A Look at All of the Third-Person Shooters Available on Vita - ArticleAdam Cartwright , posted on 09 September 2018 / 4,059 Views
This is the second entry in a series of articles I’m writing that will look at all of the games available in a particular genre on the Vita. The articles will highlight all Vita-native games, as well as any backwards-compatible PSP and PS1 titles that can be downloaded in English (i.e. from the EU or NA stores), as well as some commentary on how well those games run on Vita and whether they fill any missing gaps in the library.
The last time I examined this subject I looked at first-person shooters, another genre which relies on twin analogue controls to truly flourish. Just as with FPS titles, third-person shooters on Vita received an initial wave of support (largely from Sony itself), which then seemed to slow down substantially. This was a problem that didn’t seem to affect the PSP in the same way - it had a variety of entries in the genre throughout its life, from SOCOM in 2005 to The 3rd Birthday in 2011.
Thanks to some solid late-in-life Japanese support, and a sea of backwards-compatible games, the Vita’s library of third-person shooters is a lot better than it first appears, covering a variety of sub-genres from horror to stealth to tactical, all the while providing games that are a tonne of fun to play.
While the Xbox’s premier TPS franchise is Gears of War, and Nintendo’s recent consoles have been defined by Splatoon, Sony’s equivalent is probably Uncharted. While equally as much an action/adventure series, it does feature significant third-person cover shooting sections. The Vita received its own bespoke entry as a launch title in 2012, called Uncharted: Golden Abyss, and it too offered a number of thrilling shootouts, but focused more heavily on making you feel like an explorer and treasure hunter. This made a refreshing change of pace for the franchise and it's well worth checking out.
Another of Sony’s studios was on hand to provide a nice alternative just a few weeks later – this was Unit 13 from Zipper Interactive, creators of the SOCOM franchise. Pitting you as one of an elite team of operatives, you’re tasked with taking down enemies from the shadows using whatever cover you can find. One bullet can be lethal, making it a tense and enjoyable time. High-score chasing provided a nice bit of replayability, making it one of the hidden gems in the Vita’s library because reviewers seemed to overlook it completely.
Aside from these two – just as with FPS games – the Vita’s library is rather devoid of third-person shooters. Plenty of games tackle other genres but feature heavy TPS influences, though including Resident Evil: Revelations 2. It plays like a traditional survival horror title, but requires you to take down the undead with the limited ammo you have available. Reviews were somewhat harsh, highlighting various performance issues, but I still found it to be a fun time. A further horror TPS is available in 2013: Infected Wars, but as a mobile port this doesn’t hold up too well on Vita.
Another title that crosses over shooting with horror elements is DanganRonpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls. Possibly the most bizarre spin-off ever, the game evolves the story of the previous two visual novels by moving the setting to a quarantined city and having the protagonist shoot robotic bears. To fully enjoy it you should really play the prior two entries, and even then the shooting itself is quite janky and stiff, but there’s a decent time to be had.
While DanganRonpa and Resident Evil mix in horror, Metal Gear Solid crosses over stealth elements with third-person shooting (and even some first-person aiming to boot). I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection if you’re looking for a TPS, but you might get some enjoyment from it as both games generally allow you to play however you wish (aggressively attacking or hiding in the shadows) and it doesn’t hurt that both titles are classics which have been ported to the handheld with extreme care, so they're as good now as they ever were.
If you’re looking for something different than cover-based shooting or slower-paced horror, you’d be best advised to try out the Ratchet & Clank HD Collection. Insomniac Games’ PS2 classics trade tactical thinking for bombastic action, giving you a range of weaponry from simple laser pistols to gigantic warmonger rocket launchers and encourage you to blow up everything that moves. The fact they mix in light platforming with some brilliant stories just makes them all the more worthwhile. There’s also Ratchet & Clank: Q-Force, which juggles shooting and tower defence elements to mixed results. You could also consider the second and third Jak & Daxter HD Collection games too, but they're sadly much sloppier ports on Vita (even if they're still a lot of fun).
You can also get a great dose of explosive shooting action from Japan in the form of the Earth Defence Force games. Both Earth Defence Force 2017 and Earth Defence Force 2: Invaders from Planet Space are available on the Vita and you can’t go wrong with either. You play as a lone soldier in the midst of an alien invasion from gigantic insects and go around blowing up buildings and enemies galore in an attempt to cull their numbers – it’s spectacular fun, if a little repetitive after a while.
These aren’t the only third-person shooters from Japan available on Vita. You could try the Bullet Girls games, which have you engaging in a war between rival schools where clothing gets destroyed as the girls take damage – the third entry, Bullet Girls Phantasia, recently released and marked the first to be in English. The same developer also made Gun Gun Pixies, which has you playing as a tiny alien who shoots pheromones at girls in a dorm room (it's a surprising amount of fun) – they certainly seem to know their niche!
If you’re not opposed to importing, you could also try one of the various anime licenced titles which have TPS elements, the main example being the Gundam series. Gundam Breaker 3 is available in English and offers hack ‘n’ slash action with some shooting, or you can play the Japanese-only prequels or spin-off Mobile Suit Gundam: SEED Battle Destiny. If you’re looking for something non-Gundam, World Trigger: Borderless Mission is a surprisingly good time, or there’s the aerial combat crossover Macross Delta Scramble, which is also a lot of fun.
Backwards-Compatible PSP Games
While the Vita may have been largely ignored by western developers, the PSP didn’t suffer the same fate and as such you can grab a variety of backwards-compatible shooters from the PlayStation Store. Sony itself also put a lot more effort into pushing this genre for its original handheld, leading to a fairly excellent selection of TPS titles.
If you’re in the mood for something military-themed and squad-based, your first port of call should undoubtedly be the SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo series, a spin-off from the mainline PS2 & PS3 tactical shooter franchise. Three games were released, each iterating on elements of the previous entries. While they featured a heavy focus on online play, which is sadly no longer available as the servers are offline, they’re still incredibly high-quality titles that are worth checking out.
Thanks to its command of the Tom Clancy licence, Ubisoft was also fairly prominent in producing tactical third-person shooters. Two Ghost Recon games are available through backwards-compatibility – Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 and Ghost Recon Predator, although both received middling reviews that criticized their downgraded graphics, questionable AI, and wonky controls (the latter of which is somewhat rectified on Vita, making them worth giving a second chance).
If you’re looking for something more stealthy, you’d be well advised to check out Sony Bend’s Syphon Filter duology – Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror and Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow. Widely seen as being among the best shooters on the PSP, they mixed twisting storylines with some incredibly satisfying TPS mechanics and are made all the better with dual-stick controls. Ubisoft also tried its hand at this sub-genre with Splinter Cell: Essentials, although the title was mostly derided for dark levels (which were difficult to make out on a small handheld screen) and frustrating content.
It wouldn’t be a discussion about stealth shooters without mentioning Metal Gear Solid - Hideo Kojima’s epic saga that has appeared on every Sony console ever made. The PSP got a number of bespoke entries, including Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and its expansion pack, as well as effectively the fifth mainline entry Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Both games became among the most critically acclaimed titles on the platform, with reviewers praising how they brought the stealth-action gameplay to a portable format, although you would be well advised to play earlier entries first so that the plot isn’t completely lost on you.
If sci-fi shooters are more your thing, again the PSP has you covered. The most prominent example is Resistance: Retribution – seen by some as the best entry in the franchise and once again developed by Sony Bend (who between Uncharted, Syphon Filter, and this have developed most of the Vita’s best TPS titles). The game sees you take control of James Grayson in the midst of a Chimera invasion and gives you a large amount of alien weaponry to get to grips with. It also featured a clever ‘aiming window’ to assist with the PSP’s single analogue, although this problem is obviously gone on Vita.
Star Wars games were also abundant on the PSP and the majority of the better ones were TPS titles – namely the Battlefront sub-series. While Star Wars Battlefront II allowed you to switch between FPS and TPS views (which worked pretty well), Renegade Squadron and Elite Squadron focused on third-person shooting and both worked extremely well and are well worth checking out whether you’re a fan of the series or not (note that the former is only compatible in the North American store).
Square-Enix was a fairly big name in the PSP RPG scene, but it also tried its hand at third-person shooters by reviving the Parasite Eve franchise as The 3rd Birthday in 2010. Following Aya Brea, it featured some bizarre mechanics, including being able to ‘dive’ into enemies once they’re sufficiently damaged. Although it wasn’t a massive hit with fans of the previous entries, it still provided a solid shooting experience. Sony also released Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters for PSP, which is backwards-compatible with Vita and provides a nice dose of portable shooting.
As a final note, a number of open-world PSP games used TPS mechanics as their gameplay base – most notably Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories, both of which are still brilliant on Vita to this day (although the latter has been sadly pulled from the PlayStation Store). If you prefer your open worlds set in England, you could try Gangs of London (although it just isn’t very good), while if you want a Red Dead Redemption wild west fix, give Gun Showdown a shot from the North American Store.
Backwards-Compatible PS1 Games
As with my article on first-person shooters, the third-person shooting genre hadn’t exactly exploded with the PS1, although a couple of franchises made their mark while others had incidental mechanics.
Once again providing some of the best third-person shooters available on Vita, Sony Bend’s Syphon Filter franchise was born on the PS1, seemingly as a response to Konami’s Metal Gear Solid series. It provides some enjoyable if dated action and the first three entries are available through backwards-compatibility. Of course you could try out Metal Gear Solid itself (plus the expansion pack, Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions), although the shooting mechanics aren’t particularly developed until later entries.
Another series that contained minor third-person shooter elements was Capcom’s Resident Evil, of which the first three entries are available on the Vita. Focusing more on survival horror than the action-packed later entries, you’ll still have to take out hordes of zombies from afar. They’re worth replaying based on just how brilliant they are and how well they hold up thanks to the tank controls.
A final shout out must go to the Spec Ops series, which has four entries available on the North American Store. While never the most critically acclaimed titles, they act as something of a precursor to Sony’s own SOCOM franchise, providing squad-based realistic shooting in a variety of locations from deserts to snowfields, although you may have a difficult time picking this out through the blocky graphics that have aged extremely poorly. In short, there are better options out there.
For some reason, the Vita seems to have had better representation among third-person shooters than it did for first-person counterparts, despite the fact both generally rely on dual sticks to be fully effective. The PSP in particular appeared to be a hotbed for publishers to experiment with the genre and the majority are up on the Vita’s PlayStation Store, leading to a wide selection of great titles.
Nearly everything holds up extremely well – Uncharted and Unit 13 seem as impressive now as they did when they first showed up in 2012, while older games like Resistance and SOCOM are made so much better with controls optimised for the Vita’s inputs. There’s a wide variety of sub-genres to enjoy as well, from realistic squad shooters to escapist sci-fi adventures, with each one bringing something different to the table.
While it has become known as a machine for indies and Japanese games, in writing this article I’ve uncovered what a brilliant selection of titles the Vita has in a genre you’d never expect it to be known for. There’s a little bit of something for everyone here and it might not be your first stop if you’re a fan of the genre, but many of these games are definitely worth checking out and just another aspect of the Vita that’s wholly underrated.
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