Born with the launch of the Playstation 3, the Resistance series has never been truly considered as strong an IP as the other big exclusives of the console. It has probably little to do with the gameplay as it's always been pretty effective, but some reviewers nonetheless did not give the first two games such a warm welcome. Sales never suffered too much from it though, which is why Resistance 3 is about to land in the shops in just a week. To those who think that it probably does not deserve their attention, watch out, you might be missing one of the first hits of this end of year. Explanation inside.
Running after a chimera
Resistance 3 takes place four years after the end of the second episode, leaving the role of the main protagonist to Joseph Capelli, something quite obvious to those who completed the previous game. Determined to keep on living as normal a life as possible considering the situation, the new hero gets married and even becomes the father of a little boy. Not the perfect peaceful life you'd expect to raise a kid, but the small family still manages to feel a bit home with the other survivors they live with.
Unfortunately, as you've probably guessed, it is no time to relax; soon, all of them find themselves forced to flee because of the Chimeran threat. A threat which is in fact professor Malikov's fault, as he was followed on his quest to find Joe, the only man on earth capable of helping him. The old man is not particularly welcome there and Joe does not seem to be interested in what he has to say. How can we blame him when Malikov explains they must go to New York to prevent a terrible winter from killing all the remaining survivors in the US? A suicidal mission, not to say impossible. Of course, Joe finally accepts to follow him back East, but to find out why, you will have to play the game yourself. Then starts a long and difficult journey, an exhausting expedition whose success seems very unlikely right from the beginning.
Pièce de Resistance
Resistance 3's gameplay is unsurprisingly built around a succession of bravery moments going crescendo as you progress into the story. During the 7 to 8 hours of the campaign mode (in the normal difficulty setting), Joe will never stop encountering more and more impossible situations, going through the remnants of American towns, navigating the Mississippi river, surviving the danger of a forest at night or a crazy train ride, etc. If the environments Joe discovers are not particularly original, they are at least quite varied, each with their own atmosphere. Good news to those who miss the old days of first person shooters - back when life did not regenerate with time -, Resistance 3 forces you to be careful and be on the lookout for medkits. Staying in hiding is not enough to stay alive, so get ready to risk your life running in the middle of the battlefield because you often desperately need to fix you up before a Chimera takes you down for good.
The Resistance series has always been known for its crazy and inspired arsenal so it is no wonder Resistance 3 is no exception. There are in fact 12 different weapons, which, as you can imagine, are as effective as they are uncommon: some allow you to shoot through walls (a lot less fun when you are the target though), while others freeze your enemy to death; there are also tracing bullets or incendiary ones to play with, and a lot more! Using your weapons makes them gain experience and level up, which unlocks new deadlier functions. Gunfights are extremely dynamic, sometimes set in enclosed environments, sometimes in more open spaces to give you a bit more freedom of action. In some instances, you really feel like your back is up against the wall and that everything is just hopeless, which conveys the sense of uselessness one can have when faced with a desperate situation. Thankfully, the game always pushes you to go forward, even if that means it has to refill a bit your ammo should you have to restart at the last checkpoint.
A bit like Half Life², or more recently Metro 2033, Resistance 3 also gives you a little time to catch your breath with more atmospheric sequences where action is not key. These sequences are a lot more effective than what the mediocre Homefront tried to achieve, so you can actually sympathize with the survivors, feel their despair and sorrow as their only chance of survival is to stay hidden from the Chimeras and to fight back. Sometimes though, these breaks into the action do not take the form of quiet and peaceful scenes. Indeed, their function is also to keep you on your toes, to build up tension so you stay vigilant, as after all danger lurks around every corner. Never too long or boring, these passages are also completely part of the story, a story which always gives you the incentive to keep playing thanks to the combination of nice cutscenes and varied documents you find here and there (letters, audio recordings, etc).
The will to offer a rich and immersive universe probably explains why the shadow of Half Life² can be felt throughout the adventure. Some of the locations you go through remind of Valve's game, like for example the Insomniac version of Ravenholm or the mines infested with aggressive creatures. Also reminiscent of Half Life² are the yellow markings indicating resistance hideouts or the sentinels tracking down people to name but a few. Even the dropships seem to have a kind of family tie with the famous title from Valve. That being said, it never feels like the game is merely copying its peers. Moreover, it is hard not think of The Walking Dead (the comic book) when Joe finds himself confronted to men who have lost their humanity in the course of the invasion, making them even more dangerous than Chimeras. All in all, Resistance 3 is then a patchwork of many influences but it never loses Insomniac Games' personal touch. I think it is safe to say that the American developer has finally managed to give their universe a worthy game.
The path of least resistance is to play it solo
Resistance 2 featured a multiplayer mode where up to 60 participants could compete but things are a little different in the third installment of the franchise. As a matter of fact, Insomniac decided it would be best if the number of players did not exceed 16. Though it might seem like a regression on paper, what they had at heart was to make multiplayer less messy and more intense than ever before. Experience is of course important and the points you earn allow you to choose from different abilities and attributes. It then ensures you to be able to adapt your choices to your play style and create a totally versatile team with your friends.
The available maps will take you all around the world and not just in the US like the single player mode. You will then visit Europe, Africa, South America, etc. The size of the different maps makes games with less than 16 players interesting enough, with multiple paths to flank your enemies and good hiding places. That being said, they are also big enough to be enjoyable even when all slots have been taken. You will find the usual modes (deathmatch, capture the flag), but also the Breach mode which was already present in Fall of Man (consisting in working as a team to destroy the enemy's reactor). A bit more "original" is the Chain reaction mode asking you to take over several zones in order to open or close a wormhole. As proven to those who played the beta, Resitance's multiplayer is a lot of fun and should keep you busy for a good while.
Finally, a few words on the co-op mode which allows you to play through the whole campaign with a friend, local or online. Split screen games having become quite rare, we thought it would be something interesting to underline, even though it comes with a price. The game indeed looks a lot less impressive but it is still pretty decent overall. The main problem is the fact that the whole width of the screen is not used in order to keep the game's aspect ratio, which obviously affects visibility. For that reason, the best way to enjoy co-op is still to play online with a friend.
When Ratchet & Clank was first released on Playstation 2, the guys at Insomniac were praised for the technical prowess they had delivered. Things have been a little different with the new generation with a bit more mixed feelings about their 3D engine. The migration of their famous platform game on PS3 went pretty well overall but one can't say people have been amazed by their work on the Resistance franchise so far. That's probably why players did not think much would change with the third installment. Big mistake, it is hard not to notice the overall improvement in the graphics department. Resistance 3's visuals look good, though they do not manage to catch up with Killzone 3 and Uncharted 2. Particles effects make the levels quite lively, with gusts of wind blowing dust and debris around deserted street corners, giving a hard time to the remaining trees. Lighting effects are also praiseworthy as they serve the different atmospheres very well.
Not everything is perfect though. There are still some poor textures to be seen, provided you really stick your nose on them. Aliasing may also be an issue for some but it did not bother me that much, especially considering that it's not all that visible depending on the chapter you're in. Animations also lack the smoothness of Killzone's and even look dated at times, like for example when Joe climbs up a ladder. The biggest disappointment comes with the framerate which is not as steady as it should. Slowdowns occur when attacked by a huge number of enemies, or when all hell breaks loose, but it is thankfully never detrimental to gameplay. As far as AI is concerned, there are a few oddities, like when a foe just stands still waiting to be shot – something that strangely happens a bit more when confronted to humans. In the end, minor details you tend to forget thanks to the rest of the package, like for example the very good soundtrack with high quality voice acting and amazing music.
First excellent surprise of this end of year, Resistance 3 finally manages to become a PS3 exclusive worthy of its counterparts. Even though it is less lengthy than the previous episode's, the campaign mode is, by far, better paced, more spectacular and more exciting to play. It is also built on a crescendo that takes the player on an impressive roller-coaster ride. Mutliplayer and co-op add even more play time to the equation if the single player experience is not enough for you. Truth be told, I haven't had such a blast with a first person shooter in a long while, which is why I strongly advise you to give it a try. After all, Resistance 3 has no trouble besting Killzone 3 and other references of the genre in many departments.