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Resogun (PlayStation 4) artwork

Resogun (PlayStation 4) review

"Sit up, look at the screen and save the last humans, or else."

Resogun asset

Did you know that the DualShock 4 controller has a speaker on it? A loud one? I didn't, until the opening few seconds of Resogun, whereupon a female voice bellowed from my hands. "SAVE THE LAST HUMANS!" she ordered. Loudly. The voice says this at the beginning of each level, and it jolts me awake every time. Fitting for a game that is very demanding of your unbroken attention. Sit up, look at the screen and save the last humans, or else.

The timing here works in Resogun's favor. It's a silly little downloadable title that launched with the PlayStation 4 and is currently free for all PlayStation Plus subscribers, and since every console comes with a 30-day trial for the service, everybody gets Resogun. If you bought a PS4 at release, you have no reason not to be playing this. And the bizarre truth is that I've wringed more entertainment out of Resogun than I have from nearly any full-priced, triple-A release from the same launch window. It's a pleasant reminder that games don't need to be big; fun will suffice.

Resogun asset

That dynamic has inspired comparisons to Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, partly for the visual style they share that couples simple shapes and bright neon lights, and partly because they are both twin-stick shooters. Where Resogun deviates a bit from the genre norm, however, is that (a) you can only fire horizontally, rather than in any direction, and (b) levels are set on cylindrical planes. The former, in particular, will knock you for a loop, since it forces you to pay even more attention to your positioning than usual, not just for lining up your attacks, but for countering enemies, as well. The frequency with which you'll be surrounded from above or below elevates screen-clearing bomb and overdrive attacks to last-ditch necessities rather than mere conveniences.

One of my problems with Geometry Wars was always that there was too much going on in such a confined space; effects were so overabundant that you'd often be killed by bullets you couldn't even see. Resogun very nearly falls into the same trap. Despite the simplicity of its visual style – even the LAST HUMANS that you must SAVE are just little green stick figures with robot voices – developer Housemarque goes absolutely gung-ho with multicolored explosions, with hundreds of little sparks and voxels overwhelming the screen at any given time. It's a sight to behold (in 1080p at an unwavering 60 frames per second, I might add), but it risks burying the action.

Resogun asset

It doesn't quite do that, though, thanks to the cylindrical level layout, a brilliant idea that gives the field great depth and perspective. Enemies, despite being very numerous, are spread evenly and easy to track. Important objective-related material – like the humans, and the occasional UFOs abducting said humans – are all helpfully marked with arrows and beacons of light. There's also the ever-present controller voice, roaring important commands at you every few seconds. Resogun is the rare audiovisual eruption that avoids ever being an overload; I was floored by the presentation yet was so engaged that sessions typically ended with my thumbs feeling sore.

If I have one issue with Resogun, it's that there's not a lot of content here; there are only five levels, and on the default difficulty, you'll be done in a flash. What helps, though – in addition to the game currently being free – is that Housemarque scales the difficulty settings perfectly. There are the usual trappings, like the fact that enemies in tougher modes fire bullets when destroyed, but then there's the very noticeable difference in enemy spawns and arrangements as you progress. Resogun is short, but it feels like a genuinely new game every time you bump the difficulty up a notch, to the point that you'll eventually need to start chaining human rescues together to earn extra lives and such.

Resogun asset

The bosses, on the other hand, aren't terribly challenging; that the first such boss begs comparisons to a similar encounter in Ikaruga, one of the most famously punishing shmups of the last decade, doesn't help. All is counterbalanced, however, by the final boss, an absolute masterpiece of shifting stakes and bullet-hell pandemonium, culminating in a chase sequence that has you firing backwards while clinging to every single boost like you're struggling for breath. It's a riveting conclusion to a riveting shooter, and one that secured Resogun's place as my favorite next-gen launch title. That's the other thing that it has in common with Geometry Wars: it's a simple, innocent little downloadable shooter that's there for the arrival of a new console and totally steals the show. The Helghast can wait. Bring on the neon centipedes!


Suskie's avatar
Freelance review by Mike Suskie (November 27, 2013)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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