Resistance: Burning Skies on the Vita suffers from the worst sin in gaming: it’s boring
Resistance: Burning Skies
The first 30 minutes of Resistance: Burning Skies are spent with a feeling close to awe. The game looks impressive for a portable release, but the joy is found in controlling a portable first-person shooter with two analog sticks and as many buttons as you need. On a portable gaming system! For years we’ve muddled by with the single stick of the PSP, odd half-solutions from Nintendo, and the touch controls of the iPad and iPhone. Playing a good-looking game on a portable system with actual, working controls is amazing.
It’s a shame that the game itself is so damn boring. It only took an hour or so to go from my initial feeling of elation to checking the trophy list to see how many missions remained between me and the game’s ending. At least the game is short, because the highest praise I can give it is that it’s a bland meal with small portions. I take no joy in writing this, as I love my Vita and I’ve always enjoyed the Resistance series. My anger is due to disappointment; there is no reason the first game to prove how well the Vita can handle first-person shooters had to be this lifeless.
What went wrong
Burning Skies takes place during the early days of the Chimera invasion of the United States. You’re reminded that the lead character is a firefighter a few more times when you’re asked to pick up random people and carry them to safety. Your melee weapon is an ax, and in order to reach your wife and child, you’re forced to move through linear levels, killing wave after wave after wave of similar enemies.
The Resistance games all benefit from interesting weapons, and the ability to carry an arsenal with you instead of the forced two-weapon paradigm that Halo created is always welcome. The problem here is this is a Vita game, so using the secondary fire for any weapon requires you to interact with the touch screen. This makes sense with some guns, the rocket launcher allows you to connect a series of enemies before firing rounds at each one, but the rest of the weapons feel gimmicky. Is this the weapon with the downward swipe to load my secondary attack, or is it the weapon with the downward tilted swipe? Is this really what I want to be thinking about during battle?
I will, on the other hand, applaud the wonderful grenade mechanic. To throw a grenade you press your finger on the icon, and then drag it where you’d like to throw it on the screen. The game drops into a sort of bullet time effect, giving you time to line up your shot. It may not be realistic, but you feel like a bad ass throwing a perfectly aimed explosive and clearing out a group of Chimera.
Scenes weren’t added because they drove the story forward, they were seemed to be added because they were in other, better games, and maybe you’d think you were playing one of those instead. You fight across a bridge because this is a shooter and there has to be a bridge because we’ve played Half Life 2 and that was a great game, right? There are hurried conversations in flying helicopters, because that’s an impressive visual. You have a female companion who seems incredibly manic, to the point of flirting with you in a moment of incredibly off-putting “sexual tension” when you find yourself on top of her. I kept waiting for someone claiming to be too old for this shit.
The worst part is none of this seems to matter. The gunfights lack urgency. When your companion is trying to open a door, you know that she won’t be able to do so until after you kill the boss attacking you. The developers of the game seem to have confused quantity of enemies for a valid way to increase the tension. It just feels so videogame-y that it’s hard to care about what’s going on. The game works, and looks okay, but it seems to serve mostly as a tech demo that proves how well a good first-person shooter could play on the system. This is a proof concept, not a game you’re going to want to buy for $40 and then spend hours playing.
The lack of polish is never more obvious than in the scene where you must escape a room with slowly closing doors. If you don’t make it out in time you must wait for the doors to close completely before the room begins to burn. It takes an uncomfortably long time to die, but there is no way to restart from the last checkpoint and the game forces you to sit through this lengthy sequence every time you fail. So you must walk around, engulfed in flames, looking forward to death.