Resistance 3 Review
Though it’s likely to be overshadowed by the recent release of instant-classic Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Resistance 3 deserves to be a huge hit. At turns frenetic, mournful, sardonic and incredibly bleak, it has one of the best pure-genre stories in recent gaming and proves to be a fitting end to the trilogy that began in 2006. While its multiplayer and combat mechanics won’t change a world dominated by Call of Duty, it’s an extremely fun first person shooter that adds enough twists to an otherwise by-the-book gameplay system to stand out.
Resistance 3 (Playstation 3)
Developer: Insomniac Games
Release Date: Sept. 5, 2011
Insomniac’s Resistance: Fall of Man was the original reason to bother paying far too much for a PlayStation 3. The PS3 launch title was both an alternate history tale – albeit one with so many points of diversion that it defies explanation – and a 1950′s alien invasion thriller that combined a shameless celebration of the cliches of Sci-fi and military fiction, with engaging, somewhat old school gameplay. A winning formula, judging from sales and critical acclaim. This led to a inevitable sequel, 2009′s Resistance 2, that moved the setting from Britain to the United States, escalated the alien threat to the extreme, and ended with a shocker conclusion – the mercy killing of series protagonist Nathan Hale – that left players gasping in disbelief.
And now we come the trilogy’s conclusion, Resistance 3. Those of you worried whether or not it could measure up to previous installments, while building off the WTF ending of Resistance 2 can relax. Resistance 3 is a wonderful success.
It begins in 1957, 4 years after Resistance 2′s shock ending. We’re informed that the invading Chimera aliens have killed 90% of all human life and that humanity has largely lost the war. The United States is effectively a wasteland, comprised of pockets of resistance surrounded by vast swaths of Chimera-occupied territory. Joseph Capelli, who pulled the trigger on Nathan Hale in the previous game, was drummed out of the military and has long since left that life behind, now living with his family and a group of other survivors, eking out a subsistance living in fictional Haven, OK. He’s called back into active duty when Dr. Fyodor Malikov, (returning after his failures in Resistance 2), arrives on the scene, claiming to have devised a cure for the Chimera virus – and a way to drive the invaders from the US.
Joseph is thus tasked with escorting Malikov to New York City, at which point the game takes on an episodic narrative style that is 50% military potboiler and 50% inversion of the classic American ‘road’ tale. It isn’t a complex story, but it is surprisingly literate, owing as much to the alien invasion films of the 50s as it does to material like Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and the scope is huge. It is somewhat ham-fisted in the telling: the beginning contains some rather unsubtle melodrama, and cut scenes frequently make the game feel a bit “and this happened, then this happened…”. But even if individual missions don’t quite gel into the larger story, they feature enough variety, and offer some hilarious digressions, to keep the players engaged to the final, bittersweet end.
It helps that Resistance 3 has absolutely excellent graphics. The environments for example, are staggering. Sunsets cast a mournful glow on the wrecked world; wind-swept trees buckle realistically against gale force blasts; flakes of snow float so slowly they almost look suspended in the air (a real-life weather phenomenon that occurs during particularly brutal winters, such as the one caused by Chimera terraforming). I’m reluctant to say I found it touching, but the level of sheer detail in Resistance 3 demonstrates aptly that a little effort goes a long way to making a player completely accept a premise. This is particularly praiseworthy since said premise otherwise relies on so many what ifs as to be almost laughable.
Insomniac absolutely nailed a barren, used looking war-torn United States, evoking the kind devastation visited on Europe during the second world war. Buildings appear to rot and crumble from years of neglect. Aging, still-in-use vehicles and rusted heaps alike convey the lack of industrial progress made since the chimera invasion began 7 years earlier. Likewise, hybrid technologies used by the ragtag human resistance demonstrate aesthetically the kind of scavenging humanity is reduced to in order to survive. It’s a beautiful and unsettling compliment to the bleak story and setting, and one gets the sense while playing that no matter how the war eventually turns out, there may not be an Earth left for the winner to claim.
The only problem is the design of human and Chimera characters. The Chimera are appropriately terrifying, but with the exception of the enormous Widowmaker, they kind of blend together into an unmemorable collage of alien terror. That’s fine as far as it goes, because the real problem is how the humans, as designed, are right in the most awkward part of the uncanny valley. They look essentially like people wearing masks of their own faces. Normally this wouldn’t even be worth commenting on – game developers still haven’t really gotten the hang of realistic human faces. But these faces really stand out in the otherwise gorgeous looking game. Fortunately, you only really deal with the problem during cut scenes.
As with previous installments, Resistance 3′s controls are standard issue, Call of Duty style. That includes a lack of any formal cover system. Resistance 3 also retains the series’ nasty old school damage system. You won’t heal over time, but need to find medic/power up items to restore your health. Thus the series’ weird mixture of modern and old school FPS gameplay is retained. That’s going to frustrate people used to, at the very least, not having to micromanage every last shred of HP during a fight, but once I grew re-accustomed to it, I found that it presented interesting challenges. Particularly in that it encourages the player to think critically about the environment and choose one’s actions with care.
What might make up for the lack of healing is the return of the upgrading weapons feature. A staple of Insomniac games, the more you use your weapons, the more incredible they become. Frankly, you might not mind being shredded so often when you have a gun that can shoot through walls, or a sniper rifle that highlights head shots.
Related to that, what sets Resistance 3 apart – from prior installments and other FPS games – is that instead of a more straightforward hardened soldiers-on-a-mission game, Resistance 3 is about la resistance, about the hardscrabble partisans who keep the fight going even after the government has collapsed, and gameplay reflects that. Combat in the single player campaign therefore emphasizes guerilla tactics, dirty tricks, asymmetrical warfare and other less than honorable means of winning a war.
Finally, the multiplayer is extremely fun. I typically am not that happy with the multiplayer aspects of major games. Either they feel tacked on to something that doesn’t need it or it ends up making the single player campaign feel superfluous. This is complicated by the fact that I absolutely hated the Resistance 3 multiplayer beta. But the final product is excellent. It’s a little bit restrained by comparison to Resistance 2 – so far at least, there is no 8 player co-op. But Resistance 3′s relative pared-down multiplayer still works as a fine compliment to the single player campaign.
Weapons are of course upgradeable, and players can choose from returning favorites like the magnum and new hotness like the awesome shrapnel grenade. It has 5 modes: Team Deathmatch, Chain Reaction, Deathmatch, Breach, and Capture the Flag. Players can also enjoy either online or split-screen co-op; the split-screen option has been a source of tremendous win in my household, where my girlfriend and I were fighting over who’s turn it was to play for the first week or so after Resistance 3 came out. Maps are varied and set worldwide, from locations that call back to the Resistance: Fall of Man (Glamorgan, Wales), to Columbia. My personal favorite is the prison map, but all maps offer players the chance to try different tactics and strategies and have the added bonus of helping you get better at the single player campaign. Even if, as is always the case, whenever I play against randoms on PSN, I die real fast and real often.
Resistance 3 doesn’t change the world. It builds entirely off the previous entries in the series and as I said, it is a big pile of well-cooked cliches. But it’s engaging, extremely fun and worth repeated play-throughs. It is gorgeous, and through deft application of genre staples it’s also almost touching. Most importantly, it’s a joy to play, challenging on higher difficulty, fun to veg out to on lower difficulty. It might not be a reason to buy a PlayStation 3, but it is absolutely a must for any gamer who already owns one.
* Engaging and intelligent story
* Varied missions
* Gameplay system that encourages strategic thinking
* Excellent multiplayer
* Excellent environment graphics
* Lack of formal cover system, gradual healing may frustrate.
* Human and Chimera graphics could be improved.
Final Score: 95/100
NOTE: This review has been updated to include impressions of Resistance 3′s multiplayer component. Consequently, the review score has slightly increased (from 93/100 to 95/100), taking the game’s multiplayer experience into account.