It’ll be easy to overlook Resogun - Sony’s welcome gift to PS4 buyers who join PlayStation Plus.
After all, if you’ve just bought a next-gen console why would you want a reincarnation of Defender, the classic 80s blast ‘em up that came out before Britney Spears was even born? But Resogun is more than a rose-tinted throwback. In fact, it’s the must-play PS4 exclusive - here’s why.
Resogun has no time for storytelling. You're here to save the last humans by incinerating vast alien armies with your spacecraft’s energy beams as you orbit left and right around futuristic structures, and that's as much scene-setting as you're going to get.
Luckily, whichever of the three ships you choose to pilot is well-equipped for the task. Each is nippy - capable of turning on a penny and punching through the alien hordes with a high-speed boost. What’s more, the direction of fire is controlled with the right stick so you can carry out virtuoso manoeuvres while blasting enemies on all sides. The result? Instantly pleasing, fast-paced, raw arcade thrills.
Alongside the blasting you also have to try and rescue 10 humans imprisoned on each level. To free them you must kill special, green-glowing aliens called Keepers. Fail to wipe them out before they escape and a human dies. Succeed and then you have to find and haul the freed human to the safety of awaiting escape pods before the aliens kill them.
This means that when the Keepers appear Resogun becomes a race-against-time to kill the Keepers and save the human. It’s a regular injection of urgency that transforms the game from a good blaster into something vital.
Fizzing pixel showers
Resogun’s retro-tastic looks might not impress when static, but in motion it’s a mighty impressive sight. The game is lightning quick, even when it’s throwing particles and objects around like confetti. Aliens pop like fireworks - exploding into bright, fizzing pixel showers. Alien cities crumble like castles built from sand and the spectacular smart bombs send impressively devastating walls of crackling energy shooting around the level. Make no mistake, simple though it seems, this is a beautiful game, and one that does make use of the PS4's next-gen processing muscle.
The fabulous eye candy is backed by strong sonics, too, from the rousing music to the alerts spoken through the DualShock 4’s in-built speaker.
Shoot ‘em up’s greatest hits
While Defender is clearly the blueprint for Resogun, the developers have - like crazy coding scientists - also spliced in the DNA of many other classic shooters.
There are glimpses of Robotron in how the aliens close in on you, whiffs of R-Type in the power-ups and alien attack formations. The end-of-level bosses have a touch of Rez about them and there are hints of Scramble and Asteroids, too. In short Resogun plays like a shoot ‘em up best of, raiding the genre’s finest moments to create something new yet comfortingly familiar.
If Resogun has an Achilles’ heel it’s that there's just not quite enough of it. There are only five levels in the game so it doesn’t take long to see all that it has to offer, but the draw of a game like this is the on-going challenge of mastering its deceptively deep mechanics and striving for boast-worthy high scores.
Beyond that there’s an online co-op mode and talk of a 3D update, which might even tempt us to dust off our 3D TV glasses to see its retro-explosions in their full stereoscopic glory.
Resogun might draw on arcade gaming tradition but its feisty action, clever mechanics and thrilling visuals turn it from an exercise in dad-gaming nostalgia to an electrifying dose of instant thrills and primal action.
Add to that the no-cost price (you were planning on getting PlayStation Plus anyway, weren’t you?) and there’s no reason why every PS4 owner shouldn’t be getting their kicks from destroying Keepers and saving the last humans.