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Resistance 3 hands-on preview

From the first time we saw it in action, developer Insomniac has made it clear that Resistance 3 won’t be the same kind of game as its two predecessors. And at a press event in Los Angeles last night, we got the clearest picture yet of the steps being taken to ensure that it'll be something unique.

“Resistance 1 was very much the story of Nathan Hale, and Nathan Hale’s a soldier,” said Drew Murray, lead designer of Resistance 3, at the event. “It was about the combined military forces of the world fighting to hold back the Chimeran invasion. Resistance 3 is very different. The war has been lost, and the world has been taken over. The Chimera have won.”

But Resistance 3 isn’t just about survival, as we learned last night – it’s about new protagonist Joseph Capelli reluctantly taking Resistance 2’s Dr. Malikov from Haven, Oklahoma, to New York. Once there, Dr. Malikov thinks, he might be able to do something that will stem the tide of the Chimeran invasion – and so the game becomes a sort of buddy road-trip through a monster-infested wasteland.

Last night’s event revealed more than just new story tidbits, of course – we also saw a new level, set in a dark, crumbling mining outpost in Mt. Pleasant, Penn. As Capelli made his way through trees, streams and dilapidated cabins, we were introduced to a new enemy: the Sniper Hybrids, who carry not only sniper rifles but cloaking devices that made them hard to see (but not completely invisible).

“(Cloaking is) a mechanic that a couple of other designers suggested, and I was originally very opposed to it,” Murray said. “You’re taking something that’s already difficult – counter-sniping – and making it even more difficult, and it’s not going to be any fun. But it turned out really cool, because you’ve got the little laser sight that helps you find their location when they’re set up and searching for you. But then, whenever they move… it does make them a little bit harder to find.”

As Capelli worked through the level – a slow, moody bug hunt intended to contrast sharply with the previous level (a tense boat trip we’ll get to shortly) – the two biggest priorities seemed to be hiding, and keeping an eye open for the lasers that came from Chimera rifle sights. When those popped up, Capelli took aim with a Deadeye sniper rifle – a new Chimeran weapon that has a charged-up shot as its secondary function – found the source of the laser and dropped the semi-invisible sniper behind it.

Before long, the mission took Capelli into a mine, at which point visibility was limited mostly to a cone of light in front of him – and seeing other lights cutting through the darkness ahead meant it was time to find a hiding place to get the drop on hybrids. It was here that we were introduced to the Shield Drone, which can make Hybrids completely invulnerable by attaching a tether to them, something that looked particularly tough to deal with in the mine’s cramped quarters.

During the demo, Murray made sure to underline some of Insomniac’s goals for Resistance 3. The team has made it a point to give every level a distinct feel and tone, he said, to make them a unique experience, and to create varied experiences within the levels. As an example, Murray pointed out the Haven, Oklahoma level that was previously showed off, which went from an open battlefield to a more traditional shooter experience, and then continued into a close-quarters boss fight against the hulking Brawler.

Levels will also have multiple pathways for players to follow, with different possibilities waiting along each one. Additionally, Murray said that the designers tried to mix things up by putting in multiple kinds of enemies with a variety of weaknesses and abilities, making firefights almost like a puzzle.

“We basically redid the AI from the ground up,” Murray added. “Instead of scripting, designers assign what we call ‘jobs’ to the enemies. Using their normal behavior, playing defensively, being aggressive or flanking, and basically they evaluate where you are, and based on the layout of the level, they go off on their own. … Even the level designers are sometimes caught off-guard by what the enemy does.”

Finally, the game’s weapons are also being re-evaluated and overhauled, with an upgrade system that improves guns as you use them. While we haven’t seen it in action, we can testify that the upgraded guns are a lot of fun to play around with, something we had a chance to do in the boat-trip level we mentioned earlier. Here, Capelli stood on the deck of a little tugboat piloted by Malikov as it made its way down the Mississippi. The level was long and filled with interesting things to shoot at, and we could go through it blow-by-blow – but why bore you with a lengthy description when we can just show you a condensed version of the entire level?

Playing through what you just saw was enjoyably tense, as the action started slow and gradually reached a crescendo, although it was maybe a little too long. Taking the dark-ride approach to a level's design can make its events much more striking and dramatic - which was the case here - butbut after a while it tends to feel confining.

Also, while the video above shows a varied approach to the level’s enemies, we relied heavily on three (upgraded) weapons: the Rossmore shotgun, whose incendiary shells made igniting leaping Grims hilarious; the Magnum, which can not only blow a close-range enemy’s head off, but can also fire remote-detonated sticky grenades; and the Marksman assault rifle, which was accurate and powerful at long distances. The new, improved Auger was fun to play around with as well, even if we mostly just used it to try and shoot the (invulnerable) Dr. Malikov through the boat’s cabin walls.

Finally, we tried out a new Chimera-vs-humans multiplayer level. In keeping with the “multiplayer is set around the world” plan, this one took place in a ruined trainyard in Bogota, Colombia. It wasn’t anything incredible or revolutionary, but the train cars, overturned containers and wrecked buildings did offer plenty of opportunities for sniping or just getting the drop on pesky humans.

We also had a chance to play around with a killstreak reward we hadn’t seen before, which appears to be human-specific and gave us a set of armor with a slightly heightened perspective and a chaingun that could mow down Chimera players in a heartbeat. Seeing as both sides can get front-facing bubble shields as a kill-streak reward (what you actually get appears to be random), it was nice to see the humans get something that looks even cooler than the Chimera cloaking-device reward.

Speaking for myself, I wasn’t much of a fan of Resistance 2, but what I’ve seen so far of R3 looks pretty impressive. So long as the campaign can keep up the level of variety and intensity we’ve seen so far, and so long as Insomniac's lofty goals for the game work out as intended,this could end up a standout shooter in a year that’s already filled with them.

April 13, 2011

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.