Catching Up With 2009: Resistance Retribution

So, first things first. I promised that any game that came up in my journey of backlogged games that didn’t have a review, I’d review. That hasn’t changed. I was initially planning to write a separate piece for both the column and review itself. However, after discussing it with my fellow staffers, I’ve decided that this simply isn’t feasible. For one, the column would be nothing more than a rehash of what I’d already said in the review. Also, I’d end up spending far too much time writing about a game rather than playing them. That defeats the purpose altogether.

So instead, I’ve decided that this column will house the review, and that I’ll pretty much write it free form, so as to maintain a column like feel. However, I will still hold the game up to our normal high standards and include a full breakdown of the score.

Now, onto the column itself.

If there’s one reason I can’t wait to get a PS3 apart from God of War III, it is the ability to get my hand on all of the games that Insomniac made for it. You have no idea how much it kills me that I’ve missed out on three Ratchet & Clank games. However, I’m also really looking forward to playing the Resistance games as well. When Insomniac first announced the series, I was skeptical, mostly because it meant that I had to wait longer for the next Ratchet game, but also because I was worried they wouldn’t be able to work their magic in a fist person shooter. By all accounts, I was dead wrong. Still, I’ll need to play the games for myself before I can deliver a verdict.

Back in the summer of 2008, the future was bleak for the PSP. It seemed that its biggest titles were behind it, and that no one was making any more games for it. Plus, what could possible top God of War? At E3, not much changed. They announced very little, and most of it was ports and sports. I was just about ready to call the PSP dead.

There was but one small glimmer of hope. That glimmer was Resistance Retribution. Insomniac wouldn’t be at the helm, but thankfully, neither would High Impact Games, who had mucked up Secret Agent Clank just a few weeks earlier. Instead, the dev team that would handle the PS3’s marquee franchise would be Bend Studios. This would be the first time in over a decade that they would step out of the Syphon Filter series, so we didn’t know what to expect. All we could tell was that the game looked like it could be great. The presentation looked epic, and the action looked frantic. I wasn’t completely sold on a third person shooter for the PSP, but I was ready to believe.

Then came 2009. Bad things happened to me. I lost my job. I almost lost my place of residence. I was pretty much living off a diet of games I was sent to review. I could only stare at Resistance Retribution on the shelves, hoping someday that I would get the chance to play it. The demo being awesome didn’t make things easier. I was a sad man.

But now I’ve got it! Things are looking up! Now the question has to be asked. Did this game live up to it’s potential, or did it end up being doomed due to the lack of a second analog stick?

Let’s catch up!

What’s the game?

Resistance Retribution for the Sony PSP. This would be the third game in the Resistance franchise, though it takes place between the first two.

Who made it?

The developer is Bend Studios, sometimes called Sony Bend. They are the long running developers for the Syphon Filter series, including two games on the PSP that met with critical acclaim.

When did it come out?

RR was released on March 17th, 2009

Where’s the review?

You’re looking at it.

Why didn’t you play it in 2009?

I was totally planning to get this game soon after it came out. Then I got laid off in December of 2008. This wouldn’t have been so bad, as I scored a temp job and the promise of a full time position in a couple of months. However, the full time job fell through and the temp job lasted me about to the end of March. I found out that I would be going on unemployment roughly the week the game came out. Talk about bad timing.

Normally, I probably would have just asked my parents to grab me the game for my birthday in April, but I decided to go for a gaggle of cheaper games so that I would have more stuff to play through when the inevitable drought of new games to play hit. (You see, I built up a rather large Time Warner bill thanks to a bunch of WWE Pay-Per-Views that I actually wanted to watch. I was so poor that I was eating nothing but Ramen and PB&J.)

So, it came to pass that it was the end of the year, and I still didn’t have arguably the biggest PSP release of 2009. Thus, I put it atop my Christmas wish list and hoped. Thank God it was under the tree, because otherwise I still wouldn’t have been able to afford it. (Now I’ve just got a couple of months to save up enough to buy a PS3 in time for God of War III. If I don’t play that the day it comes out, it will drive me nuts!)

Anyway, let’s get down to how good (or not) the game turned out to be.

So what did you think?

When you hear that a shooter of any kind is coming to the PSP, there will undoubtedly be some trepidation when it comes to playing it at all, let alone buying it. The problem is the same as it has been for five years. It is nearly impossible to have a functional first or third person shooter without two analog sticks.

Bend Studios has made a name for themselves by debunking this notion. They further their cause with this game.

You can tell this is a game tailor made for the PSP controls. For starters, there is a strong auto aim mechanic in play. For just about every weapon you have, there is a large reticle on the screen. Your character will lock onto anything inside that reticle. When you’ve killed whatever it was you locked onto, you’ll lock onto the rest. Normally, this would make a game too easy, or require no thought, but that is not the case here. I’ll go into that more. Secondly, you move with the analog stick while you change your view with the face buttons. This isn’t ideal, but it allows for far more camera control that other games offer. Lastly, each weapon in the game has a secondary fire feature. There are several of these that clearly work to help you get over any control problems you might have. For instance, the secondary fire of the sniper rifle allows you to slow down time temporarily. The chain gun offers a strong shield that moves with you, though it does slow you down. The rocket launcher has the most interesting secondary fire. If your target moves or you missed, you can tap the L button to halt the rocket in midair. Then you can tap the fire button again to relaunch the missile!

There’s also a lot of context sensitive actions that don’t require input from the player. For instance, if you walk into a dark area such as a cave, you’re flashlight will turn on automatically. When you head back out, the light goes off. The cover system is also context sensitive. This causes a few problems but is helpful for the most part. For instance, your character will duck down when there is an enemy close by, sometimes before you actually see them. However, there are plenty of times where you’ll stay glued to cover when you needed to move. For the most part, however, the mechanic is solid.

Because of the auto aim, you’d think the game would be a breeze. Here’s where you would be wrong. Rather than make this a shooter that emphasizes marksmanship, this is instead a game where timing and strategy is everything. You need to time when you’ll pop up out of cover in order to maximize damage to your enemies while minimizing damage to yourself. You’ll need to prioritize some enemies over others. For instance, there are several sections where a group of gun toting Hybrids are taking shots at you. At the same time, a new enemy type called Boilers are racing towards you. These boilers are female Chimera that don’t carry weapons. Instead they, rush towards you in order to get close enough. Then they explode. They can be killed with regular weapons fire, but often this will be too slow. You’ll need to zoom in with the up button and shoot their heads to get an instant kill. Here’s where the dilemma arises. You can’t zoom in while taking cover. This means if you try to take the Boilers out first, then the Hybrids will have an open shot on you. However, if you try to take out the Hybrids first, you might leave enough time for the Boilers to get to you. You need to find the right strategy for you and get it working fast in order to survive. This is just one example. When you add in enemies, it gets more chaotic. Steelheads carry weapons that can shoot through cover. Titans take massive amount of damage to finish off and can launch projectile explosives. Slipskulls leap around the ceilings to get behind you. Leapers are tiny little monsters that can latch on to you. Brutes carry powerful chain guns. There are drones who can fly over your cover. There are several more enemies to contend with, but you get the idea.

On the same token as choosing which enemies to kill, you also have to figure out what weapons to use and when. You get eight weapons throughout the course of the game, but there are several more than can be unlocked through various means. You’ve got your standard machine gun, shotgun, rocket launcher, sniper rifle, chain gun, and grenades. You’ve also got the Auger, which can shoot through cover as well as put up a defensive shield around you. Then there is the Razor, which is the standard weapon for Chimeran Hybrids. More than just a machine gun, the secondary fire allows you to charge up shots that ricochet across the map at the expense of more ammo. Hopefully you see how useful this can be. You can also gain access to a rail gun, as well as a magnum that shoots explosive rounds. There is a ton of fire power in this game. The secondary fire functions only add to it.

Hopefully you’ve seen by now that the gameplay is pretty awesome. It isn’t perfect, but that was never going to be the case on the PSP. In either case, I can start talking about some of the other aspects of the game.

You’re probably wondering if there is a story to this game. The Resistance games are more known for the interesting world it exists in rather than the narrative, but that is not the case here.

The story starts out with Lieutenant James Grayson running a raid on a Chimeran conversion center with the objective of killing the poor souls who are quickly becoming Hybrids. After he finds his own brother and is forced to put him down, Grayson goes rogue. He deserts the army and starts a one man mission to bomb as many conversion facilities. He’s eventually captured and sentenced to death for desertion. However, his experience proves to valuable for other groups to ignore. He is offered a full reprieve if he joins the Marquis, a French group whose goal is figure out a way to stop the Chimeran conversion process once and for all. Grayson joins up simply to put some lead in as many Chimeran “gorillas” as possible.

This doesn’t end up being a gripping drama or anything, but there is enough personality to keep the characters interesting. The story is told through cinemas, in game events, radio chatter, journal entries, and even hidden pieces of intel scattered around the levels. The game also strays away from the whole “war is hell” cliché. Instead, the story is really about what makes Grayson tick. There’s a lot of predictability going on, but it still ends up being satisfying. When you’ve finished off a particular bad guy, you’ll know what I mean.

What really stands out about the game is the presentation. For starters, the graphics are some of the best on the PSP. At the very least, they where the best when the game came out. Even now, the only game that flat out looks better is Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny, and that game doesn’t offer much else. The levels are large, well detailed, well lit, and dynamic. There is one level early on where you’re battling through the trenches trying to get to an anti-air gun. The gun in question in occasionally visible in the skyline when go topside, but eventually you work your way to it much like some of the vistas in God of War: Chains of Olympus. It really puts this game apart from the pack. Perhaps the best thing about the graphics are the textures. They are smartly designed in that they give significant detail to each environment while at the same time hiding the low polygon count. (This is a PSP game after all.) There are several locales that will simply amaze you. In one level, you’re trekking through a conversion plant. All around are tubes filled with water that transport human beings. It sets the mood perfectly. The effects are nothing to laugh at either. The explosion following a head shot on a Boiler is simply a sight to behold. The game is gorgeous.

More than just a pretty face, the sound design is simply out of this world fantastic. The score could pass for a bid budget action flick. It’s fully orchestrated, full of booming drums, and plenty songs that excel at ratcheting up the tension. Th e constant gunfire keeps you focuses while giving the battle the kind of chaotic feel that battles should have. The roar of a Titan as it comes through a hole in the ground will get your heart pumping. The satisfying boom of the shotgun when you blast a Leaper into oblivion will have you clamoring for another shot. It just doesn’t end. The voice acting is also top notch. There are several accents at play here, and apart from maybe Raine, they aren’t overpowering at any point. Constant radio chatter lets you know of the goings on in the war, keeping you invested in winning. I could go and on.

Basically, the production values are through the roof. If you’ve ever wondered what a AAA title on the PSP looks and sounds like, this game is the perfect example.

I’ve been going on for a while now, so I’m just going to try and hit a few more points before I move on.

The main campaign is well over ten hours long the first time through. It is good enough that you’ll even want to play through it again on a harder difficulty. Also, the game features the ability to hook up to Resistance 2 in order to infect Grayson with the Chimeran virus. This grants him new abilities such as the ability to breathe underwater and a regenerative health bar. He can also access new areas in order to get more Intel. Infected Mode gives you access to the magnum I mentioned earlier. On top of all that, when he’s infected, all of the character interactions change in accordance with that. The only black spot on this mode is that you’ll need to reinfect the game every time you shut off your PSP. Still, that is a strong incentive to play through the game up to three times through, giving you a ton of content for your money solely with the single player options.

For those hoping to play with others, you’re in luck. There is support for either eight players both offline and online. Modes include the basics such deathmatch and capture the flag. It also offers Assimilation. In Assimilation, one player starts off as a Cloven while the others are human. As the Cloven player kills humans, they join his side until only one human is left. That guy wins. There are similar modes in other shooters, but not really on the PSP. It isn’t going to blow the minds of those used to games like Halo or Call of Duty, but there is a ton of options for a portable system.

Oh yeah. If you want, you can hook up the game to your PS3 and use the Dualshock controller instead of the PSP. This might be preferable to some players, but just be warned that it automatically shuts off the auto aim feature.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things, but I’ve gone on long enough. All you need to know is that this game is the complete package from top to bottom, and one of the best games you can get for the PSP. Had I the chance, I would have pushed my fellow staffers for this game to get the nod for best PSP game of 2009.

What score would you have given it?

Being that this is an official review, I don’t need to speculate. Instead, here are the actual scores.

Story/Modes: Very Good
Graphics: Amazing
Audio: Classic
Gameplay: Very Good
Replayability: Classic
Balance: Great
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Very Good
Miscellaneous: Great
Final Score: Great Game!

Would it have made your top ten list?

Most definitely. The hard part is trying to figure out just where it fits on the list, especially with Mario & Luigi knocking a game off last week. In the end, I’ve decided it goes right above Fossil Fighters in the number seven slot. The list has been updated below.

1. Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (NDS)
2. Rock Band Unplugged (PSP)
3. Plants vs. Zombies (PC)
4. UFC Undisputed 2009 (360)
5. Dissidia: Final Fantasy (PSP)
6. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (NDS)
7. Resistance Retribution (PSP)
8. Fossil Fighters (NDS)
9. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (NDS)
10. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story (NDS)

This knocks Motorstorm: Arctic Edge off of the list while also giving the PSP a stronger presence overall. Looking at the games I have coming up, I’m not sure if any will be able to crack the list with this configuration. However, there are a lot of games on my list that others have called extraordinary, so who knows?

How much does it go for, you know, just in case I want it?

To buy the game new, you’ll probably still need to spend the full forty dollars the game cost at launch. Thankfully, the amount of content on the UMD makes this a worthy purchase compared to what we usually get on the PSP. If you settle for a used copy, expect the price to drop somewhere around ten dollars.

If you have any interest in the game, you should try out the demo available on the PSN. If you like what you see, forty dollars won’t seem like all that much.

Final Thoughts?

This is one game I’m sorry I didn’t play in 2010.

Resistance Retribution is one of those games that showcases just how good a game can be on the PSP. Between its stellar presentation, fun and complex gameplay, satisfying story, above average length, and all of the cool bonuses such as infected mode, it just offers a complete package. I can recommend this to anyone with a PSP without skipping a beat.

It proves one thing above all else. Sony is really good at finding people to bring their biggest franchises to the PSP. It started with Twisted Metal: Head On. I, and a lot of other people, consider it to be one of the best if not the best in the entire series. Hot Shots Golf Open Tee 2 is another game that simply got better on the PSP. Then there’s Wipeout Pure and Wipeout Pulse, Killzone Liberation, Motorstorm: Arctic Edge, Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, and so many more. Notice I didn’t even mention God of War: Chains of Olympus, the best PSP game of 2008 if not of all time. Add Resistance Retribution to that fine list of games.

God I love my PSP.

NEXT TIME: I continue my journey through my backlog of 2009 games with and Atlus game for the PSP. So far, I’ve loved every game I’ve played for this column. Will this be the game to change that?

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