Resistance 3 "Boat Level" Reveal Impressions -- Into the Misty Heart of DarknessBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Mar 30, 2011
A grizzled elderly gentleman walks ahead of us down a dirt road lined with dead trees, urging us to follow. We make our way to the banks of a river where a dirty, dilapidated, but functioning, boat rocks amid flotsam in the hazy morning light. Joseph Capelli and his bearded, slightly German-sounding pal board the boat. Joe takes a seat and gazes thoughtfully at what appears to be a baby’s glove or sock that he’s holding in his hand. Out of context, it’s impossible to say what the story behind the gothic souvenir might be, but that makes it even more gut wrenching as countless horrific scenarios play out in your head involving what might have led to that sock being left behind. The boat roars to life, shaking us out of our contemplation, and starts moving away from shore and into the thick mist that prevents us from seeing more than 40 yards in any direction and creates a solid white wall on the horizon. Our boat slowly pushes into this eerily quiet and haunting world before us as we begin the first leg of our daunting and sure-to-be brutal trek up the Mississippi river from Missouri to New York City.
And so too opens the first portion of the simply titled "boat level" from Resistance 3 that Insomniac Games demoed live for the first time at its third annual community day in Los Angeles this week. This particular sequence finds Joe Capelli and an unidentified companion, both of whom just recently escaped a massive showdown with the invading Chimera in the town of Haven, Oklahoma, which we played through in our previous hands-on preview, and managed to travel quite a distance in order to secure transport and start their journey up the Mississippi on their way to St. Louis. You can actually see quite a few choice gameplay portions of this level in the first Resistance 3 gameplay trailer released a while back:
The first thing you notice when the boat starts to move (it's on rails, by the way) is the general sense of subdued horror that surrounds you, due largely to the imposing mist covering the entire landscape. Resistance 3’s creative director Marcus Smith explained during a Q&A following the demo that the team relied heavily on Apocalypse Now and The Road for inspiration, and it can be felt from the opening moments of the level. As you’d expect too, what with all the mist around, Stephen King’s The Mist also heavily influenced the tone and design of this entire section, especially when you stumble across the utterly massive kraken corpse that lies draped across the bridge that it collapsed onto however long ago in an obviously epic showdown.
But what’s especially striking about this sequence (which doesn’t include any combat for the first 10 minutes or so) is how the setting tells you just enough about what happened to the fictional town of Wrightsburg, Missouri that the living nightmare that lead to the town’s flooding and destruction at the hands of the Chimera is instantly clear but also perfectly enigmatic. For instance, early on, a crumbled mass of bleachers appears through the haze, and in the distance, you can just make out the outline of what looks like a football stadium. Just as you make this connection, you pass by a rusty scoreboard, confirming your realization that you are floating through what was once a high-school/college football field.
As you move deeper into the town, you encounter dozens and dozens of these little details that all tell their own story and perfectly paint the overall narrative of this washed out town. Moving into the downtown area, a motel passes by on our left. One of the submerged cars in the parking lot has a Christmas tree tied to its roof, driving home one of the most devastating elements of this town’s destruction: it all occurred around the holidays (i.e. the happiest time of the year). Just as we start to wonder why we haven’t been attacked by anything yet, the camera whip pans to the doorway of one of the destroyed hotel rooms, as a mutated hand curls around the doorframe and a beastly Chimera comes into view. When we jump back to the boat, we can see that the hotel has now been overrun with Chimeran grims, and the sight of it made the audience in attendance at the demo let out a collective gasp as they realized the hell that we just floated into.
In an instant, the enemies are flying through the air and landing on the boat. We use our newly acquired Rossmore shotgun with incendiary shells to blast them to fiery bits as we clear the deck. Further on in the level, we encounter some other familiar enemies in leapers and patrol drones, with the leapers providing some of the most intense encounters of the entire demo, as they fly from the rooftops of flooded homes and structures onto your boat with frightening fluidity. The level also includes an utterly spectacular encounter with a mountain-sized mech known as the Goliath, which you see hazy glimpses of through the early portions of the level, but come face to face with as you link up with the Mississippi river proper.
We move our boat underneath a nearby bridge in the hopes of avoiding detection as the lumbering behemoth’s massive legs plunge into the river with each terrifying step in our direction. One step comes down on a second bridge up ahead, breaking its steel and concrete like twigs underfoot. As the beast passes by overhead, the bridge above buckles under its weight and collapses towards us, but stops just before burying us in a watery grave.
Just when we think we’re in the clear, we’re spotted and a frantic escape sequence ensues with drones and Chimera closing in all around us. A missile sails through the air and hits the back of the boat, turning it into a smoky splintered mess. And just when things couldn't get any worse, a second Goliath appears in the mist to our left. A few seconds later, another batch of missiles collides with the boat, catapulting us into the water, and bringing the demo to an exhilarating end.
Of all the games Resistance 3 has reminded me of in the couple demos we’ve seen of it, this was the first time Half-Life 2 came to mind in full force, and it was at the forefront of my mind for the duration of the demo. It felt like a spiritual amalgamation of the Water Hazard level from HL2 and the White Forest from HL2: Episode 2 with The Mist thrown in for moody flavoring. If that sounds like a combination that you can get behind, join me in painfully counting down the days between now and September when the game hits store shelves.