Demo Impressions: Resistance: Burning Skies, and Gravity Rush

This is a first, internet. I’m giving demo impressions for games with reviews that are readily available. As such, we are going to be double upping on today’s impressions. Today we are going to be looking at Gravity Rush and Resistance: Burning Skies, both for the Playstation Vita. Resistance has the honour of being the first twin stick first person shooter on a handheld ever, while Gravity Rush has been the new IP to watch since the Vita launched. As mentioned, both games have been reviewed by many sites and publications, so these demo impressions will not be done in a vacuum. As it stands, Gravity Rush has a very impressive 87 on Metacritic, while Resistance: Burning Skies has an unfortunately low 58. Assuming that these reviews are accurate, I can say that the demos are not indicative of the quality of either game.

The power of photoshop!

The Resistance series has always been on a rocky foundation. Even the first one was endlessly compared to Gears of War, and its generic premise was enough to turn many gamers off. However, Insomniac was able to inject just enough personality into the game in order to gain a loyal following and warrant a series. Resistance 3 was released last year and stands, in my opinion, as, not only the best game of the series, but easily one of the better first person shooters made this generation. Aside from the main series, Resistance has dabbled in the handheld arena before with Resistance: Retribution. This was a game with typical terrible PSP controls, due in large part to the lack of a second analogue stick, but it was very well received by critics, standing at 81 on Metacritic. The reason I give you this background is to point out that Resistance: Burning Skies does not exist on its own. It has the expectations of an entire series behind it.

This game is better than Burning Skies even with the controls.

When it comes to the demo, things actually are pretty good. The controls are spot-on, and it is clear how much can be done in the genre with the second stick. All weapons’ secondary firing modes (A staple of the series), are activated using the touch screen, and they all work really well. Grenades and a quick melee attack are also activated by the touch screen, and the use of grenades is of particular note. When you drag the grenade icon over to a place, time will slow down and you will lob a grenade over to the place you dragged the icon to. This time slow makes it a lot easier to be tactical with your grenades and is a welcome improvement. Aside from the touch screen controls, all of the other controls and functions are industry standard, and require no explanation. One big step back from Resistance 3 is that this game relies on regenerating health, which is not only lazy, but also flies in the face of Resistance cannon.

Could be from any game in the series which is good, or boring.

In truth there isn’t much to hate in the Resistance: Burning Skies demo, but after consulting with the reviews, it is easy to see where things can and do unwind a little bit. The story and characterization apparently take a big hit; however, this is the series that brought us Nathan Hale, so I don’t know how big of an expectation people had for this one. Another major complaint is a lack of soul. I understand this. Many first person shooters struggle to pull themselves away from the pack of equally identical shooters. It seems Burning Skies’ only real claim to fame is its handheld nature, and this can be seen in the demo. While the controls work well, the environments are bland, as is the presentation. If there isn’t anything to hook a player to the game, then it will be doomed to obscurity.

Yeah, these story segments are really cheap looking.

When it comes down to it. The demo of Burning Skies presents to us a very competent first person shooter, with all of the bells and whistles one expects in today’s climate. However, is it enough to be purely competent, especially when you are part of a series that is known for its charm and off the wall weapons (Ignore Resistance 2)? Truthfully, I would hesitantly say yes. The same way that the demo has to be put in context via reviews and history, it is also important to remember that Burning Skies is the first of its kind, and nailing the controls was the first priority. Burning Skies won’t be winning any awards, but from the sheer quality of its control scheme, I question the 58 rating.

The Crossbow/Shotgun is fun enough to bump it up to 59 at least.

Now we move on to Gravity Rush, which experiences the opposite problem that Burning Skies faced. The demo isn’t really good at all. You are put into the shoes of Kat, who has a magic… cat, who allows her to control gravity. Gravity Rush is a new IP and is a game that countless gamers have been pointing to as the first big game to buy for the Vita after the launch titles. The story seems to take a classic comic book style superhero story and inject it with Japanese craziness and, more importantly, charm. The style and presentation of this game, particularly in the trailer that follows the completion of the demo, is extremely reminiscent of the work of famed director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, or more recently, Ponyo), which is most certainly a good thing.

Am I the only one who thinks this reeks of Studio Ghibli?

The problem with the demo comes in the form of the gameplay. You have two attacks: kicking and gravity kicking. In order to damage an enemy you have to strike their orbs, which is standard weakness-based combat. The problem is with gravity kicking. It doesn’t leave you vulnerable at all and is slow and boring to use. That is the issue, the combat works, but is boring, which is the last thing you want from a video game. On the other hand, being a demo, it is not clear if combat will remain so limited; however, reviews do seem to be more negative on that side of the game, so maybe it doesn’t ever improve.

Ignoring the crotch-shots, kicking gets old a little fast.

What really should hook gamers on Gravity Rush is its story and presentation. Sure the main premise involves amnesia, which is extremely overdone, but the story is told very well. There are comic book panel style cutscenes that work extremely well and set a lighthearted, fun tone, which should help the game immensely. Truthfully, the best part of the demo was the trailer at the end, which showed what this game could be far more than the demo even tried to. This is where Gravity Rush’s demo really differs from Burning Skies. You could see some really good ideas in Gravity Rush if you looked hard enough, but these points are not easy to see at first blush.

This static image does it no justice. It is really cool in motion.

Gravity Rush has the makings of a good game, but it doesn’t seem like it is accomplishing that feat with its gameplay. Instead, it seems to rely on charm and design to win the day, which fewer and fewer games are doing. In the end, I appreciate the choice, and, while the demo certainly doesn’t indicate that the game will be good, it is clear from the 87 on Metacritic that there is plenty to love about this game after the demo ends.

Kat burglar costume… get it?

Today we looked at two game demos that couldn’t be more different. Resistance: Burning Skies shone on the strength of its gameplay, but lacked a certain charm, which apparently becomes more and more pronounced as the game developers. On the other hand, Gravity Rush falls down on the gameplay department and relies on its charm to capture the hearts of gamers. If I was only going by the demo, I would be very positive on Burning Skies and fairly luke warm on Gravity Rush; however, with the availability of reviews, I am willing to give Gravity Rush quite a benefit of the doubt here, while Burning Skies probably does fall down as the game develops. As it stands, I personally don’t think either game will be a bad buy. Even if Burning Skies is bland, it is still the first of its kind, and fans of the genre should appreciate this.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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