Resistance: Burning Skies protagonist Tom Riley is having a rough day. He awakes at Ellis Island to find himself alone in a stretcher, an IV still embedded in his forearm, while a massive alien attack wages on all around him. Other than his handy fire axe and helmet, Riley's ill-equipped to take on enemies, nonetheless a swarm of Chimera who are hellbent on recovering their stolen technology from the human resistance.

But this is a game, after all, so I pilot Tom towards the nearest exit -- a planked up doorway which looks ripe for the axing. Success! I couldn't help but notice in my exploration of Resistance: Burning Skies' opening room that the game looks much improved over the series' previous portable spinoff on PSP. Textures are more detailed, colors are more varied, and environmental effects actually exist. While the game is certainly early (Chimeran faces resemble little more than goofy flat paper masks at the moment), it showed a lot of promise. And maybe more importantly, it demonstrated to me that the PlayStation Vita's twin analog sticks are more than sufficient at delivering shooters on the portable. After axing my way out of the initial chamber, I sneak around a corner and pounce on a Chimeran guard who evidently hadn't heard me loudly axing through a wall of wood, Jack Nicholson-style, just moments earlier. With a swift animation, the guard now has an axe embedded in his neck and I'm grabbing his gun, en route to outside where, from the sound of things, a massive battle is taking place.

Unsurprisingly, a handful more Chimera are waiting for me outside, which is used as a showpiece for teaching me how to hide behind cover and pop up to take out the toothy bad dudes. On-screen indicators that show up just before the battle also note a couple of touch-based options I have with the front screen -- I can quickly press two separate virtual buttons at any time, one for my axe and one for grenades.

Interestingly, grenades are thrown by dragging your thumb from the lower right virtual button to anywhere on screen you'd like. Rather than covering what you'd like to throw the grenade at with your thumb, however, an icon just above your finger shows where the grenade will head when you let go, which I found to be an elegant solution to a regularly frustrating iOS control issue.

As I watched a Nihilistic rep push through another few rounds of various Chimeran creatures (crawlers and soldiers and what have you) the day prior in a presentation, he explained that the aliens were set on retrieving their tech from Ellis Island, thus the battle. The resistance was putting up a solid fight and no aliens had gotten in yet, he explained. Then, after pushing through another wave of enemies, he arrived at an open door, which lead to an open elevator shaft. If these are the "serious defenses" set up by the American resistance in Burning Skies, I'd hate to see what they consider light security (perhaps a welcome mat?).

It wasn't a surprise then when the big "twist" in the level was that -- gasp! -- the Chimera have already somehow gotten to the bottom of Ellis Island and are already kinda sorta recovering their stuff. Before they could take it for real, however, Tim instead uses it to power up his chain gun (recovered on the way to the basement). And it's not long before he's gotta use that gun to take care of business, as a gaping hole in the next room is allowing the largest number of Chimera so far to come streaming in. After disposing of said alien foes, an unnamed soldier enters to let Riley know all is safe. And then, mid-speech, he's gutted by another, yet larger alien beast. Demo over!

While filled with obvious cliches in the story delivery department, Resistance: Burning Skies felt solid. The addition of actual analog sticks to the Vita shines in the case of Burning Skies, where previous shooters on Sony's prior portable fell short for me. Sure, it's rough around the edges still (it's early in development, I was told) and the story could use either more cheese or less -- it takes itself just a bit too seriously, unfortunately -- but there was plenty of promise in what I played of Resistance: Burning Skies at Gamescom.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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