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
Guns, guns, guns
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.
Way more than fun toys
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
The number of awe-inspiring moments in Resistance 3 is impressive, but the game knows not to beat you over the head with them and cause fatigue. I already talked about the quiet moments, but sometimes the game spreads out the jaw-droppers by throwing you into an intense, small-scale firefight amongst some interesting architecture so that it’s still loud and exciting without relying on some giant monster (not that we don’t love the giant monsters too, and R3 provides great moments for them).
Another gameplay element that helps add to the tension is something that may be controversial for some players, but I’m just going to call them babies if they don’t like it. R3 features none of that regenerating health crap – you take damage, you have to pick up a health pack to heal. It means you have to play intelligently, since you can’t just jump out, pop off shots wildly, and hide in cover to erase your sloppy play. If you do dumb things, you pay for it permanently. Don’t worry, though – the game is not difficult, as it places plenty of health packs around, and I died only a few times during the entire campaign.
About co-op: it’s been returned to how it was for the first Resistance, with two-player online or splitscreen covering the same campaign as single-player. This means the interesting eight-player co-op of Resistance 2 is out, but that might not matter to you – I didn’t miss it. The campaign is so good you’ll want to play it rather than some random side-campaign anyway.
…and of course, multiplayer
Resistance wouldn’t be Resistance without the multiplayer, and the third entry has refined and pared down the experience, which will delight those who loved the smaller fights, but could disappoint fans of Resistance 2’s 60-man matches, as the max is only set to 16 this time around. I doubt many will complain, because the multiplayer plays fantastically and has many compelling tactical options to sift through and ruminate upon. It follows its shooter contemporaries with a similar loadout customization setup, perks, and killstreaks, but it doesn’t feel like Call of Duty.
The killstreaks don’t go crazy: at three kills, you can activate a faction-specific ability. If you’re Chimera, you get to use cloaking, turning almost completely invisible for around a minute. You’ll de-cloak if you attack or take damage, but I found it quite deadly for sneaking up on chumps and mowing them down with the shotgun. Humans get a front-facing shield that protects you from damage, but a clever enemy can flank you and get around it. It’s fun just thinking about your facing while using it, turning to deflect attacks and watching your back. At six kills you get an unlimited ammo Auger, and at nine kills you get a boost that makes you super tough and damaging. Streaks don’t go beyond that, so you won’t see overpowered airships coming in to make things unfun.
Everyone also has one tactical ability and one support ability. These start off minor, like an ammo or health beacon, but through leveling up you can purchase more powerful stuff like the hologram, which creates a false double of you. Leveling up earns you points which you spend on everything from the passive perks to the tactical and support abilities, as well as weapons (and upgrading each weapon). Once you’ve leveled up, you have a lot of options for creating your own playstyle. One element that’s particularly creative is that there are high levels perks that handicap you. So for instance, you can equip a perk that cuts your sprint speed in half, but you gain a small bonus to XP. So if you’re really good, you can level up even faster (plus you could compensate for a handicap by choosing a style that will be hurt less, like say a sniper so you don’t have to sprint much). You can even sacrifice a tactical ability in order to be able to taunt your opponent – the ultimate humiliation factor.
Multiplayer features five modes at launch, although there will be at least one more added later as DLC. There’s standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, as well as Capture the Flag. Chain Reaction has each team fighting to control successive control points in a kind of tug-of-war. My favorite is Breach, where one team defends three stations while the other team must destroy all of them. Two of the stations are “perimeter” stations, in that the third station, which is deeper inside the defenders’ territory, has automatic defenses that make it difficult to destroy, but if the attackers destroy the outer stations first, it disables the defenses of the final station. It’s a frantic mode where as a defender you have to coordinate with teammates to protect all points of invasion, and as an attacker it’s fun to try to sneak into an undefended station. None of the game types present anything truly innovative, but the core game is so solid that the multiplayer will hold players’ attention for a long time.
Is it better than…
Resistance 2? Yep, no doubt. Sure, the multiplayer doesn’t support the same huge matches, but it’s still great fun in smaller fights and the revamped system of tactical abilities lets you customize to your heart’s content. And the single-player – forget about it, it’s easily the best campaign in the series. It feels more polished and focused, and the array of weapons will have you swapping from one badass blaster to the next as you see fit.
Crysis 2? Yes. Both games feature an alien invasion and a single man who must fight them off with various guns, but Resistance 3’s aliens are more interesting, as are the guns. Crysis 2 has the cool nanosuit powers to play around with, but the campaign just isn’t as tightly designed – there’s a lot more random open areas sprinkled with enemies, whereas R3 features many encounters with specific, varied gameplay designs to them. R3 is also just exciting on levels that Crysis 2 never quite reaches.
FEAR 3? Yes. FEAR 3’s co-op is more interesting since each player has significantly different abilities, and the multiplayer has some very creative modes, but FEAR 3 fails to do what is most important to it: be scary. Resistance 3 is considerably scarier, and yet it’s not even technically a horror game. R3 manages to ratchet up tension, establish spooky mood, and freak you out better than anything FEAR 3 can muster, and its campaign is just much more fun in general.
Just for you, Metacritic
Resistance 3 fixes the stumbles of its predecessor, reinvigorates the excitement factor, and has exemplary pacing in its single-player (and co-op) campaign. The Chimera are the most terrifying they’ve ever been, while you control the most empowering arsenal yet. The multiplayer is as tight as ever, rounding out a complete package of polish, mood, and adrenaline.
Sep 6, 2011