Resistance 3 Review

I posted this review a day or two ago, and since I've enjoyed playing through Resistance 3 so much, and since it is so fundamentally different from the last entry in the series, I figured I'd post it again here to give people an idea of what they're getting themselves into before they buy

Insomniac's Resistance franchise might be the most inconsistant series of games I've played. The original game's dark and foreboding atmosphere gave way to cheesy male bravado in the second. The mechanics were significantly "overhauled," leading to fan outcry on the internet when the game ended up playing just like Halo. And then there was Resistance Retribution for the PSP, which was a third person cover-based shooter, because hey, why the hell not. Tonally, Resistance 3 is a sort of homecoming for the schizophrenic franchise. Gone are many of the changes made in R2, returned to the more strategic elements of the first game. And, as much as I enjoyed R2, this proves to be a good decision. This third, and potentially final, entry in the core series is by far the strongest of the bunch. Insomniac has finally made the Resistance game they've been trying to make for the last five years, and it's damn good.

WHO TOOK MY LUNCHABLES?!
WHO TOOK MY LUNCHABLES?!

Unlike many modern shooters, R3 is anchored by its campaign. Immediately upon booting up the game, it was clear that this was a more serious, grounded experience than either of its predecessors. Instead of jumping straight into the action, Insomniac gives you time to explore the beleaguered human settlements which lie underground, beneath the tattered remnants of society. As series regular Joe Capelli, you'll come across numerous people just trying to get by; doctors tend to the sick, frightened children write letters to faraway parents that will never be delivered, and people huddle together for warmth in the glow of a fire. Joe has a wife and child here, and throughout the game they'll remind him of the emotional stakes involved in his battle against the Chimeran aliens. It's an attention to human drama that few games have, and it makes it all the more intense when things inevitably go awry. The story only stumbles in the end, which seems to come early despite some great build-up, and which could have capitalized upon the bleak, emotional nature of the rest of the game a little better.

Unsatisfying ending aside, R3's campaign is a hugely satisfying one. The gameplay, while not quite as smooth as genre champions Battlefield or Call of Duty, remains solid, due largely to the vast number of options at your disposal. The weapon wheel makes a triumphant return after its inexplicable absence in R2, and in classic Insomniac style each of the ten weapons has its own unique alternate fire. You'll get your typical Auger shields and alt-fire grenade launchers, but there are some more interesting firing modes thrown into the mix as well, such as a gas cloud that causes anyone who inhales it to mutate and eventually explode. The game's balance has also been improved over R2's wildly careening difficulty curve. Chances are, if you're stuck somewhere, you just aren't utilizing all of the tools in your arsenal as effectively as you could be. This might not necessarily be your fault, as sometimes you'll have so many options available to you, it'll be hard to remember they're all there.

Crazy weapons make a triumphant return
Crazy weapons make a triumphant return

When the curtain finally closes on the 8-10 hour campaign, R3 presents a full suite of multiplayer modes with the now standard leveling and upgrading systems all firmly in place. The player count has been reduced to sixteen from R2's whopping sixty, and while this may seem an odd choice, it does help to focus the matches. Levels are now concise and easy to memorize, and you'll find yourself being caught off guard less often than in the other games, with their massive maps and numerous players. Although perfectly solid, and potentially capable of holding onto a particularly dedicated portion of the fanbase, it's unlikely that R3's multiplayer will distract anyone for too long after the genre heavyweights start rolling out later this year. It's good fun, but it just doesn't flow quite as well as some of the competition. A co-op campaign mode is also available, replacing R2's gigantic co-op skirmishes. In this case, it sort of feels like Insomniac threw out the baby with the bathwater after R2's negative reception, because the last game's co-op was actually really enjoyable, and to not have it available here is a shame. Regardless, it's nice to have the option to run through the campaign with a buddy, and the competitive matches should be enough to please genre fans until their series of choice makes its yearly debut (or, in my case, until Uncharted 3 comes out.)

All of this action is supported by one of the nicest graphics engines you're likely to see this year. The game is filled with instances of positively stunning lighting, and wonderful texture work abounds. It's easy to tell that Insomniac worked an extra year when developing this game, but they never shove it down your throat as if to say "hey, look at this sick lighting engine we developed!" All of the instances of moody lighting and dingy texture work feel perfectly natural in the context of the game's world, and more than anything else in the game, they help to sell the feeling of a world that has all but given up hope.

The Resistance franchise may never have found firm footing in its short time on the PS3, but R3 comes as close as the series is likely to get to delivering on the ideas that Insomniac has had dancing through their heads since the first game. It's beautiful, emotional, and bleak, and it plays like a dream. The story might not wrap up in the most satisfying way, and the multiplayer may not be as strong as some of the competition's, but in the end these are trivial complaints. What Insomniac has delivered here is the absolute apex of a series that has always been teetering on the brink of greatness. It's a great story, and a great game.

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