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Top 10 Games I Played in 2013

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The Box Art of the Resistance Series

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.

This is a game you can judge by its cover.
This is a game you can judge by its cover.

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.

Grrr, me gruff man with weapon on video game box.
Grrr, me gruff man with weapon on video game box.

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.

Insomniac released a few alternate covers through the PlayStation Blog, this was the first one.
Insomniac released a few alternate covers through the PlayStation Blog, this was the first one.

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 was the second alternate cover released through the PlayStation Blog.
This was the second alternate cover released through the PlayStation Blog.

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.

Japan's box art for Resistance 2 removed Nathan and piled on the Chimera.
Japan’s box art for Resistance 2 removed Nathan and piled on the Chimera.

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.

Olly Moss' artwork is fantastic and it's too cool that he was commissioned for this game.
Olly Moss’ artwork is fantastic and it’s too cool that he was commissioned for this game.

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.

For the trilogy compilation, Olly's artwork was utilized again.
For the trilogy compilation, Olly’s artwork was utilized again.

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 two differing box arts for the PSP game.
The two differing box arts for the PSP game.

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.

Wow Japan, very cool!
Wow Japan, very cool!

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 3 [PS3] – Review

Olly Moss' artwork is fantastic and it's too cool that he was commissioned for this game.
Olly Moss’ artwork is fantastic and it’s too cool that he was commissioned for this game.

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.

Although he wasn't fleshed out in the previous game, Joseph is more of a character than Nathan Hale ever was.
Although he wasn’t fleshed out in the previous game, Joseph has more depth than Nathan Hale ever did.

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.

The Chimera fight against their Cloven offshoots quite frequently this time around.
The Chimera fight against their Cloven offshoots quite frequently this time around.

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.

Although there's less of an emphasis on scale, there are still behemoths wandering about.
Although there’s less of an emphasis on scale, there are still behemoths wandering about.

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.

Resistance 2 [PS3] – Review

Grrr, me gruff man with weapon on video game box.
Grrr, me gruff man with weapon on video game box.

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.

Anyone else remember Sony's E3 2008 press conference?
Anyone else remember Sony’s E3 2008 press conference?

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.

I'm sure San Francisco will be just fine.
I’m sure San Francisco will be just fine.

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.

I'm surprised the Predator hasn't sued for likeness infringement as Lady Miss Kier did with Space Channel 5.
I’m surprised the Predator hasn’t sued for likeness infringement as Lady Miss Kier did with Space Channel 5.

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.