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Portable shooters aren’t anything that we haven’t seen before, they just haven’t ever taken off the ground, having to cling to face button controls or gimmicky touch screen controls for aiming. But with the Vita, a full on FPS experience now seems possible thanks to the systems two analog sticks, ideal for shooters.
But since Insomniac has abandoned development on the Resistance franchise in favor of pursuing other interests with multi-platform games, Sony left Nihilistic Software the tools with which they hoped could finally cure those who want their shooters on the go. Burning Skies is a decent first step in the right direction, but I was left with that burning sensation by the end of the game that it could have been better.
A poorly constructed story
Burning Skies isn’t a continuation or prequel even to the story that Insomniac has gowned together, but brings us a new hero in the form of a fireman trying to save his family from the invading Chimera. The invasion of the last bastion of humanity in the world has begun and the Vita adaptation depicts the fight for survival on the Eastern coast of the United States.
The game begins with you and your fire team rescuing those caught up in a burning building. Things quickly escalate out of control however when the Chimera choose this exact time to invade. But besides the fact that you can wield a deadly fire ax as a melee weapon throughout the game, Nihilistic did nothing to correlate back to the fireman aspect of Tom Riley. We learn nothing else about Tom’s past.
The story traverses across six chapters, taking players across the Big Apple to places like Ellis Island and the George Washington Bridge as you try to battle back the invading creatures to whence they came from. Though the scope isn’t as large as the game’s console brethren, the adventure is a fun one that quickly pulled me in, yet left me hanging in the sense that little was ever explained to me about who I was, or why the Army had abandoned us, and so on.
The yah’s and nah’s of Resistance 3 are back
As with Resistance 3, the troublesome AI has managed to find its way back into the game, rendering single player an easy run through on any difficulty level. On some occasions I was impressed by the way the AI had managed to flank me in the heat of the battle. It may had just been my lack of sense to where my enemies were, but I had to admit I was a bit impressed when the faulty AI had managed to get the best of me on a few occasions.
But just when you think there may have been signs of improvement on Nihilistic’s part, the AI proves you wrong when you get to walk straight up to a Chimera and literally stare at him while he frantically turns from side to side to find you. As humorous as it may be to see, it tends to get annoying after a while. Especially when you manage to get gunned down by an enemy looking in the opposite direction.
But as in any case, the gunplay feels remarkably solid for a single player game, but as I’ve experienced with practically every Vita game I’ve laid my hands on, the controls feel stiff. Nothing feels as fluid and seamless as they do on the consoles.
Whether it was just laziness on Nihilistic’s part or simply a struggle to figure out how to fine tune the precarious analog sticks on the Vita I don’t know, but it definitely tends to aggravate you until you get used to them.
And over the course of the campaign, you’ll get to collect both the many fan favorite weapons found in past Resistance games, such as the Carbine and Bullseye and Auger weapons, but you’ll also discover new weapons that have never made their way into the games of the past such as my personal favorite, the Mule, a crossbow-like shotgun that can fire napalm arrows thanks to a nifty attachment.
You can also upgrade these weapons with little glowing cubes that you’ll find hidden throughout the levels of the game none as gray tech. Upgrades can be anything from faster reload times to increased ammo capacity or better scopes.
Perhaps one of the better gameplay features was that Nihilistic never forced players into using silly little forced Vita mechanics such as the ones found in Assassin’s Creed Liberation or Uncharted where you have to hold you Vita up to a bright light to carry out something. The game only uses those extra mechanics when needed to not clutter up the limited amount of face buttons on the Vita.
For example, tapping the touch screen will trigger your weapon’s secondary firing mechanism or tapping the back touch screen will turn “sprint” on and off.
Shoot em’ up multiplayer on the go
If you’re a fan of the many multiplayer modes found on most of the console shooters in games like Call of Duty, you’ll be right at home with the ones Nihilistic brought to the game, the three modes being deathmatch, team deathmatch, and Infected (a survival like mode).
All of the game modes are playable across the game’s six maps, but none of the matches will be as exciting as they’re on your console. The mode almost feels unfinished if you ask me, especially since multiplayer is devoid of any kind of sound besides the gunfire and grenade explosions caused by other players off in the distance.
It just feels different. A weird kind of different. And again, the stiff, rather clunky controls don’t really help matters either. The XP reward system is no different from the one you’re probably already used to in any other shooter as well, so there is nothing exciting is this department either.
Resistance: Burning Skies isn’t a failure, but the game isn’t really a big success either. The game seems lost in the middle, not sure what to make of itself. The visuals don’t seem as fine tuned as they could be like they’re in Uncharted, the multiplayer doesn’t feel finished, the controls take getting used to, and the single player campaign isn’t as robust as it could have been.
But as long as you don’t have any high expectations besides fun going into the game, Burning Skies is the best on the go shooter available the Vita can offer right now.
Replay Value: Moderate