Aug 5, 2011

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Can Resistance 3 Recapture the Original’s Magic?

Can Resistance 3 Recapture the Original’s Magic?

For the sake of clarity, allow me to say that I love Resistance. From the franchise’s first outing as a PlayStation 3 launch title to the epic sequel that brought conventions of modern shooters into the series, I have always been fascinated with the alternate history that Insomniac Games presented with their foray into the first-person-shooter genre. Fall of Man left a lasting impression on many and not just because it was one of the only good games to play at launch. Nathan Hale’s first adventure featured excellent pacing, impeccable level design, and a variety of situations that tested every one of the unique weapons in his arsenal. That’s why Resistance 2 was in some ways a disappointment, and precisely why I’m so excited for Resistance 3.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s no doubt Resistance 2 was and is a fantastic game. Breathtaking setpieces, an engrossing story, and creative multiplayer made for one of the system’s best shooters and a game that many still play today. I loved every minute of Resistance 2 but it was only after playing through it twice and spending some time in all of its game modes did I realize something was amiss. After sitting on the issue for some time it finally dawned on me: the biggest fundamental change between Fall of Man and its sequel was the addition of modern shooter conventions. I’m talking about regenerating health, a strong focus on aiming down the sights, and restricting the player to a maximum weapon count of two. These mechanics have changed the way that games with guns are now developed, and Resistance 2 saw fit to adopt what its FPS brethren have made mainstream.

The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with these gameplay changes. Developers use such shooter fundamentals because they work, and we’ve proven time and time again that we enjoy playing games that use them. In a lot of ways they make sense. You should be more accurate when aiming down sight than when firing from the hip. Most people should only be able to carry one or two weapons with any kind of efficiency. Even though regenerating health may not fit from a logical standpoint, it makes perfect sense for playability. The real sense of excitement you get when you successfully string together combat events and watch the story play out is lost when you’re frantically checking your health bar and weighing the pros and cons of every action. One might wonder, “How can I best conserve what life I have remaining?” Modern shooters don’t have time for that. To feel like you are the star of an action movie is a total rush, and for publishers seeking our dollar, it’s a valuable commodity. With regenerating health, players can still feel the thrills of each firefight while also enjoying the moments in between, as any mistakes and wrong moves of the last shootout are forgiven.

Again, this is all fine and dandy, but we’re starting to arrive at the crux of the problem. In its adoption of modern shooter conventions, Resistance 2 lost some of the identity that its predecessor established, and left longtime fans feeling jilted. One highlight of Fall of Man was its exemplary level design. Complex and varied layouts awaited players in every chapter, from two-story Chimeran bases strewn across the countryside to the dimly lit hallways and bedrooms of London that dared you to use your flashlight and see what lay waiting in the dark. These interesting and explorable environments weren’t placed in the game just for show. They were a necessity, fueled by the player’s ability to equip any weapon at any time. Levels were specifically designed to give players the perfect opportunity to try new weapons and experiment with the futuristic tools at their disposal. Better still, no situation required you to use that one special weapon. With the weapon wheel in play, Insomniac was forced to design levels that took advantage of this unique ability and could offer cool opportunities for the exotic weaponry Hale carried. The result was a game that was incredibly fun to play from start to finish and held up very well for multiple playthroughs.

Unfortunately, when Insomniac decided to abandon the weapon wheel in favor of a two-weapon bag limit, the creativity that such options required was lost in translation. Suddenly, the studio no longer had to design rooms around all the ways players could tackle it. Instead, Insomniac needed to make sure that all of its segments were manageable for any two-weapon combination players could bring to the table. There are only so many ways to make sure that the super-targeting Bullseye and up-close-and-personal Rossmore are equally viable in a given situation. You can change a weapon to more closely reflect the other, streamline the level to exclude any major advantage for a certain gun, or make general aiming and targeting faster and easier – promoting player skill while quelling the usefulness of eclectic weaponry. In my opinion, Resistance 2 suffered from all three concessions. A move to regenerating health only exacerbated the problem, further discouraging players from experimenting as a means of defense. Who wants to take the time to mull over options when becoming very good with one all-purpose gun will suffice?

Resistance 3 Single Player Demo Video

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Fast-forward to today. The third installment in the Resistance franchise is right around the corner, and Insomniac seems to be making all the right decisions to ensure that series veterans won’t be disappointed again. It all starts with the return of the weapon wheel. With all of the game’s myriad firepower in Capelli’s hands, fans can look forward to the inspired level layouts and creative thinking that fueled the awesome Resistance gameplay of yesteryear. In addition, all weapons in the game are upgradeable and will become more powerful over time. While details on these special forms are hazy, you can bet that you’ll see some of your favorite weapons gain new functionality as they level up, a la Ratchet and Clank. The surrounding environment seems to be a heavy focus in Resistance 3 as well; trailers and gameplay videos have demonstrated the visual style, coloration, and music coming together to convey a feeling of pure hopelessness with only pockets of humanity left to watch as the Chimera raze the United States. Finally, Insomniac is reeling in the multiplayer component to yield a more focused experience than its predecessor. Ground wars of 60 players were an absolute blast in Resistance 2, but a tighter experience with a 16-player cap can offer intense competitive thrills that such a grand impersonal conflict cannot. All of these elements are coming together to make the game more than just another sequel. To me, it seems that Insomniac Games wants Resistance 3 to be its love letter to fans who have been with Nathan Hale and his comrades since the beginning.

If you’re as excited for Resistance 3 as I am, you only have one month to wait before the game drops in North America on September 6. Until then, you can get in on the action through the multiplayer beta, which began on August 4 for SOCOM 4 voucher code holders and starts August 23 for PlayStation Plus subscribers. We’ll be posting various impressions of the beta in the coming days and we invite you to check out these articles as soon as they’re available. Stay tuned to Vivid Gamer for breaking news coverage on Resistance 3 as Insomniac’s latest draws ever closer.

Do you agree that Resistance 2, in its adoption of modern shooter mechanics, lost what made Resistance: Fall of Man special? Is Fall of Man a better game than its sequel? Tell me what you think in the comments section below.

Resistance 3 Multiplayer Beta Gameplay Video

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