Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Resistance: Burning Skies

Note: This review contains spoilers for Resistance: Burning Skies and other Resistance games.

When the PlayStation 3 and Vita digital storefront closures were announced, one Vita game that went on my radar was Resistance: Burning Skies, developed by Nihilistic Software and the final game in the Resistance franchise. I was originally going to buy the game digitally due to the higher aftermarket price on physical copies, however the later announced backpedaling on the store closures took some pressure off me. I would eventually buy a physical copy of the game anyway, however I was motivated to do so after finding a sealed copy in the wild, in part because I previously bought a physical copy of Resistance: Retribution, knowing I’d be paying a little over the MSRP of a digital version. While I did find the game worth playing, I’m not completely sure if the price was worth it.

One month after the events of Resistance: Fall of Man, the Chimera have been making their way towards America. Due to lack of interference from the American government, the American people made preparations on their own, however when the Chimera arrived, it wasn’t enough. While tending to a fire in New York, firefighter Tom Riley finds himself getting caught in the Chimera conflict, having to save his crew from both the invasion and the fire. While making his way to an evacuation zone, he has to let his family go without him, joining the army in fending off the Chimera as he seeks to reunite with his loved ones.

Since other games in the series explore the American side of the Chimera conflict, I think this game presents an interesting scenario, exploring the invasion from the perspective of an average person and how they might respond to the conflict. Making the main character Tom Riley a firefighter ties into this as well, giving him some combat prowess with a fire axe despite lacking a military background. However, the story feels a little short with fewer chapters than the average Resistance game, even though said chapters are now longer and feature autosave to allow playing in chunks. Because of this, while the “everyman” premise of the game opens up a lot of storytelling potential, it doesn’t feel fully taken advantage of. There is, however, the traditional collectible intel that expands on the events of the game, mixing perspectives from both other civilians and the military.

Exploring the civilian point of view is a great idea with somewhat
lackluster execution.

Due to the PS Vita possessing two thumbsticks rather than one, the core gameplay is similar to that of Insomniac’s Resistance trilogy, including a first-person perspective, regenerating health and the ability to jump. Sprinting is an option, which can be activated by either pressing Down on the D-Pad or by double-tapping the PS Vita’s rear touch pad, though it only lasts for a short burst. Additionally, thanks to the second stick freeing up button options, the cover mechanics are more advanced than in Resistance: Retribution, including the option to toggle cover with the Circle button.

The Weapon Wheel also makes a return and is accessed by holding Triangle, navigated by standard controls or the touch screen. The touch screen is also used to the fullest during gameplay, primarily for the secondary fire mechanics of each weapon, though this also includes environmental interactions, picking up intel and throwing grenades. To throw grenades, of which there are two types, you can either drag their respective icon across the screen to where you want to throw it OR tap the icon to fire in the current direction of your reticle, though either way you need to take the throwing arc of the grenade into account in tight spaces. Additionally, you start off with the fire axe as a melee weapon, for which you can tap its icon to swing at enemies for a melee kill or smash breakable obstacles to either advance the plot or get to a hidden area.

One new feature for this game is collectible Gray Matter, which encourages searching every nook and cranny of a level and can be used to upgrade your weapons with various perks, such as increased clip capacity, lighter weight and faster reload times, among other things. However, you may only have up to two upgrades (one red, one blue) active for each weapon at a time, which lends itself to strategy based on upgrade availability and personal preference. The upgrade menu is accessed by tapping the center of the Weapon Wheel, though you can also jump straight to it by pressing Select.

Similar to Resistance 3, which came out months prior to Burning Skies, the game experiments with the concept of human enemies to fight in addition to the Chimera, though rather than rebellious prisoners, said enemies are scientists who are starting to be turned, thus making them difficult to deal with even on Easy. Tom Riley’s occupation as a firefighter is also incorporated decently into gameplay, however it seems like a lot more could have been done with the idea rather than a few mandatory uses of the fire axe and the occasional fire rescue.

I will also mention that, as of this writing, Burning Skies is the only Resistance game whose multiplayer servers are still active despite the developer shutting down, however I was unable to explore this feature due to lacking an Online Pass. It’s also worth mentioning that the game contains a single Multiplayer Trophy, that being to complete a single round, so once the servers finally shut down, the Platinum Trophy for this game will no longer be obtainable.

Due to being on more powerful handheld hardware, the visuals are a step up from Retribution, with a generally brighter color palette and a more realistic art style when compared to the more stylized approach to Resistance 3. The new Chimera types also fit in well with the art direction and ammo types are clearly distinguishable from each other. That said, there were a couple very noticeable glitches from my experience, including one where Ellie’s gun does not leave her hand during a cutscene. Another weird one occurred where, while having to rescue someone from a plane crash, a chunk of the plane was invisible, creating an invisible barrier that prevented me from approaching the situation from the opposite end despite it looking like I could, only for the rest of the plane to suddenly pop into existence after the rescue had already been completed, which confused me further.

The visuals on PS Vita are more technically impressive than the PSP.

Overall, Resistance: Burning Skies is a decent handheld experience that takes advantage of the PS Vita’s hardware in interesting ways, however it doesn’t do enough with some of its ideas and leads said ideas to fall shy of their full potential. Those looking to complete their Resistance experience might consider picking this up if they can get it at a somewhat reasonable price, otherwise those looking for a good Resistance experience on the go should honestly consider Resistance: Retribution on PSP/Vita instead.

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