Review / Resistance 3 (PS3)

After arguably having its PS3 flagship status revoked by not one but two Killzone games, there’s a burning question at the centre of Resistance 3: can you teach an old Chimera new tricks? There was never any doubt that franchise fans and shooter studs were destined to have a good time with this one, but when you’re staring down the barrel of the painfully pretty Battlefield 3 and the inevitable sales juggernaut that is Modern Warfare 3, you need to be more than ‘quite good’ if you want to stand out.

Yet stand out Resistance 3 does, because for all the inventive weapons it throws your way, the biggest addition to its arsenal doesn’t rest within the game, but instead within players’ expectations. Insomniac tries things with the Resistance lore here that you didn’t ever think they would.

You get to see more of the world than the strict military angle, experience the Chimeran threat in new ways, and face up to some challenges you never thought you’d see in this series. It might have Bullseyes and Augers for you to blow aliens into little pieces with, but Resistance 3’s best weapon is undoubtedly the element of surprise.

The transition from past hero Nathan Hale to the scruffier, more likeable Joseph Cappeli (a squad mate from Resistance 2) is just one example of this. Hale’s role in the first two titles was merely that of a tool, a near-lifeless puppet for you to control. Within five minutes of Resistance 3, Cappeli is fleshed out as a worn-down soldier who will only pick up a rifle if absolutely necessary, rather turning his attention to his wife and young son while the Chimera continue to engulf the entire planet, four years after the events of the last game.

Our hero is called back into action one last time however by Dr Malikov, another Resistance 2 survivor whose obsession with the Chimeran virus has turned him into somewhat of an outcast. Malikov is looking to atone for past sins and seeks Cappeli’s help with one last shot at wiping out the Chimera. He’s hatched a plan to get to New York and the majority of the game is spent doing just that, getting there.

Rather than a game that focuses on ‘winning the war’, then, we’ve got a game about surviving in a world where we lost. There’s no strategic assault on a Chimera outpost with squad mates and tanks, and no military stronghold for you to defend. There’s you, your weapon, and whatever mess you manage to find yourself in next.

And believe me when I say Insomniac can get quite messy; Resistance 3’s alien-infested Earth gives way to plenty of great combat scenarios. Setting up ambushes in crumbled streets, navigating your way around battles between feral and normal Chimera, defending run-down boats and trains from enemies all feels a little different when the world itself is so unpredictable. You really get the sense that you’re now living in a world you don’t own, much like Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. It’s a unique take on the over-used alien invasion plot and one that really pays off.

It helps that the gunplay is there to back up this brave new world. Insomniac’s talent for creating unique weapons isn’t put to waste in Resistance 3, with enemy-freezing Cyroguns and Atomiszers joining fan favorites like the Bullseye and Auger to make for a varied and exciting arsenal that’s unlike anything you’ll find in any other shooter. With the return of the original game’s weapon wheel you’ll have full access to every weapon at all times too. The health system also returns to a reliance on medpacks rather than regeneration. It’s one step back from Call of Duty in that sense, and more of a return to the shooters of yester-year, something we don’t see enough these days.

If there are complaints, it’s that the game’s too short. Resistance: Fall of Man set the bar back at the PS3’s launch with a 12+ hour campaign, but this one can be completed in around eight hours even on harder settings. It’s a shame because it feels like I didn’t see enough of the world that it had completely sold me on by the time I got to the final level. Part of me was longing to go back and explore the other secrets of the Chimera, rather than push on for the inevitable ending explosion. A short campaign is fine for a thrill ride akin to Activision’s series, but Resistance 3 is about more than that, and should reflect as much in its length.

I’m not all that keen on the multiplayer, either. It’s a bit too standard, especially for a year that’s packing the promise of DICE’s ultimate multiplayer experience. It feels like for reasons such as that it’s been less of a focus for the team at Insomniac in the run up to launch anyways, which makes it feel strangely more tacked on than Resistance games past.

It has some nice ideas in seeing the rest of the world fight the war through maps in several different countries, but in losing the last game’s excellent 60-player offering (now scaled back down to 16) it does lose a sense of identity. You can argue that it’s tighter, but there are games that are tighter still already available. It’s a functional mode that will undoubtedly gather a community, but it’s sad to see the PS3 scale back on its large multiplayer offerings after the promise of the last game and MAG.

Not all is lost on the multiplayer front though, as the campaign’s excellent two-player co-op is a welcome return from Fall of Man. It offers replayability and new ways to tackle the game as a whole. Plus it’s recommended for the tough-as-nails Superhuman difficulty. Again though, I do miss the brilliant eight-player co-op from Resistance 2, which offered endless game time. This will see you through another playthrough and that’s that.

One of the most interesting things about the Resistance series as a whole is how it charts our progress through this generation of games, especially on a technical scale. Not only does Resistance 3 look light years ahead of Fall of Man, but its bigger scale enemies and battlefields put the launch title to shame as well. The improvements on the slick character models and strangely gorgeous monsters are some best examples of the advances we’ve made in the past five years graphics-wise. It’s all admittedly a bit stuck on the dull side of coloring (a shame, given the jaw-dropping color shown in the first level of Resistance 2), but Killzone 2 proved that you can be grey and great at the same time. That holds true here.

So Resistance 3 is one of the year’s nicest surprises, then. Rather than resisting, you’re surviving. You’re not winning a war, you’re getting by and you’re doing so in an unpredictable, dangerous world. And with that concept in mind, Insomniac crafts one of the best single-player campaigns of 2011. Just a shame about that multiplayer.

+ Fantastic set pieces and story drive an exciting single-player campaign
+ Some of the best visuals on the system
+ Insomniac’s trademark weapons all in place

– Multiplayer weaker than in previous offerings
– Environments stick to the same color palette
– Campaign is too short