Winner: Resistance 3
Resistance is one of those rare series that looks generic and unimaginative on the surface, but holds so much more inside its gooey viscera. We know some of you have dismissed the series out of hand, probably thinking something like “Eh, it’s a brown FPS that shamelessly slaps aliens on top of a World War II game.” And you probably didn’t feel any differently when Resistance 2 dialed back a few crucial elements, alienating a chunk of its fanbase in the process. The third game, however, restores the series to full strength and dials up everything: devastating guns, amazing pacing, tremendous set-pieces, an involvingly moody story and a lovely sheen of polish. It’s an amazing game from a series that’s been kind of hit-or-miss up to now, and that deserves recognition.
The sheer variety in the environments and gameplay is staggering, and yields moments like a nighttime sniper battle in a forested gorge against cloaked enemies; a hectic train fight where crazed humans attack from trucks while a massive herd of giant alien spiders comes thundering over the horizon; a quiet and creepy boat ride through a flooded and foggy town; and an underground cat-and-mouse struggle against a giant monster known by the religious locals as Satan.
Above: Not Satan
While the game isn’t particularly difficult, it does manage to be extremely tense, thanks to a combination of close-range, claustrophobic fights and huge, open spaces filled with chaos. More importantly, it does away with regenerating health. Having to scramble for health packs instead of catching a breather behind cover makes combat much faster and more tense than what most modern shooters offer, and getting shot now carries consequences far more dire than a screen temporarily full of red splotches. It also helps that the weapons you're given – a broad array of futuristic death-dealers that level up and change their appearance with use, Ratchet & Clank style – are enormously fun and satisfying to shoot, with evolving secondary functions to help keep things interesting.
R3 also brings along a complete co-op mode that follows the main campaign, and offers some of the most fun FPS multiplayer we’ve played in quite a while. It’s epic in scope, tightly paced and pretty to look at, and packs in super exciting “oh shit” moments like they’re on clearance. This is the game that proves Insomniac hasn’t lost its touch.
Runner-up: Gears of War 3
The fact that Gears 3 didn’t win this award may surprise a lot of you, and will no doubt anger some of you, but when choosing between the two marquee titles of the month – both of which are awesome, as indicated by their 9/10 review scores – we had to go with the game that’s the best entry in its franchise. And that’s Resistance 3. Despite its occasionally underwhelming campaign, however, Gears of War 3 really is awesome. The heroes we’ve now followed and loved for five years are more believable than ever, while the enemies are bigger and more insanely unpredictable than ever. Some of the setpieces, especially in the first and last acts of the game, are epic – truly fitting of a trilogy conclusion. And if this award was handed out solely for multiplayer, Gears 3 would win the month easily, with so many generous co-op modes, it’s hard to know where to begin and when to stop.
(Oh, and while The Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection was disqualified from consideration for being a prettied-up re-release of two much older games, it still deserves a nod as one of the absolute best things to show up on shelves this month.)
Sep 30, 2011