The third time’s the charm for the Resistance franchise, which finally provides a classic equal to the finest the Halo and Call of Duty series have to offer. Maintaining the general 1950s-Earth-overrun-by-aliens premise of its predecessors, Insomniac Games provides a sterling campaign that relies less on gee-whiz elements (like the oddity of blasting extraterrestrials amid a white-picket-fence suburbia) than on hectic, muscular, thoroughly satisfying warfare of various kinds. From the get-go, Resistance 3 pits you against not just your usual Chimera grunts but big, bad baddies, who only seem to increase in size as you make your way through the approximately 11-hour mission, which has you taking control of Joe Capelli, an Oklahoman who killed Resistance 2’s hero and is now tasked with saving the world by Dr. Malikov. Giant mecha-villains, spider-like behemoths, heavily armed dropships, and many more large-scale enemies await as you attempt to make your way from Oklahoma to New York, where a wormhole has been opened that threatens to transport a humanity-annihilating army to our decimated, largely colonized planet. With only momentary cutscenes and in-game plot sequences affording a brief respite from combat chaos, this FPS piles on enough frantic firefight action to at times be downright draining.
Which, it must be said, is one of the highest compliments a FPS can be paid, since the very nature of a kill-’em-all saga is that more—more shooting, more weapons, more enemies, more explosions, more what-the-hell-is-going-on? confusion—is always better. Resistance 3 delivers all of that in spades, and yet with a variety that prevents the mayhem from devolving into monotony. Insomniac alternates tones with aplomb, so that a scene involving waves of enemy bombardments is shortly thereafter followed by a more stealth-oriented one in a nighttime forest populated by invisible snipers. The landscapes that you traverse are similarly diverse, and have been rendered with so much attention to graphical detail that one of the few shortcomings of this title is that its gameplay is so consistently dialed up to 11 that you rarely have time to stop and admire the scenery. Whereas you may not be able to properly appreciate the environments and lighting effects’ beauty, however, you have plenty of opportunities to regard the Chimera, a monstrous alien bunch whose A.I. may occasionally be lacking (in a few cases, I found one randomly standing about rather than firing on me), but whose strategic tactics are canny enough to make battles difficult enough to feel challenging—but not arduous enough to become maddening.
Resistance 3’s arsenal will be familiar to the franchise faithful, and though a few more options might have been nice, the fact that one gets to carry every type of firearm and grenade at once—rather than having to decide which types of gun best fit one’s style—is a welcome touch, as is the fact that all weapons automatically upgrade through constant use. As befitting a blockbuster FPS, the story itself is superfluous, especially Joe’s desire to reunite with his wife and sick son, but the game’s pace is propulsive enough to make the plot-oriented portions only a minor inconvenience. And for those who’d rather just shoot other virtual friends and strangers rather than computer-controlled adversaries, the series’ multiplayer has been ably refined, reducing the number of simultaneous combatants from the last title’s over-the-top 60 to a more manageable 16. That shift may reduce madness, but it winds up amplifying tension, and the introduction of Abilities (i.e. extra powers) lends even more depth to an already substantial online mode, and furthers the impression that, while it may not quite be Halo in terms of popularity and iconography, Insomniac’s latest contribution to the overcrowded FPS genre is one of the finest to date.