And this is where we come to the central problem with Resistance: Burning Skies. While it’s great to see a shooter handled so competently by Vita, solid and competent is all it is. Enemy AI is sometimes patchy, mostly passable, but never all that challenging. The level design is uninspired. The encounters with the Chimera aren’t badly staged, but there’s no sense of tension and release, or of things building to any kind of crescendo. The boss battles, when they arrive, are dull, blast ‘em ‘til they fall affairs. There are great sections, but they appear sporadically. It’s not the kind of game that gets better as it goes on, more one with a handful of highlights sprinkled through.
It’s an entertaining game, and certainly not as dull and insipid as some of the more angry reviews out there might make out, but just not always that enthralling. In fact, it suffers from exactly the same criticisms as the original Resistance: Fall of Man when it appeared at the PS3’s launch. It’s a reasonable shooter that even a great weapon set can’t make that exciting, and that’s not really what we want on a brand new, powerhouse games machine.
Indeed, the parallels extend to the graphics.For the majority of the time, Resistance: Burning Skies looks like what you'd expect from a Vita game; a slightly less glossy version of a PS3 great. However, there are also times where shabby textures, glitches and boring architecture crash through the door and spoil the party. Where Uncharted: Golden Abyss came miraculously close to the visual quality of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, this one doesn’t quite hit the mark.
All this makes Resistance: Burning Skies difficult to fully recommend, but there is one more point in its favour: multiplayer. Again, the options are solid rather than spectacular, but eight-player deathmatch and team deathmatch are reasonably gripping, and there’s a nice twist on the formula – survivor mode – which pits a large team of humans against a smaller group of chimera, but each time a human is killed they join the chimera side.
There’s a levelling system and a selection of achievements, and you can pick and customise your loadouts just as you might in a console FPS. Our biggest complaint is that the increased pace of multiplayer makes any touchscreen-operated weapons virtually useless. Pause to tap the screen and you’ll be dead before you know it.
A little disappointing, then? Well, yes, but worth a look if you need proof that handheld FPS games can work. It’s just a shame that Resistance: Burning Skies leaves us wanting and waiting for something with a little more vigour and imagination, because it makes it clear that Vita would be an excellent platform for a Killzone, a Call of Duty or, indeed, a great Resistance. It’s just that this one isn’t it.
Resistance: Burning Skies is the first handheld FPS to get all the basics right, with tight, intuitive analogue controls, mostly decent graphics and good multiplayer options. Sadly, then it struggles with the other elements, with patchy AI, level design and pacing. In many ways it’s still the best handheld FPS out there, but it wouldn’t take an awful lot to take the title.