Review: RESOGUN (Sony PlayStation 4)

Genre: Shooter
Developer: Housemarque
Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: 11/15/2013

With all of the big retail releases, both multi-console and exclusive, sometimes it’s easy to forget that there were some interesting digital releases at launch on the PS4 and Xbox One. Microsoft got the bigger roster of exclusive digital titles overall, with Killer Instinct, Crimson Dragon and Lococycle among others, but Sony might well have gotten the best game of the lot in RESOGUN. Part of the reason for this is because, along with Contrast, it was (and still is as of this writing) completely free to PS Plus users at launch, giving PS4 owners two free games at launch if they signed up for the service. The other part, however, comes from the fact that RESOGUN is an engaging, beautiful, and surprisingly accessible shooter that manages to do quite a lot that’s unique to it while still being a familiar and enjoyable experience. Granted, the game certainly has its issues here and there, and it’s probably not going to be the first game you latch onto for your shiny new PS4 whether it’s free or not, but that’s part of the charm of the game, as it manages to be one of the best games for the PS4 at launch, if not the best, by sheer personality and force of will, if nothing else.

From a presentation perspective, RESOGUN is essentially a modernized take on the classic shooters we’ve come to love. The plot is very minimalistic, amounting to “SAVE THE LAST HUMANS,” to the extent that the game tells you this every stage, but you don’t really need for there to be an extensive storyline when there’s so much shooting so that’s forgivable. Visually, the game is intense, and has an outstanding visual flair to it that takes good advantage of the PS4’s capabilities. The environments themselves are largely similar to one another if you pay attention to them a bit, but the different color palettes make it less noticeable than you’d expect and the game is frantic enough that you likely won’t unless you’re doing it on purpose. The visual contrast between the well designed backgrounds and the voxel-esque ship designs is interesting, especially when things are exploding everywhere, and the game makes very good use of bright colors and visual effects between the enemy explosions and the special weapons you can unleash to level the playing field when needed. The game also makes good use of its audio effects, starting with the fact that it uses the speaker in the controller to shout out instructions and power-ups, which gives the game a surprisingly arcade-style feel that helps it out a lot. The music is also outstanding, which isn’t much of a surprise for a shooter given that this is almost a requirement in the genre, but it fits the tone of the game well and really compliments the action. The audio effects are also well designed and assembled, featuring lots of futuristic effects and plenty of great sounding explosions to compliment the carnage you leave in your wake, and nothing sounds out of place or awkward.

At its core, RESOGUN is your standard shooter in thought and deed; the left stick moves your ship around, while you can use the right stick to fire in the direction you want, though you can only fire left and right. The entire game world is based on a rotating cylinder, and as you fly around said cylinder, enemies pop in for you to blast into oblivion. Your objective in each stage is to, as noted above, “SAVE THE LAST HUMANS,” who are imprisoned around the stage in energy prisons that you have to break open. As enemies spawn around the stage, occasionally green glowing enemies, dubbed Keepers, spawn, which you have to kill to break open a prison; doing so frees the human inside, while failing to do so kills the human outright. Once a human is freed, you must then fly to them, pick them up and carry them to an evacuation station on the map, which (if successful) gives you additional points, extra lives, more bombs and other goodies. The enemy forces will try to stop you, mostly through the old war of attrition method, IE, by throwing everything they have at you and hoping something kills you, but you have plenty of tools to fight back with. Each of the three ships you can pick from has its own regular bullets, which can be powered up repeatedly by picking up power ups as they appear in the level, allowing you to fire more powerful and useful shots based on the ship you’ve chosen. You’re also given three extra tools for shredding enemies into pieces and saving of the aforementioned last humans, in Bombs, Boost and Overdrive. Bombs are as you’d expect; you press a button, they wipe everything off the map in record time. Boost allows you to rocket around the level quickly as you deplete the automatically recharging meter, allowing you to get out of harm’s way, get to Keepers and humans quickly, or otherwise move somewhere else in a hurry, and you can even destroy enemies if you boost through them, though this drops your speed in a hurry. Overdrive is your all-powerful beam weapon, which is powered up by green energy you collect as you kill enemies, and when deployed, also obliterates everything on the screen, just less effectively than Bombs.

For those who might be wondering, “Well why would you even use Overdrive if Bombs kill everything in one shot?” that plays into the scoring system, which is surprisingly involved and interesting. Basically, as you kill enemies, you get points toward a score multiplier, and the more you kill enemies, the higher it can go. The catch is, when you stop killing enemies or otherwise doing productive things (saving humans, breaking power up containers, and so on), the multiplier begins to atrophy, and if you go too long without paying into it, it drops back to the default. As such, those who want to get the most impressive scores will want to keep killing enemies as quickly as possible, which puts a different spin on the game entirely. In a normal shooter, your objective would be to simply kill everything and move on, but in RESOGUN your objective is to kill everything in the most productive way possible for the most points, which actually makes the experience a lot more thought provoking than it might seem. Should you use a Bomb to clear out the enemies on the map to get some breathing room and risk losing your multiplier if enemies don’t spawn fast enough? Are there enough enemies on-screen to make using Overdrive profitable, since it pays into your score far more than anything else and the more enemies you can kill with it the higher your score rockets? Is it worth saving that human to aim for the Human Savior bonus, or can you ignore it to keep yourself safe for better scoring opportunities? Make no mistake, RESOGUN gives you a lot of potential scoring opportunities, and for those who love being the best on the Leaderboards, this is going to be a lot of fun, because the game knows just how to keep you coming back.

You can basically clear an entire Arcade run inside of an hour or two, but there’s far more to the game than one Arcade run for those who want to go for the best scores possible or just have fun. For those who want to goof off, the game lets you go into any stage you like for a single run, and you can take the game online with a friend for two-player chaos, which is generally handled well, as power ups affect both players and there’s no friendly fire so you can totally go nuts. For those aiming for the highest scores, there are four difficulty levels to play through, with each offering a higher multiplier, and a “Hero Challenge” once you complete Master without continuing that offers a massive multiplier and a much harder play experience for those who are looking for a real challenge. There are also plenty of Trophies to unlock for doing various things, regardless of how you want to play the game, and whether you’re looking to get the best score or to just goof off, there’s a lot to keep you coming back to RESOGUN. It’s paced well to encourage you to keep going for the gold, offers a lot of tools to help you do so, and generally offers an experience that anyone with a passing or diehard love for shooters can appreciate.

On the downside, casual players may find that the game doesn’t have a lot to show them if they’re not at all interested in being the best around, as three ships and five levels doesn’t amount to a whole lot of content on the whole. For serious players, on the other hand, the experience is hobbled in a slightly different fashion, as those who are trying to get the best possible score out there will probably find that they’re sticking to the Phobos for its large Overdrive reservoir, which is limiting in a different fashion. A couple more stages and ships might have made this a little easier to work with for casual and diehard players alike. Still, when the worst thing you have to say about a game is that there’s not enough of it that’s not a terrible thing, especially since what is here is very well balanced, such that you’ll likely find that you don’t mind all that much.

RESOGUN ultimately works as a shooter that is all things to all people, offering an experience that’s tuned for both casual and serious play, in a way that anyone can really find what they’re looking for from it, no matter what their opinion of shooters is. The game is a technical marvel visually and aurally that takes good advantage of what the PS4 can do, and it takes the concepts we’re used to in shooters and expands on them with the Boost and Overdrive systems, as well as the “SAVE THE LAST HUMANS” objective that isn’t required but pays dividends for doing so. As a casual shooter, it offers fun multiplayer and a good learning curve, and as a serious shooter for score fanatics, it offers large multipliers and multiple ways to use the tools it gives you to earn amazing scores, and with multiple difficulties to play around with and Trophies to earn you’ve got lots of reasons to keep coming back. The game has no plot to speak of if that’s a thing that bothers you in a shooter, for some reason, and there’s a limit to the variety here depending on your genre interest, as the lack of ships and stages (for casual fans) and high-score viable ships (for diehard fans) is less than ideal. All told, though, RESOGUN is one of the best launch titles to come out for the next-gen consoles, and is arguably the best one for the PS4, and if you have a PS4 there’s absolutely no reason not to pick it up as soon as possible.

Short Attention Span Summary:
RESOGUN is an outstanding shooter in general and is arguably the best launch title for the PS4, and if you’re looking to get a PS4 it’s one of the first games you should get, period. It looks and sounds awesome and does quite a bit with the PS4 technology, and it takes the core concepts shooters are known for and expands them noticeably, between the score multiplier, Boost, Overdrive and human saving systems. It’s great as a casual shooter thanks to its excellent difficulty balance and multiplayer options, diehard fans will love the ability to jockey for high scores with the higher difficulty multipliers and numerous tools the game gives you to jack out your scores, and there’s plenty to do here between the multiple difficulties, Trophies and more. There’s no plot here if you care about that, and the game could’ve used a bit more content for casual fans (who will find the lack of ships and stages saddening) and serious players (who will find that there is a “best” ship to use for scoring), but overall these are minor issues at best. If you have a PS4 and haven’t played RESOGUN yet you need to, and if you intend to get a PS4 this is one of the first games you should play, as it’s basically outstanding no matter what your skill level is, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun, period.



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