Publishers: Sony Computer Entertainment
There's always a new console launch, and there's always a retro-flavoured shooter to be found. BioSHMUP Infinite! It rings true for last generation at least -- in Geometry Wars and Super Stardust HD we had two arcade shooters for the Xbox 360 and PS3 respectively that did a fine job of introducing those consoles to players in simple, addictive, competitive fashion, and in a manner that wouldn't break the bank. So often we find that it's the smaller titles that release at a console's launch that far outstrip the larger marquee games grabbing all of the headlines.
Of course, with an exclusive launch lineup that's slightly lacking in terms of quantity, the PS4's smaller titles and F2P offerings are coming to the fore. But, with regard to Resogun at least, costing nothing if you're a PS Plus subscriber (and why the hell wouldn't you be a PS Plus subscriber?!), that's no bad thing.
Housemarque have history here -- they are, after all, the ones who lit up the PSN with the aforementioned Super Stardust HD -- and they've turned in another astonishingly beautiful, accessible-yet-challenging SHMUP. The action unfolds on a cylindrical plane, with Housemarque channelling the spirit of Defender, and flinging foes at you from left and right. The controls are simple and easy to grasp, and though you can only fire left and right, mapping the fire option to the right stick rather than a button allows you to at least fire in the opposite direction to the one in which you're flying. This will prove essential.
Resogun is not a game of dodging bullet hell blips by the skin of your teeth. Instead, the game throws barrages of increasingly complex enemy formations at you and attempts to fry your eyeballs with visual ecstasy. You can blast your way through the levels rather merrily on Rookie, delighting in the explosions of thousands of tiny voxels, and neon-hued fireworks that fill the screen and dazzle the senses. But up the difficulty level and Resogun becomes a game of supreme multitasking, where you're constantly trying to think two moves ahead, where death is inevitable, and where success can only come from learning when enemies appear and how best to take them down.
It just so happens that the best way to prepare your ship -- and there are three to choose from: one with a beastly special laser, one all-rounder, and one with a ridiculous level of agility and manoeuverability -- is to follow the instructions yelled at you at the start of each level. SAVE THE HUMANS! the game screams, without telling you how. The conceit of Resogun is that you're trying to liberate the last remaining stranded colonists from a bunch of mining outposts that have come under attack from alien forces. Of course, the plot is completely undercooked and totally irrelevant, but it points out two crucial things: there are humans to save and enemies to blast away.
However, each human is trapped in a small cell and must be freed before rescue. After dying more often than I care to remember and yelling What do you want from me?! at the screen several times, I finally realised that when my DualShock 4 shrieked "Keepers detected!" it meant that a bunch of subtly green-glowing ships were about to arrive, and that I needed to finish off every last one before my people could be released. Succeed and a beam of green light will shoot down from the heavens and free a human, whereupon you have to race around, pick him up, and deposit him in one of two ascension beams. Do so and you'll nab yourself an extra life or bomb or heap of points.
Bombs are enormously useful, essentially obliterating everything on the map and giving you the chance for a brief breather before more enemies begin spawning in. Overdrive is even more useful at times, and is a refillable charge that is fuelled by picking up the clouds of green voxels lefts behind by enemy craft. Activating it slows down time and allows you to unleash a barrage of immensely powerful energy, which can come in very handy against the bosses that the game throws at you at the end of each chapter. Rescuing the humans is completely optional, but failing to do so means you won't possibly hit the heights that your peers have on the leaderboards, and you won't have access to the essential, meagre supply of upgrades and freebies that could mean the difference between a successful run and an epic fail.
And the game doesn't make it easy. One minute everything will be fine, and the next there'll be ground-based turrets vomiting fireballs at you, hordes of weak fighters that aren't much cop on their own but can be pesky in large numbers, and you'll get boxed in by squid-like ships that can withstand an infuriatingly large amount of damage, just as your controller blares KEEPERS DETECTED! Of course, the human up for release is on the other side of the map, you have no bombs left, and you're completely pinned down. HUMAN LOST! Noooooooooooooo!!!!! The dull, metallic tone of the computer's voice is reminiscent of the voice in Command & Conquer (just replace "human" for "unit"), with an unmistakable slight hint of accusation: it's your fault. And so you try again.
A glorious experience Resogun might be, but it's not without its flaws. It's beautiful to behold, but sometimes the visual stimuli can go a little overboard in terms of the ridiculous explosions and repeated flashes. That being said, nearly all of the levels, barring the final one, look almost identical, which is a little disappointing for a game that continually cries look at me! and relies heavily on dazzling aesthetics. Moreover, for a game that costs more than a tenner, Resogun proves to be an incredibly brief experience. There are five levels out of the box, so to speak, with three phases and a boss for each, and a handful of difficulty settings, some leaderboards, and that's your lot. It's a game that inspires replayability, to be sure, but only really if you're concerned with upping your score and climbing up the rankings. It's a perfect platform base to which Housemarque and Sony can add content, but for £12-13 it seems a little sparse. Seriously, I want to love it, and I do keep dipping into it now and again, but there are only five levels. FIVE! FOR TWELVE POUNDS! Where's the rest of the game?! I think back to the release of Sine Mora last year, and that game was ridiculously fiendish, bast*rd hard, but managed to have multiple modes, exceptional production values, a crazy storyline, and a really cool time mechanic at its heart.
I'm not saying Resogun isn't worth your time and money, not at all. This is a glorious game to behold, and a delight to play. Working up through the difficulty levels is supremely rewarding, if you go in for that sort of thing. For hardcore SHMUP fans, Resogun will provide a distinct, unique challenge on the toughest settings, offering up a worthy benchmark to test and better oneself against time and time again. By those niche standards, Housemarque have made what is probably the best game in the PS4 launch lineup. That being said, it's still difficult to shake off that feeling of wanting more.
- It's stunningly pretty
- Excellently balanced gameplay
- Good enemy variety
- Frenetic multitasking is brilliant
- Great fun with a friend
- It's the only SHMUP on PS4
- Inexcusable level banality
- Bosses seem a little uninspired
- It's over in five levels
The Short Version: Stood against the best SHMUPs of this passing generation, it's not necessarily as special as it seems, helped along by being the first and only current game of its kind on the PS4. But it's a great little PS Plus pack-in for new adopters, and will no doubt please genre fans immensely on the harder difficulty settings with a purity of purpose and execution that makes for a deliciously balanced and focused slice of SHMUP action.