Let’s be honest, not that many people really expect console launch titles to gain that much momentum or go on to achieve successive sequels or loyal and large fan bases. Every now and then a Halo may come along but, for the most part, console launches are padded out with third-party release titles that come from tried-and-proven franchises. And then there’s Resistance; the series that started with the PlayStation 3 launch and continues strong with its third core and very much still exclusive release.
Contrary to the general critical consensus, I really didn’t find the first two Resistance outings terribly appealing, so this review should be read as reflective of the perspective of an avid first-person shooter gamer but not a lover of the series. But, in saying that, let me hasten to add that what I have seen in Resistance from the outset is potential: alternate history meets alien invasion with a liberal dose of old-school shooting and an enemy that shares a name with my favourite mythological beast. That formula is always going to catch my attention.
(Please note that this review doesn’t take into account competitive multiplayer, Move support or 3D.)
For un-fans such as myself, Resistance 3 caters to us and offers a refresher in the form of a highly stylised semi-dynamic comic book-esque intro that merges a black & white base with the odd bit of colour, essentially offering a history lesson for anyone unfamiliar with Chimera History 101. The Chimera (that’s ki-meer-uh) are the baddies of this sci-fi opera and having converted or killed 90-percent of the world’s population, any first-person shooter fan can expect decent ‘Spartan’ odds.
You’ll take on the role of Joseph Capelli—not the Nathan Hale protagonist of the last two titles—an ex-soldier who’s been dishonourably discharged for his actions at the end of Resistance 2. Capelli doesn’t seem to mind too much, though, as he’s gone on to seek his own measure of peace in the form of a blushing bride and, not long after, a bouncing baby boy. And this is one of the biggest points of difference for Resistance 3 from the outset: an emphasis on the family drama set in what is, for all intents and purposes, a post-apocalyptic world. At least, that’s one of the main ways that Insomniac Games is trying to connect with the player.
The problem is it doesn’t work too well. Much like Homefront, that is comparable in more than just a passing reference, there are times when the full intent of what the developers are aiming for comes across in the narrative and others where it falls flat. Take the core reason for the trek to New York, for instance. Capelli’s wife essentially issues an ultimatum to begin the epic journey in the hopes of saving their sickly son. Instead of making me feel for Capelli’s plight to save his kid, it made me loathe his wife for being so willing to send him on a suicide run to The Big Apple. The initial narrative setup and dramatic tension points simply weren’t enough to make me buy into the family drama angle.
It’s great that Resistance 3 doesn’t waste much time throwing you into the thick of a war against impossible odds, but that’s from a gameplay perspective. On the other hand, I’m not suggesting that they needed a Heavy Rain-type opening of mundane family life to get me motivated to protect them. But there’s a whole lot of middle ground between a firecracker of a start and a snail-pace opening. The major risk of this type of speedy setup comes through later in the game when Insomniac Games has played too much of an obvious emphasis on the storyline; particularly the little moments where the player is reminded that he’s fighting for his family. If you don’t buy into it, as I didn’t, a lot of these mostly cut-scene moments will have you reaching for the skip button instead of encouraging you to engage with the material.
Granted, the further you get into the game, the more engaging the drama becomes but, without ruining anything, this is when it relates to characters that you’ve actually spent some time with. To make matters less engaging, any attempts at conveying emotion are further hindered by some jarring technical woes. Jilted animations, sharp cuts to and from cut-scenes, questionable visual quality in key parts of the game along with lifeless character faces and lip syncing that is slightly off don’t help with telling the story.
And the lip syncing issues are only the beginning of the audio oddities that are sometimes as widespread as the Chimera scourge. There are moments where sound effects disappear completely, while firing the shotgun resulted in audio weirdness, such as the noise of a gibbed enemy coming after you’ve splattered him on the wall. It is, however, worth giving props to composer Boris Salchow for a score that’s subtle in all the right places and appropriately epic when the shit hits the fan.
Thankfully, the attempt at a gritty and engaging war story is only one half of the Chimera cake.
As far as old-school shooters go, Resistance 3 is the best I’ve played in a long time. Forget about the half-attempts at merging old-school shooting with more evolved mechanics (I’m looking at you Bulletstorm and Duke Nukem Forever), Resistance 3 nails this across the board, with many an epic action set piece that tend to flow incredibly well. You’ll have to manually collect health and you’ll be well aware that you’re coming up against a tough fight when you have a Matrix loading room worth of guns and ammo thrown at you. But, perhaps best of all, there’s a full arsenal on offer here. That’s right, you’re not limited to selecting which two weapons you want to carry into the fray. Instead, every time you collect a weapon, it’s there for you to access throughout the campaign.
And please allow me to dedicate a paragraph to the awesomeness of the arsenal. Sure, some of the weapons are carryovers from previous Resistance outings, but that doesn’t stop them from rocking. Every gun has a secondary fire mode that offers tangible combat options (erring on the side of the explosive variety) and there are more than a few options that make you feel like a badass. My personal favourite was the Atomizer that was lethal at dishing out close-range electrified death. But even the impressive primary fire mode paled in comparison to the lightning-filled secondary fire mode that created a black hole that sucked enemies in and eventually disintegrated them. Suffice it to say, using that weapon never got old.
Ammo was a wee bit too easy to find, especially considering how rare the human resistance is supposed to be in the Chimera-occupied world. Bosses were also a letdown with their obvious weak points that, if you somehow missed, were yelled to you by your AI friendlies. Face palm.
On the topic of AI, enemies tended to be stuck in a dichotomy of being clever—using grenades, dropping shields, seeking cover, flanking, etc.—and standing around waiting to be killed. This does tie into the old-school shooter mentality, but this is one area that I would’ve been happy to see evolved and it would have helped to push the gameplay even further.
Throw in full campaign co-op that lets you also play from single-player progress (and vice versa), and Resistance 3 goes a long way to nailing the all-important fun factor. It’s just a shame that Insomniac Games seemed so hell bent on pushing the dramatic angle that got in the way of a great example of a solid first-person shooter.