By any yardstick, Resistance 3 is a hugely impressive FPS. On a visual level, it’s superb, forging a gloomy vision of a post-apocalyptic world from a mixture of detailed scenery, richly atmospheric lighting and a distinctive graphic-novel style. It’s gameplay is smooth, nuanced and varied, providing you with large-scale battles in one sequence, then a creepy wander through a ghoul-haunted mining town the next. It’s weapon set is arguably the most interesting and inventive of any modern FPS, and it does things with scenery deformation and destruction that makes it feel less like a tick-box on a press release, and more like part of the cinematic spectacle. In terms of character and atmosphere it’s right up there with the likes of Halo: Reach or Killzone 2, and crawling steadily upwards towards the pinnacles of Bioshock and Half-Life 2. It’s that good.
But what’s most impressive about Resistance 3 is that Insomniac’s series has finally found its own personality. The first game felt uncannily like Call of Duty 2 meets Gears of War, swapping Nazis for aliens, and making the main appeal the game’s period sci-fi setting and an unmatched arsenal of dual-purpose, sci-fi weapons. The second game had stronger graphics and some incredible moments, but it still felt a bit like someone had thrown Half-Life 2 and Halo 3 into a blender, then poured a little Call of Duty 2 on top.
In Resistance 3 you can still see the influences poking through, with clear nods to Half-Life 2, Gears of War, Halo and Call of Duty, but the mix is much more consistent. Resistance 3 takes the horror elements up a notch, makes the storyline more personal, twists its fifties sci-fi themes into a different, darker shape and reduces the military shooter portion even further. The result is a game that doesn’t play all that differently to other FPS games, but feels different. While Resistance 3 can change from an all-action roller-coaster to a scary ghost train ride within the space of a couple of levels, it never loses its grim, embattled tone. This is a game which begins in a hostile world where mankind struggles on the verge of extinction, and it rarely lets you forget it. Thought Halo: Reach was bleak? Think again.
Meanwhile, the team at Insomniac seems to have discovered a new skill in creating set-pieces. The opener, with new hero Joseph Capelli, defending a small Oklahoma town from waves of Chimera nasties, is just a taster for what’s to come, with a spooky ride up the Mississipi and pitched battles on the streets of St. Louis making way for huge-scale scraps against Chimera forces and gigantic spider-like monstrosities, before some action in railway tunnels and tumbling shacks that brings to mind the best bits of Half-Life 2. Bridges and buildings are crushed and smashed, Chimera drop-ships do their best to hunt you down, and the game throws in a superb sneak-and-snipe section in a moonlit valley that has you oscillating between hunter and hunted from one minute to the next. You’ve seen most of it done before, but have you seen it done much better? We think not.