Resistance 3 Campaign Preview

Insomniac's latest shooter mixes a somber atmosphere with elaborate weaponry. Here's what we think of the first few hours.

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The campaign in Resistance 3 kind of makes you think about ladders. Now, wait, bear with us a moment. See, the ladders in Resistance 3 aren't great. You scale them with these slow, awkwardly stilted climbing animations that make you wonder whether your character has a secret fear of heights. In most games, you wouldn't notice this sort of thing, but here, it's just jarring. At least it was for us. We couldn't help it. Every other part of Resistance 3's campaign is ridiculously well done.

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Sony recently sent over a build featuring the first couple of hours of Resistance 3's story campaign, and there was no shortage of cackling with glee as we made our way across the Midwest in the shoes of hero Joseph Capelli. Resistance 3's protagonist is a guy who's just been trying to lay low, avoid the Chimeran invaders that terrorized his time in the military, and carve out a new life hiding in small-town Oklahoma with his wife and son. But as luck so often has it, the alien menace finds him--we won't spoil who's fault that is--and now, Joseph has been pushed out on a reluctant expedition to New York where the Chimera have installed a device to freeze the Earth.

From the outset, it's clear that this isn't the same type of scenario as in Resistance 2. You're not fighting in a squad of elite soldiers known as the Sentinels. You're an unlikely hero, dishonorably discharged from the military and now living among a band of refugees without a whole lot in your favor. There's this theme of bleakness and despair that comes across exceptionally well in the game's atmosphere. Whether it's the wind whistling through the bare trees of a desolate Oklahoma forest, the light creeping through the boarded-up windows of a darkened safe house, or the survivors with missing limbs standing around in morose dejection, all of these little details create a tremendous sense of place. It's as though the battle has long since been lost, and by this point, you're really only fighting out of spite.

Well, spite and perhaps the faintest of faint glimmers of hope. You start the game in small-town Oklahoma, fighting Chimera in wilted corn fields and dried-out river beds. But your journey eventually takes you on a route along the foggy Mississippi River where you pass through the tragic remains of a flooded town. Soon after, you'll progress toward the ruins of St. Louis, where a band of well-equipped survivors called the Remnants have carved out a sense of purpose amid the wreckage. It's here that you discover these Remnants are pretty much your new best friends. Though probably incredibly smelly from hanging out in the sewers, these survivors have access to a VTOL aircraft, which is something that would make your journey to New York a whole lot easier.

In traditional Resistance fashion, this bleak road trip is made more exciting by a collection of terrific weapons, each with a primary and alternate fire. But this game breaks with recent tradition by not limiting you to two weapons at a time, as the weapon wheel from the original Resistance makes a return here. It seems like a minor change in the early goings, but as you progress through the story and pick up more outlandish Chimeran weaponry, the ability to choose from a half-dozen wildly varied firearms on the fly adds a lot of excitement and room for creativity. Even the human weapons can be pretty fun. Case in point: Your shrapnel grenade is made from a modified bean can.

The weapons feel terrific, too. They all pack a devastating punch, and the enemies take damage in gruesomely realistic fashion. (Seriously, don't use that Rossmore shotgun at close range unless you have a strong stomach.) While you can use pretty much any weapon on any enemy, there tends to be a best one for any given situation. One of the new enemies is called the Long Legs, and these are guys who jump 50 feet in the air from spot to spot across the battlefield. Good luck if you're trying to use the bull's-eye assault rifle's primary fire, but if you can tag them with the alternate fire, your bullets will then follow them around the map wherever they leap. Then, there's a new gun called the atomizer, which proved to be a life saver in a stretch of the St. Louis level that had us trekking through a nearly pitch-black underground cellar. This was an eerie, survival horror sort of level where the darkness was occasionally punctuated by Chimera bursting from gestation pods. Apart from a dim flashlight, we could really only hear them, except, that is, for when we fired the atomizer. This thing fires a burst of electricity at any enemy within a few feet of you while illuminating the room in a creepy bluish light to give you a helpful look at what's ahead.

The Chimera are a blast to kill, but the game's smart AI means this is no turkey shoot.
The Chimera are a blast to kill, but the game's smart AI means this is no turkey shoot.

There's a lot more we can talk about; there's the fact that the game's impressive AI has last survivor enemies retreating to a safe destination to pick you off from afar and the fact that the incredible sense of atmosphere gives Killzone 3 a run for its money with beautiful lighting and smoke effects. And sure, there are also nitpicks, like the aforementioned ladders and the fact that some massive enemies--like the new Brawler--go down surprisingly quickly. But all you really need to know is that the team at Insomniac has created a terrific campaign, one that strikes a great balance between the new (its bleak middle-American setting and tone) and the familiar (the elaborate and varied weaponry). Needless to say, we're very excited to see where Capelli's journey goes after these first few hours.

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