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Resistance - Burning Skies review: Hot air


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Sony hears you, loud and clear. You want to play a proper first-person shooter on the go, with real controls and everything – none of that virtual thumbpad shit. Well, Resistance: Burning Skies is certainly that. It's a recognizable part of Sony's sci-fi franchise, which sees 20th-century history diverted and converted by a snarling platoon of alien origin, and it counts as a traditional shooter that takes advantage of the Vita's twin directional sticks. Consider those goals dutifully met yet not exceeded, and realize that Nihilistic's spin-off is worth discussing only for that context, not its content.

Burning Skies is supposed to represent the worst day in a New York fireman's life, but its gauntlet of peril barely registers as lukewarm. As Tom Riley, you join the military's panicked push back against the Chimeran invasion, and eventually juggle an entire wheel's worth of alien weaponry. Firing them doesn't convey much kick or fury, and the impeccable presentation and orchestrated encounters of Resistance 3 are missing here, but at least the franchise's playful variety in offense is preserved.

Moving and aiming with the Vita's shallow sticks takes some practice and finesse (and a few trips to the options screen), but soon enough you'll find that headshots are well within reach. However, the lack of fine-tuning via the accelerometer, used to great effect in Uncharted: Golden Abyss, is odd – especially when considered alongside some of the other Vita gimmicks you have to caress and couldn't care less about.

Touching the screen to open doors is only the start of the game's irritating, look-at-me touchscreen features. While bullets and weapons can be collected simply by running over them, you have to stop, look down and tap an icon to gather weapon upgrades. Touching is also entwined with your gun's alternate fire, usually requiring you to forgo aiming or moving in a firefight while you poke at something. Tagging an enemy with the Bullseye's homing marker, which lets you easily fire at quick-moving enemies or around corners, can only be done by touching your target. The worst offender is probably in deploying the Auger rifle's shield. You place two fingers (usually thumbs) on the screen, together, and then drag them apart horizontally as if you're opening an adorable, annoying little coin purse. It's a poor gesture to perform, and a downright rude one to receive from the developer.

Even the weapon upgrade system, which should be a simple matter of selecting things from a menu, becomes a weird, eye-rolling process of spinning a cube around to find a symbol that corresponds with your choice of augmentation. The only source of entertainment from all this comes from the laughable cutscene explaining it: Your colleague in resisting, Ellie, picks up a glowing block from the back of a truck, immediately knows to slam it against her rifle (thus popping in a grenade launcher), and carries on as if that isn't the most jarring and bizarre thing ever.

Ellie, as it turns out, has other suspicious and clearly supernatural talents. If she's feeling protective of you, she can transform into an immovable object – usually in a narrow corridor or stairway – and save you from progressing into another deadly shootout. Better yet, she can beat you to an important location by teleporting, or by traversing mysterious paths where none visibly exist. If you ever see her going left when you go right, you'll usually discover that her path is a cul-de-sac.

Resistance: Burning Skies is unflinching in its linearity, and rarely makes an effort to obscure its tunnels. This isn't about being linear in general – it is linear in a granular fashion, and almost never allows for interesting encounters, flanking opportunities or agency when moving between bits of cover. Levels all feel constrictive, and the dour color palette doesn't help the dull nature of its locations. The start-to-sewer time is awfully short on this one.

Go ahead and append tiresome, circle-strafe-to-win bosses, unskippable cutscenes, forgettable multiplayer modes and questionable checkpoints (enjoy walking through a long, twisting corridor every time the final monster smashes you!) to the list of complaints. It's like being in a box-ticking race with Nihilistic. They're hitting everything that would make this a portable first-person shooter – factually – while you check everything that makes it a poor shooter in general.

Resistance: Burning Skies elicits leniency because all of its accomplishments are cupped in your hands, but those accomplishments are so few in number that they're not worth picking up in the first place. The Vita can and will do better than this hot lump of coal.

This review is based on the downloadable version of Resistance: Burning Skies, provided by Sony.

Joystiq's review scores are based on a scale of whether the game in question is worth your time -- a five-star being a definitive "yes," and a one-star being a definitive "no." Read here for more information on our ratings guidelines.

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