In a first-person shooter, there's one thing that matters most: The gun in your hand.
You're staring at the damn thing for the vast majority of the game, and just about every objective requires that you use it in some way. You would think that, given the importance of the gun, every first-person shooter would make it their business to ensure that your gun is as good as it can be. But a surprisingly number of them fail miserably, leaving you with facile, impotent weapons that feel more like squirt guns than devices of war.
"Resistance 3" is not one of these first-person shooters. It happens to be home to the best weapons arsenal I've ever used in a first-person shooter, and it's a damn fun game because of it.
NOTE: This review is focused solely on the campaign portion of "Resistance 3." There is a significant multiplayer portion which was unplayable in natural settings before launch, so impressions on the multiplayer will come later this week.
"Resistance 3" is a bit of a reboot for the franchise. You take on the role of a new hero, sent across the United States to stop a mysterious alien plot from wiping out the human race. Unlike Nathan Hale, the previous protagonist, Joseph Capelli is just a family man who has put his military career behind him. He's more grounded, with more personal priorities that revolve around keeping his wife and child safe. It's these priorities that send him on his mission, travelling from the middle of the country to New York City to bring down a Chimeran weapon of mass destruction.
This Is My Gun
Even the most heralded first-person shooters ("Halo," "Call of Duty," "GoldenEye," "Half-Life") had weapons that were, well, kinda worthless. You'd find an ammo cache and curse that all you got was more Klobb ammo instead of finding a stash of RCP90s.
In "Resistance 3," I adored using every single weapon in the game. From the reworked, SMG-style Bullseye to the freeze-and-shatter cryogun to the exploding magnum. There are around a dozen of them, and each excels in a certain style of combat, from close range to multiple targets to extreme long range with the sniper rifle. Even better, all of the weapons improve as you use them, unlocking new attachments like scopes and flaming rounds.
You know the weapons are good when you look forward to your next encounter rather than dread it. In "Resistance 3," every Chimeran death squad was a breath of fresh air.
Keeping Things Personal
One of the reasons I never much enjoyed the first two "Resistance" games is that they felt like they were trying to follow the pack. They were filled with massive military engagements with dozens enemies at once. These were chaotic affairs where succeeding simply meant finding a quick route to the next checkpoint.
"Resistance 3" changes the pace entirely. Much of it is slow, quiet and personal. The environments feel like places you've been to or seen in real life, rather than vague, alien-like structures that have no personal attachment. The missions are structured with plenty of variety and there's some brilliant art design at work, with flooded mid-west towns and ransacked prisons looking as authentic as you could imagine.
In short, Insomniac finally found a way to bring the humanity into the "Resistance" franchise, and it makes every encounter all the more memorable.
The first four acts of the "Resistance 3" campaign are great. Unfortunately the game suffers from some serious final act problems. The humanity of the majority of the game devolves into a series of alien battles through futuristic space ships that could have very easily been ripped from one of the first two "Resistance" games. It's generic as can be, complete with objectives like "Deactivate the shield generator!" That final act also throws so many enemies at you at once that the tactics and strategy of the first six hours go out the window and it all becomes pure chaos. It's a shame that the developers couldn't find a way to stick with that personal, human tone throughout.
Been Here Before?
Whether they'll admit it or not, there are three levels in "Resistance 3" that are almost directly lifted from "Half-Life 2." Ravenholm (the infested zombie village), Nova Prospekt (the prison), and a cave battle from "Episode 2" play out almost exactly the same in "Resistance 3," to the point of being beyond homage. That doesn't make these sequences less fun, but it does dull the originality of the game a bit.
There are a number of instances where the game simply doesn't do its job in terms of telling you where you should go. Often times, after a big battle, I'd be left in a large room and given some vague objective like "Proceed further into the base" with no indication as to where I would do that. There were even a few times where the game wouldn't unlock doors that should've unlocked, leaving me locked in a room, forced to reload a checkpoint to proceed. The former is an issue of player testing while the later is simply a bug that should have never made it into the final game.
Taken as a whole, the "Resistance 3" campaign is a delight to play through and is easily my favorite PS3-exclusive FPS. It's not without problems but, even during its low points, shooting aliens with this terrific arsenal never gets old. And really, for an FPS, what more could you ask for?