September 12, 2011

Review – Resistance 3

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 8:45 am

Resistance 3
After the death of Nathan Hale in Resistance 2, Joseph Capelli has gone underground. Having sworn off the seemingly hopeless fight against the Chimaera, Resistance 3 sees him forced back into the fray—but in a way that’s decidedly more grounded in the story of one man than the clash of warring armies.

This sequel is a much-appreciated respite from the thunderous, flag-waving epics of many other triple-A shooters. It’s a campaign without patriotism, without battlecries, without hooahs; Joseph Capelli doesn’t represent a country, a world, an ISA or UNSC—he’s a man on a truly miserable roadtrip to protect his family.

Though, like many triple-A shooters, the title suffers from a relatively thin story, it mitigates this with a well-crafted atmospheric tone that makes it unique among its contemporaries, and offers a handful of poignant, choice moments that serve to elevate the narrative.

Capelli is unique among modern shooter protagonists in that he is aware of his morality. The Master Chief, Marcus Fenix—these guys don’t talk about dying, except perhaps in some poetic, vaguely glorious way, but Joseph Capelli doesn’t want to die, and doesn’t want to leave his family. Though his feats are as super-heroic as his competition, it’s touches like this that afford him a simple humanness to endear him to the player.

Resistance 3This approach is reinforced by the sobering score, the empty streets and hidden tunnels, the desolate environments and overwhelming battles—Resistance 3, far more than its predecessors, lives up to its name. Hiding underground and sniping enemies from blown out apartment buildings, bundled in old coats and tossing improvised grenades, I felt like a guerrilla fighter facing an innumerable opposition, and even though I toppled impossible numbers of enemy units and slayed immense monsters, an air of hopelessness and helplessness permeate the campaign.

In many ways, it feels as though Resistance is finally claiming (or in some cases, reclaiming) its identity.

I’d become so accustomed to the two-weapon system, that Resistance 3’s weapon wheel felt like a revelation—and that’s not far from the truth. Resistance 3 is built on the shoulders of its arsenal; there is no more significant element to gameplay than the weapons and their availability to the player.

Clever design and meticulous balance inform the entire arsenal; it is constructed in such a way that every single weapon is exciting to use—and, better than this, every weapon demands to be used. Guns have fairly small ammo capacities, such that players will run out of ammo in the game’s perpetually large scale battles—requiring constant improvisation with different weapons.

Weapons have particular niches—for example, the atomizer is great for crowd control, while the revolver is good for dealing high damage to single targets—but, in a notable design feat, almost every weapon can be effective against any enemy type, with the application of a little ingenuity.

Resistance 3 carries the torch of Duke Nukem and Doom before it, with an arsenal of freeze rays, incendiary shotguns, and alien sniper rifles that never force the player to give up his cool exploding revolver for a more all-purpose weapon.

Guns also have an upgrade path, whereby using a weapon more often will unlock upgrades more quickly. This offers an extremely potent advantage, which becomes critical as the difficulty ramps up—and I found myself cycling through every weapon in the game constantly, just to see what upgrades might surface next.

Additionally, weapons have secondary firing modes that significantly aid player strategy. The long range burst rifle can deploy turrets that are fantastic for thinning enemy ranks or defending positions, while the aptly named Mutator can fire clouds of mutagen to turn enemies into suicide bombs in larger battles. Using these weapons effectively is at the heart of the game, and what makes it so much fun is that the game never forces any single strategy—there are always options, and they’re options that players will want to explore.

Resistance 3
I feel like Resistance 3 makes a great case for diversity in shooter conventions. Yes, we all love Halo, and its contributions to the genre cannot be refuted—but not every game needs to be Halo. It‘s incredibly refreshing to never have to say “Well, I’m out of ammo—so I’d better pick up this needler I don’t really want,” while health management brings a stark new (or rather, old) challenge to the table.

Yes, you may find yourself stuck in a hopeless situation with only a scrap of health remaining—but there is nothing so satisfying as surmounting that impossible scenario, and coming out on top. There’s a more tangible sense of victory when one cannot simply take cover and then return to battle as if no wound had ever been sustained.

I got shot to hell all the time, and often fell back without the health to sustain me in a straightforward firefight—but with guile and the clever application of my arsenal, I survived. Resistance 3 is less about speed, less about twitch, and more about playing smart, with limited health requiring adaptive strategies.

There’s a great level of challenge at work here, bolstered by a wide variety of enemies that demand varied use of weapons, and the game strikes a balance by achieving difficulty without frustration. Enemy numbers may seem ludicrous, and sometimes even unfair, but victory is always within reach.

Interestingly, the game eschews the cliché of breaking up the campaign by sitting the player behind a turret or inside a vehicle. The only way to fight is with the guns in your hands, and that’s another area where the omnipresent arsenal does its work, taking an old-school and extremely satisfying approach to variety. In concert with an array of enemy types, this means that Resistance 3 plays different in every battle, never becoming tedious, without resorting to fakery.

Additionally, there are a handful of defense-oriented sequences, where the player is afforded stashes of health and ammo and must employ these unlimited resources to beat back an onslaught of enemies. These serve as a fun opportunity to really cut loose with the games fantastic weapons, and these sequences occur infrequently enough that they’re still special when they do happen.

Resistance 3
The final piece of the puzzle is boss encounters, and the work here is adequate, though not exceptional. There’s a recurring mini-boss that managed to surprise me with its ability to navigate the environment intelligently (even moving to flank and cut me off) and made for some cool encounters, while another battle saw a three-way melee between myself, the Chimaeran military, and a massive feral spider-like creature in one of the most frantic, exciting moments of the game.

Still, bosses adhere to the standard tropes where one shoots the glowy bits until the monster falls over, and some battles are less successful than others.

Interestingly, there’s no true final boss, with the campaign instead ending with a short, fast-paced battle, capped off with a moment that’s as close to an on-the-rails sequence as Resistance 3 comes.

All things considered, the campaign runs about seven hours on normal difficulty, though its brevity is offset by the ability to replay the experience with weapon upgrades intact (and, of course, to continue along the weapon progression path).

Also offered is two-player campaign co-op, refreshingly available in both the split screen and online varieties, and presenting the usual “Revive your ally before he bleeds out” configuration. There are a couple of hiccups (like being unable to utilize a health stash opened by an ally until it automatically closes itself again), but co-op is a largely smooth affair—and two players can employ the game’s unique arsenal in some pretty devastating strategies.

It should be noted, though, that co-operative doesn’t offer matchmaking, so if no one on your friends list has the game, you’re going to be out of luck for online co-op.

Finally, Resistance 3 includes a reasonably robust multiplayer component, packing a handful of deathmatch and objective modes. Multiplayer brings several Call of Duty conventions to bear, with customizable loadouts, perks, and killstreaks—but that’s where the similarities end. Multiplayer melees are irrevocably transformed by the game’s preposterous catalog of weapons, and the fact that though players only start with one, they can pick up all the others from fallen foes—transforming them into unstoppable mobile weapon platforms.

Resistance 3
Battles are frantic, and it’s impossible to anticipate exactly how your enemy, with his expansive options, will destroy you. Additionally, there’s a variety of upgrades for enhancing the weapons you rely on most, unlockable via points earned through leveling up.

The experience is, perhaps necessarily, less balanced and polished than some of its contemporaries. A player on a roll, through some powerful killstreaks and the fact that he acquires more weapons as he goes, is empowered in such a way as to make him even more unstoppable, and other players may find themselves being ground underfoot. I don’t know if you can really balance that type of game; there’s a different set of goals here, and though it can be frustrating, it’s also a great deal of fun, and a welcome reprieve from the multiplayer experiences that have become so indistinguishable in the industry.

After playing Resistance 2, it was difficult for me to muster interest in the sequel—but to my infinite relief, Resistance 3 is its own game, built to observe its own goals. It’s a refreshing, exciting title that stands out by virtue of a somewhat old-fashioned approach, harkening back to the days when a shooter offered players nine ridiculous weapons and said “Go forth, bring chaos.”

Insomniac Games

Sony Computer Entertainment

PlayStation 3

Singleplayer, Campaign Co-op (Splitscreen and Online), Online Multiplayer

Release Date
September 6, 2011

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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