Ever since the PS Vita was unveiled in January, the handheld’s dual analog sticks have promised a proper first-person shooter experience on the go. The reveal of Resistance: Burning Skies at PlayStation’s gamescom press conference showed that the future of portable shooters will be bright from the outset.
Immediately after the conference ended, I met up with Rob Heubner from developer Nihilistic, who detailed some of what we can expect from the Vita’s first FPS foray. The next morning, Huebner and producer Frank Simon presented an extended play-by-play for international media.
Huebner said the studio’s core mission was to create a ”no-compromises experience with all the elements you’d expect from a Resistance game.” The Burning Skies demo fit neatly into the Resistance universe, but brought significant new features that evolved the game’s interactivity. As mentioned in the press conference, you’ll battle new Chimeran enemies with new weapons, all through the eyes of protagonist Tom Riley — a New York City fire fighter.
Burning Skies takes place right before Resistance 2, filling in the lost years and giving players a ground-eye view of the day the Chimera came to NYC. Huebner and Simon guided us through Ellis Island, which in the game’s alternate universe isn’t a tourist trap but a SRPA research facility. The base is under attack by the Chimera, who are dead-set on recovering something of interest. A weapon, perhaps?
A playthrough of the demo revealed a few surprises in that realm. I quickly got my hands on a Chimeran weapon referred to as the CFG (cluster fire gun). This weapon discharged short bursts of brittle ordnance that shatter on impact, a great tool for attacking soft targets such as tender Chimeran flesh. The CFG has an alt-fire mode, a Resistance staple. The manner in which it’s deployed, however, is PS Vita-only. A quick tap of the screen sets crosshairs on multiple enemies. Press fire, and they all fall in rapid succession.
This touch alt-fire method extended to the more familiar Carbine rifle. To fire off the underbarrel grenade launcher, merely touch in the direction you want to lob one, and off it goes in a fragmentational ‘splosion. Tossing a grenade works in similar fashion: When you touch the screen, an icon appears above your finger so you can see how long you’re cooking the grenade, then a “throwing” motion arcs them on their way.
The touch-sensitive screen also takes on the melee duties. An icon of a fireman’s axe (naturally) resides on-screen, just next to the Square button. Slide your thumb over when a Chimera closes in too close, and it’ll quickly be reduced to a pile of extraterrestrial giblets. Demo driver Frank Simon landed a one-hit stealth kill on an unsuspecting grunt as well.
The developers also demonstrated the weapon wheel, a feature near and dear to any Resistance fan’s heart. You can swap guns as you’re used to on the console games, or just tap the rifle you’re looking for directly on-screen.
It might sound like there’s a lot of touchscreen interaction in the game, but Nihilistic is being selective with its implementation. Heubner says they’ll only take advantage of “as many features of the PS Vita that make sense” for Burning Skies. Touch is used to keep you in the action and out of the menus.
The final new-to-Resistance feature is a first-person cover system, not unlike that found in the Killzone series. If you’re crouching behind certain structures, you’ll automatically go into cover. You’ve got the optional of tilting the Vita to see over or around cover, or you can just aim down the sights the old-fashioned way with L1. If you stand up or back away, you’re out of cover – no getting stuck.
It should be said that Resistance: Burning Skies is an attractive shooter. “We don’t have to compromise on the visual side just because it’s a mobile platform,” said Heubner. “It’s got all the special effects you’d expect on a PS3 game. And the game demo was presented seamlessly from beginning to end – not a loading screen to be found.
Back to the demo. Now equipped with a minigun, Riley ventured deep into the Ellis Island underground facility where human scientists labor to reverse engineer the Chimeran weapons. Fortunately, they left an an ammo upgrade for the minigun, which made it even more deadly.
And you’ll need all the firepower you can muster, because Resistance: Burning Skies throws a lot at you. The devs showed off the horsepower of Vita by filling a huge room with hordes of Chimeran attackers of multiple varieties. After raining liquid hot death on the enemies (and their reinforcements), the real threat reveals itself: a huge Chimera that loomed three times larger than most you’ve seen… and apparently, it’s just a mini-boss.
The demo ended there, but it not before making it clear that Resistance: Burning Skies is well on its way to delivering on the promise of becoming the first proper portable first-person shooter.