Sunday, 19 January 2014

Game of 2013 - Resogun

I chose Resogun, Housemarque's beautiful shooter (and PlayStation 4 launch title), as my game of 2013 for a D+PAD Magazine article. Hailed by The Observer as "an old-fashioned arcade shooter that reinvents Armageddon as a frantic cascade of beautiful particle effects", it's still the best game on Sony's latest console (and at time of writing, still free to PlayStation Plus members!).

A tribute to classic 1980’s side-scrolling shooter Defender, built on the sort of twin-stick mechanics that felt revelatory back in 2005 with Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved (which also, appropriately, was also it’s host console’s best launch title) Resogun is a game of familiar foundations dragged into contemporary relevance with a mastery of next-gen technology and game design of quite deft balance.

With Resogun, Housemarque have approached the twin-stick shooter with a sensibility closer to that of a ‘sandbox’ developer than one whose sole remit is “shoot everything”. Humans, multipliers, bonuses and high scores are four of the key strands open to the player; it’s mastering which approach to take and when that drives you further into the game, as the game’s striking initial aesthetic appeal gives way to a deeper than anticipated structure. Maintaining the multiplier drives your score up at a faster rate, but if saving every last human is your aim then your focus needs to shift quickly to locating the ‘keepers’, special enemies who release one human per successive wave cleared. Each saved human bestows a bonus, such as points or, more crucially, an extra life or bomb. It’s in balancing the two factors that the real high scores start to emerge, while this is without taking into account the five-stage arc replete with end-of-level bosses.

How you choose to play Resogun is up to you, but it’s the manner in which it supports each of these tactics, whilst never being anything less than a brutally addictive, enjoyably intense experience, that is the game’s brilliance. Developers Housemarque established their reputation with the magnificent twin-stick double of Super Stardust Delta and Dead Nation, but it’s Resogun that is their masterpiece.