Video Game Review: ‘Resistance: Burning Skies’ Expands Hit Franchise to PlayStation Vita

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CHICAGO – The “Resistance” franchise never gets enough respect. 2011’s third chapter was one of the most underrated games of last year and critics already seem to be picking apart the Vita debut of the series, “Resistance: Burning Skies.” Yes, there are flaws, but this game, more than any other to date, fully illustrates the potential of this machine and what it could mean to the gaming landscape. It’s the first Vita title that I feel like everyone should play. It’s a bit glitchy, the storytelling is disappointingly thin, and the campaign is short, but the game also fully incorporates Vita technology into gameplay in a more seamless way than any other title to date. And it’s just fun. Video Game Rating: 4.0/5.0
Video Game Rating: 4.0/5.0

Taking place between “Resistance: Fall of Man” and “Resistance 2,” “Resistance: Burning Skies” casts you as Tom Reilly, an NYC firefighter on the frontline of the Chimera invasion. At first, Tom is just doing his selfless job, saving colleagues and innocents from alien destruction. Then it gets personal. The Chimera grab his wife and daughter and Tom has to fight his way through six chapters to save them. And, yes, here’s the first thing on which you could pin this game as a disappointment — it should be twice as long. Six chapters, about six hours (although the final chapter is one of the most difficult in “Resistance” history). So, you should know that you’re not getting a big campaign before you open your wallet. It definitely should be twice as long.

Resistance: Burning Skies
Resistance: Burning Skies
Photo credit: Sony

And if it were twice as long, perhaps the storytelling would be stronger. While some of the mechanics of being a fearless firefighter are fun (and I’ll get to those later), the fact is that Tom Reilly is not an engaging character and you don’t meet many others along the way. The developers of “Burning Skies” clearly focused on action but we’re in an age where the best games merge alien destruction with human stories in which we have at least a bit of emotional investment. As “Burning Skies” was reaching its obvious climax, I realized that the storytelling had let me down.

Resistance: Burning Skies
Resistance: Burning Skies
Photo credit: Sony

What “Burning Skies” lacks in character, it makes up for with complete carnage. Many of the weapons that “Resistance” fans have come to adore in the three console games have been imported here and their secondary functions have been enhanced with Vita functionality. For each of the weapons secondary functions, you have to use the touch screen. Want to tag an enemy with the Bullseye? Just do so with your finger. Launch a grenade from the Carbine. Shoot a drone from the Hunter. Tag targets for your S.W.A.R.M. Missile Launcher. It’s an amazingly clever and intuitive system. Some might argue that it’s overly complicated but I found it remarkably easy to use.

The touch screen isn’t just for secondary functions. You can tap on an icon to initiate your fireman’s axe for melee. You can drag a grenade icon to throw one. And you can tap on the back touch screen to run. Far more than any Vita game to date, I found these touch screen uses to be easy to incorporate into my style of gameplay. Whereas “Uncharted: Golden Abyss” often felt like it stopped the action to say, “Look what the Vita can do,” I found the Vita’s unique nature more seamlessly incorporated here than in any original game to date (although the upcoming “Gravity Rush” has some fun with it and the recent upgrades to “Resistance: Burning Skies” were pretty nifty).

Visually, “Burning Skies” is a mixed bag. Some of the environments are disappointingly thin and the game is not the best title to use to show off the true visual power of this machine.

Resistance: Burning Skies
Resistance: Burning Skies
Photo credit: Sony

The game comes with a mediocre multiplayer offering of three game types — Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Survival. On day one, I found plenty of people to play with but I did get kicked off the serves quite frequently. Small 4-on-4 matches may take some getting used to for players currently multiplayer jonesing over “Max Payne 3” or still woefully addicted to “Call of Duty.” The multiplayer here should not be a main reason for purchase. It’s a fun addition that I’m sure I’ll explore but it’s such a pared down version of modern multiplayer games that I find it hard to believe that those addicted to Deathmatch on a console will find it satisfactory.

If it sounds like I’m being critical — weak storytelling, average graphics, short length, mediocre multiplayer — it’s only because I want to make sure you know what to expect from “Resistance: Burning Skies.” You know those big Summer blockbusters that some might call popcorn entertainment? The best of them are streamlined experiences — get in, entertain, get out. There’s usually not a lot of storytelling but the abundance of wham-bang action makes up for it. “Resistance: Falling Skies” is the video game equivalent. And, especially given the time of year, when we want to turn our brains off and just enjoy the ride, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“Resistance: Burning Skies” was developed by Nihilistic and released by Sony on May 29, 2012, exclusively for the PlayStation Vita. content director Brian Tallerico

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