Michael Kontoudis
13 Sep, 2011

Resistance 3 Review

PS3 Review | Is it futile?
Of all the almost-great franchises of this console generation, Insomniac Games’ Resistance series is perhaps one of the most frustrating, grasping for greatness, yearning and reaching for the heights of its own considerable potential. Launched alongside the fledgling Playstation 3, the first in the series, Resistance: Fall of Man, succeeded mostly on the strength of its strong premise, nonexistent competition, and clever weaponry. Two years later, Insomniac tried its hand at playing with the big boys of the first-person shooting genre with Resistance 2 by upping the scale and streamlining the series’ unique mechanics to better adopt the conventions of the genre’s heavy-hitters. The sequel was a gargantuan title, both in content and scope, but generally rejected by the original game’s rabid fan base, who decried the abandonment of the unique features of Fall of Man in favour of a two weapon load-out and regenerating health mechanics made popular by the Call of Duty and Halo series, among others. Three years later, it is apparent from their newest title, Resistance 3, that they are keen to redress past mistakes and stay true to their spirit. If Resistance 2 made concessions to the mainstream in search of a larger audience, then Resistance 3 is almost defiant in its bucking of modern trends; a bleak, brutal first-person shooter emphasizing mood over scale, despair over heroism, and the creativity of its arsenal over everything else, Resistance 3 is certainly a blast of fresh air – but is it the game to finally elevate the franchise to the greatness to which it has always aspired?

A Grim Welcome.

A Grim Welcome.

The game certainly makes a strong and positive first impression, picking up the story from the perspective of new series’ protagonist Joseph Capelli, who inherits the mantle from former hero, Nathan Hale, who was jarringly and unceremoniously relieved of duty at the conclusion of Resistance 2. Set in 1957, four years after the events of the last game and at a time when the alien menace known as the Chimera has all but successfully invaded the earth and crushed any human resistance, the game finds Capelli and his young family hiding underground with a small enclave of survivors, who eke out a meager existence in a series of subterranean tunnels in small-town Oklahoma. Sadly, Joe’s relative peace is shattered by the appearances of both a Chimeran death squad and a character from the series’ past, plunging him into a cross-country odyssey across the heartland of the United States to strike a blow at the heart of the occupying Chimeran forces, and, hopefully, granting his young son the chance at a better life. Told via in-game and FMV cutscenes, the narrative in Resistance 3 adopts the structure of a road-movie, following Joe’s exploits from Oklahoma to Missouri, Pennsylvania to New York, and a whole host of terrifying detours along the way. What ultimately impresses is not the quality of plot, but rather the consistency with which Resistance 3 strikes its bleak, melancholy tone and maintain focus on an emotional journey in lieu of warfare on a grand-scale; in other words, you can forget the jingoistic military jargon of the series’ past (and of almost every other game in the genre), and prepare instead for the haunting desolate horror of the post-apocalyptic world.

Reinforcing the series’ new-found emphasis on tension, mood and survival is Insomniac’s decision to eschew regenerating health mechanics in favour of a traditional health meter which depletes upon taking damage and can only be refilled by scavenging health packs carried by enemies or hidden in dark corners of the scorched world. Each and every pitched battle with the Chimera is a tense, exciting affair as you balance the need to defeat your enemy with your own preservation, and far from becoming frustrating, the system ensures that firefights seldom devolve into taking potshots at enemies from behind rocks in between bouts of waiting for health to regenerate. In lieu of the staid, methodical waiting game posed by genre contemporaries such as Killzone or Call of Duty, Resistance 3 encourages offensive tactics, experimentation and most of all, creative and strategic use of an ample arsenal which includes series’ stalwarts, from the Bullseye, a Chimeran machine gun capable of ‘tagging’ enemies with homing projectiles, to the Auger, a rifle capable of deploying shields and sniping enemies through solid walls. These tools of destruction (the specifics of which we shall not spoil) are doled out frequently over the course of the single player campaign, and it remains an unadulterated delight to experiment with a new weapon’s primary and secondary functions on hapless Chimera as they spill from their drop-ships. Even better, weapons upgrade through prolonged use, unlocking new and more devastating functions, mimicking the similar system found in Insomniac’s own Ratchet & Clank games. For example, the standard shotgun upgrades to carry incendiary shells which set your enemies alight, and further upgrades see it play host to napalm grenades which can be deployed as a secondary function. The genius of the system is in its encouragement of experimentation; where you might hoard one or two particularly effective weapons in other shooters, never daring to try out more idiosyncratic tools, in Resistance 3 you are rewarded for tinkering with all the toys in the toolbox.

The Auger fires through solid walls... though sometimes such a thing is patently unnecessary.

The Auger fires through solid walls... though sometimes such a thing is patently unnecessary.

Similarly impressive is the care and attention with which Insomniac has paced its minute-to-minute gameplay in Resistance 3, which boasts exquisite pacing across its admittedly brief six or seven hours’ duration. The quality and variety of set-pieces in Resistance 3 is very impressive, with frantic bursts of strategic battle in wide open spaces (akin to what might be expected of games in the Halo series) to claustrophobic, close-quarters battles in sewers and mines against hordes of zombie-like Chimera known as ‘Grims’, which take on the frenzied, improvised pace of something like Left 4 Dead. High octane battles against dozens of enemies or towering bosses (and sometimes both at once) are often interspersed with quiet, haunting treks through dark and ruined spaces. It would be unfair for us to go into specifics, given that there is much to enjoy in the surprises and unexpected detours in Joe’s journey, but suffice to say that one of the primary strengths of Resistance 3 is its delicate juggling of awe and horror, of spectacle and dread, which is propped up by its sterling presentation.

Aesthetically, Resistance 3 is evidence of Insomniac’s dedication to righting the wrongs of past games. The flat, antiseptic style of Resistance 2 has been all but disposed of, with the developer opting for a gritty look which complements the game’s setting. While the game obviously runs at a lower definition than its predecessor, the slight drop in image quality is more than bolstered by the strong, consistent artistic design, atmospheric lighting, and a range of special effects (including well-implemented motion blur) which finally gives the franchise an attitude and style to call its own. While few moments in Resistance 3 engender the slack-jawed awe elicited by games such as Killzone 3 or Uncharted 2, this is still one of the best-looking games on the market, thanks largely to the skills of Insomniac’s art department. Strong and consistent too is the game’s convincing voice acting and melancholy musical score by Boris Salchow, which ditches the militaristic bombast of past titles in favour of a stirring, emotional sound-scape, resonant with haunting piano melodies and jarring, terrifying strings. The post-apocalyptic world is not new to gaming, but it has rarely looked and sounded so good.

While it boasts the best single-player entry in the franchise to date, if we're to levy one criticism against Resistance 3 it would be that it seems to lose its footing in its second act and is almost overcome by its desire for variety, presenting combat scenarios against unusual enemies who are not nearly as fun to battle as the standard Chimeran forces. Again, it is difficult to talk specifically to our problems with the game without spoiling the game’s number of surprises, but rest assured that our issues with the single player campaign are relatively minor in the context of its overall quality. And while it may not be the longest campaign in the series (and is, in truth, quite a slender proposition as has become the norm for modern first-person shooters), Resistance 3 certainly offers plenty of value. From new game options which allow players to take their upgraded arsenal into higher difficulty levels, to a fully functional cheats menu allowing perks like infinite ammunition, Resistance 3 offers plenty of reasons to return to the main game, not least of which is the option to play through the story with a second player via split-screen or over the Playstation Network. The fascinating standalone co-operative mode of Resistance 2 is, however, nowhere to be found this time around.

Hit the weak-point for massive damage, etc.

Hit the weak-point for massive damage, etc.

On the multiplayer front, Resistance 3 is ripe with potential but beset by a number of small bugs and oftentimes crippling lag which hampers the online experience. Given that forthcoming patches may stabilise the experience, and accounting for the possibility that our connection may have been the cause of some performance-related issues, it is difficult to provide a comprehensive overview of the quality of the Resistance 3 multiplayer suite, save to say that it boasts a bevy of well-designed maps and an emphasis on small-scale skirmishes of eight on eight players which keeps the action tight, exciting and competitive. Standard competitive modes, including Death Match and Team Death Match, are as fun as ever, with the ubiquitous perks and ‘killstreak’ mechanics popularized by Infinity Ward in full effect, while unique modes such as Breach, in which players are tasked with defending 'nodes', or destroying those of the opposition, and Classic Hardcore mode, which eschews the modern trappings such as the aforementioned perks and tasks players with relying solely on their guns and grenades.

As a package, then, Resistance 3 is difficult to fault, representing one of the best exclusives available for the Playstation 3 console this year and a significant step forward for the Resistance franchise, which has struggled to carve a niche for itself among the competition. By focusing on its interesting, deadly arsenal and embracing experimentation in lieu of po-faced realism and cover-based gameplay, Insomniac has finally isolated the spirit of Resistance, stripping it bare of its concessions to the mainstream and muddled assimilation of modern trends, leaving Resistance 3 a unique experience among a sea of ‘me too’ shooters. Coupling this renewed creative focus with gorgeous artistic design and a haunting, harrowing narrative which never shies away from the brutality and ugliness of its fictional universe, Resistance 3 is certainly the best entry in the franchise to date.
The Score
Not even a wobbly second act can derail Insomniac’s achievement with Resistance 3, a lean and engaging shooter which hums on a current of renewed creative energy and artistic focus. The franchise has finally founds its voice, and we look forward to what it has to say next.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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2 years ago
Having not followed this game, I'm pretty disappointed (well, pissed off really) to read that it runs at a lower resolution than previous games. I mean, what the hell?

Not to be a graphics whore, but this is why I moved primarily to PC gaming.
2 years ago
The amount of particle and lighting effects being pushed out by the engine, coupled with some effective motion blur, totally makes up for any image quality issues. This is a fine-looking game.
2 years ago
I had such a raging hard-on for the first game, and the 2nd was pretty average... but cant wait to get my hands on this icon_smile.gif Looks really, really cool.
2 years ago
Phreakuency, you need not be worried as this is definitely the best looking resistance game to date. The use of lighting is especially effective. Insomniac have put the lighting to really good use in building tension. In several places they use light and shadow to alert you to the presence of things which you can not see directly.
2 years ago
Awesome review!
Totally agree with everything, it does get a little dire towards the end, but apart from that it's brilliant.
Hope Insomniac can iron out some of the bugs in Multiplayer, apparently there's another patch coming this week.
Again, sweet review.
2 years ago
Great Review, Yeah Insomniac nailed it with the third instalment, enjoyed the first two games but the latest is an absolute gem. Highly recommended to all icon_smile.gif

Heres to hoping there's more to come...
2 years ago
I'm going to wait for this to hit the bargain bin. $25 or bust. They got me at R2 and R+C:cit. I don't think insomniac can make a decent game.
2 years ago
THEMAN wrote
I'm going to wait for this to hit the bargain bin. $25 or bust. They got me at R2 and R+C:cit. I don't think insomniac can make a decent game.
Are you worried Resistance 3 will have pixelated explosions too? icon_rolleyes.gif
2 years ago
well, it was so ugly I couldn't play R+C cit.. (pixellated VFX)

and R2 had terrible gameplay and pixellated weapon fire effect. seriously 8 bit looking.

so yeah. can't code for shiiiiii and I'm not interested in buying their games at non bargain basement prices.
2 years ago
Not being able to play a game on account of a pixellated explosion effect is one of the oddest things I have ever heard. Given that just about every single game in existence boasts some manner of technological imperfection, how do you cope?
2 years ago
THEMAN wrote
and pixellated weapon fire effect. seriously 8 bit looking.

You and I have a seriously different perception of what 8bit games looked like.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  15/11/2010 (PreLoaded)
  Sony Computer Entertainment
Year Made:

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