Housemarque is back doing their downloadable PlayStation arcade shooter thing on the PS4 with Resogun, and lo and behold they’ve knocked it out of the park again. Included with all PlayStation Plus memberships alongside the launch of the PS4 (which itself comes with 30 days of the service), Resogun isn’t exactly a system seller, but it is the kind of thing that may cause you to forget you have those expensive retail games sitting your shelf for a while.
Philosophically it isn’t far removed from Super Stardust on the PS3, with the basic distinctions being that instead of moving around a sphere shooting at things, you’re navigating a circle, and that you can only shoot left and right while you move your ship in any direction within the confines of the plane of the circle.
As is the case with Super Stardust and Xbox 360’s flagship arcade shooter Geometry Wars, it all goes to hell very quickly. And Resogun is not an open-ended game; it has levels, and you need to blast everything in sight to move on. You have smart bombs that wipe out everything on the map as well as a boost move to help you get around the circle more quickly, mechanics Super Stardust HD fans will remember well. There are also weapon upgrades to be found periodically, and you have a mode in which you fire off a giant purple beam of light that just decimates everything; that move has to charge up, and isn’t limited the way the smart bombs are.
On top of that, Housemarque has thrown in a wildcard activity beyond simply shooting things. “SAVE THE LAST HUMANS,” a haunting voice and spinning text commands you. What that means isn’t exactly clear at first, and it also isn’t clear that you don’t actually need to save anybody in order to beat a level -- this activity merely bumps up your score, grants an extra life if you save enough of the people, and provides a tangible objective to work toward aside from the regular ole “shoot everything.
This game-within-the-game harkens back to arcade classic Defender; Every 20-30 seconds, the overwatch voice will say “[something something] detected,” and when that happens some green-highlighted baddies appear in the map, and when you kill of them one of the little boxes containing green stick people opens. The bad guys will try to steal him, but you are supposed to get there first and lift him to one of the two portals located at the top of opposite sides of the circle.
I’ll make no bones about this; saving all the humans is extremely difficult, and the mere presence of this job is an added stressor in what would otherwise be a very stressful game anyway. As a result, Resogun feels far more difficult than its PS3 predecessor. That’s not a complaint, because the simple act of playing Resogun is so enjoyable that I wasn’t overly concerned with actually winning. And when I would go a round with a buddy online the fun factor was amplified, as is so often the case. That said, not bothering to explain how this works is kinda offputting at first, especially as the overwatch tells you when one of the people dies, which is pretty disheartening if you think that ruined your game within five minutes of starting it up for the first time.
Resogun doesn’t have any local co-op, and while initially that irritated me, I get that local multiplayer doesn’t really fit the design of the game. You don’t want to restrict two players to staying within one screen, and doing splitscreen would likely significantly impair a player’s ability to be any good at it on many, or most, screens. It feels like the lack of local play is just an unfortunate side effect of Housemarque’s vision. They did add splitscreen to Super Stardust a while after that title launched on PS3, however, and so maybe they’ll crack that nugget eventually.
It isn’t exactly the best thing going on the PS4 thus far (that would be Need for Speed Rivals), but you certainly owe it to yourself to download Resogun and play a round or 12 before bedtime. You’ll get lost in it, I promise.
A copy of the game was purchased by the reviewer. Resogun is currently available as a free title on PS Plus.