Insomniac Flashes Their AAA Card
As many of you may know, the Resistance universe is set in an alternate 1950s. Earlier in the 20th century, the Chimera began to appear in Russia, and soon began to build their army with harvested humans and their march for global domination was underway. The first two games in the series featured Nathan Hale, a British soldier who was instrumental in helping stave off human extinction. Eventually infected with the Chimeran virus, Hale begins to lose his grip on his humanity and by the end of Resistance 2, is dangerously close to turning on his comrades. This is when Joe Capelli puts a bullet in Hale’s head, which was the shocking ending to Resistance 2 that left many gamers, myself included, shocked.
R3 picks up after this surprise ending. Dr. Malikov manages to create a vaccine for the Chimeran virus by studying the blood of Hale, and Capelli is dishonorably discharged. Meanwhile, the Chimeran onslaught continues across the globe. The Chimera have managed to open a wormhole in New York, to what end is unknown, and their terraformers are reshaping the landscape. Joe has settled down, as much as possible in these conditions anyway, in Haven, OK with his wife and son, and some other Americans who are literally just trying to survive. Chimeran forces are in the area though, and Joe and the locals have to go to work.
It’s soon realized that there is no hope in trying to maintain a life in Haven, and the town is forced to evacuate. Joe reluctantly decides to team up with Dr. Malikov to head to New York, the site of the wormhole and the increasingly cold temperatures that have turned New York into a frozen wasteland. Malikov believes he has a way to close the wormhole, but needs Joe’s combat skills to get him there.
Clearly, this 1300 mile trip is going to be rife with unexpected surprises and stops. Similar to inFamous 2, major segments of the story take place as the distance to the ultimate goal draws nearer — only in this case it’s the player going towards the destination, rather than waiting for The Beast to arrive in New Marias. Anyway, no matter where Joe finds himself along the route to New York, you’re in for a hell of a good time despite the grim atmosphere hanging over humanity’s head.
At the center of the enjoyment in not only R3, but also in the other Resistance titles, are the weapons. Insomniac is known for clever weapons and gadgets from the Ratchet & Clank games, and that’s a skill that has been evident in Resistance as well. R3 features twelve weapons, including some new ones like the Mutator and Cryogun, but what really impresses me about Insomniac’s work is that the weapons are all useful throughout the duration of the campaign. Sure, you’re bound to settle in on a few favorites, but the fact that there are twelve useful and interesting weapons at your disposal is a commendable design achievement. Oh, there are also four grenade types including EMP, Molotov, Shrapnel, and the classic Hedgehog.
Part of what makes the weapons in R3 so useful is not only their functional differences, but also the ammo limits on each weapon. One of my favorites is the Auger, for example, which is really powerful and very useful because it can see and shoot through obstructions. As a balance check, you can only hold forty-four units of ammo, meaning you have to use it strategically. This is true for all of the weapons, and not just their primary fire, but also the unique and very useful secondary fire modes. Better still is that weapons upgrade as you use them, giving them new abilities like incendiary shotgun shells and spread fire on the Auger.
The ability to carry so many weapons at once is sort of a throwback design to old school shooters. Most shooters today limit players to a more realistic two or three guns, but I certainly don’t mind Insomniac’s choice here, especially given the merits of the weapons. Another design element to R3 is the health system, which uses a circular meter instead of the ‘cover and heal’ system that has become popular since Call of Duty 3 introduced it years ago. Unlike the previous Resistance games though, R3 does not segment the health meter into chunks that automatically fill up so long as they are not completely empty. That is a feature, or ‘cheat’ as the game calls it, that you can purchase with in-game currency earned by playing through the campaign and multiplayer, but more on that later. That said, I liked the health system in R3 because it made you play with some additional planning and strategy, because you can’t just run and cover and wait for your health to restore. Plus, it makes spotting those wonderful green canisters of health exciting, and on more than one occasion I found myself sprinting into an un-checked room to nab the health and then quickly taking cover.
Other, perhaps less tangible aspects of R3 that I liked were the pacing, and the story. In terms of pacing, make no mistake, this is is a traditional, all action FPS. There are no puzzles or mini-games or even any keys to find, but Insomniac did a fine job of mixing up the pacing and FPS gameplay themes to keep things enjoyable and fresh. So in addition to the run and gun action, be it indoors or outside (both of which are mixed seamlessly), there are some sequences of survival horror, infinite ammo/health, sniping/counter-sniping, melee, and even optional stealth.
One “survival horror” part reminded me of Ravenwood in Half-Life 2, as far as it being a dark, creepy, rundown town. Similar to the Spinners in Resistance 2, Joe will face hordes of fast moving Chimera here. A pair of vehicular sequences have Joe facing off against enemies from all sides, but instead of being stuck on a turret, you are free to roam around on the boat or train, using any and all of your weapons. Unlimited ammo and health are available in two separate containers, so as long as you can get to those and hold down Square for a moment, you’re in good shape. These over-the-top sequences are meant to be exactly that, but instead of risking a lot of annoying deaths and ruining the moment, R3 achieved a good balance in letting the player make some mistakes and still live.
Rather than talk about the other FPS themes, I’m going to move on to the story. While I’m not completely fresh on the other Resistance stories since it’s been quite a while since I played through those, by the time I finished R3 I really thought it had provided the best story in the series. The ending was a too brief, but the atmosphere generated right from the start, and the weight of the circumstances and how those were presented to the player as they worked their way to New York, i.e., the story-telling, was great. I developed a connection for Joe and his family, more so than the other NPCs, and frankly more so than I had in the series to date. Combined with the enjoyable gameplay, the campaign was something I didn’t want to put down.
Frankly, just about everything in R3 is great, but there are a few things I noticed during the campaign that I wanted to mention. First, regarding the objective marker, I thought it sometimes gave a little too much away. The marker was pretty smart and cool in that it only seemed to pop up when I wasn’t making forward progress. In other words, I noticed on several occasions, whenever I was off wondering around, looking for journals (there are over forty of these to collect) or pickups, the objective marker would appear, showing me where to go and how far away I was. This was fine and good, but as a minor complaint, I did not like how it also showed the name of whatever the objective was — a ladder, or door, for example. Joe had no way of knowing what was there, so I thought the marker giving away the name of the object was slightly disagreeable.
This is similar to another, again ultimately minor, issue I would take up with the game involving friendly AI. For roughly a third of the campaign, I would estimate, Joe is running around with a single NPC who is providing combat help and plot development. What irked me a little was that this NPC always knew when the final enemy in the area was dead (“that looks like the last one!”), even though we had not “cleared” the entire area. While I understand the reasoning behind that cue, I thought it broke the immersion a little; I mean, how the heck could this NPC know that that was the last Chimera in the area?
The AI on both sides of the battle had some lapses, too. I caught a few Chimera (literally like three throughout the campaign) that were unresponsive. I was able to attack and kill them, but they paid no attention to my presence. Friendly AI had some questionable moments too, between being slow to react, shooting at nothing (this happened once), and also disappearing on me for a while (also one occurrence, very late in the game). The good thing is that these friendly AI issues never mounted to anything — in other words, I never died or got stuck or whatever because of the less-than-perfect AI. Similarly with the bad guys, their numbers and variety more than made up for the few lapses. Put it this way, I killed nearly 1800 bad guys (not all Chimera mind you…) and only three or so were brain dead.
Campaign mode can be spiced up after beating it by either replaying on Super Human difficulty or purchasing different ‘cheats’ with the points you have earned. Players can enable Mirror Mode, which flips the game world, Resistance 1 & 2 health system, enable unlimited ammo, increase the variety of weapons the enemies use, and so forth. Given that you will need to play through the game several times, and/or play a lot of multiplayer to unlock all of the art, videos, cheats, multiplayer ‘titles,’ and other goodies available, it’s nice to be able to replay the game with some options. Even beyond that, R3 has dozens of Trophies and ribbons for completionists to go for. These include upgrading all of the weapons, getting x number of kills with a certain weapon, not taking any damage at certain points in the campaign, and so on. There is a separate grouping of multiplayer awards, too. Bottom line, you are definitely not going to be short on content for the campaign, which for me exceeded eight hours according to the game’s stats page. If that weren’t enough, the campaign is also playable in splitscreen co-op, which that alone makes it worth a second lay through. I have not tested this mode much, but if it works as smoothly as the previous two games did, you’re in great shape.
A variety of online modes are included too, and this is one of the first games I know of that requires you to activate an online pass to enable online play. The online component is no slouch, and includes matchmaking, lobbies, ranking, loadouts, and several modes including Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Chain Reaction, and Breach. I haven’t spent a great deal of time online yet, but the Chain Reaction mode is shaping up to be my favorite. In Chain Reaction, the human team must seize control points to close a Chimeran wormhole, while the Chimeran forces must take those same control points to open the wormhole. In October, the Survival DLC pack will be available, adding another control-point based multiplayer mode to the mix. In my admittedly limited online play to this point, things have been smooth, although there have also been three patches released for the game thus far totaling over 700MB, bringing the total storage size of the game on my hard drive to just a little over 2.1GB. That aside, I haven’t noticed any major issues online and the community seems to be growing nicely, which isn’t too surprising given what’s offered here.
Online or offline, R3 is a fine looking game. My first ‘wow’ moment was when the terraformer over Haven drew closer and the wind started picking up. The wind effects were really pretty with trees and leaves and dust blowing around. The snow effects in New York were quite possibly the best weather effects I have ever experienced; the driving snow really did decrease visibility but it wasn’t a uniform decrease, it changed as the amount of snow and wind changed (just as in reality). Weather effects aside, lighting was smooth, with plenty of dark, break-out-the-flashlight areas and some very bright and colorful areas, too. On that note, level design achieved a good balance of outdoor and indoor environments, and not every indoor environment was a drab space ship interior, either, which was a plus. Cutscenes were fine, not necessarily great, and voiceovers were good. Joe does not speak during gameplay, only in cutscenes, which was a little weird, but nothing major. Finally, anyone who has played previous Resistance games will recognize some of the sound effects, such as when picking up ammo, and those were fine if not great. The soundtrack was fitting, again also not really great per se, but it enhanced the overall experience.
At the end of the day, Resistance 3 is a monster. There’s a tremendous amount of high quality content packed onto this disc, from the superbly crafted campaign that warrants multiple play-throughs, to the addictive and deep multiplayer component. Whether you’re familiar with the series or not, Resistance 3 is something any FPS fan can enjoy.
To the summary…