Friday, April 9, 2021

Resistance 3

Note: This review contains spoilers for Resistance 2 and Resistance 3.

Three years after Resistance 2, Insomniac finished off the Resistance trilogy with Resistance 3 in 2011, with no plans for any future installments. When I decided to play through the main series, I noticed that while Resistance: Fall of Man and Resistance 2 both have digital options available, Resistance 3 does not for whatever reason, leading me to have to actively seek out a physical copy as I had done for Fall of Man. Fortunately, I was able to find a new copy of the game at a local game reseller for a reasonable price, allowing me to experience the Resistance trilogy to the end. Overall I found it to be an improvement over its predecessors in several areas, perhaps even the strongest entry, and a fitting conclusion to the series.

On startup, a cutscene provides a glimpse into how the Chimeran virus spread in the first place and briefly recaps Nathan Hale’s story. The story proper then begins at the ending of Resistance 2, after Joseph Capelli shoots a fully-turned Nathan Hale. Not only does this action haunt Joe, who immediately felt remorse over it, a special compound was later found in Nathan’s blood that led to the creation of a vaccine for the virus. This, however, does not help Joe’s case, as his actions led to him receiving a dishonorable discharge from the military, though he doesn’t let this stop him from pursuing a relatively normal life. Four years later, Joe is part of a human settlement living underground and has a wife and son. When a group of Chimera is spotted, his group is one of a few who monitor them and try to let them pass without incident, though his group ends up having to fight anyway. Following this, one team at East Outpost fails to report in, so Joe volunteers himself to go and investigate.

Though the ending of the previous game was a bit abrupt, I liked how this game took that and built upon it in an organic way to tell an interesting story of its own that provides some closure to the events of the trilogy. I also liked the way Joe Capelli was written, expanding him from a supporting character in Resistance 2 to a well-rounded and complex individual. In some ways, Joe seemed to be better-written to me than Nathan Hale, as, while Nathan does get some much-needed character development in the second game, the exploration of Joe’s personality and his more personal motivations allowed him to be more relatable and made me want to see him survive the events of the game.

As with previous games, much of the game’s lore is revealed in hidden Intel, now renamed Journals. Some early Journals reveal some new information about the game’s setting, such as steps for administering the Hale vaccine and establishing the existence of “Military” and “Feral” Chimera, the latter of which are more dangerous in combat. Some Journals are also narrated by other characters, though the game also introduces Audio Journals, providing more insight into different events in the timeline in a similar fashion to the radio broadcasts found in the preceding installment.

The basic gameplay of Resistance 3 is similar to Resistance 2, however it features some control changes as well as returning elements from Resistance: Fall of Man. The biggest, and arguably most important, returning gameplay feature is the Weapon Wheel from Fall of Man, which can now hold even more weapons and allows significantly more versatility against larger waves of enemies. One new additional feature taken from the Ratchet & Clank series is upgradeable weapons, which become stronger over time the more you use them. The health system has also been reworked to be more in line with Fall of Man, except now you don’t regenerate health over time, the health indicator is represented by a circle rather than a segmented bar and said indicator now features a compass surrounding it. In case you feel stuck in some of the levels, objective markers now appear to help point you in the right direction, which came in handy in some of the more complex levels.

The Weapon Wheel is back!

Of the control changes from Resistance 2, the Sprint button has now been mapped to L3 while the Grenade button has been moved to L2, previously the Sprint button in Resistance 2, while Crouch is now Circle. Playing this game right after the preceding one, this particular change in the controls took some getting used to, as did, to a lesser extent, the fact that swapping Grenades has been changed to Left and Right on the D-Pad rather than Up and Down. Whereas the flashlight was mapped to a button on the D-Pad in previous entries, it now automatically turns on while in a sufficiently dark area, which was a change I could get behind.

As with the previous game, Resistance 3 has its own arsenal of weapons, including some that it introduces such as the Cryogun, which can freeze enemies for a short period. One interesting addition, however, is the introduction of a melee weapon, the Sledgehammer, in the second half of the game. While it doesn’t have any sort of upgrades, it does come in handy when you need to break down a wooden barricade or you have no ammo against closer enemies. Another new item introduced in the early game, the Carabiner, enables you to use ziplines to travel between designated areas and will stay with you throughout the campaign.

Another change I appreciated was the lack of the Predator-like Chameleons from Resistance 2, though this doesn’t mean there aren’t any invisible enemies, usually snipers. Unlike the Chameleons, however, the Auger can be used to more easily expose and dispose of said invisible enemies. Among the Drone types in this game are the newly-introduced Shield Drones, which introduce another complication to gameplay by making designated Chimera invincible, requiring you to destroy the Drones to kill the Chimera they protect. On interesting change, however, was the introductions of human enemies known as Wardens in Chapter 13, which offers a new perspective on the story and is handled in such a way that it doesn’t overshadow the main storyline or overstay its welcome.

In a first for the series, the game is compatible with the PlayStation Move and the related Sharpshooter peripheral, the former requiring both the Motion Controller and the Navigation Controller. Since I own the controllers themselves and not the Sharpshooter, I decided to see how this worked, based on replaying Chapter 1. From playing that much, I could tell the control changes were done with the Move in mind and, while it does work, there is some amount of awkwardness that comes from using the Move aiming reticle to both aim your weapons and control the camera. The controls are otherwise the same as using a DualShock 3, except on the Motion Controller R1 is now mapped to T, R2 is assigned to the Move button and R3 requires physically making a jabbing motion with said controller.

The visuals are greatly improved over the previous game, to the point where comparing this game to Fall of Man is like night and day, though the game goes in a more stylized art direction while still presenting a realistic level of detail and with more muted colors. This new art direction is present in a handful of comic book style cutscenes, which transition well to the in-game graphics and the more prominent pre-rendered cutscenes. Surprisingly, the framerate was consistently buttery smooth throughout my playthrough without any slowdowns, which impressed me considering this is a 2011 PS3 title. The subtitles, on the other hand, barring a few noticeable inconsistencies with the spoken dialogue, appear a little small on a CRT TV, which I played the game on. I will also mention that Chapters are now explicitly labeled on-screen, giving the player a better idea of how far they are in the campaign.

Resistance 3 leans even further into horror.

The sound design is also really good, with weapons having their own unique sounds to help them stand out from each other. There is also more ambient background noise in some areas and a soundtrack that pairs well with the visuals to help the game lean further into, and even embrace, the inherent horror aspect of the story and setting. As health regen returns in the form of health pickups, so too does its pickup noise, except the more clinical sound of the first game is replaced with a more triumphant, angelic sound that makes finding health feel like much more of an accomplishment, especially in tougher firefights. The voice acting is also generally good, with Robin Atkin Downes putting a lot of nuance into Joseph Capelli, though I will admit that upon hearing Paul Eiding voice late-game character Herbert Sawicki, I couldn’t unhear his voice as Roy Campbell from the Metal Gear series.

One last thing to mention is that the game includes a handful of demos for other then-upcoming PlayStation exclusives, which can be accessed through the PS3’s Xross Media Bar. These demos include Infamous 2, MotorStorm Apocalypse and Killzone 3, the last of which also includes a separate 3D version presumably designed for TVs with 3D support.

Resistance 3 is, in my opinion, the best entry in the Resistance series. In addition to the many gameplay and visual improvements, the story features some strong character writing that allows you to connect with Joe on a more personal level and care about what happens to him. Shooter fans interested in a more unique, horror-themed take on the genre will find something to like about this game, though Resistance fans who have not played all three Insomniac-developed games will rest assured with the closure this game provides. Digital-only players should also keep in mind that, as of this writing, the game is not available on the PS3 PlayStation Store, so locating a physical copy is a must should you decide to play this game.

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