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Resistance: Retribution Review

KevinS By:
GENRE Shooter 
M Contains Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Bringing the fight home... or wherever's convenient.

So, I don't own a PS3. I know, I'm ashamed too (not at the moment, but I'm sure it's coming). That being said, I haven't had the opportunity to play either of the PS3 Resistance games. They are part of a series I've been eager to test, but without the resources, I'm left to wonder and sigh (and occasionally break down into emo-kid tears). Thankfully, Sony's Bend Studio has given it to me in a form I can handle: portable!

click to enlargeResistance: Retribution for the PSP is the story of what happens between the first and second titles on the PS3; namely, the story of James Grayson, a member of the British military that abandons his unit and finds himself a mercenary for both of the major European factions. With both of them trying to watch their backs, he's stuck in the position of having to bail out everyone he comes across, as well as do their darn jobs for them. From finishing a dying scientist's work to saving said scientist's daughter, even destroying giant conversion structures of the Chimera, Grayson has a lot on his plate. So it's a good thing he's got a lot of ammo to get the job done... if just because the damn Chimera killed his brother... yeah, he's been pretty pissed.

This genre never really screams “story”, but thankfully a studio like Insomniac has the ability to infuse a plot into a game so that it's easy to continue and still be interesting and fresh; so developer Bend has definitely picked up the ball and got their asses running. The characters have believable dialog and interact with each other in a way that really shows their character and quirks (for example, Grayson loves calling the French “frogs” and jokes about how much he hates British food). There is plenty of swearing, heckling, and taunting throughout the game, with such notable quips as “I'm James Grayson, bitches!” and “Put that in your pipe and smoke it!” It's a great change of pace on the handheld front: a game with an “adult” line, complete with partial nudity and swearing... Finally, I can show my younger cousins and nephew pixelated people yelling the word “sh*t” at each other while sitting in the back seat on the way to Grandma Dorothy's house!

click to enlargeAs the audio and script are definitely worth mentioning for the good voice-acting and well-written dialog, this game is also pretty. The graphical style is reminiscent of Crisis Core, which I believe is the pinnacle of realistic graphics on the tiny powerhouse. Each character is well put together, moves fluidly, visibly interacts with the world (especially with the mechanics of shooting around cover, pressing the back into the wall, and hiding behind spots), and each cut-scene looks like it almost could've been played on the PS3 (yeah, they're that well done). One problem, however, is that as nice and detailed as it might be, Grayson is too large on the screen during the more intense firefights. It's very easy to find yourself taking major damage without seeing the enemy shooting you.

In most first- and third-person shooters, the second analog stick's sensitivity and placement is essential, and here is where the game gets sketchy. The standard shooter's full=size console control scheme is used in R:R, and while it works just like you might think it will (meaning using the nub for strafing and movement, triggers for firing, face buttons as a “secondary analog stick” and D-pad for actions/weapon selection), it never works perfectly. The reason two analog sticks work so well is because they can each be used for tiny movements and for the perfect aim, and the directional buttons just aren't good for the more precise movements.

click to enlargeThe firefights I mentioned earlier are a perfect example. Since the face buttons aren't pressure-sensitive (like on the PS2 controller), you can only turn and move at a specific speed. The auto-aim default is extremely helpful (it can be too helpful at times), but it still falls into the realm of “if you can't see them, you can't shoot them”. The speed at which Grayson moves around a level is a problem at times as well – he's just a bit too sluggish and causes some stages along the way to feel nearly impossible (I don't know how many times I've died playing this, but I'm starting to think the Highlander knows what I'm talkin' about). Getting past that, there is a good assortment of weaponry in the game, and unlike other shooters, each player will have their favorites, but will still use each gun available, even with the abundance of ammo dropped about each level.

Those few gripes aside, Resistance: Retribution is fairly long, and after getting accustomed to the awkward use of the face buttons as a supplemental stick, it feels pretty damn nice. It's rare enough to find a shooter on a handheld that actually works, and even rarer to find one of this caliber. Oh, and combining that with five multiplayer modes (supporting up to 8 players, ad-hoc or online over the Playstation Network) really makes for a full, rich experience. It's a bit odd, actually, that it's taken this long for a company to release a title of this genre in a non-butchered form on this kind of platform... I don't know how to react...

B+ Revolution report card
  • Graphics are absolutely gorgeous
  • Good voice-acting on a portable?!
  • Nice assortment of weaponry; plenty of ammo
  • Environment and fights feel epic
  • Face buttons do not equal analog stick
  • Not showing enough of the battlefield

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