Here’s a surprising tidbit in gaming: People like war-based games. Crazy! But when it comes to war-themed games, the setting is typically a bit glorified. Even when the situation is desperate, the game revels in the action and usually makes the hero larger than life. Even in the previous Resistance games, where the setting was grim, protagonist Nathan Hale was still an uber-hero. He was the most effective soldier around, and you never doubted that he would succeed in his mission.
Resistance 3 takes that convention and twists it around. If you have played the previous Resistance games, then you know that things are not going well for the human race. The alien Chimera have pretty much pwned us to near extinction, and humanity is no longer fighting back, but rather just trying to survive. In other words, this is not a happy-go-lucky game.
Resistance 3 is a dark and bleak look at the end of the world. The main character, Joseph Capelli, is a reluctant hero. He is forced back into the fight, and the separation from his wife and child taxes him. The journey he takes is also a dark look at what has become of the world. This is not a happy game, but it is a damn good one.
It’s the end of the world as we know it
The plot of Resistance 3 picks up four years after the events of the previous game. If you haven’t played that title but intend to, I will avoid spoilers on what happens at the end. This time out, the narrative shifts to that of the last Sentinel Joseph Capelli, who is trying to leave the fight behind.
Capelli is part of a small refugee community including his wife and child, located in Haven, Oklahoma. The Chimera have been busy with their own world domination-y things, and haven’t yet found them, granting the survivors a small semblance of normal life — despite the whole “being hunted to extinction” thing.
Things go FUBAR when Dr. Malikov, who has been looking for Capelli for a while now, turns up in Haven with a Chimeran contingent — including a terraformer capable of obliterating the settlement — on his heels. After a heated battle, the settlement is lost, and Malikov tells Capelli that he needs him to act as escort to New York to destroy a Chimeran tower, which has opened a wormhole in space to an alien world. If they cannot shut it down, the best case scenario is that Earth will freeze. The worst case is that more Chimeran will use it to come to Earth.
Capelli reluctantly kisses his wife and son goodbye, and begins the dangerous journey to New York, knowing from the very start that his would almost certainly be a one-way trip.
Usually when you have a game where your character is essentially the best killer alive and soaked in the blood of thousands of enemies, there is an inherent sense of duty that pushes them onward that is never really questioned. You have the occasional reluctant hero, but few really have much emotion governing their actions. Capelli is different. His journey is fairly sad, and the loss he feels for his family is palpable. There is also a moment later in the game where a twist pulls the mission off course, and Capelli is left feeling feel an sense of isolation and hopelessness that you can relate with.
When Capelli finally reaches New York, the moment rings of melancholy more than triumph. He is determined, but also thinks that his own end is near. And this is a theme for the entire game. The America that Resistance 3 takes place in is a ruined one, and the people are shells. In several instances, the game feels almost like more of a survival-horror game than an traditional action shooter.
Resistance 2 featured massive and colorful levels, with an epic scope and scale. From the doomed city of San Francisco to the flooded ruins of Chicago, Resistance 2 was a spectacle — and the story was secondary to the setting and look. Resistance 3 goes in another direction.
The levels in Resistance 3 are somewhat bland — at least compared to its predecessor. The game begins in Oklahoma, heads to St. Louis then takes a detour in Pennsylvania before making it to New York and beyond. Each area has a distinct look and feel, and each are well designed, but lack some of the jaw-dropping locales from R2. The trade off is that the story is much more intimate, and it is far, far easier to relate with Capelli than it ever was with Nathan Hale.
With the personal narrative also comes the shortened game. It is a deliberately tight narrative, which can be burned through in under 10 hours. That isn’t bad for a game these days, and the co-op and competitive multiplayer add to it, but there is less to see and do than in the previous game. But that is a common complaint with games these days, and maybe just something that we all need to get used to.
But the story is great, and the levels are interesting. Maybe not quite as interesting as its predecessor, but that is an unfair comparison. There is also the best feature of Resistance 3, the game play.
Get your claws off me, you damn dirty Chimera
From the first moment, the game play feels solid and responsive. It is a well thought out design in both how it responds, and how the game plays. The weapon circle is back from the original Resistance, and you will now have access to 11 weapons (12 including a sledgehammer). The alt-fire ability also returns, and that gives every weapon a unique feel thanks to its secondary function. Each of those weapons now has the ability to be upgraded up to level three through use, and with each upgrade comes a new enhancement. For example, for the the shotgun, the first upgrade offers incendiary bullets, for the Marksman it is a new scope and increased bullet damage, and each weapon has its own upgrades to make it increasingly powerful.
Weapons have always been a staple of all Insomniac Games, and they are a highlight of Resistance 3. They all feel solid and are fun to use, plus the upgrades make it worth using each and every weapon often. And while finding ammo isn’t that tough, finding the right ammo is. That forces you to push yourself to play with weapons you might not otherwise use, and that is a great move by the developers. And you will need to use all of your weapons, because there are a lot of Chimera. A whole, whole lot.
When I play first-person shooters where I have a gun and my mission is to destroy enemies, I have a “thing.” I tend to take it to the extreme. Especially when it is an enemy like an alien that has damaged parts of my country, enslaved my people or destroyed my favorite restaurant or whatever, I take it personal. So I kill them all. I will not just advance through an area, I will hunt down every last one and murder them. Mercy is for the weak. No quarter shall be asked for, or given. Even when I don’t have to, even if I am playing co-op with my exasperated friends who tend to stand less than patiently at a door that needs two people to open, I maniacally hunt down the last enemy to kill them — preferably in a spectacular fashion. I tend to leave no survivors. Resistance 3 not only encourages that, it forces you to get dirty.
Several times in Resistance 3, you will be faced with a scenario where you don’t just kill the enemy and advance, you need to survive enemy onslaughts. It happens frequently, and you won’t be able to progress until there are a pile of Chimera corpses at your feet. This leads to two things: First, it leaves you feeling like a bit of a badass after having waxed an entire squadron of alien soldiers. You are their Jason in Friday the 13th, and if any had been left alive, they would whisper your name in fear. The second thing it that it frequently leads to some tense, white-knuckle moments that force you to use multiple weapons, strategize on the fly and hold nothing back. Guns and health are fairly plentiful in Resistance 3, so you can push the gameplay as it is meant to be pushed.
Resistance 3 isn’t as stylish as its predecessor, but it is a better technical game. As far as FPS games go, it is one of the best on the market in terms of gameplay.
An old look at a new multiplayer
The multiplayer of Resistance 3 is robust and has a lot to offer for fans of online shooters. There are both competitive and co-op modes (the co-op campaign can also be played via splitscreen), and several game modes that are all fun to play. It is a fairly traditional multiplayer, and while it is done exceedingly well, it isn’t anything new.
The massive 60-player games of Resistance 2 are gone, in favor of the more traditional 16-player matches. The co-op does offer a campaign, which was a staple of the original game then replaced in Resistance 2 with a special original co-op mode, but the eight player games are now limited to two. That makes sense for the tone of the campaign. The change from 60 players in the competitive down to 16 also makes sense, and offers far more possibilities with the game modes.
Still, it is a shame to see the originality of Resistance 2 disappear in favor of a more traditional multiplayer. The innovation is gone, but in its place is a well polished offering.
There are a handful of game modes, including: deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, deathmatch small mode, war games (objective-based matches), breach (attack or defend an area) and chain reaction (gain control over areas). There are also abilities, AKA perks, which become more varied as you gain experience and level up, as well as kill streaks. You also earn more weapons as you increase levels. Eventually you will receive all of the weapons from the game. It is nothing you haven’t seen before, but it is well done.
Resistance 3 is a solid offering that should keep gamers’ attention for a long while (or at least until Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3 come out). If it can gain a strong enough following, it may even be able to keep a solid cult following playing for a long time.
Resistance 3 is a must-play game for PS3 owners who are fans of the FPS genre. For fans of the series, it is the best in terms of gameplay. The settings are a bit more bland compared to Resistance 2, but story and tone are much stronger, plus Joseph Capelli is a better character than Nathan Hale.
The action is intense, the weapons are satisfying to use and the leveling system is addictive, and the online modes are more than enough to keep your attention for a long time to come. PS3 owners, feel free to commence your bragging towards 360 owners anytime now.
Score: 8.5 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 on a copy provided by Sony Computer Entertainment)