There’s not really a ‘resistance’ to speak of in the opening stages of Resistance 3 – not an active movement, anyway. At this stage in the alternate-reality mid-20th-Century alien invasion saga, humanity has virtually resigned itself to defeat at the hands of the Chimera. With around 90% of the Earth’s population either killed or transformed into Chimera, pockets of survivors have set up small, hidden communities around the globe. They attempt to get by, pulling together whatever semblance of an existence they can muster, as the alien invaders proceed to dismantle the world around them.
Joe Capelli (you may remember this secondary character from Resistance 2) tries to make a life with his wife, his child and a number of other human survivors in the hidden Oklahoman outpost community of Haven. However, an unexpected visitor (Dr Fyodor Malikov, another familiar face from Resistance lore) is followed by a Chimeran patrol, and the community of Haven is no longer so secret. As Capelli repels the Chimeran patrol, he soon realises that their discovery is the least of his community’s worries; a large terraformer is inbound, destroying everything in its path.
Dr Malikov claims to have discovered a way to defeat the Chimera, and requests Capelli’s assistance in New York City. At first, Capelli refuses, but his young son’s rapidly deteriorating health – presumably brought on by a global climate change facilitated by the Chimera – soon forces his hand to co-operate.
It did take me a while to warm to Resistance 3. The opening chapters provide little that’s particularly special, coming across as exemplary of ‘shooter generica’. The first environments, in keeping with the impending-apocalyptic vibe of the setting, feel like every other post-apocalyptic shooter setting you’ve ever played. The gunplay in the early stages is mechanically sound, although the initial weapons are simply variants of the FPS usual suspects. Each weapon does provide a secondary fire option, however, which makes things just that little bit more interesting. The game’s lone pistol, for instance, allows you to remotely detonate the bullets you’ve just fired into Chimeran flesh or the surrounding environment; this makes for some satisfying and amusing carnage, turning the pistol into a more powerful and fun weapon than you’d expect. And the secondary fire of the go-to assault rifle, the Bullseye, allows you to tag enemies with a tracer, which will attract your primary fire no matter how wayward your aim. As you play, you’ll level up your weapons, which grants them additional useful abilities. Level up your Deadeye sniper rifle, for instance, and enemy positions will be marked when you zoom in with its scope.
Resistance 3 eschews a couple of the key conventions of contemporary shooters, which is bound to please those who cut their teeth on some of the pioneering PC FPS titles. Refreshingly, regenerative health is nowhere to be found, with Capelli forced to scavenge health packs either dropped by dead Chimera or simply left around the environment. This doesn’t necessarily translate to a more difficult shooter – at least on the default difficulty – as the health-pack distribution on the battlefield seems to be relatively liberal. And from one more realistic FPS throwback to a less realistic one, the number of different weapons you can carry on your person at any one time is not limited. You can call on a Mass Effect-style weapon wheel at the press of a button, and there’s a quick-swap option between your two most recently used weapons.
So far I imagine it’s not sounding terribly special, but thankfully, a couple of chapters in as Capelli and Malikov begin their journey to New York, Resistance 3 really starts to come into its own. Insomniac truly nails the pacing of the game from this point forward, suitably mixing up the environments and combat scenarios. The firefights range from repelling invaders from your transport to vast, open battlefields with multiple vantage and engagement points, not to mention the range of weapons (more on these shortly) at your disposal that give you a variety of tactical options. Resistance 3 rarely dissolves into straightforward shooting galleries, which helps to ensure that subsequent playthroughs can potentially play rather differently. There are a couple of fairly generic boss encounters, but at least even these are not limited to only one workable tactic.
In its mid to latter stages, Resistance 3 also introduces some of the most inventive (and somewhat sadistic) weapons that I’ve encountered in an FPS for some time. My personal favourite (I’m embarrassed to say) is the Mutator: a weapon that fires doses of the Chimera virus, causing those on the receiving end to mutate and dissolve into putrid piles of green goop. The secondary fire effectively creates an infected zone within a certain radius, causing a chain reaction of infection amongst nearby enemies. Also of note is the Cryogun, which freezes enemies solid and then allows you to shatter them with a blast of its secondary fire.
I was also surprised how engaged I became with the story as the game progressed. There’s a frankly laughable attempt to establish an emotional connection with Capelli’s wife and son immediately before the journey to New York begins. The progression of the journey, however, truly does capture the feeling of hopelessness of a man who might never see his family again. Some of the secondary characters you’ll encounter along the way are a bit wooden and certainly don’t push boundaries in terms of convincing voice work. But by the game’s later stages, you’ll find yourself well on board with the game’s plot, and perhaps just a little surprised at how much you’ve come to care about some of the characters.
Unfortunately, I encountered PSN issues that prevented me from trying out the multiplayer, so this review covers the single-player component only. However, it’s a single-player campaign that’s certainly worthwhile; persevere through a moderately underwhelming first couple of chapters and you’ll find a well-polished shooter with satisfying gunplay and a story that just might take you by surprise.
Lasting appeal: 8.5
Available on Playstation 3.