Resistance 3 ReviewSean Kelley
At the end of Resistance 2, Joseph Capelli guns down Nathan Hale, the series' protagonist. In one decisive shot, Hale's story is concluded, emphatically, and effectively freeing the franchise of its unnecessary baggage. Three years later, Insomniac Games returns to their alien infested alternate history, unburdened. Three years later, Capelli has traded in his dog tags and Carbine for a wedding band, a son and a chance at a 'normal' life.
Dishonorably discharged and haunted by his prior actions, Capelli settles in Haven, Oklahoma, with his wife Susan, and their young son. His family, along with dozens of other survivors, lives a modest, strained existence underground. Occasionally, the town risks a trip to Haven's surface to hunt for food and collect supplies between Chimeran patrols. Citizens are scared and weary, but there is a slight glimmer of hope, evidenced by a child playing a game with his old man, or a group of kids learning how to shoot. One by one people acknowledge Capelli as he passes, sharing a few words, revealing their relationship towards him and illustrating their role in the community. Haven sets a definitive tone for Resistance 3, returning the series' to its desperate roots.
The other major return to form for the series is the inclusion of the weapon wheel. Ditching the two weapon loadout of its predecessor, Resistance 3 wisely lets players carry every weapon they come across. Series' staples like the Marksman, Auger and Bullseye all make a return, while many others show up as variants of previous firearms. Borrowing a page from Insomniac's own Ratchet & Clank franchise, nearly every one of the weapons at Capelli's disposal can be leveled up through repeated use. The system doesn't require any added thought, but it is one way the game advocates the use of every weapon, rather than the use of one. In contrast, Resistance 2 always provided the weapon you needed for your next engagement; in Resistance 3, you might still gravitate towards the Rossmore when fighting Grims, but it will always be by your choice, not the game designers'.
Level design is also considerably more conducive to player choice. As fights are fought through corn fields, abandoned villages and major cities, Insomniac has gone out of their way to make each conflict an open engagement. Several routes are paved through every skirmish and when one path is combined with any number of weapons in-hand, a near limitless amount of tactics reveal themselves. Choices have to be made quickly in the heat of battle: do you take your Deadeye to a nearby roof, hoping for a few free headshots, or do you take cover in a blown out garage, peppering nearby Hybrids with Auger fire? There is no wrong answer, and generally a variety of approaches will ultimately be necessary as one weapon runs out of ammo and enemies employ their own tactics.
Packing a dozen weapons and taking the fight directly to the Chimera, there is an inherent disconnect that develops throughout the campaign. Insomniac does their best to juxtapose the huge, epic set pieces expected of a 'AAA' shooter with the quieter moments that dictate Resistance 3's atmosphere, but the super soldier legacy of Nathan Hale refuses to die. As Capelli pushes onward towards New York City, singlehandedly disposing of hundreds upon hundreds of Chimera, it's increasingly hard to see the resistance in the title. Other pockets of survivors come and go along the way, but none of them are given the same time to mature as a character in the manner that Haven was.
Outside of its singleplayer content, Resistance 3's efforts to create a more intimate experience are extended into its multiplayer offerings. Like Resistance: Fall of Man, the story can be played cooperatively with a friend, axing the progressive eight player co-op found in Resistance 2. While some players might enjoy blasting through the campaign with a buddy it's hard to not see the move as a colossal step backwards for the franchise. The co-op found in Resistance 2 was a wholly unique experience in the genre, something that seamlessly melded first-person action with persistent character grinding, nearly a year before Borderlands' release.
On the competitive front, the franchise has seen a significant dialing back as well, seeing player caps drop from sixty to sixteen. An added focus has been made on weapon loadouts, including weapon upgrades and boosters that can be purchased via points accrued by leveling up. Kill streaks are also imported from other franchises, netting players berserks that can be triggered, which include invincible shields, invisibility, an unlimited ammo weapon and a preposterously overpowered suit of body armor. At this point, kill streak benefits create a significant problem towards game balancing as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Occasionally the lower players can rail off a streak of their own, which will likely feel equal parts sublime and dirty, but the more likely scenario is that of coming face to face with a high level player who is nigh invincible due to one berserk or another.
Assuming you can stomach being steamrolled once in a while, Resistance 3 has some really great maps that are just big enough to feel spacious for sixteen players, but small enough to keep the action constant. Like the singleplayer stages, Insomniac has done an excellent job creating interesting routes and combat zones that cater to small, prolonged firefights. Some levels work better than others for specific modes, which include the standard competitive repertoire, plus Breach an enjoyable attack and defend variant.
Another concern in multiplayer are games that employ reinforcement caps, meaning you have a set amount of spawns allotted for a match and when you run out you lose. The concept is sound, as it emphasizes the importance of each and every spawn, forcing players to play thoughtfully. But, in practice, a respawn cap advertises the round as a straightforward deathmatch, even when it's employed in an objective game type; if you're team runs out of spawns you lose, no matter if you're leading in flag captures.
Resistance 3, as a collective whole, is a case of one step forward, two steps back. Following the outcries of fans of Fall of Man, it's no surprise Insomniac ditched a lot of the DNA that embodied Resistance 2. However, in doing so, they sacrificed a lot of the overlooked, revolutionary work they crammed into that title's multiplayer modes. Even with its wonderful, varied campaign, Resistance 3, as well as the franchise, stands at a crossroads; hopefully it's not a dead end.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.