Resistance heroes are normally battle-hardened soldiers, but in Burning Skies you play as a New York City firefighter who finds himself caught up in the Chimera invasion. Not that it makes any difference. He can still wield alien weaponry and inexplicably survive being repeatedly shot with lasers. His only distinction is that he has an axe.
Insomniac are busy making co-op shooter Overstrike, so Resistance's Vita debut has been handed over to another developer: Nihilistic, the team behind PlayStation Move Heroes. It does everything the PS3 version does - shooting through walls with the Auger, bending bullets around corners with the Bullseye - but it lacks spectacle.
The first two Resistance games had a palpable sense of scale, making you feel like you were part of some huge global war. The third game was dark, tense, and atmospheric. In comparison, Burning Skies is woefully flat and uninspiring.
The levels we played were disappointingly tight and linear, riddled with illusion-shattering barriers (rubble, upturned cars) to keep us fenced in. Occasionally the action would open up into a larger area and give us some tactical freedom, but these moments were rare. In the first boss battle, we couldn't figure out whether we were actually damaging the huge Chimera lumbering towards us. There was no feedback at all as we peppered it with bullets. It didn't even flinch.
In its favour, the touch controls are well implemented. One of the new weapons, a combination of a shotgun and a crossbow, can be reloaded by dragging your finger across the screen and pulling back its strings. Icons to the immediate left of the face buttons give you quick access to your axe and grenades, making up for the console's lack of L2 and R2 buttons. Tapping on the screen opens doors and interacts with certain objects.
With its two sticks, Vita is perfect for first-person shooters. Mechanically, Burning Skies feels just like playing a 'proper' FPS on a console. But we can't help but feel that it doesn't have the raw power to do Resistance justice; a series famous for its big set-pieces and rich atmosphere.
We did only play the first few levels, though. Hopefully later stages are more ambitious and push Vita's hardware a little more. Nihilistic have done a superb job translating the core combat to Vita, and playing a twin-stick shooter on a handheld console is a real treat, but a lack of polish, flair, and scale is holding it back from greatness.