Resogun is the PS4's indie launch weapon of choice, a twin-stick shooter from the makers of Super Stardust Delta that's free with a PS+ subscription
Fast, lean and fantastic looking, Resogun is Finnish developer Housemarque's second go at creating a defining PlayStation twin-stick shooter, its excellent Super Stardust Delta having lit up both PS3 and PS Vita with its intergalactic gunfire.
As Sony is embracing indies even tighter for the PS4, almost as a point of differentiation over Xbox One, it's a fitting title to celebrate the next-gen console joining the PS+ online club, too, as its free while you subscribe.
With the futuristic visual language of a WipEout mixed with a core mechanic as easy to pick up as Space Invaders (well, ish), you can imagine this deliciously old-school high-score attack taking over a living room of all ages.
Low on exposition, Resogun's insistent rally call of "Save the last humans" kicks off every round of carnage. In a series of sprawling, ominous-looking futuristic metropolis where it appears to be forever raining and soundtracked by a club remix of the Terminator score, you're taking the fight to a variety of Matrix-esque, flying alien-robot hybrids.
You must take down Sentients aplenty, growing ever more complex and organised, while finding time to pop across town to pick up a neon-green stick man every so often, when your laser-beam labour is suitably rewarded.
Once you've made your way through the 'phases' of each stage, you're into boss territory, where a suitably oversized ship turns up for you to navigate around and blast the hell out of its susceptible flashy bits. Resogun wears its gaming tropes on its sleeve proudly.Article continues after the video.
Appearing initially like a retro side-scroller in the Gradius mould, Resogun's twin-stick control makes it more reminiscent of Housemarque's own sci-fi shooter, while the pit-stop civilian rescues are almost Chopper-esque.
Yet it has a unique feel, the pulsating soundtrack almost reflecting the action like a frantic round of Lumines. It's also, quite frankly, insanely addictive, as only the purest of gaming ideas can be – we can't wait to take this to the online boards.
The dynamic of having to take down enough of your assailants to free up humans for you to save is incessant, keeping you on an 'attack, rescue, defend, attack' loop as dizzying as the circular environment.
Yet almost to temper the contradictory nature of its central thrust, saving the humans is an optional extra to completing the levels, which adds greatly to the openness – an essential for high-scorers but a noble ambition for lesser mortals.
At the heart of this is your ever-important Multiplier, which must be kept up for immediate in- game reward and leaderboard-topping scores by chaining your gunfire, making you plot attack patterns based on enemy patterns and rescue routes in tandem. Coupled with the looped landscape, and it can become immensely tactical.
Despite being free on PlayStation's PS+ sub service, Resogun hasn't made any play for the mainstream, either – this is as hardcore as it looks, the four difficulty levels spiking sharply.
By the time you've unlocked Veteran, the speed, variety and sheer number of ships on screen can be chaotic.
The bosses become increasingly elaborate, some requiring you to actually fly inside to find their weak spots, but not drawn out, though the consistency of the grim graphical angle means you never get any foe quite as eye-opening as an R-Type or Parodious.
Space war is waged across five, not-too-dissimilar-looking 2.5D levels, with three different craft types of varying power and weaponry. The two analogue sticks are used to control your craft in horizontal and vertical space, but just as Super Stardust Delta bent its action round spherical worlds, here Resogun is around a looped city, so if you keep going left or right you end up where you started.
The rest of the controls are, inevitably, various attacks: R1 hits Overdrive, which after being built up by collecting the green-cubed detritus of your kills lets you decimate everything in your path for a set amount of time, while L1 works in a similar way for Zooming around the landscape.
The latter is particularly useful for getting to those pesky humans, who don't take long before they're getting themselves beamed up by spaceships or just killed altogether. You also have the Super Stardust-esque, screen-clearing bomb to get you out of tight corners, while another shoulder button lets you toss humans to safety if similarly up against it.
The textured sticks of the DualShock 4 are the perfect control partners; the new streamlined shoulder buttons don't hurt either. The speaker in the pad spits out updates on your progress rather startlingly as a default, but this can be turned off if you need some quiet time or are scaring the cat.
It seems strange to suggest a retro-inspired indie game as a graphical exemplar for a next-gen system over high-def animations or naturalistic lens flare. Yet we found Resogun's particle-heavy explosions more visceral than Knack's and the relentlessness of its super-smooth, 60fps action more energising than Killzone, the simplistic game construct allowing the technology the time to shine.
That said, while the visuals are impressive, the relentlessly murkiness and strict adherence to its sci-fi stylings means it's not the most varied of worlds to fly around. The DayGlo baddies that stand out rather handily on the dark backgrounds have identity, but none of the meagre five levels really stay in the memory.
We played Resogun in a strictly single-player capacity, with the PSN servers not yet up and running, but online leader boards are sure to bolster the social experience. Co-op is also on its way, as Housemarque promises a raft of updates to follow including new game modes. Constantly updated game experiences, too, certainly feel more 'next gen' than just bigger and better graphics.
While it's a short, sharp blast and no mistake, Resogun is the kind of game that makes reviewing a joy. Its combination of simple pick-up-and-play controls and engrossing dynamics mean its quick to get a handle on but is under your skin so swiftly that by the time you're writing about, you just want to get back to playing the damn thing. This is a game that we'll be enjoying well into the new year.
For those who find it looks a tad too retro to show off a next-gen system, we'd argue its sharp, smooth visuals are highly impressive in their own right. For those who fear it lacks scope, the level of control here is as tactile and rewarding as anything else on the new consoles. And while it could do with more levels, we've replayed those available for days and are still trying to beat our own scores. Once out into the wild, we'll be trying to beat yours, too.
Resogun release date: 29 November on PS4
Resogun price: $14.99, £TBC (Free with a PS+ subscription, £40 per year)