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Resistance: Burning Skies Review: Touchscreen, not twin sticks, shine in Vita's first FPS

Sony proves that shooters work on Vita...

After three Resistance games on PS3 you might think you've seen every conceivable way of mortally juicing the six-eyed mutant swarm that is the Chimera. You've minced them with exploding magnum shells, dissolved them with erupting hedgehog grenades and shot them through walls.

But, says Burning Skies, sounding a siren and slipping into a fire retardant overall, you've never popped one of their heads off with a safety axe, have you? The answer to which isn't so much "No" as "How did we ever live this way?"

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Burning Skies isn't just Vita's first go at a FPS - those twin sticks put to their ultimate purpose - it's a new direction for Resistance itself, forgoing the usual super-powered/about to go mental/army man protagonist and instead plumping for Tom Riley, swarthy New Yorker and axe-happy fireman.

Riley is designed to offer an everyman angle on the Chimeran invasion of New York, albeit an everyman who's a dead aim with alien weaponry and whose health regenerates when he thinks no one's looking (Burning Skies does away with the pick-up-a-plaster health of Resistance 3, but offers no viral regeneration hooey for Riley's gunshot wounds easing away like nettle stings).

In practice this doesn't mean a great deal, except that he occasionally shoulders people out of buildings that are on fire, and, more substantially, he gets to use that axe. In reality the axe isn't that big a deal - it's more like melee attack-plus, adding a lethal cleaving heft to the regular rifle-butt last resort of shooters.

More important is that it's one of the many seamless uses Burning Skies makes of Vita's touchscreen, the inviting 'axe his maw off' symbol sitting on the bottom right corner of the screen like a dedicated face button. And as Riley transforms from emergency services worker to trousered incendiary device, other buttons appear for human and Chimeran grenades, which are primed and aimed with a touch-and-slide action, making for easy, messy accuracy.

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As Riley becomes ever more tooled up the series' regular weapons wheel is rolled back into service, with the added convenience that your gun of choice can be selected with a touch. The weapons themselves are mostly series stalwarts - the Marksman, the Bullseye, the Augur, the sniper - with a new crossbow-mounted shotgun that comes with obligatory touchscreen reload mechanic.

Badly hidden experimental 'grey tech' can be used to upgrade everything in the wheel a maximum of six times with the likes of damage boosts, fast reloads, and range extensions.

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