Because PlayStation 4 shoot-em-up Resogun is downloadable and lacks a collector's edition replete with art book and cast-iron replica spaceship, cynical gamers might assume it's less significant than other next-gen launch titles. And the fact that Sony is giving it away for free at launch to anybody with a current PS+ membership could prompt speculation that the company doesn't trust the game's sales potential.
Fret not, little lamb. It's just because Sony and Finnish developer Housemarque, creator of the Super Stardust series, plan to share a laugh watching your face melt down the front of your shirt when you realise that the most estimable launch title on PS4 is a digital dark horse.
One of the most impressive things about Resogun is how enthusiastically it harkens back to the golden age of late '70s/early '80s arcade design - most notably Defender and, to a lesser extent, Asteroids - while delivering visual flourishes that would herniate current-gen hardware. There's a poignancy to how earnestly Housemarque brings next-gen gaming full circle in this way.
And the full-circle concept is especially appropriate given the fact that Resogun's augmented 2D gameplay occupies a cylinder that can be circumnavigated in roughly 15-20 seconds at normal cruising speed. This allows designers to ratchet up the tension by sprinkling time-sensitive objectives on divergent points along that continuum.
Casual players will be content to spend their time attempting to clear the screen of Sentient swarms and trying not to die, but if you want to save the blocky, neon-green "humans" being held hostage in this alien world while maxing your score multiplier and shaming the leaderboard competition, get ready for some deliciously frantic multi-tasking.
Saving each human is broken into a three-step process. First you'll need to kill a specific wave of alien Sentients called Keepers before they vacate the field of play. If I was a flight attendant I'd take a moment to point out that the nearest incursion of Keepers may be behind you - and on the far side of the level.
The fact that the cylinder occupies a single frame ensures that enemies and objectives remain visible along the entire ring. Veteran players will be able to not just locate where they need to rush to but also mentally calculate how long it will take to fly there. Occasionally you get lucky and find Keepers crossing your immediate flight path. Once you blast them to cube-shaped rubble, a beam of electricity darts across the cylinder to one of the numerous holding pods, opening it and depositing the escapee on the floor. Understandably terrified, he makes a run for it.
Don't stop to congratulate yourself just yet, the race is back on. Now you'll need to go collect him before he stupidly perishes by jogging headlong into a pit, lake, magma puddle, etc. (I suppose they're not very bright if they managed to get kidnapped by sentient robots in the first place.) You can scoop up humans by flying over them and the final step involves spiriting them to one of two safety pods spaced across the level.
Shoot-em-ups are notoriously hard and the fact that one of Resogun's achievements contains a Demon's Souls reference in it - "The true Resogun starts here" - ought to be fair warning that this game is no bubble bath.
"It has never felt quite this sublime to blow up enemies with spaceship fire."
Housemarque understands the masochistic tendencies of hardcore shoot-em-up fans and designs around that uniquely damaged player psychology by having the robotic-sounding female announcer call you out for fudging a rescue ("human lost") or your multiplier resets because you've gone several seconds without shooting an enemy ("multiplier lost").
These taunts have a wry, knowing quality that is designed to grate on the perfectionistic gamer. But there's humour, too. You can volley earth-bound humans into the air by shooting them (don't worry, they take it in stride) and even use L2 to fling them like a cartwheeling Cirque du Soleil acrobat in the direction of the safety receptacle's tractor beam.
It has never felt quite this sublime to blow up enemies with spaceship fire. Next-gen lighting and particle effects ensure that discharging your fully charged Overdrive blast makes you feel like the smiting hand of Thor himself. Even your normal guns ramp up in excitement briskly as you amass upgrades. Every time you save a human, the heat-seeking missile swarms accompanying your standard horizontal lasers get hyphy for several glorious seconds. You might even want to keep a human clinging to your ship to cash him during boss fights.
The other thing that makes the destruction you unleash in Resogun so immensely satisfying is Housemarque's use of voxel technology. Think of voxels as three-dimensional pixels and you can build everything in your game out of these miniature cubes. Combine these literal building blocks with PS4 grunt and you get realistic collision detection as they shatter, casting off real-time lighting reflections from the fire and lightning and other neon accents erupting all over the screen at any given time.
If you thought watching skyscraper demolition on television was fun, just wait until you complete your first Resogun level and get to enjoy the architecture forming the centerpiece of the level cylinder erupt in showers of cubes. It could've easily replaced the tech demo of the purple pills raining to earth that Sony showcased at the PS4 reveal. It's that impressive.
If you're the kind of person who enjoys taking your weapon systems online, you can play co-op with friends via PSN so you can enjoy this apocalypse together like the lovebirds in the final seconds of the Fight Club movie. It almost feels like too epic of a finale for the very start of a new console generation.
One of the most exciting, lavishly produced twin-stick shooters in the history of the genre. Geometry Wars finally has a proper rival.
- Deep, layered strategic possibilities
- Pulse-raising electronic soundtrack
- Eye-popping next-gen visuals
- Location of objectives can feel unclear at times
- Design of boss encounters is somewhat pedestrian