I don’t think there is a singular word that describes it, but the phrase coined for the phenomenon is the ‘butterfly effect’. The theoretical idea is that a butterfly flapping its wings can lead to a hurricane formation or, in essence, small changes in a system can snowball into large, widespread changes. The butterfly in the case of Resistance 3 is removing the recharging health system and replacing it with a life line that decreases with the damage you take.
It sounds like a fairly small change. After all, before Call of Duty became Call of Duty, most games used to have a health system. But start playing Resistance 3 and you soon realise how much recent FPSs have removed the concept of not taking damage from your muscle memory. All FPSs nowadays expect you to get hit, expect you to hide and recharge and then get back into the fray. Rinse and repeat. Resistance 3 presents you with a new (or old) challenge, that of not getting hit at all. At first, it almost seems like an alien concept, but then old habits start kicking and you realise it’s a different sort of a game altogether. Throw in the fact that you can carry multiple weapons/grenade types and it mixes things up even more. It’s ironic (or perhaps sad) that the way to make the most overdone genre in video gaming feel fresh is to go back in time, but you can’t deny that it works. There are shades of Valve’s iconic Half-life 2 in Insomniacs latest; especially the early stages where you are walking through a post-apocalyptic America. There is even a Ravenholm-esque chapter thrown in for good measure. It’s eerie, discomforting and very effective.
But where Half-life 2 went from strength to strength, Resistance 3 runs out of steam about two-thirds of the way in and falls into familiar traps of the genre. There are too many places where you hold off wave after wave of enemies with very little cover. Resistance 3’s strength is that despite the change in mechanics, it can still make you feel like your death was your own mistake. That too changes in the last third of the game, with death often feeling cheap because the game spammed enemies at you. The AI could have used some more work as well. It’s never really broken enough to be game-breaking, but it’s stupid enough to be noticeable. Despite the AI being a little on the stupid side, the combat still works wonderfully, thanks mostly to the game’s biggest strength i.e. the weapons. Rarely will you play an FPS, where almost every gun you find feels so satisfying to use. The fact that you don’t have to ditch one weapon to carry another means you get to play around with the game’s arsenal to your heart’s content. And the alternate fire of each weapon adds another dimension to the combat.
Even better, the weapons can be upgraded depending on how much you use them. That makes you even more invested in them and you sort of become attached to your go-to weapons. This adds a little bit more to the replay factor, which the game sorely needs as it’s on the short side of things (my run took me about seven hours). The story is enjoyable enough to make you sit through to the conclusion (especially if you are invested in the series) and there is even a nice little recap at the beginning for new comers. And while it might be on the short side, to the game’s credit, the replay factor is pretty good. The weapon upgrades (which carry over) mean you can always give the higher difficulty a shot without feeling too frustrated. There are quite a few unlocks and cheats you can use to make your second (or any subsequent runs) more fun. You can even enable recharging shields to make the combat completely different.
Once you are done with single player, there is the ubiquitous multiplayer. While single player shows flashes of brilliance, multiplayer feels like your typical Call of Duty-type shooter, where you have your perks, kill streaks, weapon unlocks, etc. But once again, the fun weapons save the multiplayer from mediocrity. That, and the excellently designed maps. Almost all the maps are thoughtfully made, have tons of routes and there is a wonderful flow to the combat without running into too many choke points, where the fights are concentrated. And while there are random instances of lag and frame rate issues, a fix is supposedly on its way. If versus isn’t your cup of tea, there is always online co-op in case you want to take on the campaign with a friend. Although, for some reason, there is no matchmaking for co-op, which means you are stuck unless you have a friend to play it with. It might not be a deal breaker, but it would have been nice to have.
Thankfully, none of the frame rate issues that crop up in multiplayer translate into the single player. And while the game won’t win any awards for its technical abilities, the fact that it has split-screen co-op (along with the aforementioned online co-op) means I am willing to forgive almost all graphical flaws it might have. Not that it has too many flaws anyway; It’s a very nice looking game at the best of times, and even at worst, it’s still a competent looking game.
Resistance 3 might not be the butterfly that ushers in a hurricane of change in the FPS scene, but it does enough to make it worth a look. Even to the most tired and jaded FPS fans, it’s still a breath of fresh air. And if Resistance 2 left you bitter, this is the pill that makes that bitterness easy to swallow.