|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: SONY Bend||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SONY||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 17, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Taking arguably the best PS3 franchise and squeezing it onto the PSP could have been a recipe for disaster due to the limitations of Sony's handheld. Most recognizably, the lack of a secondary analog nub usually means shooters on the system are woefully clunky. Additionally, the Resistance titles are known for their sweeping, gritty environments. How could the PSP possibly do the series justice?
Finally, Resistance fans have always had a lot of content to wade through either in single or multiplayer modes. Shoehorning a sufficient amount of compelling gameplay onto a tiny UMD seemed unlikely. Alas, my PSP preconceptions have been proven wrong by Sony's Bend Studio on all counts. Resistance: Retribution provides PSP owners with an interesting, engaging, and beautiful title that effectively emulates and complements the pedigree of the Resistance franchise.
Resistance: Retribution follows the rise and fall of one James Grayson, a former British Marine whose brother's conversion to a Chimera caused him to go AWOL. Going rogue and taking out 26 Chimeran conversion centers, Grayson is eventually arrested by the British military and found guilty of desertion - a crime punishable by death. However, the firing squad is staved off by a representative of the Maquis - the French resistance force. Apparently, the old Chimeran conversion facilities are currently being dismantled by the Chimera in favor of new technology. The Maquis' Mademoiselle Bouchard needs Grayson's vast expertise of such complexes to get to the bottom of and destroy this new conversion center technology. As such, Grayson receives a full pardon with the proviso that he must aid and assist the French resistance before gaining his freedom. Little do the powers that be know, this is exactly the opportunity Grayson has been looking for; his only purpose in life is to slake his burning thirst for the black ooze the Chimera call blood.
To go deeper into the story would be to ruin the twists and turns of the narrative. Suffice it to say, fans of Resistance may find this game's storyline to be the most compelling yet. A big part of that is undoubtedly due to the protagonist, James Grayson. Grayson is not the stoic, obtuse hero embodied by Nathan Hale. Grayson is a brash, outspoken, pain in the arse that is perhaps Europe's best chance at liberation. The bits of dialogue played out in the numerous cutscenes portray Grayson as a no-nonsense badass that players will love to take on. The voiceover work for Grayson is outstanding and will quickly endear gamers to his character. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the supporting cast. The preponderance of poorly imitated French accents makes key characters like Bouchard and Mallery wholly unbelievable. Thankfully, the detailed ambient sounds such as empty shells and casings hitting the ground, and the varied orchestral score that intelligently changes to illicit appropriate emotion from the player depending on the situation keep the aural presentation in very good graces.
As solid as the sounds in Retribution are, they can't hold a candle to the title's visuals. This is perhaps the best-looking PSP title to date. It was amazing just how well the devs were able to capture the look of Resistance - with its bombed out buildings, mix of hyper-modern facilities and old-world cities, loads of realistic textures, evocative lighting, and ingenious character design. All of it is remarkably intact on the little handheld's screen. According to Sony Bend, it's all due to their third generation PSP engine, which permits more onscreen action, "higher resolution bitmaps and specular highlights," and a memory buffer system that "allows for larger and more detailed worlds." Going beyond technical jargon, it is evident that the developers are experts at using the technology and took the necessary time to polish the title to a level that has only been approached (but not surpassed) by games such as Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core and God of War: Chains of Olympus.
Of course, whats phenomenal presentation without great gameplay? Once again, Resistance: Retribution rises to the occasion. They accomplished this by effectively working around the PSPs control shortcomings, providing alternative ways to control the title, loading the title up with great, distinct weaponry and enemies, giving players a nice amount of standard and bonus content to wade through, and including a multiplayer component that is more than just a nice entry on the feature list on the back of the box.
Whereas most shooters on the PSP fail due to crummy controls, Bend Studio has developed a compelling cover mechanic and third-person targeting system that make playing on the handheld an utter breeze. Players will blast their way through the story by taking advantage of an auto-binding cover system and a targeting reticule that actively seeks out targets in your field of view. This adeptly gets around the PSP's lack of an analog nub by effectively giving players protection and getting their sights on the target immediately. The result is stop-and-pop gunplay that is fast and satisfying even if it makes things a bit easy.