Things do not look good for humanity in alternate-history 1950s America. Despite your heroic efforts as Nathan Hale in Resistance: Fall of Man and Resistance 2, the vicious Chimeran hordes have overrun the nation, and Resistance 3's campaign once again paints a stirring picture of an all-but-complete invasion. Developer Insomniac Games has proven its ability to deliver invigorating and challenging action, and it does so again here in an exciting campaign that boasts one of the most diverse and deadly arsenals around. You can play the whole affair cooperatively with another player online or off, which is a welcome addition, though it's a shame that the fantastic class-based co-op from Resistance 2 does not make a return. Fortunately, the competitive multiplayer doles out intense firefights and intriguing rewards aplenty, and it's fun to combine your unique arsenal with potent abilities to wreak havoc on your fellow humans. Resistance 3's strengths far outweigh its shortcomings, making it another great entry in this sci-fi shooter franchise.
If you finished the Resistance 2 campaign, then you're bound to remember a guy named Joseph Capelli. After getting dishonorably discharged from the military, Joe gets married, has a kid, and settles down in a lengthy network of tunnels underneath a bombed-out suburban neighborhood. Our protagonist's home is one of a few hidden communities that you encounter throughout the campaign, and they are all thoughtful and evocative glimpses of how humans might cling together in the midst of a catastrophe. Joe isn't what you'd call a strong leading man, but throughout the campaign, you meet some interesting characters who add some welcome flavor to Joe's bland personality. Supporting characters also comment on your battlefield prowess in a way that enhances the context (Joe was an actual soldier, they are civilians) and makes you feel like a force to be reckoned with. The environments add a lot of character as well. From Joe's dusty Oklahoma outpost and the foggy Mississippi River to an infested mountain village, each location is richly detailed and artfully rendered, creating an engrossing sense of place and mood.
Though everywhere you go is visually interesting, there are some abrupt leaps and odd detours that can make the campaign feel disjointed at times. Still, it moves along at a good clip. Small skirmishes build up to large firefights, which lead to some big boss encounters that draw on the franchise's knack for using a large sense of scale to create dramatic encounters. Enemies often explode in bloody chunks or lose limbs when killed, and taking down towering foes is very satisfying, though Resistance 3 doesn't go as big as its predecessor. You can complete the campaign in as few as six hours, and unfortunately, the pace falters toward the end, leaving you with a conclusion that is less climactic than you might expect. Though the ending isn't very satisfying, playing the entire campaign is, thanks largely to Resistance 3's tightly tuned action.
Your enemies are aggressive, numerous, and varied, so you must read the battlefield and maneuver smartly. Popping out from cover and shooting might be effective in a small-scale battle, but enemies that leap behind you, rapidly swarm you, or shoot right through your cover force you to adapt your tactics or die. You face a lot of foes, and ammunition isn't exactly plentiful, so you need to leverage your entire arsenal to survive. Fortunately, the guns of Resistance 3 are some of the best in the business. Tried-and-true favorites like the bullseye, auger, and magnum return early on, but as you progress, you get some new treats that can freeze, electrocute, and even mutate your enemies. Each weapon has a secondary fire that can be as simple as a grenade launcher or as sinister as a swirling electric vortex of death. Furthermore, every gun levels up as you use it, making it deadlier and sometimes granting auxiliary bonuses, like incendiary ammunition or a better scope. There is no limit to how many weapons you can carry with you, and Resistance 3 forces you to put them all to work. It's not uncommon to exhaust your ammunition for multiple weapons during an intense firefight, so you either have to make do with a less-than-optimal firearm or scavenge the battlefield under enemy fire in hopes of finding an ammo cache.
To deal with these diverse enemies, you must stretch your arsenal to the limits, and this creates an engaging sense of improvisation. This feeling is augmented by the fact that your health does not regenerate automatically. Health pickups are fairly plentiful, but there are still many times when the Chimera are bearing down on you and you are low on health, ammo, or both. The tension this creates makes blasting your way through the campaign all the more thrilling, though if you're taking a friend along for the ride, you should consider upping the difficulty level. Whether online or split-screen, having another gun by your side makes things a bit easier and creates some slack in the otherwise taut action. There is no cooperative matchmaking, however, so you have to find your own companion, and alas, the addictive eight-player cooperative mode from Resistance 2 is nowhere to be found. Campaign co-op is a welcome addition, however, especially when the campaign is as thrilling as it is here.
There is also excitement to be found online in competitive multiplayer matches. The manic 60-player matches from Resistance 2 have been capped at 16, making for a much tighter experience. The great environmental design from the campaign carries over to the various maps, though some are certainly prettier than others, and they all have diverse routes that allow you to move around the battlefield and hopefully catch your enemy unaware. In addition to Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, there are a few familiar objective-based modes, including Capture the Flag, Chain Reaction (capture the territory), and Breach (destroy/defend). These are solid, though unexciting, incarnations of tried-and-true game types, though the latter two have an annoying hitch. In both of these types, at least one team has limited reinforcements. When the reinforcements are depleted, the match ends instantly rather than lets the players who are still alive fight to their last breath. It's an abrupt and unpleasant way to conclude a fierce battle, but for the rest of the time, these modes do a good job of setting the stage for the real draw: the unique arsenal and intriguing combat abilities.
You get to use all of the weapons from the campaign here, and though the ones available early on are basic, you gain access to more interesting ones by leveling up. You do this by gaining experience in the usual ways, with bonus ribbons granting extra experience for notable battlefield actions. As you unlock new weapons, it's fun to put them to work on your enemies, but even if you're still a ways from unlocking one you particularly like, you can always grab it from a fallen foe. You automatically pick up any weapon you walk over, and as in the campaign, there's no limit to how many you can hold. This makes staying alive longer an even more enticing goal because your arsenal can grow substantially and make you that much deadlier. If you manage to string a few kills together, you can earn a berserk power that might make you invisible, give you a big protective shield, or even mutate you into a hulking warrior with a nasty grenade launcher.
You can also utilize your suite of abilities to make you a more powerful competitor. Some of the bonuses are passive, like increased ammo and quicker aim speed; some must be activated, like a bubble shield or ammo beacon. Those examples probably sound familiar if you're acquainted with online multiplayer shooters, but what about a projected image of yourself that runs alongside you? Or the ability to see your enemy's recent footsteps? There are even some higher level abilities that actively hamstring you by decreasing your sprint speed or limiting your arsenal in exchange for richer XP rewards. The variety of active and passive abilities combined with the diverse weapons in play help distinguish Resistance 3's competitive multiplayer as an intriguing and rewarding way to spend hours of your online time.
The successful multiplayer paired with the atmospheric and challenging campaign make Resistance 3 a great shooter. Both may have their limitations, but the action here is undeniably exciting. Those with the necessary accessories can use the well-implemented PlayStation Move controls (single-player only) or take on their foes in stereoscopic 3D. No matter what your gaming setup, you're in for a treat. Whether you're storming a Chimeran squad with blood in your eyes and the hope of freezing them all solid before they take your last slivers of health or tracking an enemy, tagging him, and watching him vainly try to flee the bullets that follow him around corners, Resistance 3 offers a brand of excitement you won't find in any other shooter franchise.