In a world obsessed with firsts, it's nice to have a milestone that doesn't call attention to being one. "Resistance: Burning Skies," quietly competent, keeping its head down, does such a good job, you don't think about how the job has never been done before.
Perhaps credit for the success of "Burning Skies," as the first real first-person shooter to appear on a hand-held gaming system, should go to the hand-held system it appears on. Previously, game developers were stuck with the direction-pad setup of the Game Boy Advance, limiting their ambitions to "Doom" clones like "Dark Arena."
Now, with the two joysticks flanking the screen of Sony's hand-held Vita, "Burning Skies" can mimic the interface of modern console shooters, with the left joystick moving your character and the other used for aiming. In a testament to the Vita's design, "Burning Skies" takes no getting used to; it immediately feels like its big brothers on the PlayStation 3.
Controls aside, "Burning Skies" is perhaps the weakest entry in this underappreciated series. Amid the compelling alternate history of the "Resistance" universe, in which World War II is pre-empted by an alien invasion, "Burning Skies" manages to tell an aimless, pointless story that lingers on "disturbing" scenes meant for shock value.
|'Resistance: Burning Skies'|
|» System: Vita|
|» Price: $39.99|
|» Rating: 4 out of 5 stars|
The gameplay, too, doesn't live up to the standard set in "Resistance 3." The series' devotion to giving you fun weapons, above all, is as strong as ever, but "Burning Skies" drops the ball on the other side of the equation: taking damage. Rather than forcing you to find medical kits to restore your health, a la "Resistance 3," the game reverts to the system of automatically regenerating health. The former system may be old-fashioned, but it makes for a much more intense experience if you can't just hide behind a crate every time you get in trouble, only to have full health a few seconds later.
Any disappointment with the some of the decisions made in crafting the single-player experience are soon forgotten when you play online. "Resistance" marks another first: deathmatches, and all the other modes you expect from modern shooters, beamed to your hand-held system, with no strings (or wires) attached. One story up from my apartment's Wi-Fi router, I played with friends and strangers around the world with hardly any lag.
"Burning Skies" isn't the definitive "Resistance" game, but it's a great achievement -- and the rare achievement that cares as much about entertaining you as earning your admiration.