(This is where the Main Theme would go. Nobody has it on Youtube. Fancy that.)
Taking control over yet another new protagonist in the Resistance series, (which is admittedly appropriate for what amounts to a side-story) Players find themselves controlling a New York Firefighter named Tom Riley who responds to seeing abominations wielding high-tech rifles like anyone else would - by slamming an axe into the first alien face he finds and turning said rifle against the hoards. Snark and badassery of the statement aside, that is....almost pretty much literally how the game begins. Riley with two of his fellow firemen spot a fire starting at the local power plant and respond. Upon arriving, Riley instructs his men to grab the CO2 tanks while grabbing the trusty fire axe himself to smash in the doors - a mechanic that seems silly to include when you realize that 98% of the doors you will encounter in the game cannot be smashed down with an axe. Not even because they are metal or anything, just, they're Silent Hill doors - there for the express purpose of being there.
The First segment of the game entails you being swiftly removed from your teammates by an inexplicably weak floor and then running around while looking for the fire that needs fighting (spoiler: you do not fight fires) and your fellow men. Upon finding one, he is swiftly jumped by a Chimeran and while they struggle, Riley gets there just in time to kill the Chimera -after- he kills the firefighter with abnormally bad senses. This is where the game teaches you that you can use your axe as a melee attack, and this is also the first of many, many, many times when the game simply fails to make Riley feel like a character whatsoever. Sure, he checks if his friend is alive, but he then picks up the Bullseye rifle and knows how to use it despite being a simple Firefighter. Have you even -seen- a Bullseye rifle? Because this is -not- something anyone, especially in the 50s, is going to be able to pick up and just -know- how to use without some sort of coaching and/or fumbling with it, all of which can simply be taken care of in a half-minute cutscene or something. Hell, even a bit of monologue going "The....-hell- is this?" would've sufficed. But, much like the rest of the game, it simply assumes that you are not new to this whole FPS thing and as such, doesn't treat you like it, simply taking you through the bulk of things without a worry.
Well, there is -one- thing that transpires whenever you acquire a new weapon for the first time. You will get a brief description and such that will inform you how to use the secondary fire of the weapon and then, assuming you simply can't read and learn, it will show you a short grainy "classic-style" video showing off the actual usage of the secondary effect. Because "Tap the enemy to tag them", "Swipe the screen to load a crossbow bolt" and "tap where you want a grenade to fire" (among others) is....apparently hard to get across in so many words that you need a 10-second video showing you just how to do it. I would've much rather had a refresher on the fact that shooting the Chimeran tanks on their backs causes them to overheat and explode, or, uh, again, simply Riley being a character instead of a glorified avatar of shooting everything in sight with no real input or anything.
Of course, that isn't to say that Riley does -nothing- but shoot during the game, as he does in fact have some dialogue and development through the story. The problem is simply that it is too little stretched too far with little to no context for the most of it. At the barest bones of the framework of Burning Skies, the game is about Riley looking for his family so he can grab them and get the -hell- out. Where? Who knows. Riley will figure that out when he finds them. Or...rather, when he finds them and there aren't Chimera nearby to kill, in said case, he will simply tell them to run away, thus splitting with them yet again despite completing his main objective. It's fairly jarring to realize that half the game is playing catch-up with a woman and a young girl despite having access to an armory in your backpack and a pretty good sense on how to get around despite everything being blown to hell and back However, I can at least say that it stays consistent within the narrative of the game and there is a payoff towards the end, but telling just what kind would be a really big spoiler clearly.
So where you can obviously see that the game falls flat in terms of narrative and story and character and development and all that, the exact opposite is to be said for the gameplay portion of the game. Burning Skies (I am trying -really hard- not to abbreviate it as BS, because that's too far) is a fully-realized handheld First-Person-Shooter, and this is exactly the kind of confirmation you want in your new system which touts that it will be able to do just that. It's not perfect in a sense, because I got really tired of touching a precise spot on the right side of the screen to axe a Chimera in the face and similarly accidentally touched the touch screen quite a few times, causing my Carbine Rifle to needlessly launch a grenade usually right in my face, but those are minor gripes that could easily be fixed by being a little wiser with how you map controls. However, moving, aiming, firing and the like all work as they should, meaning that when it comes to the 'big boy' FPS games that will come around (assuming Declassified will see at least a decent port job and Bioshock for Vita still happens, etc. etc.), you can expect the real deal. Of course, you all know that I enjoy the Resistance series and the previous statement might lead to thinking that I do not consider Resistance as a 'big boy' series, but I do....I just, again, don't really count Burning Skies in.
When telling of the game to someone else, I came across the realization that I just didn't think Burning Skies felt like a Resistance game. I can't put my finger on just why, because certainly you have the same type of arsenal (with Resistance 1's Weapon wheel eeeee~), you're fighting against the Chimera, and the aesthetic is really similar. I don't remember the first two Resistance games being -overly- cinematic, though certainly Burning Skies clear lack of real narrative might lend it to feeling like it could be any game. Perhaps that's it, that I simply feel you could take the bulk of the game, switch out the enemies with a different type, change the setting and you would have an entirely different game by virtue of it having nothing to even remotely connect it to the franchise. The story can more or less remain untouched - a firefighter fights to rescue his family in the midst of a(n) alien invasion, zombie assault, etc. and the game ensues while changing in the proper nouns here and there. Maybe that's a little over-simplistic and/or could be applied to any 'good' game, but I think you get what I'm trying to put down.
Something else you might notice is the complete lack of screenshots in the post. Generally, I like to break up the wall of text with pictures of the game so that you might be brought in a bit easier. However, the reason this review doesn't have any screenshots is for the simple fact that the Screenshot function is disabled for the game. Why? I don't know. It's frustrating to high-hell because, honestly, some parts of the game look -good- and I would love to show them off, as well as show off perhaps some of the weapons or something else, and some people might like to screenshot their screens at the end of a particularly good multiplayer match. Yet there is...well....no way to do so. And while I could do as I do with other games and grab from IGN, I'm specifically not doing that because A) I am entirely too lazy to do that right now and B) I shouldn't -have- to, which is the point I'm illustrating. There is, from what I can see, no reason why the Screenshot feature, something some of us enjoy a lot, can't be used with the game, so for similar reasons (I.E. No good reason) I will simply not post screenshots. Sucks, but there it is.
Something else that bugs me about the fast-tracking of the narrative throughout the entire game is the way the game shows off the upgrade system, which is possibly one of the silliest, dumbest things I've seen in two weeks, and this is coming from a guy who is currently reading the SomethingAwful Xenogears Let's Play by The Dark ID and just got past the part where the furry pink mascot character grew 50 feet tall and kicked the shit out of a similarly gigantic robot. I'm sorry if you absolutely abhor spoilers, but this part of the game is something that I am going to spoil for you because there is no tactful way to get around doing it otherwise and this is something that needs said. At a certain point in the game, Riley, along with Ellie Martinez, Riley's somewhat love-interest in the game (yes he is married, who cares apparently) come across a truck that has a crate of strange grey cubes in it. Holding it around her gun, Ellie has a straight-up Knife+Gun=KnifeGun moment and slams the cube against her Carbine rifle which adds a bigger Grenade Launcher and a scope to it and no, I don't know what the hell. Handing that rifle to her buddy Mac, she retrieves two more cubes, tosses Riley one (where you then receive the upgrading tutorial) and similarly upgrades her own Carbine.
I just don't know. I mean, granted, there is a whole bunch of weird alien shit around (including weird aliens everywhere) and there is likely weirder things afoot by virtue of that alone, but the pure Idiot Savant feel of the moment knocks it out of the park in the believability factor. On top of that, that isn't -even- how the Grey Tech works. As in, that is straight up false advertisement up ins because one piece of Grey Tech can only add -one- upgrade to a weapon (and I would assume the manner in which Ellie and Mac's rifles were updated were by adding a scope and increasing grenade damage, not like they use either) and the way the animation has it work is that it kind of breaks into paper-thin slices of...blue...laser....things and then summarily disappears. Granted, this is in the upgrade menu but you can -clearly- see where I am coming from here. I don't think I have to really say much more on that subject. Because I think I have sufficiently expressed my moment of sighing and rubbing my forehead with these two paragraphs.
Despite....that....and the overall weak structure to the narrative, it is at least there in a token effort, perhaps even a little more, and -does- get better towards the end (in fact, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they made the ending sequences first) to the point where it does start to get genuinely good in that. Not fantastic, it's not going to win any story awards, nor even get in the running, but it gets -better-, which is something to attach to at least. And as I said, the actual gameplay portion of the game is quite solid, definitely carrying the game. To add to that, the actual weapons in it are by and large fantastic, with the Mule (literally a double barrel shotgun whose secondary attack is to launch a napalm arrow from the crossbow set-up attached to the top of it) being one of the better weapons period in recent memory. So it's not that the game is -bad-, nor should we focus on the negative points as I believe I may have, but the game doesn't brain you again and again with the fact, nor even the idea that it is great, so it's hard to say that it is.
- The Controls are solid - Burning Skies is most definitely a First-Person Shooter with no corners cut gameplay-wise
- The selection of weapons are fantastic
- Seriously did you read above? A shotgun with a napalm crossbow attached
- The story bits, characterization and such get better towards the end
- By virtue of being a good FPS game in gameplay mechanics, it's enjoyable to play, even leisurely
- Knocking faces (and heads) off with the Fireaxe is incredibly satisfying
- Doesn't necessarily feel like a Resistance Game
- Story is poor as is the overall structuring
- The Final Boss fight is -awful-
- That Grey Tech scene
- Ellie, on top of being an idiot savant, can teleport around like a partner character from two decades ago
- No Screenshot feature
- Multiplayer requires you to fiddle with your router and such, thus suggesting the MP is not suggested for, uh, mobile play
Mogs SaysThe big question surrounding Burning Skies is "Is it worth $40?" to which I have to answer that question -with- a question. Do you want a comprehensive FPS experience on your Vita (and/or proof-of-concept that it is totally possible) without pesky story or the like getting in the way? Or do you want an actual, tangible part of the Resistance series? If the answer is the former, then yes, probably, and definitely catch it if you see it for less out there. However, if you're looking for the latter, an actual Resistance game on the go, then I have to say that I think you're out of luck. Not that it isn't a decent to good game, just that it is really not a Resistance game, no matter what the enemies and weapons say. Just why that is, I can't pin down, but I assure you that's what I think.