Resogun (PS3/Vita) – An Admirable Downgrade (Review)

With each new console generation it’s pretty much a given that a certain few titles will arise early on that, while certainly fun in their own right, are more or less designed purely to show off what the new hardware can do. What isn’t so normal is for one of these kinds of games to much later be backported to the previous generation, and even rarer is seeing a handheld even get in on the action. But as of December 23, that’s exactly what’s happened with Resogun, the flashy arcade shoot ‘em up from Finnish indie developer studio Housemarque. Even better, it’s a participant in Sony’s cross-buy program too, meaning if you already own the game on the Playstation 4, you already own the new PS3 and Vita versions too, available to download at your convenience. But is a scaled-back next-gen game really worth your time and hard disk space, or your $15 if you’re a complete newcomer to the title?

Counting Pixels

Resogun on the PS4 was all about HD graphics, particles, and particle physics. Pixel-like voxel shards fly off enemies in spades as you defeat them, bouncing around on other objects in the game before settling in somewhere along the floor and piling up over the duration of a single mission. While the effect may not add anything to Resogun’s actual gameplay, it just wouldn’t feel like Resogun without them. Well, the team at Housemarque has done a decent job maintaining this effect on the much lower-powered PS3 and Playstation Vita, reducing the number of particles and causing them to simply fly off-screen instead of collect along the floor, but to anyone familiar with the original implementation of the game, Resogun on these platforms might feel just a tiny bit empty.

That’s sort of descriptive of the entire experience: the core gameplay has been faithfully maintained, but clearly at a cost. The 30 FPS framerate of the new ports is certainly consistent, but feels choppy compared to the 60 FPS original, particularly on the Playstation Vita, which also suffers from menus that feel more than a little blurry running in a sub-HD resolution. The PS3 version fares much better than its handheld smaller brother, but in any case, if you’re still holding out on a PS4, you won’t exactly feel like next-gen has come to you. That’s not to imply last-gen Resogun is unplayable—far from it—but it’s also not as quality an experience as it would’ve been had the game been made for the PS3 and Vita in the first place. It’s the sort of thing where if you haven’t played the original you won’t know what you’re missing. But if you do, taking that step back can be kind of jarring. It’s not just the particle effects and screen resolution—in many ways Resogun has been visually simplified, and while it may not technically detract from the gameplay, it most certainly detracts from the experience.

Like the Classics…But Different

Noticeably scaled-back graphics aside, Resogun on PS3 and Vita remains mostly the same modern spin on classic arcade titles everyone fell in love with on the PS4. While the game still doesn’t do a great job explaining what you’re supposed to do (as in, you’re left with no instruction at all), once new players catch on to the mechanics it will be hard to pull them away.

Missions in Resogun are made up of three phases. While the ultimate goal of every phase is simply to wipe out every invader on the screen and set the highest score, in the first phase or two you have the added objective of rescuing humans the invaders have trapped in cages where they will die if their abductors, called ‘Keepers’, survive long enough to run a brief course through the level and back out again. If you find the glowing green enemies and eliminate them all in time, the human is freed and it’s your job to physically pick them up and fly them into one of two exit points on opposite ends of Resogun’s cylindrical levels. If in any case you fail and a human dies the game is not over, but on the other hand substantial bonuses are granted for each human saved, and later levels in particular will be exponentially harder without them. And of course, what would any arcade shooter be without frantic boss battles to cap off every level? Resogun’s are some of the most entertaining in years, and thankfully they translate very well to the PS3 and PS Vita. The lower resolution and slower framerate have the potential to become gameplay-affecting when it comes to pulling off intricate maneuvers in situations like these, but I never felt it in even the most intense of boss fights.

In short, the real reason for porting Resogun anywhere is its gameplay, and it’s all here just as you’d expect. There’s even a cross-save function so you can maintain your progress on multiple platforms, but sadly at this point the feature appears to be restricted to Vita and PS3 only. It’s also worth noting that control customization is limited to just four remappable buttons, versus the original’s ten, but considering Resogun’s controls are pretty basic to begin with, this restriction really isn’t anything worth writing home about.

Old-school but Still Cool

It’s a bit of a wonder that Resogun ever left the PS4, and for PS4 owners out there, it’s not too likely you’ll shelve the new-gen version for the PS3 or even the portability of the Vita. At the same time, folks without Sony’s latest hardware now have a real gem of an arcade game on their hands. It’s not exactly enough to breathe new life into an aging console, but it will make you feel better about holding out a little bit longer, and the Vita version is a great little distraction when you’re on the go. The obvious graphical downgrades will be a bother to some, making the game undoubtedly most at home on the PS4, but spend some time playing Resogun on the PS3 and PS Vita and you’ll soon come to forgive its shortcomings and enjoy it as the fantastic modern spin on the classics that it still is more than a year later.