Resistance 3 (PS3)
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release: September 6, 2011
Price: $59.99

THROUGH NEW EYES

Insomniac’s latest alternate history shooter picks up four years after the events of Resistance 2. Nathan Hale is dead – slain by Joseph Capelli, the series’ new protagonist. This utterly unremarkable middle-aged dude rocks facial stubble and a gruff voice. He’s an ex-sentinel, though, and he fought alongside Hale in Resistance 2, so Capelli knows a thing or two about kicking chimera ass.

Earth is lost. The chimeran war machine has spread methodically across the globe, squashing most remaining pockets of human resistance. Death squads and surveillance drones patrol the surface, forcing the dwindling survivors into hiding. Dr. Malikov, one of the few remaining human scientists, is convinced that a gargantuan chimeran tower in New York City serves as a critical component of the enemy’s highly-effective war efforts. Judging by the massive worm-hole open in the skies above it, I’d guess he’s right.

The problem? Oklahoma is pretty far away from New York, and Malikov isn’t exactly the fighting type.   

Eventually, the scientist and an encouraged Capelli set out to trek across the United States. If you think of the first two Resistance titles as games of chess, then this installment is the intimate story of a single knight moving across the board. The focus here is on personal struggle, not military retaliation or some kind of global defense initiative. Our hero hopes his quest – though it may claim his life – will secure a brighter future for his wife and young son. Oh, and it could liberate our world from chimeran dominance, too.

YOU BLEW IT UP!

Capelli’s journey leads him through a handful of locations, including St. Louis and Pennsylvania. These stops don’t really matter, because aside from seeing the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, you’ll never care about which city you’re in. A busted building is a busted building, and you find them in droves everywhere you go. The typical city romps are interrupted by a few unique events, like a boat defense segment and a less-than-peaceful train ride. There’s also a crazy turn of events near the two-thirds mark that I won’t reveal, but know that it’s an interesting change of pace. 

Insomniac deserves top commendations in the visual department. Resistance 3 is gorgeous. No, the environments aren’t especially unique, but the gutted apartment complexes and bombed-out factories are eye-catching. Light seems to slither around objects naturally, giving the world an attractive, shaded feel. Character models look great, and aside from Capelli’s robotically rigid ladder-climbing animation, everybody moves like you’d expect. It’s certainly one of the best looking games on Sony’s system.

KICK IT OLD SCHOOL 

Resistance 3 ditches contemporary regenerative health for a sloppy, unwieldy substitute – old-fashioned health vials. This isn’t in itself a problem, but when their availability jumps between “way too many” and “oh god my health is gone and there are a million guys outside and I’m going to die,” the game’s pacing suffers. It’s not fun to pick up health every 30 seconds, but it’s also not fun to cower behind a corner for minutes, dodging Auger blasts and frantically scanning the room for items. Prepare to see a foggy, red screen and hear a thudding heartbeat quite often, especially on higher difficulties.  

Let’s move beyond health packs just like we’ve (mostly) moved beyond limited lives, key cards for every door, and an emphasis on earning a high score. 

The designers also did little to make boss battles compelling. In a grey and brown world of grey and brown creatures, those red, glowing weak spots stand out like a bear in your oatmeal. Shoot the areas until they explode then shoot the new weak spots that appear. Repeat until the foe is dead. Familiar and effective, yes, but uninspired.

GUNS. LOTS OF GUNS.

In a game where you’re shooting things all the time, the weapons need to look great, sound powerful, and function nicely. Luckily, Insomniac nailed it. There’s no shortage of death dealers here, and a few of them are wonderfully weird – showing the studio’s roots as developers of the Ratchet and Clank franchise. Old favorites like the Bullseye, the Rossmore shotgun, and the wall-penetrating Auger return, but plenty more take the stage for the first time.

The Cryogun…well, it freezes dudes, who can then be shattered with a pressurized blast. It works great on mobs. For the sadistic gamer, Insomniac included the Mutator. This human-made weapon essentially converts foes into goo-filled pustules of nastiness. The secondary fire releases a wide cloud of noxious gas that induces vomiting – useful for both crowd and poison control.

There’s also a sledgehammer. You swing it at things and they die.

Resistance 3 features a forthright upgrade system. The weapons you use will slowly upgrade, and the weapons you neglect will stay at their base levels. New abilities are immediately useful, and require no sort of point allocation or micromanagement. The Rossmore, which is already effective in “vanilla” form, gains incendiary ammo. The sniper receives a variable zoom scope, and the M5A2 Carbine gets an attached bayonet. It’s a fun incentive to vary your arsenal and not become too reliant on a certain weapon.

(SORT OF) PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS

Co-op is back, and it comes in two flavors: online and couch. There are no challenge levels or side missions to complete with your buddy. Instead, you’ll play a slightly-tweaked version of the campaign. While Insomniac doesn’t ever explain this second-player mystery man, they did include small additions to make him seem less random. The guy who hands you your rifles in the opening chapter of the game addresses both of you, and instead of “properly” training at the firing range, the two players compete to see who can take down the most targets. They’re not game-changing additions by any means, but the attention to detail is nice.

Competitive multiplayer feels like an amalgamation of other popular shooters, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are loadouts and plenty of perks, so you can fine tune your character to fit your play style. Some perks include the Call of Duty-esque Bandolier and Scavenger (yes, they kept the same names), but there’s also a deployable beacon that grants ammunition, a personal shield, and a sensor that tags enemies for your teammates to see. The game types are varied but standard. Kill each other, grab flags, capture territory, defend an objective – you’ve seen it all before.

My biggest issue with multiplayer is that it simply is not smooth when you most need it to be. In every game, without fail, I felt noticeable lag during confrontation. I’d see a guy, start shooting, and just as things were getting intense, the game got jumpy. I played multiple game types and maps, and also logged on at different times throughout the day to confirm it. I even played other online shooters as a connection test. No dice. 

Hopefully this issue is just a first-week jitter, because if not, there’s no reason to leave Call of Duty, Halo, or Battlefield.      

WRAP IT UP

If Resistance 3 sprung to life and moved in with you, it would be that roommate with awesome stories, gobs of style, and tons of gadgets that you constantly want to play with. Sadly, this guy would also ditch you at parties and lock you out of the apartment from time to time like a stubborn douchebag.

He’s great fun, and you really want to be best buds, but his annoying flaws keep him firmly planted in “really good but not amazing” territory.  

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Score: 8/10