There's no sense in beating around the bush -- Resistance: Retribution is excellent. It's got a main character you'll connect with, an engaging single-player campaign, a crapload of unlockables, PS3 connectivity and the strongest online multiplayer I have ever seen in a PSP game. In short, you're an idiot if you don't buy this game.
Set between Resistance: Fall of Man and Resistance 2, Retribution tells the tale of James Grayson. A British Marine, Grayson was doing his part in the fight against the Chimera when he and a pair of soldiers stumbled into the middle of the Chimera conversion process (i.e. a beast turning a human into a monster). The boys took out the overseeing baddie but discovered that the person on his way to becoming the enemy was actually Grayson's brother. Grayson kills his own brother and it basically cripples Grayson's life as he knows it. He goes AWOL from the armed services and sets out on a one-man campaign to blow up every conversion center he can find. After eliminating more than 25 of the enemy bases, the Marines catch up to Grayson. See, while he's become a folk hero to the human race, the Brits aren't too keen on desertion; they arrest, try and sentence Grayson to death. Before he can face the firing squad, the European resistance known as the Maquis pops up to ask for some help delivering a serum that should clear out the Chimera. The Brits agree, release Grayson and the war is back on.
And that's just the opening movie, people.
Video reviews: All the cool Chimera are doing it.
Once you start playing, the story only gets better and it's thanks to the character of James Grayson. From the moment he had to shoot his brother, I was drawn to Grayson. A smartass and a badass, Grayson's that adult character we haven't seen much of on the PSP. He curses, he screws and he's only helping the Maquis and British Marines out because he made a promise to himself to kill every Chimera he possibly could. When Grayson goes out on these missions, the Maquis -- generally headed by the sexy Raine Bouchard -- will talk about its objectives and Grayson kind of just nods along and lets it slide in one ear and out the other. A perfect example is when Grayson and Bouchard head into a conversion center that's unlike the ones our hero has seen before. Bouchard begs him not to blow it up because she wants to study the inside after they've cleared out the Chimera. Grayson tells her what she wants to hear and then blows the center up anyway. These pivotal moments are driven home by Grayson's journal entries before every mission where he explains his motives and actions. This is a three-dimensional character who has lost his only connection to the world and is hell-bent on killing as many Chimera as he can before they kill him. This personality gets fleshed out through the game -- your first playthrough should take you about 10 hours -- and makes you care that much more about the experience.
Taking Grayson through the trials and tribulations of a globe-spanning war is a proven system of control that you'll probably be pretty familiar with if you played the Syphon Filter games. Yes, Sony Bend has brought back the control scheme it pioneered with Gabe Logan, but the studio has also added a number of improvements to make the third-person action even better. In the simplest of terms, the analog nub moves Grayson forward, backward, and side-to-side, while the PSP's face buttons control his point of view. Tapping R fires your weapon, holding L switches to your weapon's secondary fire, and down on the D-Pad will let you hop over/climb things in certain contextual situations. Tapping right on the D-Pad will cycle through your weapons, but holding right will pause the game and bring up your weapon wheel. Here, you can leisurely page through every weapon you have -- you don't ever lose a gun and you'll keep your arsenal from playthrough to playthrough -- and choose which one you're going to battle with.
Yes, this is all a lot like the last Syphon Filter game -- even the save icon, journals preceding the missions and more are in the Logan's Shadow format -- but there have been tweaks added that make the experience easier to get a handle on. At the top of the list is the game's Aim Assist box. When you're playing, there will be a yellow box on screen that's pretty large. As long as you get the enemy in this box, the crosshairs of your gun will automatically leap to your foe so that you can run and gun without having to awkwardly nudge the crosshairs on top of your target. It's a simple system that makes the game considerably easier and faster, but you can turn it off if you like.
Although cover has always been a big part of Bend's PSP outings, the developer has put an extra layer of polish on Retribution. When you walk up to a doorjamb or box, Grayson will stick to it automatically much like Logan would in the Syphon Filter games, but now there's no blind fire or convoluted process of holding a direction, leaning out and firing. Here, Grayson sticks to the object, you move the crosshairs into position, and tap or hold R to fire. When you stop shooting, Grayson moves back to cover. There's no need to tell him to crouch because he'll understand when he needs to do what and you can hurdle over an object from cover without having to stand up like Logan did.
Don't get me wrong, I loved the Syphon Filter games, but they always felt very robotic in movement -- moving Logan from cover, through an enemy, into lower cover and over an obstacle felt slowly paced and input-heavy. That isn't the case in Retribution. Grayson will fly around levels blasting bad guys and you'll love every second of it.
However, what I will say about Logan's Shadow compared to Retribution is that I remember feeling challenged in the last Syphon Filter. That isn't the case in Resistance. Don't misquote me; there are challenging parts to Retribution and I'm comparing the titles on normal difficulty, but I never really felt like the enemies were offering up that much of a fight in Retribution. Hell, there were times when a Boiler (a Chimeran female whose head explodes if she gets too close to you) would pop up and scare the hell out of me and the final mission has two tunnels that are literally filled with every enemy you've faced and very few health packs, but I always felt like I could get through it with ease. Obviously, you could crank the difficulty up to try and get a better challenge out of the title, but even then it didn't seem like insurmountable odds.
Even weirder can be the feeling that you're entering these really big, important Chimeran facilities, but you're not seeing the same type of resistance you found in the PS3 titles. Yeah, I know the PSP can't handle that many things on screen, but why aren't the Chimera defending these positions better?
James Grayson is an awesome dude.
Still, don't let those minor criticisms scare you off. Resistance: Retribution is a hell of a ride and packs a lot of punch -- especially in the firepower department. There are a dozen weapons in Retribution and each is integral to your survival. My favorite part of the game was one of the most frustrating. Remember that tunnel I was talking about a while ago with every enemy? There wasn't a checkpoint in the middle of that tunnel, so I had to make it from one end of the road to another. This meant that every time a wave of enemies popped up, I'd hold right on the D-Pad and cycle through my arsenal for the right weapon to take out the bad guys. The chaingun and its movable shield was perfect for the massive Titans that stomped down the hall and fired explosive energy blasts, the shotgun was made for taking out Leapers that hatched from gooey eggs and being able to shoot through walls with the Auger made my life so much easier when I was on my last bit of health. Toss in the Razor -- and energy blaster similar to the Bullseye where the secondary fire sends a charged blade that ricochets around cleaning out the bad guys -- and you've got a weapon collection that's fun to use.
I legitimately enjoyed myself the entire way through Retribution; I even found myself doing something I rarely do and that was daydreaming of my second playthrough while I was still in the middle of my first. See, there's a ton of replay value to this title. For every section of a level, there are three Skill Point objectives. These vary between feats such as getting nine headshots with the sniper rifle to killing three Titans with only the rocket launcher to killing a handful of leapers without them attacking your comrade. You play the level, try to hit these "achievements," and if you unlock them all, you get one of six locked files such as movies, music and more. Sadly, you can't check the Skill Point requirements when you're in a level. The only way to scope the requirements is to choose the level after having already played it once; you then have to remember the requirements while you play. Meanwhile, there are 67 pieces of intel hidden throughout the game. If you find all of the pieces in one of the three categories, you'll unlock a weapon assigned to that category. These pieces include the XR-004 Allure, Plasma Grenade, and Longbow 1S-1K. If you unlock everything, you'll get the explosive-shooting magnum.
However, there is a way to get the magnum without unlocking any intel. It's called infecting your PSP and it's pretty awesome. See, Resistance: Retribution and Resistance 2 have this private dance called PSP Connectivity. Basically, you put Resistance 2 in your PS3, go to the options menu and select Connect PSP. From there, you need to have you PSP plugged into the PS3 via the USB cable and Resistance: Retribution's main menu active. You'll have two options on your TV screen -- Infect Resistance: Retribution and Activate Resistance: Retribution Plus.
The first one basically changes everything you know about James Grayson. Rather than being a normal human out to fight the Chimera, he'll be infected with the same virus Nathan Hale struggles with on the consoles. Grayson will be able to breathe underwater and regenerate his health meter, but he'll also get a spiffy Spectre suit like Hale's from R2 as well as that sweet magnum I mentioned earlier. Now, this change will only last as long as Retribution is being played after being Infected; that is, if you quit back to the XMB and then restart the game, you're going to have regular ol' James Grayson at your disposal. When I first heard about this Infection angle, the coolest thing to me was that some of the in-game dialogue would change when Grayson's eyes went yellow. In practice, however, the changes are super-minor. The full-on videos still show Grayson in his trademark leather jacket, but then anything using in-game assets will show him in the Spectre suit with just the occasional line of dialogue changed to reflect the infection.
I guess I was expecting more because after doing a straight playthrough of the title, I got to see how cut and dry things are for Grayson when someone's infected. I figured that infecting someone who hated the infected so much would lead to at least one cutscene of him struggling with the idea, but that never happened. Instead some soldier asks why James looks jaunty and our hero nonchalantly tells him that he's infected. It's still cool that they changed the dialogue at all, but I could've gone for more. Thankfully, Grayson looks slick in black and regenerative health will be a lifesaver to anyone struggling with a certain part of the title.
Activating Resistance: Retribution Plus is probably a nifty add-on most have heard about. When you select this option from the R2 menu with Retribution plugged into the PS3, you'll transfer your PS3 controller to the PSP. That's right, you'll be able to control the Retribution action on your PSP via your SixAxis or DualShock 3 (rumble included). The controls carry over pretty much button for button, except that you can now use the second analog stick to control Grayson's POV rather than the PSP's face buttons. The major change, however, is that this method of control eliminates the Aim Assist box you find in the original game. Now that you have complete control, you're on your own to aim. This actually makes the game quite a bit harder. Without the Aim Assist, you now have to line up each shot rather than just getting the giant window around a target. It slows down the action to something more akin to a PS3 third-person shooter.
The switch even eliminates one of my concerns with the original control method -- if you're using the PSP, you can only cycle one way through your weapons; with Retribution Plus, your shoulder buttons allow you to cycle both ways. Personally, I found the default DualShock controls a bit sluggish, but Sony Bend thought that through and movement speeds can be easily adjusted from the options menu. All in all, this is another great addition to the replay value of Retribution -- you figure that this marks a third way that you can play the same single-player campaign.
If you move beyond the stuff you can do solo, you'll find that Resistance: Retribution keeps on giving. Packing both an ad-hoc mode and infrastructure option, Retribution has one of the deepest online communities I have ever seen on the PSP. Infrastructure is set up for eight-player matches (four people as the Cloven and four as the Maquis) in one of five modes. There are clans, voice chat, 12 ranks to achieve, a friends list, unranked matches and more. I mean, there are 22 medals in this online -- each with gold, silver, and bronze rankings -- that are attached to your profile so that voyeurs can see that you've raked in 200 kills with the Storm Rifle or that you've been awarded the "Helping Hand" medal for 300 kill assists (quick aside: kill assists rock. After playing a few rounds of R:R, I was getting mad while playing Killzone 2 and not getting credit for helping teammates kill other people).
In short, this is a PS3-like multiplayer experience in the palm of your hand. The gameplay itself works just like it does in the single-player campaign but now you can taunt fallen foes
. The taunt you choose is random, but as you rank up from a lowly private, you'll have access to more and more of the library that includes dancing over bodies while a techno beat blares and kicking dirt on downed opponents; there's even a "Teabagger" medal to get by taunting. If you come across a downed teammate, you can also use down on the D-Pad to revive the player.
In terms of the five modes, you should be familiar with the majority of them. Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag are self-explanatory, while Free For All is just a regular deathmatch. Still, Assimilation and Containment might require a bit more explanation. Assimilation starts one player as a member of the Cloven and the other players all start as Maquis members. As the Cloven kills people, they are assimilated into the Cloven brood so that the Maquis unit gets smaller and smaller. The twist on this mode is that whichever group has the least amount of people is the more powerful squad. So, when the game begins the single Cloven is going to be able to take more damage and eliminate foes with ease and in the end, the single Maquis will reap these benefits. Meanwhile, in Containment, squads battle to capture and hold coolant nodes for as long as possible.
These modes are simple and familiar to anyone who has played some multiplayer matches in recent memory, but they feel fresh thanks to Retribution's five maps that hearken back to environments from the campaign. When I first played this, I got excited thinking about finally having a super-solid multiplayer community on my PSP, but that feeling waned a bit when I thought about the lackluster amount of WiFi on Bay Area public transportation. If I'm sitting at home, wouldn't I rather play Killzone 2 multiplayer rather than Retribution? Well, the answer is probably yes, but I think Retribution fills another important multiplayer gap in my life -- something cool to play while my wife watches crappy television. I love ranking up and shooting people in the head, and if Katie's watching something I'm not interested, why not do it on my favorite handheld? Retribution has some awesome options -- there are 60 clan patches to choose from, you can leave messages of the day for your clan mates, all the stats can be tracked on MyResistance.net and you can import PSN Friends who have played Retribution -- and the gameplay is great. I can honestly see me playing this.
I can't believe I just said that about online multiplayer on the PSP.
I realize I'm writing a book here, but there's just so much to say about this game. Before I go, I'd be a fool not to mention the music and the graphics. The voices here are great, but the orchestra Sony brought in for the musical score steals the show. When you're in a heated battle -- taking cover behind crates while the gunfire of Hybrids rains down on you and some ugly Boilers shamble toward you -- the music is right there with you perfectly accompanying the moment. You owe it to yourself to play Retribution with headphones. On the other side of the coin, I was never impressed with the graphics. The movies look great, but the in-game stuff only looks good for a PSP game. The characters are more realistic than Syphon Filter, but other than that there isn't much of a jump -- just some new environments and animations.
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