A whistle stop tour of the Resistance lore reads like the scribblings of a bored high-school history student (I should know). At the culmination of World War 2, the Chimera – big dumb aliens – invade Earth and spark a hoo-ha across Asia and mainland Europe. Eventually they arrive at the shores of Blighty, raze Manchester Cathedral and someone called Nathan Hale spends weeks attempting to murder all the intruding extraterrestrials. He founders, copping it during the final moments of Resistance 2, leaving the last vestiges of humanity’s hope in the hands of some guy called Joe Capelli. Incidentally it was Capelli who killed Hale.
It’s a whole lot of science-fiction mumbo jumbo that amounts to one thing only: mankind is screwed and it needs you to shoot things until all is fixed. And all is not fixed just yet.
With Resistance 3, Insomniac have ventured to turn its shooter into something more poignant. You see, Joe has a wife and kiddy. Aww. There’s something material at stake and the bravado and militarism that defined the former titles has all but vanished. Still, the man can’t muster up an “I love you” until he’s slurping whiskey from the bottle after slaughtering some 7000 aliens, so it’s kind of hard to give a damn.
Fortunately the core of Resistance (that is, aiming down the barrel of a gun and squeezing the trigger until nothing’s moving) is better than ever; the combat so gratuitously meaty and the weapons so vicious that Joseph’s emotional incompetence and the lacklustre story are hardly an issue. Insomniac have strived to make Resistance 3 a gritty and somber encounter and at times they succeed, but you can’t escape the fact that ultimately, underneath all that it’s still a game that harks back to a time when fighting armed monkeys in a robot factory was acceptable. And for that, hooray!
Things kick off in the dingy labyrinths Joe calls home, which share a thing or two with Metro 2033’s claustrophobic subways. The last traces of humanity live like vermin, cowering in cheerless burrows deep underground while the Chimera set about freezing the planet to make it feel a bit more like home. This is bad news for the humans who have taken to calling themselves Remnants. It’s all quiet until familiar-face Dr. Malekov shows up in a bid to lure Joe on a trip across Americana. It’s in New York, apparently, that mankind can finally send the Chimera packing. Trouble is, Malekov’s only gone and brought the Chimeran army with him.
It’s a blistering opening. The Chimera arrive in full force and the blitzkrieg of explosions, blood geysers and ferocity of the firefights sets the tone for the following 8 hours. There’s plenty of moodier stuff punctuating the out-and-out shootering later on – the best of which, an eerie boat ride through a swamped village, proves Insomniac have an eye for horror – but for the most part you’ll be indulging in frantic shootouts. Characters are introduced, helped and cast aside quickly but that works out just fine because guns remain Resistance’s greatest asset. Each of them punches like a runaway freight train and eschewing the vogue two-limit trend means you’re able to lug all 12 around.
The most spartan, the returning magnum, can reduce heads to nothing and its secondary fire prompts lodged bullets to explode. Notch one of these between the eyes of one of the smaller Chimera and alien offal and viscera rockets out in every direction. Tapping the R1 and R2 buttons in quick succession to send a group of Chimera reeling is gratifying to say the least and that’s just the magnum. The sniper rifle shreds enemies on impact, the shotgun sets foes ablaze and the Mutator causes victims to heave up their own vital organs moments before they explode into mincemeat.
The empowering cast of weapons are the stars of Resistance 3. Returning favourites like the Augar and Bullseye, cast beside more conventional weapons and then eccentric newcomers like the Cryogun and the Mutator ensure every play-style is accommodated for and every battle winnable. Playing around with them all is great fun; visual feedback combined with slick controls and thumping sound design merge to create some of the best shooting mechanics of recent memory. Weapons rip limbs from their natural places and send heads whirling into the distance and it’s all immediately at your fingertips. The weapon wheel, brought up by holding down the triangle button, lets you switch weapons in a flash and through continued use these upgrade and become more ferocious.
Insomniac paints a fantastic war-torn and dilapidated earth too, even if you can’t care about the people in it. There’s enough slight detail in the few settlements you chance upon to confirm that it’s worth shooting another thousand aliens to save the world. Through its downtime – when characters aren’t speaking and the big, angry aliens aren’t taking stage front and centre – that somber atmosphere is nailed with nods to Half Life 2’s Ravenholme among some of the finer moments.
Yeah there are glowing-orange-weak-spot boss fights, it’s got quicktime events, invisible snipers, med-kits, defend the AI missions, doors that can only be opened by the AI and text pick ups. It’s got all those things you hate. But beating firm and fast beneath all the solecisms is a shooter that rightly claims its place in the company of Bulletstorm, F.3.A.R, Singularity and The Darkness 2. Like those games, it remembers fondly that first person shooters should if nothing else be fun, that it’s okay to have big-dumb aliens in your game, that it’s cool to have a gun called the Atomizer that fries those big-dumb aliens and that it’s perfectly acceptable to have a bit where one stupid character looks to the other stupid character and says: “you look like a guy who’s used to things going from bad to worse”. Cue a minor-catastrophe.
It’s forever looking backwards but through that Resistance 3 rekindles enough past glories to make its lightweight romp one worth taking. The denouement of the Resistance trilogy proves Insomniac’s trilogy is worth a damn; a shame it didn’t happen sooner.