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Hands on with the PlayStation Vita title, Resistance: Burning Skies

I am a huge fan of the Resistance series. I love the setting, the tone, the gameplay, and I’ve been especially impressed with the creative and lush looking levels that Insomniac Games have developed. It all just works for me. So needless to say, I have had my eye on the upcoming Resistance: Burning Skies . I also have a bit of hesitance regarding it as well.

The upcoming game will be based on existing Resistance designs and gameplay mechanics, but it won’t be developed by Insomniac. Instead, that duty falls to Nihilistic Software, a developer that has had a varied existence, developing a wide variety of genres, from the PlayStation Move-centric game, PlayStation Move Heroes, to 2007’s Conan (both of which met with mixed reviews). The developer has done some good work, but nothing in the vein of Resistance–plus the game will be developed for an entirely new piece of hardware.  

Still, this should feel somewhat familiar to hardcore Resistance fans. The series had a similar spin-off for the PSP, titled Resistance: Retribution, which followed a British Royal Marine named James Grayson. That game turned out fairly well under SCE Bend Studio, so here’s to hoping for the best.

At CES last week, I had the chance to go hands-on with an early build of Resistance: Burning Skies. It is not a launch title, and doesn’t even have a release date other than 2012, but there was enough of a demo to get a general idea of what to expect.

The game is a separate story in the Resistance universe and follows a new character named Tom Riley, a firefighter caught in the middle of the Chimera invasion of New York. But beyond the different name and plot (and an axe that will be available as a melee weapon), Riley isn’t all that different from the other series protagonists, Nathan Hale, Joseph Capelli, and even James Grayson—at least in terms of gameplay. The story is still tightly under wraps, so we’ll have to wait to see how Riley plays out.

The gameplay mechanics feel similar to the PSP game, as well as Resistance 3, but with a few tweaks. The cover mechanic will play a vital role in surviving, as will the huge selection of weapons–the weapons wheel returns, as does the alternative fire feature on each of the weapons. Fans of the series will immediately recognize most of the human and Chimera weaponry, but there will be a few new additions as well.

The touchscreen will be fairly heavily integrated. To throw a grenade you hit the location on the screen that you want to toss an explosive, and it responds. Oddly, the melee button is also on the touchscreen—which sort of makes sense because melee is something you use less than other buttons, but when you use it, you typically use it as a reaction to an attack and need to hit it immediately. Taking your finger off the buttons to hit it can feel awkward.

The alt-fire is also tied into the touchscreen, which takes some getting used to. With some weapons it may end up being better than a button press, but on most it may feel a bit like a forced integration of the touchscreen. It is also tough to move the analog stick to aim while you are pressing the touchscreen, as there is not counterbalance to the system and you have to change the way you normally hold the device.  

The graphics look fine, but not particularly impressive—about on par with mid-generation PS2 graphics. The sound is spot on though, and the design of the levels seems to be in keeping with the Resistance theme of turning the world on its head. The demo only showed a small section, but watching the fall of New York—if done right—could be an incredible experience.

In general, despite some hesitation about the integration of the touchscreen, I felt right at home with the gameplay mechanics. The Chimera enemies were as tough as ever, and the weapons felt responsive, accurate, and balanced.

There are still months (at least) until Resistance: Burning Skies is released, but the early build is looking good for the most part. The touchscreen feels a bit forced, but that could change as the game is polished. The graphics are also a bit less than some of the other upcoming Vita games, but again, it is not the final version and that could change. Even if it doesn’t, the graphics aren’t bad. The scope of the game is also looking good, and the levels should show offer that same theme of an overwhelming alien invasion.

It still has a ways to go, but Resistance: Burning Skies has a lot of potential—which is good, since it will definitely receive a lot of scrutiny as one of the PS3’s premier franchises moves to the Vita’s first year lineup. Expect to hear a lot more about this game after the Vita has been released.