Review: Resistance: Burning Skies (PSV)

Title: Resistance: Burning Skies
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2910 MB) / Game Card
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Nihilistic Software
Original MSRP: $35.99 (PSN) / $39.99 (Game Card)
ESRB Rating: M
Resistance: Burning Skies is exclusive to the PlayStation Vita.
The Game Card version was used for this review.

Following the initial invasion in Resistance 2, Burning Skies follows Fireman and member of the National Guard Tom Riley during the first days of the Chimeran invasion of the East Coast. As you work to get everyone evacuated, you meet-up with other military and volunteers working to defend New York City and get everyone evacuated. That’s about as far as I’ll go with the story, except to include that Tom’s wife and daughter need to be part of the evacuation, which is what motivates Tom’s actions in the first part of the game.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 270 of the podcast.

That thing on the right side of your Vita is a second analog stick! Yes, finally you get to play an FPS on a handheld the way it’s made to be played, with dual sticks. Overall, Burning Skies plays very well on the Vita, as the analog never gets too jumpy or suffers from the fact that your movement zone is much less than it would be on a Dual Shock. What you’ll have to work to get used to though, is the use of the touchscreen and rear touchpad.

The rear touchpad is only used for one thing, running. When you want to run, tap the rear pad twice and you start running. It may sound easy, and once you get used to it you’d be right. But the first few times though, you’ll probably be tapping in the wrong spot, which happened to me. I’m not sure if there’s only a certain zone, or if I was simply NOT hitting the touchpad.

Even more different though, is the liberal use of the touchscreen, which used in a couple of different ways. Mainly, you’ll use the touchscreen to in some way use the secondary fire of any of your weapons. For example, using the grenade launcher of the Carbine is performed by touching a spot on the screen (usually you’d want to place your finger on a group of enemies.) As with some other uses of the touchscreen, the game will actually slow down to compensate for the fact that your hand is not on a control stick, or even worse, the fire button (R1). Another use if to reload a secondary weapon like the crossbow that’s attached to your shotgun, or to lock on to multiple enemies with the rocket launcher, done by swiping across the screen over enemies on the screen. Using the touchscreen overall is a good experience, but in certain circumstances I just couldn’t be bothered. You also use it to throw grenades or hedgehogs, which works really well as again, you can simply drag one of them from the icon on the right side to any place on the screen to throw it right that the specific spot.

Many of the weapons that you’ll acquire (8 in total) will be very familiar to anyone that’s played a Resistance game in the past, but with a couple of new toys to play with. The most interesting is of course, the shotgun with a crossbow that fires napalm-arrows. Yeah, it’s a weird combination that can really pack a punch in a few different scenarios. The crossbow definitely helps in situations with a large amount of enemies, and also in some boss battles. But its slow reload definitely hinders your effectiveness in tight situations, which is why it’s nice that it’s lashed to a shotgun.

I did have a couple of issues with the controls though. While running, you can’t use another button at all. This became a pretty big issue during a segment where I had to escape from a building that was being locked-down via a series of huge doors, slowly closing to keep everything inside those sections so that everything could be burned-up from within. As you’re running from door-to-door, you’re not only trying to get through safely, but you’re also battling enemies that are trying to prevent you from getting out, and time is precious. The problem is that if you run to a door, you’ll have to hit the Circle button to duck, but you can’t do so unless you let-off of the left stick so that you stop running. The same goes for jumping. That’s right, you can’t jump while you’re running. This was the most frustrating limitation of the game, and it’s something that probably could’ve been easily avoided.

Also, because the analog sticks are so close to the screen, I did experience occasions that especially my left thumb would inadvertently touch the screen when I was holding right on the stick, which would set off a grenade or fire a Bullseye dart into a wall. It didn’t happen often, but it did happen. Another gripe i have is that things just felt “sloppy” on occasion. If you missed your target with the grenade launcher, nothing would happen at all, almost like you fired the grenade into a black hole. If you did hit your intended target, there was also just a lack of “oomph” as either the aural element was too quiet, or the resulting visuals just seemed weak.

I will say though, I was kind-of bored with the game in the first hour. It just didn’t seem to have any “soul,” but I found that after that, the game gets better. The story unfolds well, and after the “bridge” level, the game just seemed to improve overall in design and story. One new element added this time are these blue cubes that find littered across the game. When you pick one up, it can be used to upgrade any weapon that you have. Each weapon has 6 possible upgrades, but only 2 upgrades can be active at once. These include larger ammo clips, better explosions, faster time in and out of the scope, and even some specialized upgrades per weapon that can be quite useful. It’s a cool concept, and certain upgrades can be VERY effective in specific situations. One other thing that I need to mention that’s more of an annoyance than anything else, is the developers’ tendency to go to the cookie jar a bit too often referencing the fact that Tom Riley is a firefighter. 4 or 5 times throughout the game you’ll be tasked with finding someone that’s trapped by fire or can’t get out on their own, requiring you to pick that person up and carry them to safety. We get it, he’s a firefighter!

Overall though, the shooting is good, and gets better throughout the game. I did feel during some of the boss battles that what I needed to do was a bit vague, and required some trial & error before I figured it out. Also, one thing that carried-over from the other games in the series are some truly HUGE bosses, which translate wonderfully to the Vita.

Visually, Burning Skies is solid. It’s not the best looking game on the platform, but it also isn’t the worst by a long shot. Set pieces are well done, and the lighting throughout is quite impressive. There are some textures that were pretty unimpressive though, and since you can’t adjust the brightness or contrast, I did feel that a couple of sections were just a bit too dark for my liking (maybe that was intentional though.) The Chimeran designs are superb though, and the aforementioned bosses were amazingly designed and executed. It did seem at time though, to feel a bit “muddy” in terms of color use. When I say that though, it’s not about the color scheme or design, just that at times I had a hard time discerning between anything on the screen, be it the path I’m supposed to be on and objects/enemies. It didn’t happen often thankfully, but it’s pretty obvious that special care needs to be afforded when designing a game like this for a 5-inch screen.

Also of notice, it seemed like some of the character models were pretty simple when compared to the PS3 games. Now I understand that things need to be simplified a bit when making the move to a portable, but with Uncharted: Golden Abyss setting the standard, by comparison Burning Skies just doesn’t measure-up in consistency. Again though, mostly everything is good, but you’d experience the rare instance, which would just make it stand-out even more. On the good side though is everything else. Level design is good, especially in the later stages. A great example are the brutal melee attacks with your trusty Fireman’s Axe, as you split an enemy head open with a single strike or something even more brutal than that.

Unfortunately, this is definitely the weakest aspect of the game. I normally play the Vita without headphones, but I was essentially forced to with Burning Skies because, even at the highest volume, I could barely hear it through the speakers. With headphones the volume level was fine, but even then I was never wowed by what I heard. Voice acting is very good throughout though, and is the highlight here. Gun sounds were mostly thin and even “tinny” in a couple of occasions. My biggest complaint though, is the complete lack of sound with some grenade and other explosions. That really took me out of the action occasionally, but at the same time, just made the game feel unfinished or unrefined somewhat.

There’s some good environmental stuff there, and other sound effects are well done. Really what this does is point back to my previous statement of feeling inconsistent at times. In many instances the audio is great, but in others it was more jarring when something that you expected never happened. It doesn’t “break” the game, but it does affect the experience.

Burning Skies multiplayer supports up to 8-players in a match, over 3 different modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Survival. You’ll get full leaderboard support and be able to edit 3 different loadouts, unlocking weapons, upgrades, and character customization items along the way. The multiplayer is actually very good, with good shooting, great maps, and solid mechanics. We played for 3 hours and had a great time throughout. The action is fast, and connectivity was excellent. Chris (from PSN Stores) and I actually started a party so that we could talk amongst ourselves while we played, and the experience was on-par with other console online matches, just in a smaller package. Setting-up a game online is a breeze as well, and offers quite a few options. This is definitely a multiplayer implementation that can be considered part of the value of the game, and definitely offers enough action and variety to lengthen the life of the game you’ve bought.

When we had a conference call with most of our “PS Nation Staff” the other day, we discussed this game, and one of the first things I said was “you just know and feel that Insomniac didn’t make this game.” That’s not to say the game is bad, because it’s not, but it just doesn’t have that “soul” that the other games possess. The story takes a while to really get going, and the lack of audio punch can take you right out of the experience at times, but overall, this is still a good game. I do still recommend it, but just know that you’re not getting Resistance 3. I had a hard time sticking with this one at the early stages, but I’m now glad that I did, as the last half of the game is very satisfying. As I cryptically posted on Twitter yesterday, “it gets better.”


PS: This is a trophy hunter’s dream game. If you finish the game and play at least one match in multiplayer, you’ll probably have a Platinum if you take your time in the campaign. You don’t even have to play on the hardest difficulty to earn it

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Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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