Serving as a bridge between the previous Resistance games on the PlayStation 3, Resistance: Retribution brings the war against the Chimera to the PSP. Following the assault on Western Europe in the months after Resistance: Fall of Man, Retribution offers a new protagonist and a third-person perspective, but does it invade the PSP with a passion or buckle in the face of its adversaries?
Retribution follows the journey of James Grayson, a British soldier who has to execute his own brother in a Chimeran conversion center. Traumatized, Grayson leaves his post to bomb dozens of conversion centers before being arrested and jailed for desertion. However, his experience is sought by the Maquis [MAH-kee] resistance who grant him reprieve in return for guidance as they infiltrate European facilities to develop a serum that will counteract the Chimera conversion process.
Surprisingly, there’s a greater emphasis on plot than in the console entries in the series. The story is told through a variety of devices, including CG cutscenes, in-game cinematics, journal entries, radio chatter, and historical narration in the vein of the original game. Grayson contrasts Nathan Hale’s heroic silence with a strong personality and a chip on his shoulder. He doesn’t trust his comrades, and they don’t trust him. Overall, it’s more developed and easier to follow than earlier games, but it’s not a story that will bring you to tears.
Resistance: Retribution is deep and filled with replay value. The main campaign stretches over 20 missions and can take over 12 hours to complete, which is meaty for any shooter. The fight for Europe takes you to varied locations, including caves, bombed-out cities, futuristic Chimeran structures, and even the catacombs beneath Paris. Each mission also features trophy-like challenges for players to test their skills, and explorers who seek out hidden intel are rewarded not only with an expanded story, but unlockable weapons as well.
Your arsenal isn’t limited in Retribution, so every new weapon you find is permanently added to your inventory, and you can return to earlier levels with your new guns. The standard assault rifle, rocket launcher, and the Auger return, but Retribution also includes a chain gun packed with a recharging shield and the Bullseye-like Razor with a secondary function that ricochets shots across multiple walls and enemies.
Multiplayer supports up to eight players locally or online, splitting players into teams of Maquis and Cloven soldiers. Modes include death match, capture the flag, the node-capturing containment option, and the zombie-style assimilation, in which Cloven kills result in players changing sides against their Maquis comrades. It’s pretty standard fare, but it does allow you to get in a few frags on the go. And by handheld standards, it’s pretty impressive.
One of Retribution’s most touted features is the infected mode, allowing you to connect to Resistance 2 on the PS3 to unlock new content and infect James Grayson with the Chimeran virus. In addition to a new costume and glowing eyes, Grayson gains a regenerative health bar, the Magnum from Resistance 2, and the ability to breathe underwater and access other hazardous areas. Infecting the game also alters many of the in-game cutscenes, changing the way other characters react to Grayson and adding incentive to play through the campaign a second time. On the downside, prerendered scenes don’t change when you’re infected, and if you quit the game or completely power down, you have to re-connect the PSP to re-infect it.
Retribution offers a lengthy campaign and strong incentive to replay missions. The multiplayer doesn’t stand apart, but it’s adequate, and Resistance 2 owners get some extra bonuses too. It’s got more content than most console games, which is saying something.
Instead of sticking with the first-person view of the past two games, Sony’s Bend Studio has taken Resistance to third-person, building on the tech from its previous projects in the Syphon Filter series. The developer’s experience with the hardware shows as it’s implemented a number of features to counteract the portable’s control limitations.
Functions like taking cover and using a flashlight are context sensitive, and an auto-aim feature locks your target to nearby enemies, making the game feel more like Metroid Prime than a standard headshot fest. Some weapons and enemies do require you to aim manually, but those creatures have significantly larger skulls, and secondary weapon functions let you slow down time with a sniper rifle or redirect rockets mid-flight with the LAARK.
Resistance 2 owners have the option to connect their PSP and play using a Dual Shock controller, but aiming still feels stiffer than a PS3 game, and large groups of fast enemies are clearly designed with the lock-on in mind.
Individual enemies aren’t that tough early on, but the game compensates with sheer numbers and mixes together enemies that require different strategies to take down. Level designs have a bit more vertical space, adding light climbing sequences and the ability to dive and fight underwater. While there are a few major bosses along the way, you’ll more often run into groups of mid-sized creatures like titans and mechs, and a couple of levels actually let you pilot a mech to take down monsters from relative comfort.
There are moments when the waves of enemies can feel a bit repetitive, but for the most part, Retribution keeps the action moving and stays exciting throughout.
Resistance: Retribution is one of the best-looking games on the PSP with large, detailed environments, great lighting effects, and smartly-designed textures that do a great job of masking low-poly character models. The impressive audio design features voice acting that’s on par with the console iterations of the franchise. The orchestral soundtrack is fantastic during gripping action sequences, and haunting Russian folk tunes clue you in to nearby secrets. This is definitely a game you'll want to play with headphones plugged in.
Resistance: Retribution makes the most of the hardware, works around the system’s limitations, and features a solid campaign with lots of incentive for replay. In terms of pure enjoyment, Retribution goes toe-to-toe with its big brothers on the PlayStation 3, and it’s a must-play for fans of the series or those who are looking for a great shooter for the road.