Looking back, it’s been approximately eight years since I played the Resistance games. Like most games, I missed their time in the spotlight, but hey, they were still worth playing.Continue reading Resistance: Retribution [PlayStation Portable] – Review
I really like video game boxes. Barring any previous knowledge about a specific game, they can make or break an impression. Having edited a lot of information on Giant Bomb in the past and thanks to my general encyclopedic tendencies to research video games, I enjoy seeking out the different covers that were used for video games in regions other than the United States. The Resistance series has had many variations for the primary trilogy, and even for the two handheld games, that I want to post about.
The series’ initial release was a fairly standard first-person shooter and it’s box art isn’t eye-catching. It’s grayish palette is boring, and then you notice that isn’t a human skull. One thing that I really like about the series’ logos, is the use of landmarks related to the game’s setting. In this incarnation, Big Ben (officially known as Elizabeth Tower) defines the A. With the exception of various rating labels, this box art was used in all regions.
Resistance 2 saw Insomniac Games adopting the “scale and Hale” approach, and it most definitely traded on a larger scale and included more depth to Nathan Hale than Fall of Man. The box art is fairly representative of this although some might say it’s a little generic thanks to the image of Nathan brandishing a gun. The background conveys a lot on the flip side. For this release, the Golden Gate Bridge defines the A.
A few alternate covers were released through the PlayStation Blog for fans to print off and replace the original Resistance 2 cover if they desired. The first one didn’t alter much. It features a zoomed in Nathan, perhaps better conveying his Chimeran traits visible by his eyes.
This is the second alternate cover released through the PlayStation Blog and I really like it! I think it’s more eye-catching than the cover used and foreshadows the duality in Nathan’s half-human, half-Chimeran traits. This is also true for America, before and after the Chimeran invasion.
Finally, Japan received a different box art for their release of the game.This one conveys a little more of the futile nature of the human-Chimeran conflict that I surmised present in the game’s narrative.
And with Resistance 3, Insomniac and Sony went a completely different direction. Without a doubt, it’s more “artsy” than any other Resistance cover. A visit to Olly Moss’ website proves he has a definitive style that harkens back to periods past, and his design was somehow fitting for the final game in the trilogy. Defining the A this time is the Statue of Liberty.
There have been two compilations of the series thus far. A dual pack release that bundled the first and second games together and an actual compilation that featured all three games. The North American box art isn’t really noteworthy. it features the basis of Fall of Man’s box art with some stickers stating what it is. This cover however was utilized for Europe and Australia and is much, much cooler.
The first spin-off for the series was Resistance: Retribution for the PlayStation Portable. From most accounts, it’s a stellar game that isn’t as hindered by the PSP’s lack of a second analog stick. I haven’t played it myself, although I’m looking forward to it. Both covers feature the Eiffel Tower prominently. The left-hand box art was used in America and Japan and is similar to the second game’s while the right-hand one was used in Europe and Australia and reminds me of Japan’s cover for the second game. With this title, the Eiffel Tower defines the A.
The most recent, and likely final, game in the series is Resistance: Burning Skies for the PlayStation Vita. It was generally received negatively, but I’m still moderately interested in it. The North American and European cover implies a violent end for the Chimera in question while also highlighting the occupation of the protagonist. The Japanese box art is oddly colorful and I’m really drawn to it. Defining the A for the final time is Tom Riley, the game’s firefighter star.
The series has had a fair amount of diversity in the various covers but one thing always remained constant: Chimera. Dead or alive, they were always present.
Resistance 2 was epic. Nathan Hale’s final effort to save humanity was a roller coaster ride that took me to interesting places throughout the United States and pitted me against enormous Chimera. I don’t think the boss battles can be compared to anything another first-person shooter has included, before or since the game’s release. At the end of it all though, it was pretty shallow. For all the major fiends that were defeated, for Nathan Hale’s sacrifice, did humanity gain any ground against the Chimera? They didn’t really, and I’d like to think Insomniac Games was presenting players with the reality that it was a hopeless conflict for humanity.
Four years later humanity is still around, but surviving in small communities around the world. The Chimera are in control and terraforming the planet into a frigid wasteland. After killing Nathan Hale, Joseph Capelli wished to ride out the last days of humanity not sacrificing his in futile battles. After accepting the cure for the Chimeran virus living inside him, he settled down in Haven, Oklahoma with his wife and son. He’s a man that doesn’t want to fight anymore. However, when Fyodor Malikov comes knocking with a plan to prevent the Chimera from terraforming the planet though, he accompanies him to New York City at the behest of his wife.
In their cross-country trip, they bump into other communities of people surviving as best they can. They reach St. Louis by boat and encounter an ingenious group of fighters holding their own. After taking it to the Chimera to gather parts for an aircraft, they fly to Pennsylvania. Here, Joseph and Dr. Malikov meet with a religious community that considers the gargantuan Chimera living inside the nearby coal mines Satan. The last community they come upon before reaching New York City is a nightmarish group of prison inmates that usurped control of Graterford Prison near Philadelphia. The worst of humanity is brought out in this section and Malikov meets a gruesome end.
Despite the loss of Malikov, Joseph’s trip to New York City results in closure for the series. He’s not successful in eliminating the Chimera, but with the blow that’s dealt, it’s possible to imagine a scenario where humanity has a chance, and Insomniac bows out with messages of hope over the credits. I think the underlying message of Resistance 3 is very strong, and it’s that we’ll be just fine as long as we help each other out. It’s a theme that appears multiple times throughout the game and it’s apparent through Joseph’s actions with the people he meets and on the radio programs that play for the ears of the survivors.
Much to his chagrin and my enjoyment, Joseph needed to take up arms once more. At his disposal was the most diverse suite of weapons in the Resistance trilogy. This was the first time where I truly felt Insomniac’s penchant for weapons really showed. Of particular note were the Mutator and Cryogun. The former shot out globs of fluid containing highly infectious strains of the Chimeran virus. When struck by it, targets would succumb to explosive pustules that would form on their body. Secondary fire emitted a gas cloud that would have the same effect. The latter was succinctly described on the Resistance Wiki as a flamethrower that used ice instead of fire. This primary fire was aided by a secondary fire that burst out a shot of air strong enough to break frozen enemies into hundreds of tiny fragments.
Forgoing the two weapon limitation that was present in Resistance 2, this game returned the personal armory that players had in Fall of Man. What this meant was access to every weapon Joseph had come across. This freed me up to fight how I wanted to instead of according to the designers’ placement of weapons, which admittedly, I thought was well done in the previous game. New this go around was the upgradeable nature of the weapons. Each weapon could be upgraded twice and doing so strengthened them or added additional functionality. It was a simple system that leveled up weapons according to their use, but it was something to consider while playing.
Another gameplay mechanic that receded to the way Fall of Man did things was the health system. Joseph was no longer a Sentinel so it made sense that he wouldn’t be able to regenerate Health as Nathan did in the previous game. Instead, he had a finite amount of health that could be replenished with health packs. I’m not as up in arms about this health system as I was when I played Fall of Man though. I did think this game was much tougher than Resistance 2, and towards the end, I did have some difficulty with specific waves of enemies, but thanks in part to the frequent checkpointing, it wasn’t as infuriating as the original game.
Resistance 3 concluded the trilogy with open-ended closure. I was satisfied with the ending and appreciate that much about how humanity continues to deal with the Chimera was up to my interpretation. That a first-person shooter had such a clear, positive underlying message was a good thing I believe. Viewed at any scale – a neighborhood, or a country – we need to help each other out to survive and thrive. Then again, this was a seriously violent shooter with a positive message so take that as you will. Although Resistance 2 will probably go down as the most memorable game in the series, I’d probably say that this was the best. It had the strongest narrative of the three, the most interesting characters, and the best combination of gameplay and systems.
I had a handful of issues with Resistance: Fall of Man. I’d have to say many others did to, despite its release to critical acclaim. I say this because Resistance 2 rectifies every issue I had with Fall of Man and does so on a much more epic scale. Nathan Hale speaks more in the first few minutes than he did in the entirety of the first game. Even so, it’s apparent he’s not the star of the game – the locales and boss battles are. More importantly, the campaign difficulty is balanced much better. Every decision Insomniac Games made culminated in a more entertaining first-person shooter compared to the original.
While Resistance 2 picks up immediately where Fall of Man left off, most of the game takes place two years after the events of the first game. It’s 1953 and the Chimera have practically overrun the United States – the last bastion for humanity. Salvation rests in the hands of a few U.S. soldiers who were infected with the Chimeran virus during government studies. Sentinels, as they’re referred to, possess superhuman abilities and regenerative health. They’re not immune to the virus living within them though, and must take injections frequently to inhibit the spread of the virus.
The U.S. studies which created the Sentinels were carried out by Fyodor Malikov, a Russian scientist seeking a way to combat the Chimeran forces and cure the virus that transforms humans into the alien scourge. One of his failed test subjects has since become known as Daedalus. Formerly known as Jordan Shepherd, Daedalus is a hovering blob of Chimera that operates as a hive mind commanding the Chimera. The game begins with his escape from a secret base in Iceland at which point he begins putting a hurting on the remnants of America. Nathan and his new Sentinel buddies know what needs to be done and set out to kill Daedalus.
The forward momentum in Resistance 2 was always the destruction of Daedalus. However, with Malikov’s presence came much back-story and in retrospect, it seems like the game was most concerned with filling the player in than topping off the Chimeran threat for good. Whether it was in regards to the Chimera and their origin or the experiments that Malikov did, I never felt like the overarching conflict was moving towards closure with Nathan’s actions. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Most series’ seem to be trilogies nowadays so even if major story beats happen in the middle games, it usually doesn’t represent a major amount of finality for the series. I’m not too bummed because I was consistently mesmerized by the locations and set piece battles I encountered.
Nathan’s journey saw him traveling across America, through both scenic settings like redwood forests and southern swamplands and notable cities like San Francisco and California. Each level felt unique thanks to the vastly different settings and the varied enemy types. These two facets were major improvements over Fall of Man. It was the boss fights that truly shined though. These end-level nuisances were hulking mammoths, the scale of which I don’t think I’ve seen in another first-person shooter, were unbelievable to see and fun to conquer. I especially like how they were foreshadowed throughout the levels. Catching glimpses of the skyscraper-sized Leviathan in Chicago set the mood for the remainder of that level.
The stages and bosses were very cool, but thankfully the campaign difficulty was balanced so much better than the original. First off, the health system was slightly revamped. Recharging health was still in effect but instead of a tiered health bar, damage was indicated by the amount of blood splatter on the screen. I prefer this shift from the tiered health bar because it saw me getting in less binds where I had a sliver of health; I could regenerate Nathan’s health fully by taking cover instead of only up to a point. The biggest improvement in my eyes was the less stringent checkpointing. After every battle or story event, I was greeted with a checkpoint. No longer was I forced to battle dozens of enemies again if I was killed after a few minutes of progression. This was such a relief and helped me enjoy this game much more than the original.
One of the bigger gameplay changes between these two games was Nathan’s ability to carry weapons. In the original, I had access to each weapon I came across; the game adopted an old-school approach, favoring a personal armory. This game opted for the now common two weapon limit. At any point, Nathan could only carry two weapons, meaning I had to make decisions as to what I wanted. My decision was usually influenced by Insomniac’s weapon staging. Weapons were placed in key points along the linear pathway, and like the boss battles, usually foreshadowed an impending battle. I really thought they did a great job at this since it got me alternating weapons and going outside my comfort zone.
It might be cliché to say, but Resistance 2 was a roller-coaster ride. Nathan’s travels took him throughout America at a break-neck pace, and usually I didn’t quite understand why. It all seemed to be in service of exploiting the locales for interesting settings and epic boss battles. I’m cool with that though because Insomniac played with a scale unseen in first-person shooters. Best of all though, the game was actually enjoyable to play. With the revisions to campaign difficulty, this game was challenging – not brutal. For these reasons, and the shocking ending, I was jazzed for Resistance 3.
Resistance: Fall of Man is a game of banal hues. Whether I’m referring to the grayish picture it paints of Great Britain circa 1951 amidst the invasion of alien forces, the grim outlook for humanity, or the game’s stiff difficulty, it’s not in high spirits. It was a game that I had a hard time getting drawn into. Sgt. Nathan Hale, the game’s protagonist was unrelatable as he was mostly silent, uttering a handful of words throughout the four days covered. The third-person “past-tense” storytelling also didn’t help draw me in, although it was unique and fitting. Lastly, I just didn’t think the campaign was balanced well.
What’s initially distinguishing about the game is its alternate historical setting. Presumably, World War II never happened as the alien Chimera were ravaging the Soviet Union for decades. The rest of Europe was most likely wary of what was happening behind the Iron Curtain and preparing for the worst, as Great Britain had done. After overtaking Europe, the Chimera crossed the English Channel and all preparations went out the window as the country was lost in a matter of months. Afterwards, the United States sent in a large task force to seek out a secret weapon the Brits claim will save humanity; enter Nathan Hale.
For most of the introductory sequences I was under the impression that Nathan was a silent protagonist. He might well have been as he spoke, like, three times throughout the ten hour campaign. Instead, most of the story was told by Captain Rachel Parker, a British soldier who determined there was something amiss with Nathan immediately – he had been infected by the Chimera. It was of little consequence in the game ultimately, although it was always a pressing concern for her. With Nathan hardly speaking, he really wasn’t characterized, he was little more than the player’s avatar. But through Rachel’s recounting, he was given a story, at the very least.
The narrative cutscenes had Rachel talking about the game’s events in the past-tense, as though they had happened only a few days ago. As she was the one narrating the story, all references to Nathan were in the third-person. I thought these two storytelling mechanics distanced me from Nathan even more than him being a (near) silent protagonist. Nathan’s survival took him all over Britain, but I found the campaign to be relatively event-free and ultimately forgettable.
Gameplay was standard fare for a first-person shooter and it encompassed sequences common across the genre. There was a driving sequence or two including an expletive-inducing tank sequence that had me banging my head against a proverbial wall for countless attempts. What set it apart the most from other similar games was its armory, which makes sense as Insomniac earns high praise for their innovative weaponry. Many staples were present although I felt the game was at its best when I was utilizing a secondary feature or dispatching enemies with a weapon unlike anything I had used before.
Bringing down the enjoyment I had with the game was its difficulty. I’ll start with the health system. Nathan had four chunks of rechargeable health. When one was depleted, I was no longer able to regenerate it. This is highly prevalent nowadays (and it was seven years ago too (I can’t believe this generation is that old!)) but I’ve never played a game where recharging health took so long! On the other hand, the enemies are bullet sponges. I love that the M5A2 Folsom Carbine, the standard human assault rifle, has a 50 round magazine, but dumping into enemies yields a few kills before needing reloaded. Finally, the biggest offender was the checkpoints. I found them so infrequent; I’d have to do battle with dozens of enemies multiple times thanks to a single mistake. Between the three difficulty levels available to me, I chose normal but in many parts, it felt more like hard. This probably earns kudos from some hardcore shooter fans out there, but for someone just wanting to enjoy the game and have a decent amount of challenge, it was off-putting.
The game’s difficulty had me frustrated on many occasions, but I persisted and still think Resistance: Fall of Man was a solid FPS. The story and characterization did very little for me, although the alternate historical setting was plenty enough to start me off. I remember very little astonishing moments or set pieces, but the core gameplay, excluding the difficulty, was really good. I even jumped into the multiplayer for a few matches and had fun, despite a losing streak. I wasn’t exactly raring to jump into Resistance 2 after completing it, but I’d take the plunge anyways.