Resistance 3 preview: Variety pack

Just over a week after its Community Day reveal of new Resistance 3 gameplay, Insomniac was back at it again, this time showing off a new single-player level and a new multiplayer map in Hollywood. I also got a chance to actually play through the boat level we saw last time around, and had the distinct feeling that, more than anything else for this game, Insomniac is really playing with the pacing of a first-person shooter.

"Part of it is really trying to keep a better picture of the game as a whole," lead designer Drew Murray told me. "Much more in Resistance 3 than in past games, the design department has been more aware of what everyone else is doing," he said, which means more playtesting, and more communication between the teams of just what a level is supposed to feel like.

Murray said that early in development, each level in Resistance 3 was assigned a descriptive word, and the word for the start of the forest-based level, seen for the first time this week, was "hunted."

Though the demo of the new level was hands-off, "hunted" fits it well -- the forest, cluttered with trees and the occasional broken-down shack, playing a lot with lines of sight, features a new Chimera enemy called a sniper hybrid. The player's given a Chimera sniper rifle called a Deadeye, and the level consists of counter-sniping; you're trying to dodge the laser sights of snipers while simultaneously aiming for their camoflauged bodies among the foliage.

Originally, says Murray, he didn't want cloaked enemies running around. But as the level was developed, it turns out the laser-sight sniper rifles, combined with AI that changes position as you get a bead on them, made for some fun. "You see the threat coming, high threat, like take a few shots from the snipers and you're dead," says Murray. "And then you balance that intense threat that you know is coming with being able to sort of hustle your way around." Take shots when you can, dodge lasers when you have to, and that's the feel of the "hunted" level.

You can compare that to the boat level, which Murray says came from "something along the lines of a sad evocation of what the world is like." Actually playing through the boat level makes for an interesting mix of on-rails traversal (sometimes, you're simply watching the scenery and the exposition go by), with some close-quarters battling on the boat itself.

Last time, I heard that Resistance 3's weapons had been revamped (with new primary and alt fire, along with upgrades for each), and this time, Murray talked about how those changes affected the enemy design. Sometimes, enemies developed fully formed -- the Chimera longlegs were one example, Chimera shooters that jump quickly from point to point. "I said I want something that jumps really high and can come into any fight from any angle at any time," remembers Murray. That idea evolved with the Bullseye gun, that can fire on a tagged enemy from any angle as well.

The Brusier Chimera, seen as a boss battle in gameplay footage, is an example of an enemy that had to be more developed over time. "At first he was just a fight," says Murray, "and we were like this needs something else. One of the designers came up with the idea of it being sort of a physical, punchy kind of guy, and it was just a lot of iteration."

Murray says all of that iteration was one reason for the long gap between this game and the last sequel. "With the extra year of production that we had, we just got a lot more iteration time," he says.

Insomniac also showed off a new multiplayer map called Columbia (the single-player game takes place entirely in the US, while multiplayer games are set around the world). After just a few matches, Columbia seems like pretty standard FPS fare, though the big difference is that there aren't 60 people on the map.

"With the lower player count, we were able to get our environments to look a lot prettier," says Murray. That means that visual effects are also enhanced, which allows for more strategy and tactical plays with R3's new weapons.

"There was a period where I was really scared that there was too much going on," Murray admits. "And we went through and, by sort of specializing the effects and making things look really unique, we've gotten to the point now where it's like I see that effect, and I know what that is, I can identify that." The multiplayer also benefits from the single-player updates, including refined controls and all of the new weapons and their changes.

If you weren't a fan of the previous Resistance installments, news that Resistance 3 has added an extra year of development and used that time to iterate should be welcome news. The emphasis on variety in the single-player campaign, along with a healthy dose of iteration, has already made for a few solid gameplay experiences in our limited experience so far.