Resistance: Retribution Review

Listen up, game designers – I may not speak for everyone, but as a whole, gamers are sick to death of the badass, wise-cracking anti-hero. Let's face it; the concept gained popularity in the 80's which, if you're keeping track, is coming up on thirty years ago… I'd wager that some of the folks who end up reading this weren't even born yet! Anyway, even decades later, game after game after game comes out starring some tough guy who plays by his own rules and (to quote Penny Arcade) "smolders with generic rage." The second and third Prince of Persia games from last gen were prime examples, as are nearly every Grand Theft Auto main character, along with Solid Snake (Metal Gear), Ratchet (Ratchet & Clank), Jak (from both Jak & Daxter sequels, not really the original), another Jack (the one from the recent Wii-exclusive gem MadWorld), Max Payne, a third Jack, Jack Slate (Dead To Rights), Sasuke (Naruto), Kratos (God of War), Wolverine, Dead Head Fred, The Overlord, Nathan Drake (Uncharted: Drake's Fortune), Leon Kennedy (Resident Evil 2 and 4), Wario, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, that kid with the headphones from The World Ends With You, Rikku (Kingdom Hearts), Marcus Fenix (Gears of War), Cloud, Squall and a host of other Final Fantasy leads, The Punisher, "Dark Knight Returns'" Batman, Rorshach, Duke Nukem (he used to be in video games, right?), Tommy (Prey), Lucien (Lunar Knights), Kain (The Legacy of Kain), Travis Touchdown (No More Heroes), later and more obnoxious versions of Sonic the Hedgehog, Gex, Bubsy, Han Solo, Vegeta (Dragon Ball Z), Regis Philbin, the leads from Cowboy Bebop, Trigun and a host of other anime programs I'm not interested in, Hollywood Hogan, Prince Van (Vision of Escaflowne), Jesse Custer and Cassidy (Preacher), Bart Simpson, B.A. Barracus (A-Team), Spawn… Oh my god… is he still going? Ok, I'll quit here. I could keep going, but you get the point.

Impressive list, huh? Well, I was illustrating a point that has been gnawing on the gamer and nerd in me for at least a few years now; it seems that a game, anime, comic or any other media for that matter, can get by on the back of a character that doesn't fit the Superman "good guy" model. Case in point; Sony's new PSP exclusive – Resistance Retribution. You play as James Greyson, a disgraced soldier who lost his brother to the alien hordes made famous in the two excellent PS3 shooters Resistance: Fall of Man and Resistance 2. After a going AWOL from the British military and the subsequent jail time, Greyson is released to help a group of French soldiers fight back against the seemingly unstoppable and constantly evolving foe. Greyson the soldier is all but dead, but Greyson the unhinged, bent-on-revenge mercenary is alive and well. Thus, we have yet another badass anti-hero who is still fighting the good fight, but by his own rules. As tired as Greyson's character is, Resistance: Retribution is so damn good, you'll never notice that you've played through his quest for revenge at least a dozen times before.

The first PSP entry in Sony's relatively new Resistance series is a bit of a departure from its console big brothers. Instead of being a first-person shooter, Retribution pulls the camera back a bit to right behind Greyson's head, much like the perspective found in the two PSP Syphon Filter titles. This change was absolutely necessary for the game to be successful on the PSP. Not only does it open up your view of the action a bit, it also allows the most efficient use of the auto-aim system, allowing the game to be played despite the PSP's lack of a second analog stick. Fans of the aforementioned Syphon Filter PSP titles know the drill; the single analog stick is used to move Greyson, while the system's four face buttons serve as an analog replacement, with each button assigned to a camera/aim movement. Admittedly, it takes some getting used to, especially for those who spend a lot of time with dual analog console shooters. The beauty of it is that even the most steadfast of console shooter fans will be up to speed in no more than 15 minutes or so. Toss in the auto-aim, which works by picking your targets for you and locking onto them, and you have a fast-paced and challenging shooter on a system that clearly wasn't designed for one.

I started with the controls because when I was going into the game, they were my biggest concern. They don't work 100 percent perfectly all the time; you'll sometimes lock on to an enemy you don't want to and coupled with the game's cover mechanic (hiding behind obstacles Gears of War-style), the shooting can be a bit easy at times. I have trouble faulting the game for these two minor issues, mostly because what they managed to do with the controls is nothing short of unbelievable, but as infrequently as they occur, they never get any less annoying – especially during some of the game's otherwise fantastic boss battles.

And since we're going backwards with the progression of this review, let's jump into Retribution's presentation. For a PSP game, the developers were really able to pull off something special with the game's graphics. The PSP isn't an underpowered system by any means, but this game's graphics could be the best yet seen on the system… and that includes last year's Square Enix extravaganza Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. The aliens look and move great, the explosions somehow look almost as nice as those seen in the console games and some – not all – of the environments are downright amazing. Some of the between-level cutscenes can be a bit blocky and ugly; a strange departure being that the game itself looks better, but overall, Retribution is a feast for the eyes.