According to Insomniac, bigger isn't always better. Despite having raised the maximum multiplayer headcount from 40 to 60 for Resistance 2, the upcoming third entry in the series is ready to scale things down considerably. Now, when you jump into a competitive shootout of man versus Chimera, you'll find matches of 16 players at the very most. This is an odd move, right? Not according to Insomniac. The story campaign is now heavily focused on the small-town, personal struggle of regular people surviving this alien invasion, and the studio wants to carry that focus over to the multiplayer. To quote creative director Marcus Smith on how the game now feels, "I don't want to say intimate, but I will say intimate."
The first benefit of this transition to smaller matches is immediately apparent because Resistance 2 multiplayer looks substantially better than the last game. There's always going to be some compromise with higher player counts, and in the case of Resistance 2, it was a competitive multiplayer mode that offered less detail and visual fidelity than what you might have found in the campaign. On the other hand, Resistance 3 multiplayer looks terrific. The one map we got a chance to see--a decaying prison in the Republic of Chad--was dense with rubble and lit with impressive rays of sunlight peeking in through holes in the ceiling. (Multiplayer is focused on international locales to contrast with the small-town America shown in the story campaign.) Character models were impressive as well, whether it was the ragtag human survivors or the glowing Chimera fighting against them.
The game plays in a noticeably different way, as well. It's a more controlled form of chaos than Resistance 2's biggest matches, where you had no idea who your attacker was and the sheer sense of scale meant you could be shot from any manner of directions. The smaller matches in Resistance 3 means you're up close and personal with your enemies, and you tend to have a much better sense of when and how you were killed so that you can form a defensive strategy on the fly. Insomniac wants you to get familiar with other people's play styles right away, and it seems to have done a good job of it.
You'll also find a number of unlockable customization options as you rack up experience points and progress through the game's ranking system. There's nothing terribly mind-blowing about the whole thing if you've played any other first-person shooter over the past few years because it's definitely got that general Call of Duty influence to it. That said, there are a number of interesting unlockables in there. Among them is a vastly expanded collection of special abilities, both active and passive, with each category offering some tempting choices. On the active ability side, you can spawn a dummy player who looks just like you to trick enemies; highlight enemies in bright red to aid your teammates; and trigger a dash that lets you instantly teleport forward by 10 meters. On the passive side, there's an ability that lets you spawn a collection of vicious leapers when you die that will hunt down enemies and an ability that gives you a visible representation of how much health each enemy has left. There are also a few more predictable options like enhanced foot speed and increased accuracy when firing from the hip. On top of this, you've got race-specific kill streak rewards, such as the Chimera's ability to engage a cloaking shield after three kills.
So how does the core combat feel when you look past all these persistent bells and whistles? After all, a first-person shooter lives and dies by how good it feels to run around shooting people in the face. Well, we're pleased to say that Resistance 3's basic combat feels great. The weapons pack a terrific punch, and the sense of movement is brisk and responsive. And now with the smaller scale, you get a better sense of your violent handiwork when you take down an opponent. In other words, there's plenty of instant gratification to go around.
Large scale matches, however, also hold plenty of charm, and it's going to be tough for diehard Resistance 2 fans to see those 60-player matches go. We won't try to convince those folks that this move is for the best, but it is a move that carries with it a number of benefits and very few drawbacks. No matter which side of the fence you fall on, you can expect to see Resistance 3 released on September 6.