Resistance 3 Campaign Hands-On Preview -- The First of Many Painful StepsBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Jul 15, 2011
“Home.” Such a simple word, yet it’s one that is instantly affecting, flooding our minds with visions and experiences that are wholly unique to each of us while at the same time seemingly universal. It’s for this reason that the opening chapter of Resistance 3’s campaign, appropriately titled “Home,” packs such a gut-punch, because, while none of us will ever remember growing up in 1957 in tunnels beneath a decimated Oklahoma following a full blown alien invasion, observing the broken yet hopeful survivors you encounter in this depressing bunker makes you feel like you might have lived through it in some past life or alternate reality (or a virtual reality perhaps?).
The details that Insomniac Games have packed into this opening sequence are just stunning, and they perfectly set the bleak and desperate tone for the rest of the game. It all starts with protagonist Joseph Capelli, former soldier and killer of Resistance 2 hero Nathan Hale, awaking to the sight of his wife, Susan, who gives him a status update on their ill child, Jack. Through Joe’s eyes, we watch as he rests his hand on sleeping Jack’s head, telling us everything we need to know about what Joe, and the rest of humanity, stands to lose should the resistance fail.
Spread throughout the dusty, dilapidated space the residence of Haven now call home are people going about their lives the only way they know how. There’s a woman on the sewing machine, mending a pair of boots. A small child who paints a crude mural depicting a battle between humans and the invading chimera forces. As you approach, the boy quickly puts his hands up over a portion of the drawing, and emphatically tells you, “Don’t look yet! It’s not done!”
Next to the boy, a man plays slap hands with another child who giggles with anticipation as he pulls back his hands fearing the inevitable slap. Next to them, a man sleeps on a busted red couch with a dog napping on his chest. When you get near, the dog wakes up, tail wagging, and his big eyes following you wherever you go. After a few seconds, he falls back asleep. As you can see in the above video, the rest of the bunker’s rooms feature similarly moving/heartbreaking moments that drive the weight of these people’s seemingly doomed circumstance…well, home.
Oddly enough, there were several moments during my few hours with the game’s first two city acts—Haven, Oklahoma and St. Louis, Missouri—where Half-Life 2 sprang to mind, and while it had a lot to do with the art direction (the opening train yard portion in St. Louis especially), it was mainly because of how effectively Insomniac makes you feel like you’re living inside the game world, which in this case is a real-life War of the Worlds. Not like you’re playing a War of the Worlds game, but actually existing inside of it, breathing its air, wiping its dirt from your face, and feeling its earth beneath your feet. Whether the rest of the game can maintain this impressive momentum throughout the course of the campaign won’t be clear until we play the full game, but if these first several chapters are any indication, I am extremely hopeful.
As you have no doubt noticed, I have yet to mention anything about the gameplay found in these early campaign chapters. This is partly because we’ve played through two big sequences during previous hands-on sessions—the Haven main street fight and the “boat level”—but mainly because what surprised me most about my time with the game was how clearly the world was presented. The art direction is just remarkable, taking iconic, Midwestern images, like towering windmills spinning in the dusty morning breeze or corn fields littered with rusting truck husks, and giving them a believable sci-fi spin. Think Norman Rockwell meets H.G. Wells meets Grapes of Wrath.
Not to take anything away from the gameplay. In fact, the game plays fantastic, and the controls could not be any smoother or responsive. As you’d expect from a Resistance game, the weapons are varied and unique. The Atomizer is particularly gnarly as its primary fire is a vicious blue energy beam that disintegrates foes and its secondary fire is a gravity well that sucks in any enemies unlucky enough to get near it. Watching chimera attempt to pull themselves away from the mini black hole by clawing frantically at the ground is especially satisfying.
The enemies in these early stages are equally varied, and require you to be constantly on the move as you change your tactics accordingly. Some foes, like the three-legged mech Stalkers and the Atomizer-wielding Ravager have energy shields that must be disabled with EMP grenades before they can be touched, while the high-flying Leapers will have you constantly checking the skies for incoming death. I encountered a number of quirky AI issues, like enemies completely ignoring me or just materializing out of thin air, but these problems will most likely be ironed out before the final release.
As I mentioned earlier, the settings that you encounter, even in this early part of the game, are packed with details, and range from a bombed out and overgrown bowling alley to a massive mill. One second a mammoth goliath mech is bringing down a silo on your head, the next, a beefy brawler is crashing through walls as he chases you from room to room inside a chimera-infested bus/train station. Given the caliber and scope of the action on display in Haven and St. Louis, I can only imagine what lies further along Joe’s journey to New York City to eliminate the center of the chimeran invasion, and I can’t wait to take the trip.