Insomniac’s Playstation3 exclusive series has always had clear ambitions to be viewed in the same light as the Halo series is for Microsoft, but thus far it has somewhat struggled along the way. The original game was the standout of the PS3’s launch line-up, a fact that unfortunately said more about the lack of notable titles than the game’s inherent quality. Resistance 2 upped the ante in terms of the both scale and ambition back in 2008, at which point the central conceit of an alternative history when aliens invaded in the 1940’s still held some appeal but the game itself failed to really distinguish itself from the crowd, despite being a perfectly competent and enjoyable shooter.
From the opening minutes of Resistance 3 it’s clear that Insomniac returned to the drawing board and has taken a different tack this time around. For starters the game features a new protagonist, Joseph Capelli, a family man holing out in Haven, Oklahoma with his wife, son and small band of survivors. Set four years after the events of Resistance 2 it becomes clear early on that things have taken a turn for the worse and that mankind has all but lost the war. The Chimera have taken over the planet and the pockets of humanity that make up the resistance are largely now just struggling to survive.
The early sequences around the town of Haven, Oklahoma really bring this message home, and it’s a stark lesson in storytelling through design and atmosphere. There are infrequent pre-rendered cut-scenes throughout the game but it is at its most effective when the rundown environments, and characters, are allowed to speak for themselves. As such there is a much more sombre tone to the game than the more over the top excess of the series so far. This is ably assisted by the games’ new graphics engine which impresses from the off, with the deep earthy tones and gorgeous lighting being a real step up for the series, and helping to ground and establish the harsh reality the game presents you with.
You are soon reunited with Dr Malikov and charged with making your way to New York City to stop a tower that is threatening to slowly freeze the planet. So begins what is effectively the gaming version of a road-movie, whisking you through a variety of markedly different environments and in the process lining you up against some expertly designed set-pieces. From dilapidated prisons, to rundown factories and eerie fog-covered waterways there are elements of horror neatly woven into Resistance 3’s gameplay that make a welcome change from the generic sci-fi it can often fall back on. Some of these smaller, more atmospheric encounters are the strongest in the game, though they are closely matched by some enjoyably creative boss fights.
One thing the Resistance games have always had in their favour is a strong arsenal, and Resistance 3 more than continues this trend. At regular intervals you are equipped with new pieces of hardware, each with multiple functions, distinct combat advantages, as well as a neat upgrading facility that rewards usage, and encourages you to experiment with as many weapons as possible within the campaign. In fact one of the best things the game does is never limit your combat options, allowing you to hold multiple weapons at once and being generous with ammo means you don’t have to restrict your use of the best weapon, allowing you to enter each combat situation with a plethora of options. Whether you are sniping with the Deadeye, shooting through walls with the Auger (a welcome holdover from the other games) or even discovering the disgusting, but hugely enjoyable effects of the Mutator, the weapons are clearly the star of the show and don’t disappoint.
The gunplay in the game is very satisfying; sure, the Chimera aren’t the smartest enemies, but there is enough variety in types and sheer numbers to make the game a challenge in places and the various locations are usually well designed for these encounters, featuring multi-levelled structures and multiple paths that always give you options. The reversion to a fixed health system as per the first Resistance game is another addition that changes the way you play the game; with no regeneration you are encouraged to constantly press forward rather than hang back and pick enemies off from a distance.
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