Insert Credit endeavors to suss out where you should be allotting your video game allowance, sifting out a single title from many and crowning it as The One Game You Need to Get This Week. Don’t consider these reviews, gentle reader. Rather, think of Insert Credit as a mix of hands-on time, informed opinion and intuition.
For the week of September 16, 2011, you should insert credit into: “Resistance 3.”
The Resistance games have always been cruelly star-crossed. The first-person shooter series developed by Insomniac Games debuted on the PS3 as Sony’s best hope in duplicating the Xbox’s blockbuster “Halo” series. The comparisons to “Halo” have dogged “Resistance”, even though the PS3 exclusive series presents a very different vision of human-vs-ET warfare. The first game introduced an alternate history where an alien virus that transforms humans into freakish slaves runs unchecked through early 20th Century Europe, changing history so that World War II never happens and alien Chimera maraud westward. In “Resistance” 1 and 2, you played as Lt. Nathan Hale and singlehandely saved London and the graeter parts of the United States from the Chimera.
But, now that “Resistance 3” seems to be resonating better with players, it appears that Hale himself may’ve one of the series bigger liabilities. He was a hero that things happened to, but one that wasn’t terribly reactive. Sure, the player was controlling him but, as the game was scripted, Hale didn’t seem to care much about the war he was fighting in. He never offered up much by way of reaction in the cutscenes where we got to see his face. And his raison d’etre–to be yet another stoic, save-the-world supersoldier–was just like that of too many other games for Hale to feel especially compelling. His allies, too, in both Resistance games were flatly drawn, to the point where when they die, the player feels next to nothing. I remember when the Sentinels–other human soldiers in Resistance 2 who proved immune to the viral taker of the invading alien Chimera–died one by one, I felt nothing.
There were strains of effective storytelling moments in Resistance 2, like a moment where you come upon a suburban home made into a terrible tableau. A quiet Craftsman home silently tells the story of a father feeding his children and himself lethal doses of pills let they become transformed into alien marauders. You stumble upon the clues as you move room to room and when you see the remains of father and son (around 2:10 in the clip above) lying next to each other, the horror of the act and the world that brought it on coming through like a gut-punch. But, again, there’s nothing about Nathan Hale and his mission that made that slice of the game any more affecting.
But, with Joseph Cappelli, we’ve got a hero better suited to drive home the emotional points of the Resistance saga’s latest installment. He’s a family man who gave up on being a world-saving supersoldier, choosing to quietly meet the eventual extinction of humanity by spending as much time as is left with his family. Of course, he gets drawn back into the war but moves through a world populated with a beaten-down humanity that more well-drawn overall.
While Capelli’s a good sight better than Hale, the truth of the Resistance franchise is that their personality really resides in its guns. Insomniac’s arguably the best weapon designer in video games nowadays, consistently delivering weapons in its Resistance and Ratchet & Clank games that blend the feeling of science-gone-wrong-gone-right and/or “Looney Tunes” sci-fi. Throughout three games, players have handled a collection of arms that let them see and shoot through walls or send bullets flying that can chase down enemies. Resistance 3 adds to that imaginative arsenal with the Mutator, a gun that makes victims balloon, puke and explode.
Resistance 3’s is probably Insomniac’s swan song on the series. The FPS franchise will continue but likely in the hands of other developers. While the story and characterization still aren’t the strongest points of “Resistance,” this year’s threequel leaves the universe in an interesting place for whatever happens next. The franchise gets more and more human as time goes on. Here’s hoping we see more of it.