E3 2008: Resistance: Retribution Hands-On Preview

Resistance: Retribution is one of the surprise announcements of E3 thus far. Developed for the PSP by Sony Bend (one of the best PSP developers around, and also one of the few gaming outfits in my home of Oregon), the game takes place in the gap between Resistance: Fall of Man and the upcoming Resistance 2.

With the events of Fall of Man already over with and Western Europe completely falling, Retribution asks the questions left unanswered by the first Resistance title, and hopes to give those gamers who will inevitably look for gaps in plot find some closure. To help lay out the game and figure out which answers were needed most, Bend composed the story of Retribution based on what they considered to be the three central unanswered questions in the first Resistance:

1. What were the Chimera doing after occupying Western Europe?

2. Why are there no female Chimeras?

3. What are the Cloven?

Retribution not only strives to answer these three questions, but will also answer many questions people will have after the release of Resistance 2, such as where did certain new units come from. 

Rather than star Nathan Hale, Retribution stars a British soldier named James Grayson. The game opens with Grayson—who specializes in raiding Conversion Centers—finding an infected man in the middle of being converted. To his horror, this man turns out to be his brother. Shocked, Grayson falls to his knees as his superior officer and comrade enter the room with him. His superior officer orders the other to take Grayson out of the room, but steeling himself against the events Grayson declines and instead volunteers to execute his brother himself in a very tense scene. All infected undergoing the conversion process are executed; it’s military policy.

Not long after the events in the opening, Grayson tries to desert the army due to the traumatic event. He’s caught, and ordered to be executed. (In times of war, a deserter really shouldn’t expect anything different.)

Thankfully for Grayson, he’s saved by the French resistance, otherwise known as the Maquis. Raine Bouchard—the female lead in Retribution—is a key member of the French resistance. Her father has come close to developing a cure to save people infected from being turned into hybrids, and they need Grayson’s expertise in Conversion Centers to help further their research by gathering more first-hand data. Grayson agrees, and asks only for his brother’s bomber jacket, which serves as an iconic item in this Resistance PSP game.

From there the playable demo moved on to a later level, set after the Maquis have discovered a new type of Conversion Center in Bonn. Asking Grayson to come along to help Bouchard is intent on learning more about this new Conversion Center, and what its purposes are. Betting that the answer to that question would be "Very, very bad for people," Grayson has other plans; namely blowing it up.

Before I get straight into the gameplay, I really need to make a mention of the engine being used by Bend in this title. Resistance: Retribution is developed using the PSP’s first 3rd gen engine. After perfecting their work in prior titles, Bend has what they believe to be the best engine available on the PSP. The engine runs in 3rd person, making Resistance: Retribution a 3rd person shooter rather than an FPS. The skeletal system has been completely revamped to allow for the wide variety of body types in the Resistance world, and the streaming system has also been given the once over. The result is a very smooth streaming game, with very few load times.

In the demo (which was almost the entirety of one level) there were no noticeable load times between different areas (all very, very detailed with a new texture mapping method) and the cutscenes (mocapped, like all animation in the game).

Outside of creating one of the best PSP engines yet, the other key for Bend was to make the gameplay and combat fun, and also straddle the line between simple and difficult by reducing the number of buttons needed. Anyone who’s played Logan’s Shadow will know how difficult and button-tastic Bend’s control schemes can be. Retribution simplifies them in a tremendous way. How easy is it to get used to Retribution’s gameplay mechanics? I brought Kyle in with me to try the demo, and having never even heard of the game he managed to just barely beat the boss at the end in one try. (Even if he did die on the miniboss the first time he faced him…)

The analog stick controls most motions in the game. Walking (and strafing) is controlled with the analog stick, and you change the direction you’re facing by pressing the face buttons the way you’d like to turn. To aim, there’s a box in the center of the screen called the “aim assist window.” Anything inside this window can be targeted, allowing you to move freely with the stick while you fire at enemies; all you have to do is keep the aim assist window in their general area. If you’re facing multiple enemies, a simple tap of the face buttons in the direction you want to fire changes your target between enemies.

Retribution also features a very intuitive cover system. Rather than making people push a button to take cover, you can simply run up to corners and low-lying objects and Grayson will automatically enter a cover mode. It was fast, smooth, and never seemed to happen on accident. You can even fire from cover without having to aim, as you can target using the aim assist window even when Grayson can’t see.

Obviously Resistance is known for the cool weapons. (And many other things!) In the demo there were several weapons available, all of which have a primary and secondary firing mode. Those of you who loved the weapon wheel don’t need to worry, because Retribution features the weapon wheel as well as a quick change button. Weapons available in the demo ranged from normal assault rifle styled weapons to rockets, and the secondary firing modes ranged from shooting tracking (and ricocheting) energy discs to slowing down time for everything in your scope. The Auger also returns, and Retribution plans to give you much more strategic use with its secondary shield function.

Like Logan’s Shadow, Bend is throwing in achievements for using weapons in a certain way. One which was briefly mentioned was killing a certain number of enemies with one shot of the aforementioned energy disc. It’s not known yet whether or not these achievements will unlock gameplay features or just serve as benchmarks, but either way it’s a nice feature and a step in the right direction. 

Right now the state of multiplayer and vehicles in Retribution is unknown and being looked into, so no word on that. I’d bet there’s multiplayer of some sort, though. Since Retribution is slated to come out Spring 2009, they’ve still got quite a bit of time to make up their mind. At this point, even without multiplayer or vehicles, Retribution looks to be a must-buy for all PSP owners. It’s intuitive, fun, technically impressive, and most important of all feels just like the other Resistance titles. Pretty impressive considering it’s the first playable demo build of the game.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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