If only Resistance: Retribution hadn't been on the Playstation Portable. A game with such high production values that's a direct iteration of one of the PS3's flagship franchises could have been a downloadable episode for Resistance 2 -- and about five hours shorter. That's not even getting into the pacing issues, which are exacerbated by a number of dramatic difficulty spikes throughout.
R:R falls, story-wise, somewhere between Resistance: Fall of Man and Resistance 2. It's hard to pinpoint because its story skips all over the place, interjecting throwaway line after throwaway line from new, British hero James Grayson. By game's end he even utters the line, "I'm James Grayson, bitch!" But frankly, story has never been the Resistance series' strong suit.
Nearly all aspects of the PS3 versions have been translated by Sony Bend onto the PSP, which in this case means trying to do too much: shoehorning dual-stick controls onto a handheld device ill-equipped to handle them; pushing graphical limitations to the point of choppy framerates; and artificially inflating play time by ramping up the difficulty enormously at seemingly random intervals. By my estimation, it took equal time to slog through the bearable first 90 percent of the game as the outrageously difficult final 10 percent.
It took equal time to slog through the bearable first 90 percent of the game as the outrageously difficult final 10 percent.
I enjoyed the first six hours I spent with R:R. When the pacing remains steady, R:R shows its best side: An ever-increasing arsenal of weapons to use against the various types of Chimera that Mr. Grayson encounters on his way from London to Paris. Hell, there's even a mech that was surprisingly enjoyable to pilot through yet more waves of the (at that point) cannon fodder enemies.
That's approximately when I hit the first wall -- where challenging enemies became overwhelming to the point where guess-and-check gameplay was the only option. Since R:R employs the same control scheme as the Syphon Filter PSP games (also by Sony Bend), when the flood of enemies becomes an unmanageable torrent, your hands have to twist and contort on the PSP. What starts off as a game where cover is employed liberally throughout becomes a measure of shooting what you can and hoping for the best. Will weapon-x defeat enemy-z? Should I kill enemy-z or enemy-y first? The only way to find out is through repeated deaths and an often underutilized checkpoint system.
Some may argue that the PSP/PS3 connectivity with the DualShock might have fixed this problem, and I haven't addressed that as I believe the game should be judged on the system it was made for. As a PSP game, I'm judging it based on its merits as just that -- a game made for the PSP. (That being said, a DualShock and/or Sixaxis can be used with any model of PSP in R:R.)
When all was said and done, I spent far longer playing R:R than I wanted. I thought it to be done on more than one occasion -- a testament to its throwaway story -- and wished it to be done many more times. While the game may be technically competent and visually impressive, poor pacing and repetitive gameplay bog down Resistance: Retribution beyond reprieve.
UPDATE: We updated the paragraph regarding PSP/PS3 connectivity for clarity, as per a piece on Infinite Bits. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.