Gaming heroes- they are the super men and women that we put all our hope and faith in. Their motivations are, however, not as demanding as you would expect. Battling an alien menace often seems a chore or an assigned task for them. Take the silent protagonists of Halo and Half Life. Their stoic silence is meant as a way for you to imprint you're own reasons and logic into the game world. The way a games structure then unfolds is for these supermen to be sent around the world by other people often making them feel more like a tool than a character. What's their motivation for doing it? Saving the world usually but that's not really something that's easy to empathize with. Sure we'd all want to save the world but lets face it not many of us do it on a regular basis. I mean, I recycle as much as possible but its just not the same somehow.
Resistance 3 however is a game about heroes and their reasons. Their reasons for fighting in the world they exist in. A world that has no hope, for the humans anyway, the alines are doing pretty well. Resistance 3 tells the story of Joseph Capelli, the last remaining sentinel (a specially engineered solider developed to fight the chimera) who is hiding underground in provincial America with his wife and child. This is not a resistance movement though, they hide to survive and they hide because they have no other choice. Joe is never once labeled the leader but the reverence in which his community greets him shows that have placed that mantle upon him.
The combination of little period elements and excellent somber and subtle music help evoke a sense of desperation. For example throughout the game you hear radio bulletins as you pass through buildings. Each is a plea for someone to find their missing or report their latest casulalties, and ends with the reporter reminding everyone that they'll get through this. There is no hope of overturning the Chimera though, this outpost and all the others just the want to survive. As you can probably guess things take a turn for the worst pretty quickly, the Chimera show up and spoil the plan. An old associate of Joe appears in the form of a wizened old soviet professor (aren't they all) and explains he thinks the only way to stop the Chimera is to destroy their tower in New York. Joe refuses, like I said he has no interest in being a hero. He just wants to keep his family safe but his wife convinces him to go by reminding him the only way to be truly safe is to stop the Chimera.
So what in other circumstances would be a fun road trip begins across the USA becomes a desperate struggle to reach New York. The resistance of the title being these two men. Fighting their way across the country the old fashion way, and this game does a lot of things the old fashion way. Remember health packs? There here. Carrying more than two weapons? Thats's here too. Carrying all the weapons available, Its not something that happens much these days but it makes this one man army much more of a one man army. All of a sudden years of well honed tactics are changed. when you're on the last sliver of health hiding behind a tree wont help. You've got to scramble round in the dirt for a health pack while praying you don't get shot.
These now seemingly old fashioned systems do make the combat seem fresh however in a strange roundabout way. You're health is now a much more valuable commodity and cant be gambled away on stupid forays straight at the enemy. Cover is your friend and you must learn to use her well. It is possible that giving you the full arsenal of weapons to play with at any time could break the game but Insomniac have been clever. Slowly doling out weapons throughout the game and restricting you're choices at various points.Giving you what you need not what you want. Only at the end when you have a full compliment of guns do you perhaps feel overpowered.
This developer knows it's weapons though. A good variety from standard machine guns and sniper rifles through to massive electric cattle prods and guns that can fire through walls (very Perfect Dark). Each comes with its own secondary fire as well giving you the double the options. For example your giant electric cattle prod can also rip a small hole in space that will suck all surrounding enemies in and kill them with dizziness. Add to this an upgrade system that adds extra features the more you use each gun and suddenly you have a massive variety of options to tackle each scenario.
Thinking on the fly is something you will have to get used to in Resistance 3. The game throws you between sieges, set pieces and straight out firefights. There's always room for a quiet interlude inbetween though, with plenty of scene setting moments that build up to larger action sequences, create tension before something jumps out to bite you or sometimes even give you a chance to plan how to take on a group of enemies that open up in front of you. Overall the pacing is excellent leading you from boss fights against massive space gorillas to crawling through slowly decaying mine shafts with only the rumbles of the massive beast you have been sent to kill for company (oh, and a priest).
The excellent pacing doesn't cover up the fact that this is still a pretty straight forward shooter. A well crafted one but some elements let it down. Most notably the enemy AI, which, while not suicidally dim witted, is certainly not the lethal hunters of your nightmares. They will often stand in one place or walk past you if you stay in one place not firing at them for long enough. The diffuculty usually comes from numbers and variety of enemy. Puzzles nearly always boil down to shooting the relevant wire to drop a force field . Not award winning but its all just a way to move you quickly on to the next bit of action.
The maps themselves vary from tight and claustrophobic to fairly open with multiple routes to flank the enemy. These larger maps prevent the game from descending into corridor shooter while the smaller maps are reserved for the jump scare enducing rushing enemies but are kept short and sweet enough to not overstay their welcome, cough* flood *cough. The Planes, Trains and Automobiles nature of your cross country journey means you change setting often and are always meeting new groups and seeing new places. Again adding to the constant pace of change and novelty the game throws at you.
Each person you meet is in the same situation as you, cut off and doing their best to survive but you never meet a resistance movement. These are but the last dregs of humanity doing what they can to survive. At once uplifting in their spirt but soul crushingly depressing when you think of what their future holds. Within each group you will meet someone who mirrors Joe, thrust to the leadership role and their reaction to it is what gives away their motivations for surviving. One leads to ensure his community's and his own belief in God maintains while another takes the fight to the Chimera to validate the reason for his existence. Just sruviving isn't enough. The leaders are the heros for their communties. The world has lost its heros, only these local ones remain. This depth to the characters motivations give the plot a meaning past merely saving the world. This final fight is one last ditch attempt at survival because that is all thats left.
Its such a shame therefore that Insomniac make a few essential mis- steps that counter the good work they have done story wise. The main offender being the conflict between cut scene Joe and first person view Joe. Cut scene Joe never shuts up, while first perso Joe never says a word. Either of these approaches to main chracter is fine but to use them together makes the protagonist look like a gun nut who can't say anything once a firearm is placed in his hands. Maybe he's too busy foaming at the mouth and shooting aliens to stop and chat. Also while the characters are an exceptional part of the world, indivdually none of them are that interesting. All playing their parts fairly well but none will stick in your memory for any length of time.
So can I recommend Resistance above all the years other big shooters? Without playing them of course I cant possibly say but I'd be willing to bet that the sombre world that Resistance 3 conjurs up will be more interesting and somehow more realistic than the James Bond- esque shennanigans of Call of Duty and Battlefield, at least in terms of human reaction to a crisis. The multiplayer is another story as those two games are goliaths in that area but I if you are looking for a straight forward enjoyable, and perhaps slightly deeper than you'd expect, shooter to fill the time until their release, look no further than Resistance 3.