Quite why the Resistance series has wallowed in the ground between triple-A and also-ran is a mystery. Developer Insomniac has created some brilliant PlayStation 3 exclusives with the Ratchet and Clank series, yet its FPS franchise has never managed to hit the high notes reached by genre leaders. 2008's second game failed to build on a strong PS3 launch title, with its unique co-op mode being its saving grace. Almost three years on the series is back, and Insomniac has finally managed to create a shooter that lives up to the studio's pedigree.
Spoiler time! Resistance 2 ends with main man and all-round hero Nathan Hale being shot dead after he can no longer fight against the Chimeran virus that's infected him. You wouldn't want to be the guy who ended the life of mankind's potential saviour, but you're going to have to step into his shoes in Resistance 3. The star this time around is Joe Capelli, Echo Team squad member from Resistance 2, and a man who will do anything for the safety of his wife and child.
Thus the story of Resistance 3 is laid out. The wormhole created by the Chimera in New York must be closed if mankind has any chance of surviving, so Capelli sets off with a comrade to try and end the alien invasion once and for all. It's the kind of heroic story you only find in fiction, but Joe is a significantly more likeable character than Hale ever was, with his family ties back home occasionally pulling at heartstrings through some emotive cutscenes and dialogue.
Where Insomniac has really upped its game is in level design, objective variety and set-pieces. Much of the previous game was a slog, with only a couple of stand-out moments. Resistance 3 is peppered with brilliant and visually dazzling sequences that join together exciting minute-to-minute gunplay. The game also makes use of the classic, but somewhat dated, health pack system, which means no regenerating health by simply hiding in cover for a few moments. This makes for a completely different experience than what we're used to in the FPS genre these days, with the search for glowing health vials often being frenzied and nerve-racking as the Chimera hunt you down.
Large open areas reminiscent of those seen in the Halo series are mixed with tighter environments, while lazy on-rails sequences don't feature at all, with levels on a boat and train serving as interesting diversions instead. Capelli's journey to New York really is quite the adventure, even managing to include a neat little Mad Max Thunderdome-style conflict along the way.
The Chimera never felt like particularly memorable enemies before, failing to get into my head like the now classic Covenant foes from Halo did. Yet, in this third entry in the series the enemy has been given a new lease of life that transforms them into a true menace and nightmare. Encounters are almost always against large numbers, and their AI is good enough to put up a strong fight.
Things get really interesting when the larger guys turn up, while the flying nasties must be tackled in an entirely different way. Throw in enemies who are buffed by overhead drones, sniping nuisances, zombie-like horrors, pus-filled exploding monstrosities and the odd boss-like creature and you're left entirely satisfied. In the Resistance storyline the aliens have switched from using humans to create Chimeran hybrids to simply slaughtering them and Insomniac has managed to convey their murderous intentions very well.
These combat situations wouldn't be nearly as fun if it wasn't for the huge arsenal of multi-purpose weapons. The Resistance series has always had this excellent trick up its sleeve, but it has never been handled as well as it is here. As well as weapons having a secondary fire mode (none of which come across as gimmicky or pointless), they can all be levelled up through use, unlocking new abilities that help you out in the latter stages of the game.