Resogun review: major laser

Game Info
Platform PS4
Publisher Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer Housemarque
Release Date N/A

Resogun, the latest colorful shooter from Finnish indie developer Housemarque, is an extravagant, heavily detailed demonstration of the PlayStation 4's graphical horsepower. But look under the hood and you'll find an old shoot-'em-up that isn't shy of aping its inspirations.

If you remember losing quarters to the local arcade, you will recognize Resogun's Defender-like structure. As a spaceship, you protect humans from waves of enemies that encroach from both the left and right side of the screen. Resogun adds a twist: you must first "unlock" the humans by exterminating a special set of enemies before collecting the living cargo and delivering it to one of two goals.

It's just enough complexity to make the Defender homage feel new. In frantic moments, collecting humans off the ground and tossing them into their safety zone felt like delivering a slam dunk — not the first thing I associate with the retro shooter genre, but a welcome addition nonetheless.

The other inspiration is a lesser-known sub-genre called bullet hell, niche shooters in which hundreds, sometimes thousands of projectiles that inflict instant death gradually cover the screen. To survive, the player must memorize the intricate bullet patterns and carefully thread a craft through holes sometimes only a couple pixels wide.

Resogun is more forgiving than a traditional bullet hell, it's patterns less intricate and easier to evade. And yet, the overall experience is sometimes richer and more complex. Not only must you evade waves of projectiles, but target enemies, monitor dangers from both sides of the screen and collect humans and deliver them to safety. Each component is easy on its own. The pleasure — and the difficulty — stems from doing everything at once.

At its best, Resogun demands a certain prescience. Here's an example of a thought that ran through my head midway through the game: If I dodge through this line of enemies, I can reach the human, then blast any remaining enemies from behind and deliver my person to safety, right before the next wave of bullets and baddies attack from the opposite end of the screen.

While you don't have to save the humans, it's the best way to upgrade your weapons, and a maxed out ship has the firepower of a hell-god reigning hate and fear on its cowering victims. Speaking of annihilation, increasing a combo-meter by stringing together kills raises a laser meter. The laser is a brutal beam of pain that destroys whatever stands in its path. On normal difficulty, I used it as a sort of lethal flourish. On harder difficulties, it became a vital tool.

This speaks to Resogun's pacing and balance. Like a great arcade game, it trains you, making you its master one round and a time. There always seems to be an escape hatch, so long as you have the skill and reflexes. Besides the laser, you can also collect screen clearing bombs or use a dodge move, that lances a row of enemies.

Because there are multiple ways to play the game well, the game doesn't seem nearly as repetitious or difficult as most shooters. And because it's beautiful — really, it's quite the looker, with sparks, particles and debris constantly crashing about the courses — it accomplishes that great feat of its predecessors: it attracts others.

Wrap Up:

Resogun is a spectacular laser light show.

Resogun is a collision of 1980s shooters, 1990s bullet-hells and 2010s aesthetic. It's as simple or difficult as you want it to be. Sure, it borrows great ideas quite liberally. But Resogun's best idea is smashing them all together into a singular, spectacular laser light show.

About Polygon's Reviews
8.5 PS4
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