Resistance: Burning Skies hands-on preview

Since it was first announced for the PS Vita back in January, Resistance: Burning Skies has been something of a mystery to us. All we really knew was that it would be a spinoff, and that it was being developed by Nihilistic, the studio behind 2007’s Conan, Marvel Nemesis and PlayStation Move Heroes. And while that’s not the most promising track record, any fears about Burning Skies’ quality were put to rest after a brief hands-on with its slick-looking demo.

Set just before the events of Resistance 2, Burning Skies stars New York firefighter Tom Riley – and as a firefighter, he gets to swing an axe as his default weapon. After using it to cut down and stealth-kill a few Leapers and Hybrids, though, we got our hands on a new assault rifle – called the Cluster Fire Gun – and the axe simply became Riley’s default melee attack, which we could bust out at any time by tapping an onscreen button.

As we blasted through squads of Hybrids and floating drones, scrambling across rooftops in an effort to make it to the underground Ellis Island base during the Chimeran invasion of New York City, we learned that touchscreen controls factor into Burning Skies’ gameplay pretty heavily. Aside from swinging the axe, we used them to fire off each weapon’s alternate function – which in the CFG’s case was a volley of grenades that homed in on multiple targets, which we “painted” with touchscreen taps before pulling the trigger. The touchscreen’s also used to hurl grenades, by dragging our fingers from an onscreen icon to whatever thing we want to blow up.

While there’s a lot that’s new in Burning Skies, it was nice to see a couple of old things return – specifically the weapon-wheel interface (which let us carry more than two guns), and the Carbine, which, in addition to comfortable assault-rifle fire, gave us the ability to fire grenades just by tapping on where we wanted them to land. Also back was the Wraith minigun, which didn’t have an alternate-fire mode in the demo – which was fine, because it pumped out lead more than quickly enough to mow down whatever was in front of us.

It also gave us a chance to see how upgrades work in Burning Skies. Over the course of the game, Riley will find chunks of Chimeran “Gray Tech,” which can be applied to firearm improvements – in this case, an add-on that made the minigun even more formidable, letting us easily charge through interloping squads of Hybrids once we were in the base – at least, until a really huge one busted in and ended the demo on a dramatic-cliffhanger note.

Our time with Burning Skies wasn’t anything earth-shattering, but it did show a surprising amount of promise. The visuals, while not quite approaching PS3 levels, are sharp, the action was fast and brutal, and the mere presence of dual thumbsticks made it one of the most comfortable, natural-feeling shooters we’ve played on a handheld in a long time. Whether that’ll translate to a must-have when its nebulous 2012 release rolls around remains to be seen, but so far it looks like Nihilistic is doing a decent job of filling Insomniac’s shoes.

Sep 6, 2011

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