Despite launching with the PlayStation 3 in 2006, Resistance has never been as popular as other Sony franchises. Quite frankly, that’s because the games were never as good as anything under the Sony banner. Killzone 2 and 3 play and look better than either of the previous Resistance games, while Uncharted trumps them all with some of the best storytelling that you’ll find in all of video gamedom.
This week, Insomniac Games released Resistance 3 to relatively little fanfare, with the exception of their publishing partners at Sony Computer Entertainment. Several people, either on my PSN friends list or in the meat space (so to speak), were bewildered to find out that the game had already released.
As it turns out, sleeping on Resistance 3 would be a big mistake.
If there’s one recurring theme in R3, it’s that hope is nonexistant. Set four years after the events of Resistance 2, we see a world in which the Chimera have all but crushed the human population, with small pockets of civilization forced to live in tunnels and caves for any chance of survival against roving Chimeran death squads. It’s in one such place that we find new protagonist Jospeh Capelli, the man who killed Nathan Hale at the end of Resistance 2, holed up with his wife and child. That is, until Fyodor Malikov shows up.
Malikov was a major part of the human resistance in R2, and he’s come to Haven, Oklahoma looking for Capelli. It turns out that the Chimera are erecting enormous towers all over the world that are freezing the planet to make it more hospitable for them, and that they’re all connected somehow. Malikov has a last-ditch plan to disable the one in New York City, but he need’s Capelli’s protection. Reluctantly, and at the insistance of his family, he agrees and the game is set in motion.
Along the way, you get to see just how devastating the last few years have been on human civilization. Every group of people that you encounter are in dire straits, and nothing ever feels safe. For everything that you accomplish, there’s a major setback; the Chimera are everywhere, and they’re relentless. However, there is one caveat this time around: there are also pockets of Chimera that have gone feral, separate from the militarized aliens that you fight. They’re still very dangerous, mind you, but there are instances where Chimera are fighting Chimera, and it makes for some particularly interesting set pieces.
As far as those set pieces go, the Resistance series has always been known for enormous bosses, and things are no different this time around. There are some big, mean bastards out in the alien-infested wasteland, and these encounters are some of the most exciting, jaw-dropping experiences of the year. Goliaths, Widowmakers, Brawlers … all names that you’ll learn to fear as you play through the campaign. Even smaller enemies exhibit a greater variety from previous games, and you’re constantly using different strategies against them all.
It’s not all one giant adrenaline rush, though. There are also plenty of instances in which you’re put into slower-paced situations, but it’s no less tense. Sometimes you’re exploring an old mine shaft, sometimes you’re in a subway system, and sometimes you’re sneaking past snipers in the woods, but you’re always on your toes.
In either case, Resistance 3 shuns the idea of regenerative health, so you’re forced to tread carefully and play intelligently. Whenever you die, you usually know exactly what went wrong and what you should do differently when you try again. It’s not so punishing that you’re forced to go an entire level without recharging your health (there are plenty of health packs found right after a battle), but it’s refreshing in a world in which most games let you heal your near-mortal wounds by hiding behind something for a few seconds.
The best thing to offset the overall feeling of helplessness, both from the game’s overall tone and your finite health, is the game’s weapon arsenal. Insomniac have always been very good with putting fun and interesting weapons in their games, and they’ve absolutely succeeded in R3. All of the series staples are here — the Bullseye, the Rossmore, the Auger — and are as good as ever. New weapons such as the Cryogun and the Mutator are a blast to use as well.
Just as importantly, you can carry all of these weapons on you at once, unlike R2‘s two-at-a-time approach. It’s obviously ridiculous that one man can carry an entire armory with him, but every weapon is so fun to use that it’d be unfair to make players choose for the sake of realism. In a game in which this one man needs to take down an army’s worth of aliens, I don’t think that particularly matters.
If you think you’ll be pigeon-holed into sticking to just a few weapons for the entire game, fret not. Like Insomniac’s own Ratchet & Clank series, guns in R3 level up the more you use them, up to level 3. For instance, the Auger will fire three parallel shots at once when it reaches level 2, and can deploy a shock shield when it reaches level 3. Along with the fact that the games many scenarios almost always call for something different, you’ll never stick to any one weapon for long.
The game isn’t flawless, however. I encountered several distressing issues with the game’s AI. If you’re playing the game solo, there are times that you’ll fight alongside other humans, but often times they’re useless to the point that they may as well not be there. I found myself trapped by Chimera with friendly AI doing nothing more than taking cover, aiming, and not firing a single shot on more than one occasion.
If you’re playing co-op with a friend (split-screen, in my case), it’s the enemy AI that becomes dimwitted. While the enemy AI was intelligent and challenging for the first two acts of the game that I played alone, the final act with my friend became a shooting gallery. We’d walk around an area and find that enemies were just staring at walls behind cover, and sometimes we’d be able to walk in front of them, around them, and assassinate them with a single melee strike. It was rather surreal.
The biggest change from Resistance 2 is that the game no longer supports massive 60-player matches, instead paring it down to 16-player mayhem. While the number 60 is much more impressive, R2 simply didn’t play very well as a result, and the smaller matches come off as more fun and manageable.
The multiplayer is broken down into five modes, and they’re nothing that will make or break someone’s purchases. You have your MP staples — deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag — as well as Chain Reaction and Breach. Chain Reaction is about controlling several points on the map, with the winners ultimately controlling all of them at once. Breach is by far the most fun, and tasks the human side with destroying the Chimera’s nodes and reactor, which are on three different points on the map. The reactor is most easily reachable when the two nodes are destroyed, and it makes for some great team-based play.
Fundamentally, customization works like Call of Duty — you level up to unlock weapons, perks, and skins — but that’s as far as it really goes. It’s not as deep as CoD in that there are countless combinations, but what’s there is really interesting. While you unlock everything as you level, you have to spend skill points to actually use these things. You can also spend skill points to upgrade your weapons and perks, with weapons getting the same upgrades as in the single-player game. For example, you spend one skill point to use the Marksman in any custom loadout you like, and five skill points to upgrade it to level 2 (which gives it a scope). Some perks even work as handicaps for the sake of gaining a little extra XP; perhaps you’ll cut your sprint speed in half, or you’re always visible to enemies on the map.
Overall, the multiplayer isn’t going to blow anyone away, but what’s there is good fun, and the customization is surprisingly addictive. The game modes could use a little more variety, although a new mode will be put out next month for $3.99. With a steady stream of quality DLC the game can have some legs, but otherwise it could be forgotten quickly by all but the most hardcore Resistance fans.
I rather enjoyed the entirety of the game, and the varied environments played no small part in that. No matter where you are, you’ll find yourself in someplace very different in little time at all. From the woods, to mine shafts, moving trains, snowy New York, and alien spaceships, there’s plenty for you to see.
It’s definitely not the graphical powerhouse of the same level as Killzone or Uncharted. About 70 percent of the game’s color palette seems to be brown, the textures could use more detail, and the character models leave a little to be desired. However, the game is far from ugly, and you’re usually too busy blasting through Chimera and watching your step to really take notice.
Audibly, the game isn’t remarkable. The score hits all the right notes at all the right times, but ultimately isn’t something I’ll remember for very long. The voice actors do a good job, though, and the guns all sound great, especially as you level them up — the Magnum is especially satisfying in this regard.
If I could sum up Resistance 3 in one word, it would be “surprising”. While there was never any doubt that it would be a well-built single-player experience, previous games in the series have come off as bland. Expecting another paint-by-numbers experience, Resistance 3 actually ended up being one of better story-driven first-person shooters of the year, doing an excellent job of juggling utter desperation as the Chimera pushes humanity to the brink of extinction and the god-like power that the game’s weapons delivers. And while the multiplayer isn’t perfect or revolutionary, it’s a nice bow on a game every shooter fan with a PS3 should check out.