on December 8, 2011
Well, here we are, almost half a decade has passed since Fall of Man came out as the PS3's killer app, and now Insomniac has released Resistance 3, their final game in the series. They've made a lot of changes to the third installment over its predecessors, refining and changing until this final product came to be. I'll be honest, when it comes to shooters, I've always considered the Resistance games to be 2nd-tier. That isn't to say I think the first two titles are bad or "meh," I found them both to be pretty fun shooters (Fall of Man especially because of co-op campaign, R2 was alright but not as good as the first). Still, I've always preferred Halo as a sci fi shooter, or the PS3's other flagship franchises such as Uncharted and Killzone. Well, I can honestly say that with R3, we have a game that finally delivers on the promise of the series. This review will mainly be about the campaign, as that is pretty much all I play games for.
The Resistance series has always had the potential to be spectacular with regards to story. The premise of the series is awesome, mixing a 1950's alternate history setting with War of the Worlds. However, the first two games felt more like militaristic popcorn sci-fi action thrillers, with only minimal exposition and character development to excuse all the action, rather than poignant tales about mankind's indomitable spirit despite staring down the barrel of impending extinction by a vast, advanced alien enemy. This game feels like the latter. Finally, we see just how bleak of a situation mankind is in, with only 10% of Earth's population not killed by or converted into Chimera. We play as Joseph Capelli four years after R2, who has been dishonorably discharged and settled down with a family. Dr. Malikov shows up and asks for Joseph's help to go on a 1000+ mile trip to New York with an ambiguous promise that what awaits there will give humanity a fighting chance to survive. Joseph reluctantly agrees, but mainly for the sake of his beloved wife and son.
In my humble opinion, this is the best storytelling of the entire Resistance series, hands down. Joseph is a great lead character, the kind you sympathize with and root for. For the most part, all character development is very well done, the characters are by and large likable and relatable, and the Chimera are extremely disturbing and fascinating (Even after three games, we still know nothing about the Chimera or understand them, which helps make them so creepy). This is a much more intimate story than what Resistance has ever delivered, and it is all the better for it. It's also a lot more cinematic. That doesn't mean it isn't exciting or that epic set pieces have been left out. There may not be anything to the level of the Leviathan of R2 (which is a disappointment, but makes sense given the tone of the story), but seeing the massive Goliath return, or a stampede of feral widowmakers (think massive leapers) comes pretty close.
The art and sound design cannot go unmentioned either. The graphics definitely aren't on a level of Uncharted or Killzone technically, but they're good enough to deliver on the art design's promise. That's a very good thing. A besieged 1950's rural america REALLY looks good here. Vistas, environments, character models, weapon models, they all add to the experience quite well. The sound design is equally compelling, as the soundtrack is pretty good, and the sound effects are exceptional. You'll never mistake a Chimeran dropship for anything else, and the guttural roar of the various Chimeran types is very well done. It's all very iconic. Everything in the visual and audio department *really* immerses you into the bleak War of the Worlds worse case scenario, and that is high praise indeed. The cinematics, while looking really good, do have some issues such as weird lip syncing issues that can distract.
Honestly, the gameplay is where the series has always shined, and it shines very brightly here. R3 almost feels like a hybrid (no pun intended) of the first two games. You have many gameplay mechanics from Fall of Man returning here, such as health packs and the weapon's wheel, but you also have the tighter, refined controls from R2 making a return as well. It's a perfect mix of both R1 and R2 that Insomniac has been tinkering with for multiple installments, and finally R3 gets it right. The weapons are as imaginative and satisfying as they ever were, AND there's an awesome new mechanic here that borrows heavily from Insomniac's other flagship franchise, Ratchet & Clank. You see, the more you use a weapon, the more experience it accumulates, and eventually you'll be able to unlock three upgrades to the weapons. A shotgun leveled up once makes it able to light enemies on fire by chance, and a final upgrade makes its secondary fire launch a massive grenade that can light a massive radius on fire. The weapons also undergo aesthetic changes as well with each level. This simple leveling system was incredibly awesome, and really added to the game's value to me. It forced you to use all the weapons in the addicting quest to upgrade them all. Very nice. The AI was also greatly improved over the first two games. Different Chimera types have their own unique strategies, and each feel pretty formidable. I wouldn't say the AI is any better than other FPS franchises though, but still decent.
There is no 8-player co-op mode like in R2, which is a huge bummer, but I have to give thanks for the fact that you can play the campaign with a co-op buddy again. This feature is what made Fall of Man so fun to me in the first place, and it was a major disappointment that its sequel did away with it. It was great playing this with my brother-in-law. We actually played it all in one sitting, which took about 7 hours, a disappointingly paltry campaign lenth. It may not be as inexcusably short as the Call of Duty series, sure, but it's also not as long as I'd prefer from a FPS (I prefer at least 8 or 9 hours and hope for 10+). With such a fun campaign, the shortness is disappointing. At least those few hours are packed with variety and excitement...
Multiplayer: Insomniac did away with the massive multiplayer matches of R2 and honestly, I think it suffers for it. It's not that 16-player matches are bad, but the big player pools of R2 really made that game's multiplayer component unique and frenzied compared to other franchises like Halo or Killzone. Now, it just seems like all the rest in terms of gameplay dynamics. As I said earlier, I don't care too much for multiplayer to make this that big of a problem, but it is worth mentioning. Maps are designed well and the gameplay is great though, so if you're a multiplayer sort of gamer, Resistance probably will please you more than it will disappoint.
I've always loved the idea behind the Resistance series. I've always wanted to consider it a top-tier series, but for various reasons, I could never bring myself to do it. Resistance 3 is the game that has fully won me over with only little reservations. I had a blast playing this game, getting lost in its atmosphere, story, and action. It has its problems, sure, but overall my experience with Resistance 3 was a good one, and one I would recommend to others with only the slightest hesitation or apprehension. I can't say that about the first two games, where I always felt the need to explain qualifiers for. This is a great game. Buy it, go on a wild, compelling journey, and be the resistance.