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EGM Review:

Posted on November 18, 2013 AT 05:12pm

Shot down in a blaze of voxels

The PlayStation 4’s best launch title is a $15 downloadable game.

Not so long ago, a statement like that would’ve been considered heresy. (Well, okay, some probably make the same argument for Geometry Wars at the launch of the Xbox 360.) Times have changed, however, and so too has the way we look at digital-only releases on consoles. No longer are they seen as appetizers to the main course, or obscure side projects that couldn’t cut it on store shelves. Now, there’s no shame if a game sees no need for a physical body, or if it knows its proper price is $20 or less.

Plus, there’s little surprise that Resogun not only turned out as good as it did, but is also one of the brightest stars of Sony’s launch celebrations. Developer Housemarque’s freshman effort for the PlayStation 3, Super Stardust HD, was an utterly fantastic take on the classic Asteroids. It infused basic ideas that were a hit in the early days of the arcade scene with modern ideas and graphical sophistication. It was a testament to the idea that games can be simple and deep, fun and challenging, all while looking good throughout.

In concept, Resogun could almost be seen as a carbon copy of Super Stardust HD’s gameplan. The retro arcade shooter influence is certainly there—this time, Williams Electronics’ side-scrolling shooter Defender—just expanded and updated for a modern era.

Here, like Defender, players control a ship that flies along a futuristic landscape that unfolds as a continuous horizontal loop. Each of Resogun’s five worlds contains ten captive humans, proposed to be some of the last remnants of our race. In Defender, aliens would swoop in and attempt to carry off their human prey; here, the humans are held captive in cube-like prisons, and each can be freed by defeating key enemies that show up at set points during your progression through the stage.

While saving those humans is a goal one should definitely strive for, Resogun isn’t won or lost by their rescue. That comes simply from surviving the onslaught of hostile creatures that crop up in each of the worlds you’ll visit. Kill enough enemies, and you’ll progress to the next round. Get through three rounds, and it’s on to the end boss.

Like Super Stardust HD, if your only goal is to complete all of Resogun’s worlds, you’ll easily be able to do so in one afternoon. (Well, how easily depending on your skill level.) That isn’t the goal of Resogun, of course. You don’t play to beat it—you play to master it. Your first few times through, you’ll be looking to get the hang of the game, figure out strategies. Determine enemy patterns and potential for higher scoring. You won’t save all of the humans. You’ll die. You’ll drop your score multiplier due to dumb mistakes.

And yet, you’ll keep playing, because you’ll look at the leaderboards and suddenly see that your good friend has pulled a higher score than you have. Or ,you’ll simply push yourself, because you know you can do better than you did the last time. This is where the real joy of Resogun comes to fruition, and where Housemarque’s mastery over the retro-new age shooter genre shines through. Games like these show how much can be done with so little, how five stages can last you for hours and hours when gameplay has so much intricacy and nuance to it and when those stages are as diverse as they are here.

I’m still not sure if I like Resogun as much as I did Super Stardust HD. That’s no comment on the quality on display here—merely a statement to how unquestionably enjoyable I found Stardust to be. Resogun is equally enjoyable, just for different reasons, and in different ways, and catering to different tastes. Today, as I write this, I might like Stardust better. Tomorrow, when I’m back to playing Resogun and chasing that new high score, maybe it’ll be my new favorite.

For many, choosing which is superior could be like choosing a favorite child, or picking a preferred pet. Me, I will look to the insightful words of that little girl in the taco commercial: “Why not both?”

You’re right, wise-beyond-your-years little girl. Why not both.

Developer: Housemarque • Publisher: SCEA • ESRB: NA • Release Date: 11.15.2013

Another expertly produced retro-inspired shooter from Housemarque, Resogun gives players an immensely impressive level of depth, challenge, replayability, and graphical prowess that stands as one of the best ways to be introduced to the recently launched PlayStation 4.

The Good Not much. Just the gameplay, and the visuals, and the sound design, and everything, really.
The Bad A few of the game’s concepts can be extremely obscure until you figure them out.
The Ugly The destruction caused to the game’s already-crumbling landscapes by your ship exploding upon death.
Resogun is available exclusively on PlayStation 4.
Eric L. Patterson, Executive Editor
Eric L. Patterson got his start via self-publishing game-related fanzines in junior high, and now has one goal in life: making sure EGM has as much coverage of niche Japanese games as he can convince them to fit in. Eric’s also active in the gaming community on a personal level, being an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming and consumer rights. Stalk him on Twitter: @pikoeri. Meet the rest of the crew.

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