Following on the heels of a popular, but also maligned sequel like Resistance 2 is difficult. Many people loved the game, but there were gripes about recharging health, the story being weaker than the original and of course the controversial ending. Insomniac games has risen to the challenge and released one of the best shooters of the year in the form of Resistance 3. I should note that while I will stay away from any key spoilers from this game, the very nature of the narrative makes avoiding spoilers from Resistance 2 impossible.
Resistance 3 features Joseph Capelli, the SPRA operative who killed Nathan Hale at the end of the last game. It is set 4 years after those fateful events and he is still haunted by Hale’s last moments and his part in them. He has left the Resistance, married Susan Farley and had a child. he and Susan are trying to make do without being part of the continuing conflict even though roughly 90% of the humans on Earth have been killed or converted to Chimera.
Capelli and his family live in a village built under the town of Haven, Oklahama and a chance encounter with a Chimera patrol causes them to have to abandon the town. As they are battling Capelli is stopped by Malikov, the scientist who made a cure for the Chimeran virus from Hale’s blood, and told that there is a new danger to humanity. The Chimerans have a transmitter based in New York City that is slowly reducing the temperatures around the world. If the temperatures hits a certain point the portal it has opened will be used to transport the true Chimeran race to Earth and all will be completely lost for humanity.
Capelli agonizes over the decision, but ultimately realizes he needs to re-enter the fight if only to make the world a safe place for his son. Following a tearful separation from his son and wife he joins Malikov and they head cross country to New York where a continuous stream of disastrous events saps his spirit as he keeps moving on. Capellis journey places him against humans and Chimera as he tries to stop the transmitter from terraforming the planet and wiping out humanity.
Resistance 3 is a great game, but the most compelling part is what I have described above, the human emotion and very personal story. Unlike Nathan Hale, Capelli is very much a mortal man; he has doubts, cares deeply about his family and loses hope as the odds become worse and worse. The cutscenes in the game show his devotion to his family and his despair as he progresses through the game. One in particular later in the game has Capelli doubting he will survive and recording a message to his wife and son in hopes they hear it, very touching and powerful stuff. It is a shame that Insomniac didn’t extend this personality into the game world. Capelli is completely silent outside of these scenes and that ifeels like a wasted opportunity to add even more depth to an already engaging story.
The gameplay of Resistance 3 is polished and incredibly fun, thanks in no small part to the diverse weapons and tension created by not having regenerating health like nearly every other game in the genre. Unlike Nathan Hale Capelli is completely human so he needs to rely on health packs scattered around or dropped by enemies. In a nice touch you can actually see the health packs on the Chimera, this adds a bit of strategy as I tended to go after those enemies first so I had a health pack available when needed.
As always the weapons of Resistance are as big a star as the protagonist, and in Resistance 3 they are better then ever. There are a number of new guns, but returning weapons like the Magnum, Bullseye and Rossmore are made fresh again by adding new fire modes/abilities unlocked as you use the weapons. The new guns are just as great and offer different strategies whether it be infecting enemies with the Mutator or frying them with the Atomizer. They are all introduced gradually so you get a feel for them and despite having a good amount of ammo for all types I found myself switching between guns for purely strategic reasons quite often.
Enemies in Resistance 3 come in many shapes and sizes, including feral and unpredictable Chimera variants. In the years since the last game the Chimera have splintered off into tribes, some have become Feral and roam the world battling other Chimera and humans. The remainder is still loyal to the hive mind and continues toward the terraforming of Earth.
Of course man being man a survival of the fittest scenario begins to foster. On top of the Chimera threat bands of humans are also staking their claim on the planet and enslaving other humans while hiding from the Chimera. You battle through all of these groups during the game and some really interesting scenarios pop up when feral Chimera are battling humans and Chimera and you are stuck in the middle.
Thankfully the mechanics in the game are quite solid. There is no sticky cover system, instead you need to stand behind walls and carefully plan your shots as you expose yourself to enemies. The guns feel solid and are incredibly responsive to use, Insomniac also tweaked sprint and melee controls to feel more like other shooters. You can also now climb over walls and into windows which adds a nice freedom of choice when entering the many buildings in the game.
While the single player game is a step above the last entry in the series the multiplayer feels like a step back. Resistance 2’s best mode (in my opinion) was the 8 player co-op, that is what I played most of and enjoyed immensely. This time Insomniac has opted for the Call of Duty style of multiplayer, meaning Deathmatch and Objective based modes for up to 16 players with a level progression system for your characters. It is fun, it is engaging, but there really is nothing new here. The gameplay, multiplayer code and matchmaking all work very well, but we have seen it all before. There is also an option to play the campaign in online or split-screen co-op which is a nice consolation prize for the less then innovative multiplayer options.
Graphically Resistance 3 looks absolutely terrific. As Capelli travels across America we are treated to mountains, grasslands and the frozen city of New York. Through it all the buildings, vehicles, enemies and companions look and animate terrifically. There is a really nice color palette in comparison to the previous games, and while the game realistically becomes dreary and washed out towards the end it still looks stunning. The cutscenes are pre-rendered and while they look quite different from the game engine the characters and environments maintain the same look and feel so it doesn’t detract from the story being told at all.
All in all Resistance 3 is a terrific game that handles everything exceptionally well. The single player campaign is very fun to play and has a personal and touching story to go along with the great action. The multiplayer, while far from innovative, is still quite fun. The option to play the campaign in co-op encouraged me to restart the game immediately after I finished, but with a friend and on the hardest difficulty mode. This is the best game in the series and in fact one of the better games of the year.
Resistance 3 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language.