When a game manages to draw your almost undivided attention at the start of a new generation of gaming it’s because it’s just a little bit special. Resogun is the newest title from PlayStation experts Housemarque – whose previous titles include the horrendously addictive Super Stardust series and the expertly realised Dead Nation – and it is as well refined and visually stunning as anything they’ve crafted to date.
A side-scrolling shoot ’em up with a modern-day twist on the arcade classic Defender, Resogun is the Finnish-developers latest venture into re-igniting an increasingly dormant genre with a title that stands out above all others at the dawn on the PlayStation 4. Similarly to Super Stardust, it’s the sublime combination of perfect controls, a gorgeous visual style and technical prowess, audio marvel, and nailing that “just one more go” hook so expertly that makes Resogun utterly fantastic.
With an endless 2D environment that carousels round as you fly right or left, achieving the best high-score possible is the goal. However, the haunting words of “save the last humans” torments your mind if you fail to save the ten little darlings – initially something I viewed as an aside. Saving the humans is the true goal of Resogun as you attempt to do prolong humanities existence from an alien attack – though of course deep narratives have never been arcade shooter’s strongest points.
Refined to perfection
Despite filling the screen and having the controller bark the order at me, saving the humans was never something I considered to be of the most importance given the lack of penalty for not doing so other than the crushing guilt. This is where Resogun is so cunning yet utterly brilliant. You’re given the controls, an order and then off you go. Within minutes you’ll likely perish, several times in fact, and you’ll rack up a high-score of tens, maybe hundreds of thousands. However, as you persevere that score reaches into the millions and then the tens of millions – with the leaderboard currently showcasing some with hundreds of millions.
It has a wonderfully subtle learning curve as you begin to understand the visual and audio clues: whether it be the green ring to highlight a human in need, which enemies are the unexplained keepers or just the varying enemy types. Almost with a trial and error gameplay hook it doesn’t take long before you’re in the swing of things wondering just how far can you take this.
With bombs, boost, your usual fire-power and a supercharged overdrive mode Resogun becomes immensely tactical with real haste. The right time to detonate the graphically stellar bombs or activate your overdrive and exterminate everything in your path becomes a fine art, all the while mastering the best tactics for using your boost and either getting out of trouble or causing some serious damage with its concluding shockwave. Saved humans also provide bonuses such as points, bombs and extra lives so learning which are which can help you prioritise when it’s needed most.
It’s within this subtly of design and implementation of mechanics that Resogun thrives. Balancing saving humans, keeping your multiplier high, saving and using your special weapons, and weaving throughout enemies is challenging but at no point does it feel as if it’s cheating you. Upon death it’s always a case of what could I have done better – the hallmark of a terrific game.
Delivering gameplay at the highest quality has come with a small concession on quantity with just five levels present and a single mode (which you can do in a full run or by selecting any particular level). Whilst it’s certainly a play-after-play type of game a few more environments, or even mission types wouldn’t have gone amiss – but this remains the sole mark on a glistening launch title.
Oh, what a beautiful day
And glisten it does. With particles a clear “we can finally do this now” checkbox for the next-generation of graphics, Resogun goes all out. Voxels populate the screen to an almost mind-blowing degree; exploding from the background scenery, the corpses of your enemies, even the points you collect. It’s unlike anything witnessed before on a console and has a staggering effect as a result – something no screenshot or compressed video can do justice.
When there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of particles on the screen it’s breathtaking, and is something enhanced by the delightfully retro-esque art direction. Exploding with a vibrant colour palette in and amongst a dark, vacuumous world is accompanied by a rousing and electric soundtrack.
Beyond the marvellous tunes lies an auditory design that is as important as any of the visual clues. Whether it be the sound of freeing a human, the small, satisfying firecracker sound of destroying an enemy or the tiny distorted whelp of pain from a poor human hitting the ground, it allows you to know what’s going on without having to pay attention to everything that’s going on on-screen – then there’s the warnings that your controller barks at you occasionally as well.
Resogun is an absolutely terrific title to have at launch. The ability to play it entirely with another via online co-op is the sweet chocolate coating to this delicious arcade biscuit. More levels and game modes are welcomed with open arms via DLC, though there needs to be little encouragement to dive into this stunningly beautiful, perfectly executed masterpiece.