The first thing you notice about Resistance 3 is that it's brown. Utterly, overwhelmingly, gloriously brown. At a time when grimy beige levels have become a derided shooter cliché, there's something delightfully perverse about Insomniac's decision to show off its new game with what is quite possibly the brownest gaming experience in history. What makes it more impressive is that it totally works, and makes perfect sense in context.
Set in 1957, four years after the events of Resistance 2, the game picks up the story of Joe Capelli. [Spoiler alert: you may want to skip the next couple of paragraphs if you've yet to finish that second instalment.] He's the soldier who was forced to kill series hero Nathan Hale at the end of the previous game, when his alien infection finally overwhelmed him.
Subsequently booted out of the military for his actions, Capelli joins the rest of the civilian population as they try to hide from the Chimera forces swarming the planet. By the time we catch up with him he's married Hale's sister and has produced a four-year-old son, perhaps an attempt to help repopulate the world.
If that's his intention he's going to have to get a lot busier than that: 90 per cent of the human race has been wiped out. The remaining few are scattered in small refugee groups, doing their best to hold back the invading tide.
Our Insomniac guides explain that the idea was to move the series away from the military-based action of the previous games. Resistance 3 explores what it's like to be among ordinary people trying to survive an inexorable extermination, rather than a soldier on the frontline.
That's why our brief playtime on Resistance 3 takes us to the small town of Haven, where Capelli has been hiding out. Of course, the Chimera are ruthlessly hunting the last scraps of humanity, and we take the joypad just as the horde arrives. In the words of the great philosopher Marcus Burnett, **** just got real.
Along with being brown, the game is noisy and scary as hell. This is a near derelict town, covered in dust and debris, and the Chimera assault coincides with terrifying gale force winds.
Trees are bent into whiplash shapes, tattered banners snap and crack in the tempest and swirls of choking grime scour the scenery. Flecks of dirt flicker across your viewpoint, while the descent of Chimera landing craft adds yet more sound and fury to the tumultuous racket.
It's a powerful reminder of just how immersive the first-person perspective can be. We've become so used to seeing the world with a bobbing gun barrel jutting out in our virtual hands that it's surprising to be so sucked in by such an old trick.
It's especially interesting given that Resistance remains defiantly old school in its construction. This is a fast, frantic fragfest where cover is simply whatever scenery item you can hide behind while crouching.
There are even health packs. Health packs! When I started taking damage and the screen didn't turn red, prompting me to simply hide until I got better, I almost gave a silent little cheer on the inside.
I love health packs. I miss them and it's a shame that such a brilliantly simple mechanism has fallen out of favour. Finite health brings a level of desperation and tension that self-restoring damage never can.
If you're pinned down, with low health and enemies all around, risking a quick headshot or a dash for better cover suddenly becomes a genuinely life or death decision. It's fraught. Stakes are raised. It's scary.
With regard to the short, intense burst of the game on show, scary seems to be the operative word. This is no linear corridor but an open town square, complete with crumbling buildings, outlying garages and makeshift shelters.
Enemies approach from all sides, with Hybrids clawing their way over chainlink fences and attacking with rifles from rooftops while Longlegs skitter and leap from one vantage point to another. It's a 360 degree onslaught with no single route to safety, no obvious order in which to deal with the attackers. You just have to take aim and join the rest of the refugees in defending your home.
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