Resogun bursts onto the screen with a score that sounds as though Hans Zimmer has been listening to too much Japanese techno. It’s like the Inception movie soundtrack remixed - but it definitely grabbed our attention. And that’s just the audio.
Just like the movie you’re unlikely to know what the hell’s going on, too, as you’re thrust into a side-scrolling cylindrical loop world that’s rendered from tens of thousands of shaded, colourful, dancing cubes. Litter with all manner of spaceship enemies, shake, stir and prepare to get your arcade shooter hat on.
Given the somewhat tepid PlayStation 4 launch lineup, is Resogun the unlikely saviour that will see you wile away many hours dodging and shooting your way to that next high score?
For humanity… or something
"Save the last humans," says a vocoded voice, referring to the little green men in boxes scattered around the Resogun world. An apparent goal that, as you’ll come to find out, is inexplicably difficult to achieve. Does it matter if these little chaps all die? We still can’t work it out.
Why? Because Resogun is an off-its-face do-or-die title with zero story, but bucket loads of imagination. Did you question what R-Type was about back in the day? No. So we’re giving this PlayStation 4 exclusive the same dues: just enjoy it for what it is. And that is the side-scrolling shoot ‘em up reimagined for 2013.
READ: PlayStation 4 review
Imagine Tempest 2000 fused with Thunder Force brought up to date and then injected with several litres of style and special effects. Resogun is a next-gen homage to the classic shooter; a title we didn’t expect to deliver quite as much arcade joy as it does.
Unlike the extortionate PlayStation 4 titles at launch - £53 for Knack in the Store anyone? - Resogun is a mere £12.79 ($14.99 in the US). Only it isn’t if you’re a PlayStation Plus user, as that makes Resogun absolutely free (for the duration of your membership, anyway).
READ: Knack review
Now that’s just brilliant. This little side-scrolling game fizzes with 10 times more appeal than some launch titles, and costs almost five times less. Or infinitely less, however you want to look at it.
And just because it’s on the right side of affordable doesn’t mean it’s not a good game. Quite the contrary: Resogun is a balanced, considered and - we must say - bastard hard game that will suck you in and entertain for each revisit that you make.
As it’s not an on-disc game it’ll be locked into your personal account where it can be accessed at any time. Or play it on PS Vita via the Remote Play feature - a device that we don’t have, so haven’t yet tested out.
The good ole days
Resogun takes some getting used to. It’s a bit like resetting your gaming clock to regress back to the idea of playing a side-scrolling shooter again. It’s fast, frenetic action from the off, and it’s really difficult to keep your head above water, so to speak, just like the old classics always were.
As you get used to the game and those reactions pick up - you’ll need to be lightning quick in no time - you’ll also begin to learn when to deploy those various abilities.
You can fly up, down, left or right using the DualShock 4’s left stick, while shooting left or right is catered for via the right stick. The controller’s triggers handle boost, bombs, "overdrive" and picking up and throwing those little green humans to try and keep them safe.
We shrugged off saving the humans because our eyes were too busy dodging fireballs while flying backwards avoiding heat-seeking enemies.
When it all gets too tough you can use a bomb to clear the screen, but you need to earn these - picked up from green flashing base stations - so don’t waste them. Overdrive is charged up as you progress and can be deployed to slow enemies to a crawl while busting out a huge, highly damaging ray for maximum effect and to accrue bags of points.
You’ll want to collect lots of points, probably more so than worrying about those humans. Everything you shoot - and there’s a lot - adds up towards your score, but also charges up the multiplier shown at the top of the screen.
The multiplier starts at 1.0x and slowly increases, jumping to "multiplier up" alert status as you cross 2.0x, 3.0x and so on. But to keep the multiplier in check you need to keep on blowing up those on-screen enemies. Wait too long - and it’s a matter of seconds - and you’ll be back to 1.0x and earning little in the way of points.
How about that for an arcade style game? It’s all about the points. Not for any reason, really, as there’s no shop to upgrade or anything like that. But just to gloat - to get your name on that scoreboard.
Like a boss
In addition to the variety of enemies on screen - we’ll let you discover the various nasties - you’ll reach giant bosses after completing the various level’s phases.
Now the bosses add to the difficulty. If you’ve messed up earlier on and have lost a life or two then the various flame-throwers, lasers and guided missiles will make it hard to shoot the vulnerable points of the giant boss constructions.
Often you’ll die and to continue you’ll start right back at the very beginning of the level. It’s arcade through and through - you have to be good enough to survive, as there’s no safety net in Resogun.
Like any good old shooter - where it was nigh on impossible to get past level number whatever - this will keep you returning to Resogun as much as it’ll see you pull your hair out.
As there is no story and it’s possible to play a section-by-section Arcade game, or a single level to bust out 10 minutes of gaming fun. It’s a title to dip into rather than playing for a whole Saturday evening like you might with a deep, open-world title.
Should you fancy it there's also online co-op available too. No side-by-side two player in the same room, which is a bit of a drag, but the two versus many rather than one against the world could help cut out some of that difficulty. If your mates are any good, that is.
If you’re from the era that loved side-scrolling shooters then be prepared to be blown away by Resogun - it’s a game that feels fresh because, frankly, companies haven’t properly invested in this genre for years. We can see why, because we thought such games had dried up and had their day.
But on PS4, Resogun turns that concept on its head. This modern day reimagining of a shooter is visually stunning, stylised, engaging and choc-full of attractive special effects that shout next-gen. And if you’re new to the genre then be prepared to knuckle down and get to it, because Resogun will lure you in.
It’s not a huge game by any means, though, given its three ships and five levels, and it’s predictably repetitious too - but that's all part of the territory. It’s also hard as nails to master at the higher difficulty settings, which makes it as adrenal and enthralling as it is hair-pulling annoying when that boss beats you for the fifth time and you have to do the whole level again.
But, even so, you’ll be back again and again just to prove that you can beat the game. And of all the PS4 titles we've been playing for the last two weeks, it's Resogun that resonates the most. We'll be dipping in for a blast for plenty of time to come yet.