Resistance: Retribution Review
Friday, April 17, 2009 3:08 PM
The Insomniac PS3 shooter arrives on PSP with a brand new perspective, but can Sony's handheld handle it?
First off the bat, let me confess that I've never actually played either of the PlayStation 3 Resistance games, so I'm judging this on its own merits as a third-person shooter from Bend Studios and not part of the series.
I did, however, really like the alien-invasion-during-WW2 angle of the games, and was hoping for Retribution to play up this angle with a lot of historical parallels, not to mention Nazis vs Aliens (Monsters? Meh!)
Of course, there are no Nazis. This is a Chimera-only fight, despite most of it taking place in Germany. There are some nice suggestions that the Chimera are doing the same things the Germans did, from experiments to taking most of Europe, but unfortunately this creates an unoriginal feeling in the game rather than enhancing the storyline.
That storyline is told through incredibly badly-acted cutscenes, where you find out that the main character's brother was killed by the Chimera and you obviously want revenge. There is no particular emotional resonance here, as you never really care about your character's plight because he's such an unlikeable sod - much like the moody cockney Psycho from Crysis Warhead.
After one of these frustratingly long cutscenes my lunchtime was nearly over. When you finally get to the game you'll encounter awkward controls. The analogue stick is your movement, the buttons aim, right and left triggers are primary and secondary fire and the d-pad is everything else.
Up is Manual Aim, Right is Choose Weapon, Left is Reload, Down is Use. A lot of useful buttons there, but your thumb will find it hard to distinguish between them in a frantic battle situation. All the controls that you want are available, but at the cost of being unintuitive.
I mean, did we really need Secondary Fire? Remove that, and LT can be 'Aim', Left/Right could cycle through Weapons, Up could be 'Use' (which isn't needed much) and Down could be the often-used 'Reload,' which is currently stupidly placed on Left Arrow.
Having Manual Aim on the Up button is utterly useless in combat, especially when you're facing the big-headed exploding Boilers who must
be shot manually. If there's another Chimera soldier shooting at you, stopping to aim slowly can easily get you killed.
To counter the imprecise nature of the controls, the Auto Aim is exceedingly generous. This makes battles less a frantic fight to the death and more just holding down Right Trigger while moving left and right or taking cover. Ammo and health are usually quite generous too, and are of course just randomly scattered about all over the battlefield. No realistic picking up of enemy's weapons for Retribution, 'course not.
Now that this is all said and done, once you get to the actual meat of the game and finally get used to the controls, it's not too bad (a bit like Resident Evil 5 in that way, come to think of it). AI has little 'I' and feels very 'A,' and the minimal weapons you have get a bit dull (with one exception which I will tell you about momentarily), but there is a good mix of enemies and the environments are well designed, tight and nicely varied. I cannot deny I started to have fun.
The cover system is pretty good, with very little of the Gears of War "sticking" feeling, although it must be said that sometimes it simply didn't work - with some cover being dismissed.
The graphics are also particularly good for the PSP, one of the best examples on the handheld. This doesn't make the game great, but nice-looking arenas to fight in does make you want to continue through the game.
My personal weapon highlight is the rocket launcher, which you can pause physics-defiantly in mid-air before sending off towards a different target, as in the PlayStation 3 game. Great fun, but it's a shame you can't carry the weapon with you all the time.
The multiplayer's solid for the PSP but not terribly spectacular. I'm not really a multiplayer person (especially not on handhelds), but if that's your bag you'll enjoy it.
Another nice feature is the option to connect the game up to Resistance 2 and gain the Chimera-infected powers from that game, like regenerative health and, um, glowing eyes. Coolly, the cutscenes will change and characters will trust the main character even less. The only problem is that you have to connect up every time you want to play like this, which is a bit of a hassle.
I've been rather negative in this review, but I still quite enjoyed myself. Anyone looking for a pretty good shooter on the PSP could do much worse than this, although there are plenty of areas that need improvement. The control system is particularly ill-thought out and feels imposed on a console that can't handle it. The saving system is also exceedingly unfair - if you want to turn your PSP off you'll have to get to the end of a level.
Sony Bend Studios has made a valiant effort to translate the series to the PSP, but I think a bit more thought was needed before they attempted the transition.