Post-apocalypse. It’s an all-too-common setting we’ve seen in the last few years throughout all forms of entertainment. From novels like The Road, movies such as The Book of Eli and games like Fallout 3, artists and developers have been focusing heavily on the ultimate, “What if..?” situation. In the real world, with it’s dwindling economy and rising terrorism, these stories play heavily with current fears. How does society live and persevere through the total devastation of it’s homeland? What would you do if you survived?
There have been countless games that have put us right in the heart of these situations, and, with most of them that attempt to tackle this idea, my experiences have been hit: Fallout and miss: Homefront. Mostly, miss. Developers often seem to think that the “realistic” sight of a destroyed suburban home, or desecrated supermarket will be evocative enough to hit us where it hurts, often coming up short.
So now we have Resistance 3. Yet another game that attempts to throw us into a dead world and expect us to care. Only this time, developer Insomniac Games may have hit the bullseye.
In the alternate-history universe of the Resistance series, an alien race known as the Chimera has invaded Earth, and after many battles, humanity has lost. Most of the human race is either dead or has been transformed into hybrid Chimera. Those people who’ve survived thus far are now spread out across the planet, living underground, and, as Resistance 3 begins, we’re introduced to Joe Cappelli (a secondary character from Resistance 2), his wife and increasingly-ill son. They’re busy surviving underground within a community in the appropriately named “Haven, Oklahoma”. When Cappelli and co. learn that, not only are the Chimera passing through town, but, they’re also Terra-forming the Earth, in order to make it their new home planet. As the aliens approach Haven, an acquaintance of Cappelli’s, series’ mainstay Dr. Malikov, has come to Haven to find Cappelli, claiming that a wormhole has opened in New York City, and that the two of them must go there to destroy it before it freezes the entire planet, killing everyone but the Chimera who thrive in cold environments. After holding off the Chimera as best he can, and with much convincing from his wife, Cappelli reluctantly agrees to go with Malikov, while his family and other survivors escape to another part of Oklahoma. From here, the long adventure from Oklahoma to New York begins, with a few unfortunate and surprising stops along the way.
Resistance 3’s greatest strength lies in its atmosphere. Not content with merely providing a gorgeously ruined backdrop, Insomniac has filled the world with enormous detail, and much evidence of a population destroyed. In its opening chapter, Cappelli is awakened and tasked to go to the firing range to test out some weapons. From an outside perspective, this sounds like your standard FPS introductory level, its only purpose to familiarize the player with the controls. Only in Resistance 3, this level is used to show you how this particular group of surviving humans is living. In one corner, a man playing the hand slap game with his son, in another corner, a mother feeding her children beans from a can, a man praying, others carting around supplies. An infirmary area, where some are slowly dying from battle wounds and infections… Should you take a moment to look around your environment, you would see all of these moments, the effect of this is an emotional punch in the gut. Insomniac sells the devastation to you, and it’s quite crushing to witness. From the crumbling streets of Haven, OK to a flooded Mississippi river, the player is given so many sights of extraordinary squalor and death that it’s impossible to imagine that Cappelli and Malikov’s mission could end any differently. Yet, our heroes struggle onward, because, “What if..?”
Resistance 3 is a mostly standard first-person shooter with some important caveats to help differentiate it from the ever-growing overflow of FPS games. The most noticeable difference is the complete lack of regenerating health. By forcing us to keep an eye out for health packs, the gameplay becomes more tactical, and you’ll find yourself struggling to find good battlefield advantages. It’s a welcome change to the run-and-gun you’re-a-one-man-death-machine gameplay of most modern FPS games we see today. I’d also be remiss to ignore just how much fun the guns in Resistance 3 are. When it comes to weapons, Insomniac are well known for their creativity, and they deliver once again here. There are some standard weapons, like the carbine assault rifle, a revolver, and a shotgun, however the real fun comes from the Chimeran weapons you pick up along the way. A series favorite, the Auger, an automatic-firing energy weapon which -when aimed down the sights – gives you the ability to see enemies through walls, makes a return. Other weapons give you the ability to freeze or mutate enemies. Each weapon also has a more powerful secondary fire, and weapons upgrade themselves gradually, the more that you utilize them, making them stronger and more useful. The game also brings back the weapon wheel; so that Cappelli is able to hang onto every weapon he comes across, giving you multiple ways to tackle any combat situation. You can take on the enemy from up high with a sniper rifle, or charge in headfirst with the missile launcher. This inspires a level of creativity that isn’t found in most modern shooters. Anything is fair game, and the game doesn’t punish unduly for whatever tactical choice you’ve made. You can make your way through however you want, provided you have the ammo. If atmosphere is Resistance’s greatest strength, gunplay definitely comes in a close second.
Resistance 3 wouldn’t be a modern day FPS if it didn’t come with multiplayer, and, well… it’s there if you want it. Gone are the (rather fun) co-op missions from Resistance 2, replaced by the facility to play co-op through the entire campaign. Naturally enough there is also competitive multiplayer of which, unfortunately, there isn’t much to say. Resistance’s multiplayer borrows heavily from the Call of Duty format. The more rounds you play, the more you level up, the more perks and weapons unlock for you. All of that stuff is there, and it works just fine. I just found it a bit disappointing that, for all the creativity and detail that was put into the single-player campaign, the multiplayer felt so cut-and-paste from other heavy hitters of the genre. It’s competent enough and some will find it enjoyable. The guns are a blast and the environments look fantastic, but, it’s doubtful that Resistance 3 would sway anyone from Call of Duty or Killzone 3 as the choice FPS multiplayer game on the PS3.
The story in Resistance 3 is well-paced, and exciting, but, not without its faults. Around the three-quarters mark, the game takes a surprisingly strange and twisted turn towards The Walking Dead, and this sequence could make or break it for most players. This sidebar is fitting with the tone of the rest of the game, and perhaps, arguably even darker than the main storyline, but some may feel it drags. I managed to stay interested but in terms of the overall storyline, it is a bit of a pointless detour as once this sequence is over you’re just right back on the final leg of your journey.
Most end-of-the-world games at least try to make you believe there is still hope yet in these dire circumstances. It’s the idea that you, a lone survivor, have the ability to change everything, and save us all. Not Resistance 3. This is perhaps the bleakest post-apocalyptic game you’ll have played. I absolutely loved it. The game genuinely haunted me with the sights of a devastated America, which is something no other game has managed to succeed in. There is no “winning” or “defeating the enemy” here: humanity has already lost. The only reward available is the chance to survive for just a little longer. The game does not totally avoid stumbles, but they’re minor in an otherwise unique experience. Resistance 3 is a game that everyone with a PS3 should experience.