provided by Sony.