Reviewed: April 19, 2009
Released: March 17, 2009
The Resistance franchise was born with the launch of the PS3 back in November of 2006. It was supposed to be Sony’s answer to Microsoft’s Halo franchise and with veteran developers, Insomniac behind the scenes it turned out to be a surprisingly good FPS, but far from the Halo-killer Sony anticipated. Two years later Resistance 2 shipped, upping the ante on all aspects of the franchise and the genre with an improved storyline, amazing locations, and some of the best multiplayer gaming the PS3 has seen to date, at least until Killzone 2 arrived.
Bend Studio has taken over the reigns for Resistance’s move to the PSP, and while Sony’s handheld has never been known for excelling in FPS or even third-person shooters, Resistance: Retribution is a shining example of how to make a compelling and totally functional shooter on the PSP and flesh out the storyline of an existing franchise without compromising what we already know about the Chimera and the war raging to save the planet Earth.
Briefly, the story for Retribution is set shortly after the events of Fall of Man and follows a new character, former British Marine, James Grayson. We see some devastating flashbacks that include Grayson finding his brother in a Chimera conversion center in the process of “turning” and James is forced to shoot his own brother. This leads to some reckless missions that get him thrown in the brig pending court martial and certain death, but despite his methods, he does have a reputation for brining down conversion centers and the European resistance, the Maquis, recruit James for Operation Overstrike.
James joins forces with several key individuals that all play pivotal roles in the engaging storyline that takes you across Europe to multiple countries and cities. James’ surly attitude keeps him from being a team player so expect a lot of solo missions that play out in a third-person action-shooter style using the latest third-generation 3D engine designed exclusively for the PSP.
The downfall of most FPS and third-person shooters on the PSP usually centers around the lack of a second analog stick, and Retribution addresses this issue in several ways. You still move James around using the analog pad and look up, down, and around with the four face buttons. Those buttons are still a far cry from the functionality of a true analog pad but the new targeting system solves most of those issues.
In the options (or with a tap on the Up on the D-pad) you can toggle auto-lock. With it on, your targeting reticle will snap to the nearest enemy in your field of vision. When that enemy is dead it will snap to the next. While this allows for fast and general targeting of most enemies, some new creatures require a bit more precision, so you will need to at least temporarily toggle off the auto-target so you can perform head shots, etc. Or, if you are up for a major challenge, just leave the auto-lock turned off the entire game.
The rest of the controls are intuitive; right trigger fires, left trigger auto-fires, up on the d-pad zooms in for closer aim but slower movement, down on d-pad interacts with environment, and left and right reload and cycle weapons. There is no limit on the weapons you can carry, only the ammo, but ammo and health kits are in ample supply. There is also a clever cover system in place that allows you to push up against an object to duck down or hug a wall then when you press fire James will automatically lean out to fire then return to cover when you lay off the trigger. It’s a simplified version of the cover system from Gears of War but works nicely on the PSP.
The arsenal in Retribution is amazing with nearly a dozen powerful weapons of human and alien origin. Knowing which one to use against which enemy is of paramount importance and keep a fresh clip handy is equally as important. Often, the game throws mixed waves at you so you have to target and switch weapons in mid-combat and prioritize the larger, more dangerous targets. Personally, I leaned heavily on the Razor and its secondary fire ability of charging an entire clip into a single shot that would bounce around the walls and auto-target enemies, often killing two or more with a single blast, but other times, like with the flying sentinels, you had to unload real ammo like machine gun fire or the combat shotgun. And those who played the PS3 games will find the shoot-through-walls Auger is back, and even upgraded by the time you get to the end of this game.
Retribution is a long game, longer than either of the console versions actually, with more than 20 chapters and nearly 17 hours of gameplay just to get through the story – that includes some outrageously difficult boss fights near the end that took more than an hour. But even with the game completed you will have plenty of reason to keep playing. You have hidden Intel on each level as well as three Skill Point challenges. Finding all this bonus material will get you some pretty awesome extras like movies and music as well as special weapons like the Plasma Grenade, Longbow, and XR-004 Allure.
But it gets better. With Retribution Connect, you can actually jack your PSP into your PS3 and connect to your copy of Resistance 2 to access two new features - Infect Resistance: Retribution and Activate Resistance: Retribution Plus. This is where you can unlock new features like a new uniform, regenerative health, alternate storyline elements, and new Intel pieces. The infected mode is pretty cool because after playing the core game and seeing how much James hates the Chimera and the infected, you now get to play with him being infected, complete with glowing yellow eyes and subtle changes to the story.
In Resistance: Retribution Plus you can connect your game to the PS3 and control the PSP game with a DualShock 3 controller complete with rumble and second analog stick for aiming, but this sort of defeats the portability aspect of having the game on the PSP. It also makes the game surprisingly harder since the auto-lock feature is disabled and you have to line up all your shots.
But wait…there’s more. You can take the fight to save mankind online with support for up to 8 players in local Ad Hoc mode or play with strangers via Wi-Fi Internet. The matchmaking interface is pretty slick and you can easily join or host games of Team Deathmatch, CTF, Containment, Assimilation, or Free For All. There are five maps created just for multiplayer that borrow themes and designs from the single-player campaign.
This is without a doubt the best online game and game community I’ve ever seen for the PSP, complete with clan support and voice chat using the USB headset. You have 12 ranks to rise through in ranked matches or you can enjoy casual unranked gameplay while you strive to earn the 22 medals; ranked bronze, silver, and gold awarded for all sorts of cool accomplishments. You can manage your clan and boast your skills on MyResistance.net as well as import your PSN Friends list over to your PSP. Honestly, Retribution is a worthy rival of Killzone 2 when it comes to online functionality and gameplay, and it’s all on a handheld.
As far as presentation, we have some awesome movies that are narrated by the same female with the British accent from The Fall of Man. The movies look like they came off the PS3 but when you sink into the actual game graphics you are instantly reminded that you are playing on a PSP. Don’t get me wrong – the game isn’t ugly…far from it, but levels are constrictive and your path is linear and obvious and textures, enemies, and even the pick-ups repeat far too frequently. Character movement and animation is excellent, especially for James, but the monsters all hobble toward you in predictable patterns allowing for easy shots.
The audio package is outstanding with excellent voice talent from all involved. James sounds a bit like Jason Statham, both in accent and the way he delivers his lines. But what really steals the show is the orchestral soundtrack that gives this portable game an epic console-like flavor. The rest of the game is rich in sound effects from creepy environmental sounds to powerful gunfire and explosions. Play this with good headphones or better yet, use a splitter and pipe it through your home theater.
I was recently lamenting how useless my PSP had become over the past year. It just seemed that most developers were no longer making games for the system and now that I had an iPhone I wasn’t even using my PSP for music or movies. Resistance: Retribution heralds the second coming, or at least the second wind for the PSP. This is the type of connectivity and online-multiplayer attention the system should have been delivering two years ago when the PS3 launched, and hopefully this is a gateway moment that will usher in a new generation of PSP titles. If you own a PSP you must own this game.