Thankfully, pulverizing alien scum is enormously satisfying. The series’ trademark crop of inventive weaponry is all present and correct, and there’s a good variety of Chimera to use them on. Our favorite new gun is the Razor, which launches homing energy blades that bounce from enemy to enemy. It’s much less satisfying using precision-based weapons like the Fareye sniper rifle, where the digital aiming proves annoyingly slow. It’s possible to come to terms with the controls by cranking the aiming speed to maximum and surrendering to aim assist, but at times the game’s PSP-enforced awkwardness will slap you hard across the chops.
While its stages are hardly indicative of the countries you’re supposedly in – most of James’ time in Bonn, Germany is spent down an alien ditch – they are at least well paced and full of variation. Although series creators Insomniac have had little to do with Retribution, Sony Bend have managed to retain the flavor of the franchise, injecting levels with giganto-monsters and intense, desperate combat. Later levels force you to use the fiddly cover system constantly as you’re assaulted by waves of Chimera.
We would like to have seen some exploratory downtime between combat situations – as it is, the near-constant barrage of enemies can get a bit much and there’s not really any reward for poking around the stages. The occasional ill-advised swimming section is thrown in as a token diversion, but it’s the combat that will really keep you engaged as it constantly switches between massive encounters with boss-like enemies and scrappy skirmishes with full Chimera hordes and Cloven soldiers (Russian grunts exposed to the Chimera virus and transformed into savage zombies).
If you look beyond the faults, Retribution is a perfectly pitched, thrilling action game. It is the finest shooter on PSP, but this accolade isn’t as prestigious as it might be because Sony’s handheld is a hostile place for first and third-person action games. Sony Bend has done a great job of making it as accessible and playable as possible, but it still feels like the devs have been asked to put a square peg in a round hole.
Mar 17, 2009