Seeing as the end of May is upon us, Nihilistic Software has finally brought Resistance: Burning Skies. Does it live up to the series’ potential or is it a watered down experience?
Resistance: Burning Skies, despite being the 5th entry in the franchise, takes place in between Resistance: Fall of Man andResistance 2. You control Tom Riley, an average fire fighter that seemingly has serious combat skills. The opening starts off promising enough, with a firetruck ride along an innocent city street and gives off the impression of a character focused story.
It is not. I haven’t played Resistance: Retribution, but the story is certainly the weakest in the series when stacked up to the three console installments. It seems quite difficult for the spark of the original’s story to be recaptured. Even Insomniac themselves haven’t created as compelling of a story as in the first. The second and third games, while developed by Insomniac, felt completely alien in the execution of their plots and dialogue.
The original was predominantly told through narration by a British soldier with whom Nathan Hale had contact with at a point in the game. Her narration added a crucial human element to it. The narrator sounded a bit distraught from what she experienced in the war against the chimera.
It’s quite difficult explaining the charm of it all, but anyone that has played Resistance: Fall of Man would hopefully agree. The well written narration enraptured me and kept me interested in the story of Nathan Hale and the downfall of humanity. The second game removed the narration and the third game brought it back, but it wasn’t up to snuff with the original and it was still mostly told through traditional cut scenes.
Burning Skies brings back the narration as the preeminent force for delivering the plot. The downside is that Nihilistic’s writing skills are not on the level I had hoped. None of the narrative sequences throughout had me caring about anything. The game also tries to focus on Tom Riley’ s character and his relationship to his wife and daughter, but much to my chagrin Nihilistic yet again has a blunder here.
I didn’t care for my character and this supposed emotional connection I was supposed to have was nonexistent. I had hopes in the early few minutes of the game that they would succeed on that front, but it all dissipated once the game really started.
With the disappointing story presentation in mind, perhaps the gameplay is worthy of the Resistance moniker. The answer is a half yes and a half no. The basic gameplay remains intact. It still has the same focus on inventive weaponry with secondary fire. You still fight the beloved, putrid, rancid chimeran beasts. It has the basic framework down, but it yet again falls short in an analogous manner to the handling of the story.
The combat feels fairly good, but further refinements feel like they should have been made to the shooting mechanics. A lot of the old standby weapons make a re-appearance in this game along with new weapons. The game throws eight weapons at you total. The returning weapons include the Bullseye, Carbine, and Auger. The remaining five are either all new or variations on older weapons.
The Mauler is essentially the Wraith from Resistance 2 without the shield as a secondary fire. This weapons secndary fire instead blows off a concussive, heat filled blast. The mule is a hybrid shotgun-cross bow combination with the shotgun being the primary fire and incendiary arrows being the secondary fire. The Sw.A.R.M. Launcher is a basic lock-on rocket launcher, while the Hunter is a burst fire energy gun able to deploy a controllable drone for shocking enemies. The final weapon in this varied arsenal is the Sixeye. This ostensibly humdrum sniper rifle can fire off a tag that the player is allowed to detonate at their leisure.
The game keeps the weapon wheel ofResistance 1 and 3 while simultaneously making use of the regenerative health system of Resistance 2. This is much to my displeasure because not only do I prefer the heath pack system, but it also at least made sense within the context of Resistance 2‘s story. In that game, Nathan Hale was infected by the Chimeran Virus so his metabolic rate grew to such an extreme that he regenerates wounds. In Resistance 3, the main character is an average man whom never comes into contact with the virus.
The touch screen and and rear touch pad were put into use to replace the Vita’s inherent lack of L2, R2, and clickable analog sticks. All secondary fire for weapons will involve the touch screen. Firing grenades can be done one of two ways. Either hold the grenade icon and drag it to the desired location(at which point time slows down allowing ample time to use it) or tap it and it will be thrown towards the direction of the reticle. You also must melee and open doors by pressing an icon on the screen. The melee feels a bit awkward initially, but you soon become accustomed to it. Sprinting can also be activated by double tapping the rear touch pad.Purists can opt for pressing down on the D-pad for the same effect but I actually found the rear touch pad implementation superior. Pressing the D-pad requires moving your thumb away from the left analog stick, whereas using the rear touch pad is no detriment to your game whatsoever. This greatly helps in heated situations.
Overall, Resistance: Burning Skies has a nice variety of creative weaponry to remove a little tedium from the uninspired, boring, and uneventful level designs(How often is a Resistance game going to end with a last stand in a Chimeran ship or base?). The console Resistance games did an admirable job at conveying war ravaged environments invaded by other worldly creatures. They may not have been the best, butResistance always had the undubitable atmosphere of normal war torn environments.
I believe it is due to the graphics. While the graphics are decent for the Vita, they are nothing special. The weapon models certainly are impressive as are the shaders. Everything else from the lighting, to the textures, to the character models, to the gore, to the explosive effects is watered down. Normally, this would be perfectly viable, but with Uncharted: Golden Abyss being comparable to Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, there is no way this shouldn’t be comparable to Resistance or Resistance 2 considering how much more technically proficient Uncharted is than the Resistance series.
There have also been well formulated approximations of war on weaker hardware then the PSVita so I am baffled by why the environments seem so empty and lifeless. Is it a byproduct of poor art design or perhaps the lack of tiny details?
A neat idea is the implementation of a gray tech upgrading system. Scattered around the levels are pieces of gray tech. In an attempt to differentiate itself from Insomniac’s games, the gray tech is what is used to upgrade weapons as opposed to the invisible experience of Resistance 3′s single player. There are a total of six upgrades for each weapon and the upgrades are separated into to branches. Only two slots are allowed to be active at any time; one from each branch.
This was a cool concept and forced you to pick and choose the advantages you want. In Resistance 3, each weapon could be leveled up three times and each level up would add something new on top of the previous upgrade. This made weapons very powerful towards the end. That is not quite the case here. It’s also a nice touch to be able to see the upgrades as visual modifications on your weapon.
A cover system was implemented. This was absent in the console versions, but present in the PSP game, Retribution. The system works simply and well enough. Move the analog stick up to a surface and automatically take cover. You also have the ability to lean to the left and right of cover. It works, but there are spots that it acts very finicky and even some spots that seem prime for cover do not allow to do so.
With all that it gets right in the combat department, it falters in terms of polish. I already touched upon the lackluster story, unremarkable environments, and run of the mill level design. These are signs of bad game design, but the game also exhibits symptoms of a low budget, almost unfinished game.
The aforementioned narrated cut scenes are done over two dimensional imagery. Its pixelation and compression artifacts make them seem rather unprofessional and less impactful. The voice acting that I failed to mention earlier is done well for the most part with no particular standouts, but I noticed moments in which a character I was beside battle with was shouting stuff at me and the character model stood still with lips refusing to make any movements.
How could this have slipped by Nihilistic Software or Sony? Speaking NPC’s without moving lips? That is ancient. Another problem is I came across moments where my NPC buddy would teleport in front of me through a door or other obstacle. The AI is also quite stupid They never mimic the intelligence you come to expect. Enemies no doubt stand still shooting to give you time to do one of either two things.
The AI is either giving you the chance to use the touch screen for secondary fire of weapons or line up good shots. You must understand that the Vita’s analog sticks are not very accurate. They are quite loose and lack the degree of finesse required for fine, precise movement offered by console analog sticks.
Other Vita shooters in the past have found ways to get around this semi-major crutch of the system.Uncharted: Golden Abyss allowed for finer aiming to aid the stick with the gyro sensor while Unit 13 used pretty major aim assist. Resistance: Burning Skies contains neither of these. In spite of that, shooting feels better than in both those games, but it is also made less eventful thanks to the butchered AI. I even encountered cases of the ever so pulchritudinous Chimera running endlessly into walls.
The sound design gives off the same lack of polish. It’s almost putrid. The sound mixing is completely off. Sound effects often over power quiet, muffled voices. Guns sound like weak, under powered toys and the sound effects of ambiance is lacking. The game is also short. Consisting of only six levels, the average gamer should burst through this in under six hours.
After the Short, unpolished,but sweet single player campaign, you can wade through multiplayer. Unfortunately as of the time of this writing, the servers are completely useless. I was able to get into one public match after several tries and since then have failed to get into matches again. Every time I logged onto public matchmaking, I got a connection error.
With that in mind, the only way to experience multiplayer is through party matchmaking, allowing you to join a match your friend has created that he can choose to make public or private. Fret not for you still earn experience in party matches. That is the biggest point of contention, though.
At this point, it is essentially impossible to play multiplayer unless you are able to find a good group of 2-8 friends to face off against in team deathmatch, deathmatch, or survival(a mode in which human players face off against chimera. The winner is the remaining human player). Even this is more difficult than it should be because there is an odd glitch that makes the party matchmaking option dissipate. It can sometimes be fixed by quitting the game and starting it back up, but not always.
The matches I were able to play with my friends though were an unequivocal blast. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. You start off level 1 with three pre-made load outs and as you level up are allowed to edit your load outs. This 8 player multiplayer is bare bones in comparison to Resistance 2 and 3, but still impresses on a handheld which typically has less than stellar multiplayer.
This is actually my favorite multiplayer of the franchise. The simplicity allows for the game to be much more balanced than any of the console games. Resistance had far too little health to be about skill. It was about seeing someone first. Resistance 2 also had far too little health and the weapons mixed with the 60 player count lead to chaotic, unbalanced affairs. Resistance 3 decreased the player count to 16 and made major balance tweaks such as relegating certain over powered weapons to kill streak rewards.
Resistance: Burning Skies has a fair amount of health and removes the perks of the second and third games, while still retaining a leveling up system with customizable load outs. This is arguably the best competitive multiplayer in the series to date and it’s so sad to see it lacerated by major server issues.
Resistance: Burning Skies had the makings of a great game possible to live up to the potential of Insomniac’s efforts. The basic gameplay and framework is very good. The problem is it’s being held back mostly by a lack of polish. If it had only been polished to “perfection”, this would be a no brainer. As it stands though, I can only recommend this to hardcore Resistance fans that will be blind to polish issues. Nihilistic will likely never fix the single player, but once the multiplayer is fixed, if it happens to be any time soon, feel free to add half a star to the over all score.
EDIT: As of May 31, 2012, the multiplayer servers have been fixed and in lieu of this I have increased the score to a 70%