When I play a new game, I try to avoid bringing any baggage to the experience.
Hype or a brand name may promise a gaming experience that doesn't exist, leading players to judge a game based on what they believe it should have been instead of what it is.
While in many ways it is acceptable to expect certain things from a game entirely due to the brand name attached, the overriding factor should always be how much enjoyment you are able to derive from the experience.
With that said, I want to make it very clear that I am a fan of the Resistance series. The bland level and creature designs aren't enough to stop me from enjoying what are two fast-paced and over the top first person shooters.
Action and reflexes are so much a part of what makes those games good that the guns you most identify with in the series are the ones that allow you to shoot around and through walls. If you aren't killing the waves of Chimera as fast as you can, you are dying. They are games where hiding means you only die slower. I dig them. But, on to the game I am supposed to be reviewing.
Resistance Retribution is set in the period of time between Resistance: Fall Of Man and Resistance 2. You play as Lieutenant James Grayson, a soldier who, after finding his brother in a Chimera conversion centre is forced to follow regulations and kill him before he can become a threat. After that, he is so incensed that he abandons his unit and treks around Britain, destroying every conversion centre he comes across. This leads to his eventual capture by British forces who plan to execute him for desertion. Then he gets the option to help the French fight in their war against the Chimera and away we go.
The story was always one of the weakest elements of the Resistance games and Sony Bend have decided to combine the differing styles of the other titles in the series to create some of the most drawn out and painfully acted cut scenes of recent memory. Starting the game just as James Grayson has to euthanize his brother doesn't give you any insight to who he was before the incident, meaning you have an angry antagonistic character with no redeeming qualities other than that he enjoys insulting the French. Sadly it doesn't get so bad that it suddenly becomes good either.
But I don't care about the story. It can add to or it can detract from my entertainment, but solid gameplay is what I want!
For reasons I'll never care to understand, the PSP was created with a single analogue control. This means that there have been concessions made when porting a title or extending a franchise to the portable beast. To combat the changes needed, Sony Bend have taken Resistance Retribution from a first person perspective and made a third person shooter with an auto aim. The analogue nub controls your movement and the face buttons slowly move your perspective around allowing your character to automatically lock onto any target inside a box that sits in the centre of your screen. Its size is pretty big, so targeting is never an issue except when you have a few enemies that will only go down to head shots. This requires you to to press up on the D-pad to switch to a slow free aim mode.
There is also a new cover system that is pretty intuitive. Simply standing near a wall and having a target inside the auto aim box will cause you to take cover, only popping your head out when you open fire. It works so well that it's something I have to genuinely praise, and it felt more responsive and easier to use than the cover systems employed by games such as Gears of War and Killzone 2.
These two game mechanics are what manage to make the game work on the limited controls of the PSP, but they are also my biggest complaint. Simply put, I felt no tension or excitement when playing Resistance Retribution. All the things that make a shooter fun and challenging were being handled by the game itself. The only real difficulty I faced was when the game locked onto the least threatening Chimera in view, or if I had to switch to the free aim and had to deal with the slow speed of the face buttons.
Being a Resistance game, there is a lot to unlock here. Intel scattered around the levels allow you to unlock more weapons, and the PS3 connectivity is a nice touch, if not a little pointless. I don't see any real difference between hooking up your PSP to a PS3 and a copy of Resistance 2, or using a code to unlock the Infected mode. It doesn't last past quitting the game, so it goes from being neat to annoying if you are planning on playing through what already is a long campaign for a second time with a different character appearance and a few new abilities.
Like most PSP games, you will want to play it with headphones to get the most out of what is some pretty solid sound design, and the graphics do the job they are meant to. The art design is pretty much carried over from the main titles in the series, so there is nothing new there.
It is a well produced title with a lot of gaming to offer. Retribution has all the bland level and creature designs that the franchise is known for, but it doesn't have any of the fun.