Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: Resistance 3

Platform: PlayStation 3

Developer: Insomniac Games

Publisher: SCEA

# of Players: 1 - 2 (Online: 1 - 16)

ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

Official Site

Score: A-

It's absolutely been the best year to be a PS3 owner and Resistance 3 continues Sony's streak of solid first-party titles with an exhilarating, action-packed shooter that's an absolute must-buy. Packing in a lengthy single-player campaign (with solid offline or online co-op), satisfying multiplayer and a ridiculous amount of over the top battles, this is one of those games FPS fans will get a ton of mileage out of. Key to the gameplay experience are the incredibly fluid controls whether you're using a Dual Shock 3, PS Move/Navigation controller combo or Sharpshooter peripheral and yes, the game looks fantastic. There area few quirks here and there with the AI on the easier settings and if you want to get the most out of the co-op and multiplayer, the game requires some mandatory patching that fixes a few release bugs. Nevertheless, once that's taken care of, you're in for quite a wild ride.

In case you missed Resistance 2, the game very briefly recaps the story of both previous games during the install process with a comic-styled cinematic. In this chapter, you're playing as Joseph Capelli, the soldier introduced in Resistance 2 who's replacing the departed Nathan Hale as the lead character. No spoilers here, but if you played the last game, you'll understand why Hale isn't around and how Capelli fits into things. This time, the
Chimera have more or less taken over the planet and are hunting down and exterminating the remaining packs of humans wherever they can find them. When a raid uncovers the small group of survivors Joe is part of, he's forced to make tracks from Oklahoma to New York right through the heart of an alien occupied America. There are twists, turns and a few shocks that will have you glued to your seat during the 8 or so hours it takes to complete the main game. Of course, bumping up the difficulty, replaying levels differently and going for every trophy all add a good chunk of time to the game, so don't use that figure as a measure of overall quality or longevity.

Unlike plenty of square-jawed game heroes, Capelli isn't supposed to be a slab of compelling quirks or constant snappy one-liners. He's just an ex-military man turned family man who's had some solid army experience setting out on a dangerous trip to hopefully end the Chimeran menace for good. Along the way, he'll meet up with other survivors who assist him in his mission as they whittle down Chimera by the boatload. There's a definite nod to Half-Life series throughout the game that those who've played that game should appreciate because Insomniac pulls it off without blatantly swiping obvious elements. Is R3 as flat out great as Valve's games? Not quite in terms of storytelling and interesting personalities, but it's definitely up there in terms of eye-popping set pieces and dramatic, frantic combat that makes you earn every kill.

The story is initially paced out with brief interludes as you get objectives and make your way into new areas, battle enemies and move on. As the game progresses, you're placed in situations where rushing into action will get you killed in no time flat thanks to snipers, fast-moving crawling nasties and even some "zombie" like Chimera that make for a few potential pee your pants scares. At this point in the series, Insomniac is so wired into the world they've created that they bring in some impressively huge and insanely deadly Chimera bosses nearly every chance they get. The funny thing about these battles is how much the game throws at you before they take place and how suddenly you realize that you're in a hell of a lot more danger than you expected. The normal enemy counts are pure nuts, enemies attack from all sides, toss grenades and try to flank and/or rush you.

As far as the control goes, it's superb. The Weapon Wheel that went AWOL in Resistance 2 ha returned along with many favorite guns plus a few all-new weapons. As you can carry any dropped or found weapon in the game, you'll be toting a nice amount of gear and never have just one go-to gun. In fact, most maps demand you use a bit of creative thinking when it comes to dealing with Chimera. That default Bullseye works fine, but sniping comes into play as well as shooting through walls, setting enemies ablaze, using EMP grenades to lower shields and more. While the AI on the easiest setting is a bit too dim at times, you'll still be swarmed by ordinance if you take too long getting rid of the opposition. Unlike too many shooters, your health doesn't automatically regenerate. Health kits and ammo are usually nearby, but both can run out if you're not taking out enemies efficiently with a minimum loss of your own health.

You can play the game co-op with a buddy next to you on the couch or online. I prefer the couch co-op, although you'll be dealing with split screen play should you invite a buddy over or vice versa. PSN was down when I first tried to set up an online game, but once it was back and live (and a patch was installed), finding a partner was pretty simple. As far as I can see, there's no matchmaking setup for co-op, so you'll probably be stuck with someone who's either really good or really bad at the game unless Insomniac adds a patch for this. Then again, I personally don't spend too much time online, so I don't miss dealing with random strangers mucking up my game experience. Sure, I'm probably in the minority here, but I'm a guy who buys games first and foremost for their single player modes and story over automatically snapping up something because it has online play. Fortunately, Insomniac can knock it out of the park when it comes to packing a game full of memorable story moments.

The visuals are great throughout as the game shows off destroyed environments of major scope as well as smaller areas packed with detail. If you were ever curious about how a Fallout game would look if Insomniac did one, well, here you go. As mentioned above, both the Dual Shock 3 and Move/Navigation Controller work beautifully. I still don't have a Sharpshooter of my own, but the one I borrowed added a nice sense of immersion. I keep planning to buy one for myself, but even though the list of games for it is growing (and they all work exceptionally well with it), I just haven't committed to another big plastic peripheral taking up room here at the home office. Then again, you can only use the Sharpshooter for SP and online multiplayer modes, so don't expect to be dual wielding anything here.

As for online multiplayer, the developer wisely chopped the massive 60-player matches from Resistance 2 down to 16-players, changed the maps to more enjoyable ones set around the world and overall, the experience is almost as exciting as the campaign. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Chain Reaction and Breach modes are all here and great for some quick fun if you feel the need. From the short time I spent online, it seems that a few folks are TOO good at the game already thanks to the multiplayer beta There's really nothing "innovative" here in MP, just a really fast, really solid and really fun set of game types. That's more than enough for a casual MP player like me, but will the FPS-heads and their constant need for new ways to shoot the same folks in the head be fine with what's here? Only time will tell.

If I had to voice a major complaint, it would be with the lack of interaction with or physics in objects in the otherwise excellent environments. Chairs, tables, wooden doors, crates, trees and so forth and so on are indestructible and distractingly immovable, which is a bit lame. Granted, I'll agree that Half-Life 2 spoiled me forever thanks to the Gravity Gun and both Portal games proved that object interaction can be done in spectacular fashion. However, I'll cut Insomniac some slack because what's here flows so well otherwise. In the end, if this is indeed the final chapter in the Resistance saga, things go out in a really interesting manner and make for a fitting finale for the franchise. Of course, with the PS Vita around the corner, we might just see a return to this alternate 1950's Earth and the nasty aliens that wiped out 90% of its population, but told from yet another perspective (or even another gameplay genre). As long as it's as high quality as what's here, I'm all aboard that train...

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