Resistance: Retribution Review
It's unlikely to find a first-party developer that boasts two superb first-person shooter franchises in their portfolio. When Sony launched the PS3 with Resistance, it also launched an all new brand that many knew would see sequels and spin-offs. Much like Killzone, which did not see the same caliber of success as the first Resistance, Resistance has also been given a PSP spin-off, but this one isn't a strategy game. Instead, it caters to the all new Gears of War fanbase that love to run and gun on the move.
Resistance Retribution takes place in 1950s Europe, and takes place between the events of Resistance and Resistance 2. You are James Grayson, a British Marine, and you come to find your brother at a Chimeran infection/conversion center. Even though it isn't a complete conversion, it's enough to make the mutation wild and rabid, and Grayson has to put an end to his own brother's life. The events send our character off the edge and Grayson abandons his troops in search of all other conversion centers. Grayson is successful in destroying a bunch of them, but is apprehended and sent to jail for his abandonment. Originally set to serve life, Grayson's expertise and help is needed by a French resistance faction known as the Maquis.
So you, an Englishman, have been bailed out by a Frenchwoman, and while you be feel a bit confused as to how you should feel about something like that, you'll take it. Once you begin Retribution you'll immediately notice something, and that would be the controls. Because the PSP only features one analog stick, that means Bend had to get a bit creative with the control scheme. You will move your player using the analog stick, but in order to aim you have to make use of the face buttons, X is down, Square is left, Triangle is up, and Circle is right - so think of their arrangement directionally. To be perfectly blunt, it takes a while to get used to these controls, and even when you feel like you're getting used to them, you're still not quite there.
There is simply no replacing the feel and precision of two analog sticks for such actions. You do have the ability to use an alternate control scheme where the analog nub is to aim, and the face buttons are for movement, but again, you'll still feel like you're missing the precision. Unfortunately for Resistance Retribution is that not only do the controls damper the game, but they also show the PSP's age and limitations. If you can get past the controls, you've got a solid third-person shooter for your handheld.
The game is setup much like a regular Resistance game is, allowing two weapons and grenades. Retribution's health regeneration works the same way as the other games, refilling only a certain quarter of your health bar, so you'll need to scour for health packs during missions. Because this is a third-person game, there is a cover mechanic to employ as well as an over-the-shoulder aim ability, much like Gears of War. I must address a complaint with the A.I. and it's that when you're shooting down the standard Chimera, you don't feel this sense that headshots are rewarding. It requires quite a number of bullets to shoot down one Chimera foe, and I'd have wished for fewer shots to take them down. On the other hand, there are enemies such as the Boilers, where the best and most immediate way to kill them is with a headshot - these top-swollen creature's heads explode if you perform a headshot.
The overall campaign experience is pretty nice once you get passed the controls, but Retribution also features a horde of other features such as the Multiplayer and PS3 Connectivity. For starters, the multiplayer is good for up to eight gamers local or online, with five modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Containment, Capture the Flag, and Assimilation. Assimilation, which is essentially a game of tag, is arguably the most fun. Now, as for the PS3 Connectivity, with the presence of Resistance 2 and Retribution, you can play through the campaign in Infected Mode (an alternate storyline, history, different weapons, etc.), or you can play it via Dual Shock 3. As cool as these options are, they'll also make you feel cheated. You cannot use the PSP Plus Mode or Infected Mode unless you have Resistance 2, which means that many will never get to experience these modes and features. It'd have been nice to at least let us use a Dual Shock 3 without having to always fire up R2.
Visually, Resistance Retribution looks solid for a PSP game. The game world isn't anywhere near as large as the console games, and certainly more linear, but the details the environments are made up of are nice. Textures are of proper quality, and so are the characters in the game. I've noticed that, even though the lip-syncing is predictably lackluster, the player animations are still very nice. In all honesty, having been spoiled by PS3 games and HD visuals, it's hard to love the visuals in Retribution. I do acknowledge that they are solid for a handheld, but still feel as if the PSP is capable of a bit more. Lastly, the framerate holds up well for the most part, with some dips here and there.
Retribution's audio features the standard bag of sounds you'd expect. Granted, through the PSP's speakers the action doesn't sound as exciting, but when using the PSP2000's A/V out feature, it's pretty solid stuff. There is a considerable amount of voice acting in the game, some good, some that could be better, but nothing that's terrible. In general, Retribution's audio does a good job at preserving the aural presentation of the console games.
Ultimately, Resistance Retribution is a great first effort, which is largely marred by a limitation of the PSP itself and not necessarily a fault of the game's design. If you can get over the controls and really get used to them, you'll find, what is essentially, a portable Gears of War. I do believe that Sony's forced implementation of the PS3 and Resistance 2 connectivity will make the gamer feel cheated, as those modes are too cool to not experience on the game as a stand alone product. There is a downloadable demo of the game out there, give it a shot before purchasing.
3/19/2009 Arnold Katayev