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Resistance: Retribution Review

17 March 2009

Resistance: Retribution is the latest third-person shooter from Sony Bend, known primarily for its Syphon Filter titles on the PlayStation Portable. Announced last year at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Sony Bend and Insomniac Games worked closely together in order to develop a title that helped gamers understand what went on in Europe between Resistance: Fall of Man and Resistance 2. This was a time period of much doubt and uncertainty as the Chimera were driven back by Nathan Hale, yet in some odd turn of events managed to strengthen their forces in order to bring the war to North America. Retribution is a successful bridge between the two games.

Taking place roughly two weeks after the conclusion of Fall of Man, gamers take on the role of James Grayson, who vows he will destroy every known Chimeran conversion center. Grayson is thoroughly well rounded and not just some British badass who feels the need to take out the invaders. No, he has motivation; he has a driving ambition and reason behind his feelings. After all, who wouldn’t feel the need for vengeance after being forced to put a bullet in your own brother’s head?

Grayson’s tale is an unfortunate one. Grayson, a highly ranked British Marine, walks into the wrong conversion center at the wrong time. While removing a Chimera who was performing the conversion process, he and his squadmates quickly find out the man on the table is Grayson’s brother. Rather than deny the inevitable, Grayson is forced to take care of his brother with one pull of the trigger, which not only shatters his brother’s skull, but Grayson’s mind as well. From that point forward, our boy James is no longer the same man. Abandoning his squad, Grayson seeks out other conversion centers, blowing them up one by one until his eventual arrest. He sits in a jail, working out, waiting for his turn to come in the form of an execution.

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With the arrival of the French Resistance (who knew?) named the Maquis, Grayson is absolved of his past crimes in order to help them fight against the Chimera in hopes of delivering a serum that could prevent further Chimeran conversions. The Maquis – led by Raine Bouchard – gives Grayson orders with little respect, but Grayson has his own gameplan, and he executes commands in his own style. This is where Grayson sets himself apart from other prominent figures on the PlayStation Portable. One of our favorite moments comes when Bouchard asks Grayson not to blow up a conversion center, which he conveniently 'forgets,' sending the thing into oblivion. It's small acts like this that help give Grayson his own defining qualities. He’s not the quiet protagonist that’s going to doggedly take orders and trudge along; instead, he’s going to swear, kill, and do things his own way, and that’s why we love him.

The gameplay mechanics that Sony Bend has included within Resistance: Retribution feel comfortable if you’ve played one of their Syphon Filter titles for the PSP. The developers utilize the same control mapping: analog-controlled movement with face buttons designated for aiming around. The R shoulder button fires and the L shoulder changes your firing mode between primary and secondary fire. The D-Pad is also thrown into the mix and each direction offers a different result; for example, pushing right or holding right will either let you scroll through your weapons or bring up your weapon wheel. This system – albeit not perfect – is a great way for making up for the lack of a right analog stick.

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Sony Bend has made a lot of improvements within Retribution that fix the annoyances that some gamers found within the studio's similar Syphon Filter titles. Take the cover system, for instance. In Syphon Filter, PSP owners had to struggle with taking cover, pushing a new button to lean out or in, lining up your shot and then shooting or they could just use the standard cover fire. In Retribution, however, Grayson will duck behind cover automatically and with a press of the R button he’ll peak out to shoot at enemies locked in on his crosshairs. This subtle change has allowed the game to become very user accessible and friendly to the casual crowd.

One of the negatives of Retribution, which could easily be a positive for users who don't visit sites like PSU, is that the difficulty sometimes felt non-existent. It seemed far too easy to go from point-A to point-B without dying or being challenged by the Chimera. In the PS3 Resistance games, it was satisfying to "resist" the Chimera. Within Retribution, it's rare to experience that same sense of accomplishment. There are a few tricky situations toward the end of the game, but these take so long to get to that some expert gamers may get bored before they reach those points. Since the more challenging aspects come closer to the end of the game, we won’t spoil any of those for you.

Of course, the difficulty is severely decreased due to the game's advanced weaponry. Retribution contains 12 weapons, including the friendly Auger, the standard rifle, and even the one-shot Sniper Rifle (sure to take down almost any enemy in its sight). Each weapon has its own strengths and weaknesses against certain Chimera, which brings a strategical element to the table. This is very evident closer during a tunnel scenario when you must battle nearly every type of enemy in the game simultaneously.

One thing that Resistance: Retribution does offer is an abundance of unlockables. Outside of the standard intel -- which is doubled when 'infecting' your PSP with a copy of Resistance 2 on the PS3 -- Retribution also provides level Skill Point Objectives, which are kind of like PlayStation Trophies for the PSP. There are usually three objectives per level, but they’re not known until you look at that chapter from the menu screen. They range from getting a certain amount of headshots to killing a particular enemy before they do any friendly damage. Completing all these tasks is no easy feat, and you will definitely need multiple playthroughs in order to do so. As for the intel itself, they’re broken into three categories. Collecting an entire category results unlocks a new weapon. The three weapons you can unlock include the XR-004 Allure, Plasma Grenade, and Longbow 1S-1K; once you’ve unlocked all three new weapons, the explosive magnum will become available to you (this can also be achieved by 'infecting' your PSP).

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Continuing on the note of being infected via your PlayStation 3, Sony Bend, alongside Insomniac Games, has incorporated a great tool that allows you to play infected mode on your PSP. If this is something that you’re capable of enjoying, you can check out our full hands-on of the PSP/PS3 interconnectivity here. Otherwise, let’s jump into the visuals of Resistance: Retribution.

Though the visual appeal of Resistance: Retribution doesn't trump Chains of Olympus' presentation as we had hoped, it looks solid. The CGI movies are fantastic, as expected, and the rest of the game is fairly refined. Some users may be underwhelmed considering the beauty of the Resistance games on the PlayStation 3, but it’s important to remember that this title is on the PlayStation Portable which doesn’t provide as much open room to design an enthralling universe where every detail and crevice is given extraordinary care.

When those Chimera conversion centers are well taken care of, gamers will think about their journey through Resistance: Retribution and smile. On a handheld that seemed to be losing relevance with each passing month, Retribution is a great way to kick off 2009 on the go.

-The Final Word-

On a handheld that hasn’t had many must-own titles lately, Resistance: Retribution is an enthralling experience that portable gamers shouldn't pass up.
  • The aim-assist, which has been improved on from past Sony Bend titles
  • The well-developed character of James Grayson
  • The stellar replay value
  • The lack of true challenge until late in the game
9.0
Platforms reviewed : PSP
See PSU's reviews scores on Metacritic and Gamerankings

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