Take the humble shotgun as an example. On a basic level it fires out shotgun pellets, causing considerable damage at close range, while the secondary fire lobs out concussive shells - both very helpful, but not nearly as useful as the unlocked incendiary rounds, which set fire to enemies on impact. The Augur, series stalwart that lets you fire through objects, allows you to put down a protective shield with secondary fire, with a later unlock providing you with a gun that fires out a wave of three projectiles at once.
The huge variety in terms of your arsenal of weapons means that you can genuinely tackle scenarios in very different ways. Holding back and taking out enemies with your sniper rifle could be one option, but you might want to opt to go on the assault with a shotgun and grenades. Some levels definitely favour certain approaches (an extended assault against the game's zombie-like foes almost begs you to use the shotgun), but options are always available. The game's two-player co-op (split-screen or online) offers the best of both worlds, letting gamers use two offensive styles as a pairing while also demanding cooperation at set points.
It's fair to say that Resistance 2's visuals were disappointing - to the point that some of the bland levels looked like they'd been ripped out of a PC game from years ago. Resistance 3 is a huge leap forwards, delivering some of the most atmospheric graphics I've seen in an FPS. It's not quite up to Killzone 3's levels of brilliance, but it's definitely worthy of top-tier inclusion, partly due to an excellent range of environments and some beautiful vistas.
The use of motion blur and gorgeous lighting effects give the game the quality of a CGI film at times, while the more explosive sequences stand out as some of the most impressive technical showcases on the console. Massive Chimeran monsters look great, too, often being so large they struggle to fit on the screen. Insomniac's voice work and all-round audio is excellent, although cutscenes and incidental animations (such as climbing ladders) aren't up to Naughty Dog's standard, giving an unfortunate roughness to the presentation at points.
On top of the campaign co-op there's a full 16-player multiplayer offering that caters for solo and team play. A substantial selection of game modes include Team Deathmatch, Chain Reaction, Deathmatch, Breach, and Capture the Flag. While nothing here is revolutionary in terms of how these modes work (a combination of standard competitive and objective-based game types), the maps on offer are well designed, combining areas familiar from the campaign with locations unique to multiplayer. It's too early to say if any of the maps here will go on to be classed as classics of the genre, but they provide a solid combination of tight indoor environments and open areas, and initial play doesn't suggest any maps are being ignored.
Abilities such as holographic decoys, lightning shields and cloaking devices, as well as being able to plant ammo and health re-gen stations, combined with the introduction of recharging health, make online play feel significantly different to the campaign. There's a pleasing levelling and weapon upgrade system in place too, as well as 55 medals to earn. As a consequence of the levelling system your initial forays into the world of competitive play feel somewhat restricted, with the game limiting your arsenal to a single weapon and grenade, but from level 5 onwards you're allowed to create custom classes.
While a minor point, multiplayer doesn't look quite as impressive as the campaign and if you jump straight into it after finishing the single-player you might find it quite jarring. Still, it's far from ugly and soon isn't an issue at all. I did find that the game had an annoying habit of stuttering as I was being killed, but this did depend on the quality of the online connection.
I wasn't especially excited about Resistance 3. On its announcement I figured we'd get yet another competent but ultimately forgettable FPS, but Insomniac has produced one of the biggest surprises of the year. Played alone or with a friend the campaign here is of the highest order, providing an experience that feels different to the competition while managing to finally build on what the series has always had going for it. There's also a substantial, deep and fun multiplayer offering included that will keep many Resistance fans playing for months to come. For me, Resistance 3 is comfortably PlayStation 3's best exclusive FPS.