When the PlayStation 3 launched in late 2006, it had a few solid titles and one fantastic title: Resistance: Fall of Man. Insomniac proved they could produce an excellent first-person shooter, and ever since that time, PS3 owners have been anxiously awaiting the sequel. That will arrive in a few months time, but Sony always takes care of its PSP owners. At E3 last month, Sony unveiled Resistance: Retribution, a game in the same universe but of an entirely new design for handheld aficionados, and one that’s destined to be the next blockbuster release for Sony’s sleek little portable. We’ll have to wait until late-spring 2009 to nab it, but in the meantime, we’ve got this preview for you to salivate over. Sure, PSP sales benefited from 2007’s slimmer redesign, but no gaming platform survives without the software to back it up. And in 2008, there have been several top-notch games already; 2009 will see many more, guaranteed. Retribution just might lead the way…
First off, it’s significant to note that Insomniac isn’t handling development duties for this one; that responsibility falls to the Sony Bend studio, which isn’t bad news at all. If you’re familiar with the high-quality Syphon Filter PSP titles (many will argue they’re better than the original titles on the PS1), then you know that Sony Bend is a perfectly capable team. Furthermore, if you did play titles like Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror - still one of the best PSP games available – you’re well aware of how Sony Bend approaches the action mechanic, and we’ll get an advanced version of that in Resistance: Retribution. First off, the cover system is automatic, which means you won’t have to exhibit catlike reflexes to find protection when faced with a hail of Chimera ammunition. On top of which, when in cover, you don’t have to hold down a particular button to pop out and fire back. Once there, all you have to do is use the fire button like normal, and the character will fire off a few rounds and then return to the safety of his temporary hiding place.
We imagine this will work very well, but we do worry about this lack of control just a bit. If you’re an action fan, you’ve probably played games with cover mechanics, and when presented with multiple cover options, you can easily select the wrong one with a flick of the analog. What happens if the game automatically starts putting us into cover where we don’t wish to be? What if we don’t even want the cover to start with? But these are only minor concerns, as we have complete faith Sony Bend will fully optimize and streamline this mechanic for the PSP crowd. As for aiming, let’s first get one thing straight: Retribution, unlike its PS3 counterparts, is not a first-person shooter. They’ve adopted a third-person shooter structure for this one, which is probably a good move considering the mediocrity of recent FPSs on handhelds. Now, back to the aiming: we’ll get something called “Aim Assist,” which is a little difficult to explain. It’s not a definite auto-lock-on and there isn’t complete free range of aiming movement; “Aim Assist” is somewhere in between.
Essentially, your aiming reticle won’t be a tiny little dot. It’ll be a square that hovers in the center of the screen, and anything unfortunate enough to get caught inside that square will succumb to your attack. You probably won’t be ripping off constant head-shots with this mechanic, but it will make things more accessible from a straightforward action point of view. We said it’s not a “lock-on,” but you will be able to switch targets easily enough by pressing one of the face buttons, thereby allowing you the necessary amount of control. If this were a FPS, we’d expect legions of purists shrieking about how this would make it too easy, but the third-person action approach should allow for such an aiming system while still keeping the challenge relatively stiff. Besides, this “Aim Assist” won’t be your only option; if you’d rather manually aim, you can simply zoom in to an over-the-shoulder view most reminiscent of recent console games like Gears of War. In the end, it’s always best to give the player a choice if one of the gameplay control options is relatively new and unproven.
If you’re a fan of the original Resistance and are hoping for more in the way of similarity and familiarity, you can certainly expect a number of the same features. For example, we’ll have many of the same weapons (the Auger and its alternate fire – the shield – will be there), and the Chimera will likely be carrying the Bullseye again, although it may not work the same way it did in Fall of Man. As for the health system, that’s still up in the air. In the PS3 game, you were infected with a Chimera strand of some sort, but instead of dying, you turned into a kind of half-breed that kept you human on the outside, but granted you the regeneration powers of the Chimera. This meant you had four health bars, and provided one wasn’t entirely depleted, it could refill if you could find some cover. But once the bar was gone entirely, only a yellow health canister would refill it, and it’s a system that worked extremely well. It may or may not show up in the PSP game, although we have to wonder what they’re planning, considering we won’t be using Capt. Nathan Hale.
In 2008, we have big-time winners like Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, God of War: Chains of Olympus, Patapon, and more, which means 2009 is going to have to feature plenty of amazing titles to compete. Well, the first we’ve seen is definitely Resistance: Retribution, and it’s just another reason to have a PSP carefully stowed away in your room somewhere. And furthermore, based on the bundle packages that frequently pop up for blockbuster titles, especially when it comes to first-party games, perhaps we can expect a special Resistance-themed PSP package…? All we know for certain is that based on what we’ve seen so far, the game is shaping up quite nicely. If you want more content, you can check out the new video straight from the E3 conference, which should officially start the hype machine for this particular title. Look for more on Retribution as the months progress; we’ll want to keep a close eye on the development!
8/14/2008 Ben Dutka