This review is as spoiler free as possible.
It’s a sorry, forlorn tale. With the vast majority of the human race either dead or converted, tiny pockets of war fatigued survivors have given up the battle and taken to hiding, sneaking about in makeshift underground caverns and simply keeping watch for any passing Chimera. Four years on from Resistance 2 and the world is a desolate, empty place; only desperate scavengers dare walk the surface and families do their best to protect loved ones deep in the quiet shadows and relative – if perhaps only temporary in the long term – safety.[videoyoutube]Joe Capelli, his wife and son are amongst one such lonely outpost in Haven, Oklahoma, with a handful of others inhabiting a small, peaceful colony. At the beginning of the game, once you’ve got past a rather bloated weapon training section, a passing Chimeran scouting party is alerted to your presence and any carefully constructed cover is blown in a second, throwing the outpost into a doomed, one-sided skirmish against a belligerent, more powerful enemy. It’s here that Resistance 3 quickly flexes its muscles, the small town area playing host to a quick-fire blend of long range potshots and a close-up, personal meeting with a Brawler.
Your starting gun, the Bullseye, is a perfect introduction to Resistance 3’s esoteric, expansive arsenal. Resistance fans will be familiar with its lock-on tagging mechanic – something that becomes much more useful when faced with the agile, deadly Long Legs – but it plays a vital role in reminding the player that these games are all about the weapons. Choosing the right tool for the job is essential, and whilst the return of the weapon wheel means that you can carry as many guns as the game offers, the best players will mix them up constantly.
The weapons are upgradeable twice too, through regular use, and this itself adds extra layers of tactical decision making. For example, the Bullseye ultimately lets you tag multiple targets at once, the returning shoot-through-walls Auger can fire three shots at once and the Deadeye sniper rifle gains the ability to highlight enemies with a set of yellow corner marks, even in the dark. Bringing up the weapon wheel (via the Triangle button) freezes the game, so it’s possible to use one weapon to weaken an enemy and another to take it down, or pick out hidden foes with the Auger vision and switch to the sniper for covert dispatches.
It’s a fun cocktail, once you’ve discovered enough guns. The trick with the Resistance titles is that even the starter weapons remain useful throughout the game, and this is especially true now that each is augmented twice as you stick with it (and there’s the option to carry your existing upgrades through to a new game once you’ve beaten it) meaning that although you’ll find your favourites (and we won’t spoil some of the later, more ‘out there’ inventions) there are generally guns best suited for a given type of enemy. Grenades return too, in various flavours including a handy EMP device and molotov cocktails.[drop]Also back in the game is Dr Malikov, who sets the game’s plot in motion early on and is the key to a lot of the storyline. He’s not the only fleshed out character you’ll meet, of course, but he’s perhaps the most important, and along with a militant band of soldiers dubbed Remnants, provides much of Capelli’s in-ear motivational direction. The Remnants are somewhat stumbled upon, and discarded almost as quickly (at least for a while) but it’s what Insomniac do at about the two thirds mark that’ll get everyone talking – if you were wondering what the developers could possibly do to give Resistance 3 its own big twist, you’ll find out soon enough.
And whilst it’s a not unwelcome change of direction, it’s probably not a necessary one, because Resistance 3 feels as far away from the other games in the series as it could possibly do whilst remaining under the same brand. It’s a much more focused, more human story and it’s one that constantly feels like there’s little hope in the face of a Chimeran stranglehold that’s only getting tighter – Capelli’s actually quite a likeable character, his ties to his wife and child hitting the right notes through occasional reminders and yet never feeling anything but delicate and emotional.
The scale ramps up, as you’d expect, with a conclusion so utterly massive that it makes those early stages in Haven seem so far away, but it seldom loses the grip on what really counts this time around: Capelli’s single ticket mission and his desire to try to do whatever he can to help the human race. Of course, it’s an entirely linear path he takes (both in terms of a wider picture and, sadly, almost every single corridor and room in the game) but it’s a story well told and one that Resistance fans won’t be disappointed by. The ending’s a little vague and self centred, mind, but it would be foolish to think this is the last in the series.
What will impress, however, are the visuals. It’s tricky to explain exactly what makes the game so aesthetically strong but it’s probably a mix of physicality (you can practically feel the explosions) and detail – the engine’s a strong one, offering up motion blur, huge draw distances, high resolution textures, level streaming and an almost solid thirty frames per second, but it also manages to seamlessly flick between massive snow filled outdoor sequences and dark, moody interiors without batting an eyelid, and it does this all the time. In fact, whilst there are plenty of external areas to explore and fight the Chimera in, around a quarter of the game is played out in darkness, save for the light from your torch.
It’s safe to say that the last four levels or so offer up some of the best visuals we’ve seen in a first person shooter this generation, and the gameplay equally matches up. From simple beginnings to a handful of staggeringly ambitious closing segments, Resistance 3 will throw laser sighted snipers, packs of zombie-like Grims and at least one Resistance: Fall of Man favourite at the player; send him on a train, a boat and a ‘plane and force him to fight with nothing but a sledgehammer. It’s a widely varied eight hours or so, that’s for sure, and the whole thing’s playable with a friend co-op too, either offline or over PSN.[drop2]It’s not all perfect, mind. There were a couple of occasions where the sheer number of Chimera on screen made the game feel a little like attrition and void of tactics other than just to keep plugging away (and one section in particular played out like a dumbed down Ravenholm), some of the characters just disappeared from the storyline without really doing anything and there were some aspects of the level design that really needed fine tuning in terms of signposting – but they weren’t numerous and only really grated when they caused unnecessary death reloads.
On the whole, though, Resistance 3 is great fun. The boss battles were solid, the main campaign lengthy enough without overstaying its welcome (there’s very little filler) and although there aren’t actually that many locations in the game, what there is offers up a wide range of gameplay and pacing, even if the boat section early on is slightly dull. From the halfway point onwards Resistance 3 doesn’t let up, and the ability to play through again with upgraded weapons (and all manner of cheats that can be activated from the in-game menus) means that you can just suit up and enjoy the ride.
- The weapons are, again, brilliantly designed.
- The plot’s the best in the series so far.
- The change of direction at around the two thirds mark is a nice surprise.
- Multiplayer will keep you busy for months.
- Sometimes the game just throws too many enemies at you, we’d have preferred fewer, smarter foes.
- Secondary characters aren’t really fleshed out properly.
- The character models are ugly, with terrible lip sync.
Resistance 3 isn’t revolutionary, but it’s better than Resistance 2 and, even though it’s a much more singular, human tale, it feels enough like the first Resistance that hopefully fans that didn’t like the second outing will give Insomniac another chance. Capelli’s road trip hardly ever goes to plan, but invest in the character and his motives and you’ll find that every chance you get to pull the trigger on some Chimeran skulls you’ll be cracking a smile. Move, Sharpshooter and 3D support round off one of the most comprehensive packages since Killzone 3 – and we’ve no hesistation in saying that this is a safe buy for fans.