The more creative (and more powerful) secondary fire options on each weapon make your eight-weapon arsenal feel bigger than it really is, and the upgrade options can help you pack an extra punch. The dual analog sticks of the Vita are perfectly suited to the first-person action, though tapping the screen to trigger your secondary fire or to throw grenades definitely takes some getting used to. At first it's awkward, and you might have a few misfires while attempting to tap onscreen prompts, but before long you get the hang of it, and it works just fine. There are even some weapons, notably the bullseye, for which tapping is actually an easier way to take advantage of their full capabilities (that is, tapping enemies to tag them rather than getting them in your sights and pulling the trigger).
The short campaign takes place during the invasion of New York City. This is the first time the US has suffered direct Chimeran aggression, and there are some interesting glimpses of the preparation and misinformation campaigns that preceded this inevitable event. Quasi-animated comic images chronicle the chaos between missions, but jagged edges and ghostly geometry clutter up these simple sequences. You play as Tom Riley, a firefighter who just wants to save his daughter, his wife, and every other human he encounters (hello, contrived campaign detours!). His one-note humble heroism shtick is boring, and his homegrown militia companion, Ellie, does little to liven things up. Even the return of radio man Henry Stillman is a disappointment; his heart-wrenching monologues in evoked the despair of a country overrun, but here, his by-the-book broadcasts fail to channel the panic of a nation under attack.
Once you've completed the campaign, you can go back and battle through it on a harder difficulty level, but your increased fragility doesn't do much to improve the action. Going online for some multiplayer competition is a good way to find a more dynamic challenge, though the options are limited to deathmatch, team deathmatch, and survival (every human is converted to a Chimera when killed until no humans remain). Up to eight players can compete on an array of small, well-designed maps. As you earn experience for success in battle and level up, you unlock all the weapons from the single-player campaign, and experience-boosting "infections" that pass from player to player can speed your progress.
Though fairly basic, the multiplayer action in Burning Skies is solid and satisfying. The array of weapons in play varies from game to game, and making good use of grenades, secondary fires, and salvaged firearms is key to success, especially when playing against higher level players with deadlier guns. You can die quickly and kill quickly, and this imbues the action with a welcome urgency. There are some issues that crop up, like missing sound effects and inconsistent explosives, but on the whole, this compact multiplayer suite delivers nicely.
That is, if you can get into a match. Pre-release multiplayer sessions yielded hours of entertaining matches with no network issues, but retail release has put a serious strain on Burning Skies. In hours of trying, we were only able to join one active lobby, and similar matchmaking issues are widely reported.
Technical issues may abate, but this entry in the Resistance series still falls well short of its pedigree. Burning Skies leaves little doubt that the Vita is a comfortable home for first-person shooters, but the platform's first FPS is disappointingly dated. Toothless enemies and simplistic level design make for tepid campaign action, and the solid multiplayer suite is too limited to be a big draw. There is definitely some fun to be had in Resistance: Burning Skies, but the series, the system, and the poor citizens of alternate-reality New York City deserve better.