Let’s not make anyone wait for it: Resistance 3 is a return to glory, and possibly the best Resistance yet. More than that, it’s the most fun I’ve had playing a first-person shooter in some time. While I enjoyed Resistance 2, many found it to be a stumble for the series, not on par with the original. If you were disappointed in number two, fear not, because number three fixes all of the missteps from before and then cranks up the adrenaline factor to the highest so far in the desperate battle against the Chimera invasion.
Resistance has always succeeded at striking the difficult balance of presenting a truly terrifying, overwhelmingly powerful enemy, but then also empowering you and making you feel like super-Rambo. Resistance 3 has refined this tone to perfection: the Chimera have basically won the war, taking over the earth and leaving humanity to live like rats underground. It’s the most intimidating setup in the series and I really felt that I was taking on impossible odds and trying to fight insurmountable numbers. Earth has become a Chimeran world. The other half of the equation is where Resistance 2 dropped the ball: it took the wonderful, varied weapon wheel and said “What? You want tons of guns to play with? Screw that! That’s not realistic, so here: you get to carry only two at a time now.”
Okay, so it doesn’t make sense that a person could carry eight enormous guns, and we can understand why many modern shooters take the two-gun approach, but going that route for Resistance was a major mistake because it was taking away something players had become accustomed to. The other problem was that Resistance shines in its creative array of weapons, so why not let players carry all of them? Yeah, it’s a roundabout way of saying it, but Resistance 3 brings back the beloved weapon wheel, and since it introduces new weapons, you get a slew of cool toys to play with.
It seems that one reason Resistance 2 went with the two-weapon model was that the devs were worried players weren’t using every weapon in the first game, so forcing players to drop weapons to pick up others was an attempt to get a variety cycling through players’ hands. Resistance 3 uses a much more elegant solution – weapon “experience levels” (something the devs have used before in Ratchet and Clank). Now every weapon has three levels that are acquired simply by using them. Not only are you encouraged to use many different weapons so you can level them up, but you can choose to stick with just a few in order to level them up quickly. It won’t be easy resisting using all the weapons, though, because they’re all awesome. Leveling them up also doesn’t just make them stronger, but can add entire new effects like a manual zoom for the sniper rifle or charged shots that increase in damage over time before you detonate them with the Magnum.
The trusty Bullseye, Carbine, Marksman, Rossmore, Auger, and Magnum return, along with weapons similar to previous guns like the Deadeye (Fareye) and the Atomizer (Arc Charger). All of these familiar weapons have had tweaks that make them more useable, more interesting, or just plain more visceral (the Bullseye sounds much nastier than its old “pew pew” sound). New weapons include the Mutator, which lobs bubbles of toxic goo which then turn enemies into barfing bio-bombs, and the Cryogun, which spews a fire-hose stream of freezing stuff that crystallizes enemies which can then be shattered en masse. Secondary fire modes for many of the weapons can lead to hilarious situations – just launch the Atomizer’s Gravity Well and watch as enemies try not to get sucked into the miniature black hole. I laughed out loud every time I used that thing.
All this talk about gun porn might make you think it’s the main thing Resistance 3 has going for it, but oh no, not by a long shot. The campaign is the most tightly designed, exciting, and expertly paced series of levels of the three games. It also has amazing attention to detail – at the beginning, Joe, the new protagonist who (Resistance 2 spoiler) killed previous protagonist, Nathan, is living in a decrepit underground shelter amongst the wretched remnants of humanity. We see each person as having an individual life: a child plays a game with his parent, a man in bed moans about some horrible loss of a loved one, and pictures and items strewn around make the place feel real and lived-in. It’s a great way to start the story quietly before kicking into screaming, blazing combat that sustains incredible levels of energy. Yet the game has many quiet moments, perfectly punctuating the huge battles and providing just the right amount of lulls and crescendos.
I don’t want to give away the game’s surprises because it has many, so I’ll talk about a couple of specific points to illustrate what I’m talking about. One level has you taking a boat ride through a flooded town swathed in fog. Eerie shapes loom from the mist, and since it’s an unusual setting, what appears is unexpected – a football stadium, suburban homes, and even the gigantic corpse of a Leviathan, which was a boss from Resistance 2, now merely window dressing (but extremely cool window dressing). The level is quiet, ominous, but it also becomes frantic as the creepy Grims come crawling over the side of the boat. It’s also not on rails as you’d expect – you can run around on deck.
At another point you’ll battle against a giant gorilla-like Chimera inside a city hall with two levels inside a huge room. It’s an utterly terrifying battle as the creature charges you, slams the ground with fiery area-of-effect attacks, and launches rapid fire grenades from its wrists. What really surprised me, though, was how when I took refuge in smaller rooms upstairs, the creature plowed right through the freaking walls, which was a huge shock because it’s one of those moments when you think you understand the limits of the game-world and the breaking of those expectations makes it feel less like a game and more like a real-world nightmare.