In a launch lineup that includes first party titles like Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack as well as numerous third party offerings such as NBA 2K14, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and many others, it came as a surprise to me that the downloadable title Resogun would claim the bulk of my time on the new PlayStation 4. This certainly spells good news for early PS4 adopters since Resogun is part of the PlayStation Plus membership that comes with a thirty day trial for every new PS4 owners. There’s no excuse then not to play Resogun – not that you would need a reason not to play this gorgeous, high score chasing shooter.
Housemarque studio is probably best known for their game Super Stardust HD on the PS3, which was a remake of their 1995 Amiga game Super Stardust. The developers at Housemarque are no strangers to the old school arcade shooter and they’ve brought that classic fast paced, score based gameplay and married it with a next-gen audiovisual treatment that blend so well together to create a sublime gaming experience.
In Resogun the player is put in control of a ship that travels along a circular plane (think of a carousel except it’s stationary and you’re the one moving along it). As waves and waves of enemies are spawned into the level, players must put forth a combination of their weapons, boost ability and screen clearing bombs to effective use. However, survival is not the only goal in the game. Throughout the stage are small glass boxes which house tiny, neon humans waiting to be picked up and carried to safety by the player’s ship. The humans can only be freed when one of two conditions is met – either destroy the wave of enemy Keepers or achieve a certain score multiplier before time runs out.
The Keepers are a special form of enemy and they are the key to freeing the imprisoned humans. Keepers can come in the form of any of the normal enemies that spawn into the level except they are green and their path is usually highlighted in the stage itself. They disappear as quickly as they arrive and if the player is unable to destroy them in time the human that is tied to that wave of Keepers will die in its glass prison. Among the other enemies are turrets that line the ground shooting bullets into the air, enemies that fly on a set path around the stage, enemies that follow the player, enemies that fire homing bullets at the player, enemies that create force fields and barriers and enemies that will abduct any humans that have been freed from their prison but never delivered to a drop off point by the player.
There are a lot of enemies in Resogun, but thankfully your arsenal can grow, provided that you save the humans on the stage. There is a risk reward system for saving humans. Every time you free a human, pick him up and deliver him to a drop off point, you are awarded a bonus which could be a shield that will protect you from just one hit, a weapon upgrade, a bomb or a score boost. You can choose to beat an entire stage while letting every single human die, but you will be depriving yourself of these useful upgrades in the process. The longer you choose to ignore the humans, the more you’ll be stacking the odds of success against yourself. Once you reach the end of the stage you will be greeted by the introduction of a boss enemy, and it is at this point that you’ll wish you’ve been upgrading your ship.
Resogun comes with five stages and each of these stages concludes with a screen filling boss encounter. Each boss encounter varies and each one has multiple forms and attack patterns. As you progress further into the game, the gameplay increasingly resembles a bullet hell shooter and this is never more obvious than in the boss fights themselves. Little red bullets fill the screen as the boss enemy flings them at the player and calculated uses of the boost ability will be necessary for survival. The game’s five stages can be played in three different difficulty levels. Each difficulty levels increases the high score threshold by five and enemy spawns, speed and patterns are also affected. The trophy for beating Resogun on the veteran difficulty will say “The true Resogun starts here”. Upon beating Resogun on veteran you will unlock the master difficulty. On the hardest difficulty level the game truly becomes a bullet hell shooter and if you go back and play on the previous difficulty levels you’ll feel as if you’re moving through molasses. There is a real sense of progress as you begin to recognize enemy patterns and learn to spot keepers and humans on the horizon while carefully using your boost to evade enemy projectiles.
Resogun is one of the best launch titles on the PlayStation 4. Even without the distinction of being a launch title, this is a great game, period. This is a game filled with smart design decisions. The choice to place the game on a circular, two-dimensional plane so that you are able to spot keepers, humans and enemy spawns in the background is brilliant. The color coding of the enemies and even the decision to allow the announcement of the arriving keepers through the controller’s speakers so that this important event would not be drowned out by the audio cacophony of lasers, bombs, jets and music are all smart design decisions that work well together to aid the player in achieving that high score. There’s even an online co-op mode with completely reconfigurable controls. This begs the question of why doesn’t every game let you do this? Resogun’s five stages can be completed fairly quickly and each one feels infinitely replayable thanks to the harder difficulty levels and co-op options that are available to players. This is a game that I will be coming back time and time again whenever the urge to play an arcade shooter arises or when a friend’s high score needs to be beaten.