Resistance: Burning Skies

First-person shooters don't really work on handhelds. Trust me: I've completed Ecks vs. Sever on the Game Boy Advance.

It's those claustrophobic screens and woeful controls. But that hasn't stopped shooters desperately trying to fit on any device you can stuff in your pocket, and the results haven't been pretty.

So, for that reason alone, Resistance: Burning Skies feels like an absolute revelation. With that monster screen and those bouncy mini-analogue sticks, blasting aliens as fireman Tom Riley is every bit as effortless as it would be on PlayStation 3.

Red sky at night, shepherd's delight

Well, with a few exceptions. Like every other Vita game under the Sony umbrella, Burning Skies is drowning in touchscreen nonsense. You open doors with taps, throw grenades with gestures, unleash secondary fires with prods, and run by caressing the console's ticklish back panel.

It does make up for the few buttons that the handheld is missing - only one shoulder button per side, and you can't click the sticks down - but it can result in fumbles, misfires, and hulking great thumbs across the screen.

There's also the slightly wonky cover system. Riley half-heartedly takes shelter behind boxes and walls when you rub up against them (unlike in, say, Uncharted, where Drake magnetically attaches himself to cover with a button press), meaning it's easy to fall off the edge and expose yourself to gunfire. It doesn't help that some random bits of scenery simply refuse to offer protection, too.

Red sky in morning, shepherd's warning

But those issues aside, Resistance offers up a good firefight. There are lots of different enemy types - zombies, climbers, snipers, brutes - and a huge arsenal of fun weapons with which to dispatch them - shotguns, rockets, and an otherworldly zapper that can blast through walls.

Every gun has a secondary fire that can be helpful or gleeful. The Bullseye can latch onto enemies and redirect bullets in mid-air. The shotgun doubles up as a napalm launcher. The mid-range rifle sends out a tiny touchscreen-controlled drone to do your bidding.

Individual scraps are fast, feisty, dynamic battles - you're constantly switching guns to deal with different enemies, and you're always on the move as Chimeran soldiers stream in from all sides. Ducking into cover, leaping out for a well-placed sniper shot, and finishing off the last baddy with a fire axe to the jugular all feels very satisfying.

As a whole, though, the campaign is pretty conventional fare, consisting of sortie after sortie, with nary a turret section or vehicle bit in between - just a few (aggravating) boss encounters to mix things up.

The whole thing can get pretty tiresome, and there's really only one path you can take through the game. Venturing off the beaten track will simply give you one of two rewards. Either a chunk of story-filled 'Intel' or a handy bit of impossible technology that can upgrade one of your guns.

Mincemeat and mash potatoes, shepherd's pie

Resistance's story mode is pretty standard. You blitz your way through scrappy one-on-many encounters, get stuck on the last boss for a bit, then collect your trophy.

But on Vita, Burning Skies gets something of a free pass. We're happy to slightly overlook its fussy boss fights and one-note gameplay for the sheer thrill of playing a fast, capable shooter on the go.

And the same goes for online multiplayer. There are issues: it's lacking in maps, can't take many players, doesn't have voice chat, and the spawn points can be downright ridiculous.

But it's a proper online shooter - lightning-fast, super-scrappy, and generally well-balanced - with classes and perks and teams and friends, all in the palm of your hand. It's hard to resist.

So, while Resistance: Burning Skies is not exactly an essential blaster by any measure, it is a fun excursion - both online and off - and it's something of a pioneering title for handheld shooters.

Resistance: Burning Skies

A conventional, by-the-numbers shooter that just about stands out for its enjoyable firefights, in both single and multiplayer, and for being the first handheld FPS to really work
Score
Mark Brown
Mark Brown
Mark Brown is editor at large of Pocket Gamer