Keza talks to Insomniac’s Ryan Schneider and plays Resistance 3 in London, finding a fresh slant on FPS and flee as well as fight. Warning – spoilers abound.
Sci fi FPS set in alternate-reality 1950s USA.
Developed by Insomniac.
Exclusive to PS3.
Out this September.
Perhaps it’s a sign of our times, but creative developers seem to be veering away from sleek military operations and towards a kind of desperate survivalism in their FPS games. Sitting through one of the opening levels of Resistance 3, I’m reminded of another upcoming shooter – THQ’s Homefront, in which the American people is forced into guerilla resistance following a North Korean invasion. The similarity has nothing to do with the game’s look or content – it’s more the pervading sense of grim desperation, of being on the run, that jogs my memory. There’s a huge difference in tone between this and the gung-ho machismo of Kaos’s military shooter.
Resistance 3 picks up the story trail four years after Resistance 2, in alternate-reality 1954. It follows Joe Capelli – the soldier who shot previous protagonist Hale before his alien infection overcame him. Since then, the Chimera has overwhelmed the human military, and civilisation has been reduced to tiny, grubby pockets of people living underground and trying to stay out of the nasty mutant aliens’ way. Inevitably, Capelli’s own tiny underground community is about to be discovered, and Resistance 3 follows his journey from Oklahoma to New York under the constant threat of elimination.
This represents a vast change in setting and context since Resistance 2, as Insomniac’s community director Ryan Schneider acknowledges, but it gives the developer scope to explore a different form of narrative.
“I think fans want unique experiences – something that doesn’t look or feel generic.”
“It’s a natural progression in the Resistance universe that the military would lose against an enemy like the Chimera,” he says.
“From a universe standpoint, this is a very different place. Ninety percent of the population has been wiped out, and it’s about human survival at this point. What you’ll experience in Resistance 3 is survival in all its forms.
“Our character story is told in a different way this time around. With Fall of Man, it was told from afar, it was almost mythical; this is what we know of this guy, Hale. In Resistance 2 you experienced it in real-time with the Sentinels, and at the end we made a very conscious, deliberate decision to introduce a new character with Joseph Capelli. We thought that was a bold risk, one we don’t regret, and we’re absolutely excited to explore a new hero who, although he has his powers, is vulnerable.”
More power to you
Things are desperate, then, but Resistance 3 doesn’t make you feel powerless. In a level from about a third of the way through the game, I’m tasked with defending a junkyard from a full-force Chimeran onslaught with the help of a few fellow refugees.
The weaponry still has grunt – weaker Chimera crumple under the sights of a juddering Marksman assault rifle, and the Magnum makes a welcome return. It’s fast, immediate, relentless – the Chimera come at you from the sky, clattering over the roofs of makeshift shelters and vaulting fences to swarm the derelict courtyard.
There are no corridors here. Destroyed buildings all around conceal extra ammunition, discarded weapons, good vantage points and ugly alien scum. There’s a sense of space and freedom, and the sheer force of the onslaught requires me to make desperate dashes for cover, ammo or health rather than popping in and out from behind a safe bit of scenery.
The atmosphere is apocalyptic. The weather, controlled by Chimeran machinery, is hellish – howling wind bends trees and kicks up dirt and debris that flies across the screen, muddying your view. Everything is brown, coated in grime. You can barely hear the shouts of other humans over the ever-present gale, alien shrieks and the rattle of gunfire. This is not a pleasant place.
It’s also messy. There’s a lot of graphic dismemberment, and enemies literally fall to pieces under fire, leaking gore. After the junkyard is clear, my depleted band of survivors falls back to a sort of town square, where an ogre-like Hulk heralds its arrival by graphically squishing one of my comrades under its enormous armoured fist.
The Hulk is a terrifying enemy. He charges through buildings, throwing bits of the torn-up road at your head, and in your desperation to escape his path you’re often running away from him with your back turned, leaving you unsure exactly how far away he is. After chipping away at his armour for what felt like ten minutes, guarding my remaining snippet of health, I eventually resort to explosions, throwing grenades at his feet until he collapses.
It’s full-on, and evidently not afraid of leaving you to devise your own desperate tactics rather than leading you by the hand through scripted set-pieces and safe corridors, making sure that nothing unexpected happens. The change in tone is also welcome – Schneider sees the Resistance series’s well-defined universe as one of its main strengths, and it’s what differentiates it from the FPS crowd.
“Story has always been a big part of the Resistance universe,” he asserts. “I think that the alternate history 1950s universe is something that we really do well. It’s produced two deep games, comic books, two novels – and now Resistance 3. We’re very proud of the story direction we have had since 2006.”
Schneider doesn’t agree that Resistance 3 is the product of FPS ennui – he maintains that it’s a natural progression rather than a conscious attempt to escape the constraints of the military. But he isn’t surprised by the positive response that the game is getting.
“I think that what fans want are unique experiences – something that doesn’t look or feel generic,” he says. “From our standpoint, this alternate 1950s universe is still a fresh experience. I don’t think we’re heading down the well-worn path, fortunately.”
Resistance 3 is out in September this year, so there’s plenty of time left for Sony to drip-feed us details on the multiplayer and co-op, which are complete unknowns. As a single-player experience, though, it’s already apparent that Resistance 3 is coming from a rather different place than its competition.