Before MAG’s 256 online player matches, PS3 owners only had one option when it came to large scale multiplayer battles, Resistance 2. Supporting up to 60 players, the servers are still packed to this day. However, Resistance 3 tones down the chaos in exchange for 16-player, fast-paced, frantic gameplay similar to Call of Duty.
Even with smaller maps, players are never far from the combat. The beta offers two distinct maps, Seaside and Trainyard. Seaside is set in what appears to be a long rundown neighborhood in the green countryside of Wales. Complete with deserted households, vacant sanctuaries, and abandoned mills, the multi-story buildings provide numerous opportunities for the patient sniper. A dry creek bed also allows for swift flanking maneuvers, but the two wooden bridges will undoubtedly see the most action.
Trainyard is situated in the dust-colored town of Bogota, Colombia, where derailed train cars inhabit one side of the map and warehouses provide cover for each team’s spawn. A gas station in the middle will see plenty of firefights, and with a lot of open space, players will need to make effective use of cover lest they become easy pickings for enemy machine gun fire. During my hours with the beta, Trainyard quickly became the community favorite.
That brings me to my next point. The beta currently offers two modes of play, Team Deathmatch and Chain Reaction. Team Deathmatch is the same old song and dance – eliminate the enemy team to reach a predetermined amount of kills (100 in the beta's case).
Chain Reaction is a bit different. The human and Chimera are tasked with capturing and holding territories, but their end objectives are unique. The Chimera must open a wormhole to another dimension while the humans work to upload coordinates for a firebombing. Once an area has been captured, that team advances to the next territory, but the opposing force can break the chain of control by seizing the previously taken territory. Teams only have a collective pool of 100 lives, and victory conditions mean securing all five territories or depleting the enemies’ reinforcements. The experience gained from both game types needs to be retooled though. At the moment, Chain Reaction only awards one-fourth the experience gained from playing Team Deathmatch and lasts nearly twice as long.
Like many developers nowadays, Insomniac is taking a more rank progression approach to Resistance 3’s multiplayer component. Leveling up earns you Skill Points, which can be invested in buying new weapons for your arsenal or augmenting the firearms you already own. Anyone who has played the previous Resistance games knows Insomniac is well-versed in the field of insane sci-fi weaponry. The Bullseye, Carbine, and Rossmore (shotgun) all make their return, but the Deadeye (a Chimeran sniper rifle) and the biological Mutator (turns enemies into living bombs) make their first appearance. Each firearm is now fitted with its own iron sights and has two levels of enhancements while the perks only have one, but more on those in a second. For instance, upgrading the Carbine once affixes a bayonet attachment that increases its melee damage. Upgrading the Carbine again will improve the secondary fire, allowing the grenade launcher to discharge three explosive projectiles at once.
Perks are further divided into three categories – active abilities, passive abilities, and kill streaks. The active abilities are triggered by pressing the left or right directional buttons. A particularly useful lifesaver is the Bubble Shield. Utilizing this perk will deploy a small 360 degree shield to absorb incoming enemy fire. Splurging for the level two upgrade further increases the damage the shield can sustain. Other user-required perks include an ammo beacon to replenish your spent munitions or Spotter, which allows you to mark a specific target on your allies’ radars.
Reaching new levels also unlocks custom classes. Along with choosing your weapons and active abilities, you can select two passive abilities, which, like I’ve already said, can also be upgraded. My personal favorite allows me to carry one extra primary weapon. Five Skill Points later, now I can spawn with three primary weapons. With the return of the weapon wheel, players are no longer limited to the standard two weapon fare I assume to which we’ve become accustomed. Another handy ability comes in the form of a rabid pack of Leapers. Upon dying, three Leapers spawn atop your corpse and proceed to maim your preoccupied foes. Improving this perk adds another Leaper to the mix that spits blinding acid.
I know I usually complain about games attempting to copy the multiplayer formula popularized by Call of Duty but for Resistance 3, it works. I reached the maximum rank (20 at the time of this writing) within eight hours and I had a lot of fun doing so. Kill streaks are awarded after three, six, and nine consecutive kills, but they feel balanced and are extremely entertaining to use. If the kill streaks are anything like the berserks from Resistance 2, they will be customizable. Only time will tell if Insomniac can maintain that balance.
For the humans, three kills deploys a durable assault shield in front of their squishy bodies to defend against oncoming projectiles, but a well-placed grenade to the back will put them down without much effort. For the Chimera, three kills in a row grants the player with an invisibility cloak, perfect for sneaking up on unsuspecting individuals. What’s the only caveat? Firing any weapon partially disables the cloak. From there, six kills unlocks the powerful Auger to blast your foes cowering behind walls and nine kills rewards you with a suit of power armor and bottomless grenade launcher to wreak havoc on the opposition.
I know this is just a beta, but there are some issues that need addressing before the retail release. Although my experience was generally lag free, I witnessed several glitches where players would teleport through walls or outside the map, but that can be traced back to connection issues. Also, the player movements are unwieldy. The controls bring back memories of playing Killzone 2 – they’re that awkward. I’m also unaware of what build the developers have used for the beta, but the character models are simply unsightly. I’m not a total HD snob, but the original Resistance had much more impressive character animations and detailing. Like I said though, this is just a beta, so I’ll reserve my judgment until the game’s launch.
The Resistance 3 online beta offers players just a taste of the mayhem they can look forward to come September 6, but in its current state it still lacks the refinements of better betas like Gears of War 3 or Halo 3. Throughout my eight hours of play, the gameplay never felt stale as I mixed, matched, and upgraded my weaponry to produce the most deadly results. The weapon wheel is a nice addition – players no longer have to grapple with picking a sniper rifle over a shotgun, or determining which machine gun better suits their play styles.
The perks are worth experimenting with, but there are a few that have become instant community favorites, such as the Bubble Shield. If there is an aspect in which Resistance 3 has a leg up on the competition, it’s this – the spawn points are fantastic! Not once did I become the unfortunate victim of shameful spawn camping. Even though it is just a beta, the controls are unexceptionally stubborn, and the graphics lack the nice coat of polish I’ve come to expect from a PS3 exclusive. With a little retooling though, Insomniac might serve up an addictive multiplayer experience to tide gamers over until Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3 hit store shelves later this year.