Name: Resistance: Retribution
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Platform: PlayStation Portable
At many times it feels like the PSP is a dying platform. New releases, for the most part, are few and far between, and while there are a few must-owns on the platform, most anything worthwhile ends up being bumped to the PlayStation 2 after a few months, which has a significantly better battery life and a superior controller. Still, refusing to succumb to this thought, Sony has thrown a few surprises out, and this year has already had some quality titles released on the PSP. LocoRoco 2 showed itself to be the definition of casual fun in the early months of 2009 (albeit using very little of the PSP’s power or capabilities), and now Resistance: Retribution looks to show gamers the other side of the UMD. With a tie-in to one of the most popular PlayStation 3 shooters, Retribution is set to prove that there’s still plenty of life in Sony’s portable.
Set in-between the plots of its two console brethren, Resistance: Retribution stars British Royal Marine Lieutenant James Grayson. Grayson went rogue after the revelation that his brother, who had been missing for some time, was infected with the Chimera virus, and was mid-transition. To lessen any future suffering, James takes his brother’s life, and goes on a vengeance-driven spree where he travels around London destroying Chimera conversion centers. After the fall of London’s tower, Grayson is captured by the Royal Army, who considers him a deserter. His date with death is delayed when he is offered a pardon for helping liberate other European countries.
The cast of characters is genuinely likeable, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Retribution’s plot is more engaging than either of the console games, though that isn't really saying too much. The actual singleplayer campaign is about as memorable as Resistance 2's, and clocks in at around ten hours. It can become fairly repetitive, since most of the encounters involve standing still and laying on the trigger while the auto-aim does the work, but the a steady flow of unique enemies and weapons should be enough to justify completion. That is, if you're able to deal with the controls.
Odds are there are a few of you holding out your hands, feeling around for exactly how a shooter on the PSP can perform adequately. There’s a left analog nub, of sorts, but there’s no way to aim by current gaming standards. The lack of a second source of analog controls is definitely the PSP’s weakness, but the developers were able to creatively alleviate the issue – mostly. The face buttons control the point of view, but aiming is mostly automatic. A large grid in front of the player shows the typical field of view, and Grayson will automatically target the nearest Chimera.
To say it takes a little bit of getting used to would be an understatement, and it isn’t made any easier by the fact that movement is controlled on the bottom left, with aiming on the top right (opposed to the parallel analog sticks on the PS3 and mirrored controls on the Xbox 360). Though, it could be argued that it works as well as it feasibly could on the system, and that without auto-aim it would be nearly impossible to control. This makes the game a bit easier than most shooters, since there’s really no missing an enemy when the game is in charge of the aim, but there’s still a challenge from beginning to end. It’s not the most favorable setup by any stretch, and there are likely those who will never be able to get over it, but if you’re looking to game on the go there are going to be some sacrifices.
This isn't the only way to play the game, however, and Retribution supports an unprecedented amount of connectivity. With a copy of Resistance 2 in the PlayStation 3, there are several different options to expand on the experience, and change the control scheme to be something more traditional. By connecting the PlayStation 3, the game allows use of the PS3 controller, rewriting the controls to be much more similar to a console shooter. It’s a double edged sword, however, as the gameplay was made with the alternative control scheme in mind, and playing with a controller actually makes it a bit more difficult. It’s still arguably better, but requires jumping through a few too many hoops than it might be worth.
Players who hope to take advantage of it need to own a PSP capable of being hooked to a television to even make it worth the effort, and even then the game’s graphics stretch and blur, showing off blemishes that aren’t visible on the handheld’s screen. There’s also the option of infecting Grayson with the Chimera virus, which gives the player a powerful revolver, recharging health, and an outfit more similar to Nathan Hale’s from R2. Characters will occasionally react strangely to Grayson, as his infection takes the form of glowing orange eyes, but it doesn’t change the story dramatically.
Retribution's multiplayer might be the most ambitious ever attempted on a handheld: there are several different game modes, support for up to eight players, clan functionality, voice chat, and twelve ranks to unlock. In other words, it’s as deep, if not deeper than many console shooters. Just as is the case with any game with unlockable ranks, there’s an enhanced sense of achievement in each kill, knowing it will count towards something other than the round’s score, that fuels a driving need to perform. It’s easy to become addicted to the game, and the only limitations are in the less-than-perfect control schemes, and the competition on consoles. Playing online, for most people, is usually an option only allowed at home, and having access to any one of the popular shooters on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or PC is a deterrent to getting too involved in Retribution’s multiplayer. Still, it’s remarkable how much Bend was able to accomplish within the confines of a handheld experience, and they should be given an immense amount of credit for accomplishing something that wouldn’t have even been possible in the earlier days of the PlayStation 3.
If Killzone 2 is proof that the PlayStation 3 is the powerhouse of the console market, than Resistance: Retribution succeeds in moving that claim to the PSP. That’s not to say it’s the most visually thrilling game on the system – that crown still belongs to the God of War – but it’s far and beyond the tightest package to hit handhelds in a long, long time. It might not be the best game on the system, but it is without a doubt the best shooter, which is something that will likely be left undisputed for some time to come. The sheer impressiveness makes it easy to recommend a purchase for anyone itching for an excuse to play the PSP, and worth at least trying for everyone else, at least to see what the PSP is truly capable of.