This is the cure we've been waiting for: hard-hitting action, an infectious strain of multiplayer, and a huge dose of features knock the PSP out of its release drought blues. In fact, Resistance: Retribution ranks among the best, most feature-rich portable games ever created.
The medical references, of course, come from the game's underlying alternative history meets mad sci-fi plot. The Chimera, a race of indeterminate origin, are sweeping through Europe, infecting humans with a virus that results in them transforming into various Chimera types themselves.
Kicking off the game, you lace up in the boots of James Grayson as he abandons his post in the British forces following a nervous breakdown triggered when he killed his brother inside a Chimeran conversion centre.
The rebellion is short-lived though. Grayson is hauled in for court marshal and the opportunity to redeem himself in the form of a dangerous alliance with the French resistance. Maquis agents have convinced the British of the need to assault the Chimera stronghold in Paris. He accepts the assignment and travels to mainland Europe with the first wave of forces.
Human resistance against Chimera occupation sets an epic stage for gameplay, yet one that never converts into a compelling narrative. The questionable writing revolves around a cast of characters who are either unbelievable or unlikable, and scenarios often stretch the imagination.
Grayson frequently spouts off cheesy one-liners that don't fit in with the grave tone of the intel pick-ups and diary entries, for example. And interactions between characters, in particular one involving Grayson and scientist Bouchard late in the game, are also completely out of place. Fortunately though, much of this is obscured by the glare of truly outstanding action.
From the first moments when you set foot in the ruins of Rotterdam to the final push on Paris, Resistance: Retribution is characterised by non-stop, against-all-odds action. Grayson struggles against overwhelming numbers of Chimera forces ranging from basic Hybrids to tough Auger-equipped units, and massive Titans, as well as all manner of mechanical sentries.
Rarely are there breaks in the combat; enemies crowd the screen as you make a desperate push through each fiercely contested area. Tight, enclosed corridors, and rooms flow into larger open spaces, providing diversity within the campaign's handful of levels. Each is broken up into bite-sized chunks ideal for portable play, consisting of a several confrontations or a rare boss battle.
The introduction of aim assist in the form of large brackets framing the edges of the screen enables you to engage large groups of Chimera with ease. Resistance: Retribution wisely recognises the control limitations of the portable form. As you move the camera with the face buttons, enemies appearing within the brackets are automatically targeted.
Any risk of making the game too easy, however, is countered by the greater number of foes with which you have to contend, and Grayson will succumb quickly to Chimera attack, forcing you to utilise cover and shoot wisely. In addition, aim assist doesn't allow the selection of individual targets; in other words, you're only able to shoot whatever the system targets.
As an alternative, you can press up on the PSP's directional pad to manually aim. Of course, this forgoes the benefit of instant targeting but allows for greater hit accuracy. It's a brilliant configuration because it caters to both newcomers needing a nudge and the experienced shooter capable of wrangling buttons.
The game's large and varied arsenal also creates a need for both methods. Aim assist works well with standard firearms like the .303 Storm Rifle and Chimera-inspired Razor, but firing a shot from the sniper rifle requires manual targeting. However it's rare that you're required to use a specific weapon; instead, you're encouraged to develop your own tactics around enemy weaknesses and your choice of weapon.
Finding successful strategies is crucial online where Resistance: Retribution sheds its silly storytelling for the finest multiplayer action of any portable game to date. The five modes - Free for All, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Assimilation, and Containment - support a maximum of eight players via both adhoc (local) and infrastructure (internet) networking.
Everything is unified through PlayStation Network, which ensures the streamlining of features such as player profile, statistical tracking, and voice communication.
Online matches also tap into a full reward system complete with a dozen ranks, medals, and other bonuses. This gives multiplayer enormous weight, encouraging extended play to achieve the highest ranks and adorn your profile with bronze, silver, and gold medals.
The two original modes, Assimilation and Containment, add a unique twist to multiplayer that works well with the series as well. Indeed, in many ways, Resistance: Retribution is a better multiplayer game than single player adventure.
But thankfully, this is a game that excels as a non-stop single player campaign, marred only by questionable writing, coupled with fantastic multiplayer, and wrapped in some of the best visuals to grace the handheld.
Yes, Resistance: Retribution is the dose of great gameplay the PSP has so desperately needed. Let's just hope the supplies keep coming.