It’s difficult to think of a better way to utilise the capabilities of a handheld device such as the PSP than to bridge a storyline gap between two previously released home console titles. Those who have tackled and conquered previous iterations are given a reason to check out this missing link, while for others it merely acts as an entrance into an unknown universe with both a history and a future.
Like its predecessors, Resistance: Retribution throws the player into a raging war between the human race and the Chimera – the latter making giant leaps in its basic goal of taking over Planet Earth, the former struggling to stop it from happening. But, unlike the first-person experiences offered on the PlayStation 3′s Resistance: Fall Of Man and Resistance 2 – between which this European adventure lies – the PSP title is a third-person affair. What’s more, it introduces a new protagonist to the series in the shape of James Grayson, a tough talking Londoner with a grudge and more hair than Nathan Hale. But is it any good? Hit the jump to find out.
Rattling that UMD into place and turning the power on, it is instantly obvious that this is a Resistance title. The menu system created by Sony Bend captures perfectly that World War II versus futuristic sci-fi feel that Insomniac managed so aptly on the PS3. It’s a good start; fans of the series thus far will feel at home in their new, portable surroundings.
No sooner have you been introduced to the game’s main character than you are given a reason to care about his plight. The opening cutscene, while incredibly smooth and gorgeous to watch, is as riveting as it is emotionally engaging. A man loses his brother to the Chimeran infection, his transformation into a raging enemy imminent. The healthy brother chooses, much to the dismay of his colleagues, to end the situation himself… and so turns the gun on his own brother.
James Grayson is quite a guy. Sony Bend have obviously taken on board the fact that a relatively bland character like Nathan Hale (the PS3 titles’ main man) would fail to deliver the goods from a third-person perspective. It’s all well and good allowing players to formulate their own characteristics when playing in first-person, but when you are watching a guy or girl on-screen kicking major ass, you need something a little bit extra. Thankfully, Grayson is as charismatic as he is abrasive and angst-ridden, his floppy hair and leather jacket giving him a welcome rebellious persona. I won’t go too much into his background, but let’s just say he’s not particular popular with the people he’s serving under and the feeling is pretty mutual.
The combat in Retribution is something that sounds worse than it is. Talk of auto-aim rendering the game unchallenging can only breed apprehension towards it. Thankfully, the developer’s experience with two Syphon Filter PSP titles has resulted in a system that has received enough tweaks and tuning to make it feel highly satisfying. In order to lock your sights on an enemy you must face them so that they appear within brackets that sit in the centre of the screen. Being aware of enemy positioning, coupled with lots of duck ‘n’ cover tactics, is essential to progress; timing bursts of fire everything if you want to avoid being hit by a plasma ball shot by one of a dozen foe that can be after you at the same time. One can’t help but marvel at the graphical quality and framerate on show – the PSP appears to be more than up for this challenge and the results are rather astounding throughout.
Enemy variety provides some thrilling gunplay that forces you to think outside the box, so to speak. Some require you to use manual aiming to down them, which often involves some quick thinking as these things are usually marching straight for you with a giant head ready to explode. While the odd panicky moment of manual aim is nice, you’ll be glad you don’t have to use it throughout – the complexity of the button configuration doesn’t lend itself well to manual labour. Movement is controlled with the stick, looking around with the face buttons and shooting with R. Meanwhile, L is secondary fire and the D-pad is used for interaction, switching guns and flipping into auto-aim. It’s fair to say, it takes a little getting used to.
If you’ve already played a Resistance title, the storyline will be exactly what you would anticipate. The world is under threat from the Chimera – a highly advanced alien race that is quickly spreading a virus that causes humans to mutate into ugly, multi-fanged monsters with massive plasma guns. An upside to this is that James Grayson can also use this weaponry, which adds to the sumptuous sci-fi/WWII mix. A particular highlight is the new Razor weapon. Hold L while ducking behind cover to charge its secondary fire – a plasma blade that bounces against walls and from enemy to enemy; perfect for clearing a gang of angry beasts or a collection of hovering, explosive bots.
While the score found in Resistance: Retribution is largely a rather generic stringed military march, its use is often inspired. When a new enemy or group of enemies enters an area, the music will alert you to their presence with a tone shift and volume increase. It’s very useful in a game that doesn’t make it easy to turn around constantly to gauge your own surroundings.
Meanwhile, for the most part, the voice acting is more than bearable, the format blending Resistance: Fall Of Man‘s still shot, narrated cutscenes with Resistance 2‘s action-packed, live action ones. And breathing new life into the whole saga, James Grayson loves spitting out random one-liners, including the likes of: “I’m ‘avin’ fish tonight”, when faced with underwater enemies, and “I’m not takin’ orders from a frog” (his disdain for the French), leaving nothing to the imagination.
Better still, don’t expect a lighter, handheld-friendly version of events. This is a full-blown, twelve-hour campaign with all the twists, turns and meaty boss battles you can handle. In terms of a challenge, this one is not for inexperienced gamers. Retribution is the hardest game in the series, taking you on a bloody, brutal journey that mixes crumbling city streets with huge shiny sci-fi structures and doors made of… flesh.
Throw in a surprisingly robust, thrilling online multiplayer, (held back only by player camping due to set spawn points) and PSP/PS3 connectivity: giving you the ability to play with a dual shock pad through a television, and introducing an “Infected” mode, whereby you’re treated to a darker, eerie collection of cutscenes and regenerative health, and you realize you get more than enough for your money.
If you’re trying to find reasons that the PSP is worth its salt, Resistance: Retribution is proof that the system can produce experiences that more than stand up to any next generation release. This game is a worthy addition to the series by any standard and how much you want to get out of it is dependent on how much you are willing to put in. The options are all there, lovingly designed and handcrafted to repay those with time invested in what has become an epic journey and pleasantly surprising those new to the battle. Sony’s franchise is proving that its present is a credit to its past and its future is as exciting as it has ever been.
The stylisation is perfectly in keeping with the series, while the cutscene and gameplay quality is pushing the PSP as far as ever.
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A fantastic job has been done in creating a challenging experience that includes an auto-aim function. That said, the controls may not sit well with some.
Nothing spectacular musically and the voice acting certainly belongs on a handheld, but the script is certainly entertaining.
One play through the long campaign may be enough for most, although the PS3 conectivity and multiplayer will please hardcore fans.
A superb addition to the PSP library, this game is a must for fans of action-packed shooters that really give you a challenge.