PSP has a difficult time handling the demands of modern action titles. The lack of a second analog nub cripples most games that dare follow the trajectory of similar console-based efforts. Luckily, Bend has had two previous "trials" to get it right, and this time the gang nailed it. While the developer guiding my tour described the demo as a "before pre-alpha" build, I was amazed by the game's playability. At the core of Retribution's gameplay is what Bend's calling the "aim assist box."
What's not pictured in the screenshot at the top (try this one) is a thinly outlined box that fills a decent portion of the inner screen. Any enemies within this box can be auto-targeted using the face buttons; the topmost enemy can be locked onto with a tap of the Triangle-button, the leftmost targeted by Square, and so forth. While it sounds suspect, the mechanic doesn't make Retribution easier, just easier to play. Other game actions are conveniently mapped to the d-pad, including an intuitive and organized weapon-equipping menu.
"I got a kick out of the familiar faces I encountered, and then obliterated."
The demo took place in the first segment of a Chimeran "conversion center" about midway through the game. Visually, in terms of art direction, Retribution looks more akin to its Syphon Filter predecessors than its PS3 namesake. Nonetheless, the various Chimeran models are easily recognizable, and I certainly got a kick out of the familiar faces I encountered ... and then obliterated (for the record, they were Hybrids and Steelheads). Insomniac president Ted Price insisted that Bend stay consistent with the series' trademark weapons. Resistance: Fall of Man challenged players to master the nuances of the game's eclectic arsenal and Retribution seems dedicated to the same goal. There won't be an entirely new bags of toys (I was packing a Carbine, Bullseye, Auger and LAARK, among other things), though some returning weapons' alternate fires have been tweaked.
As I worked my way deeper into the facility, I marveled at the vast, alien architectures towering around me. A Sony producer explained I was in a miles-deep gorge dug out by the Chimera and built into a sprawling conversion center, powered by a diverted Rhine river (don't you just love alternate history?). I moved in and out of cover, which is also automagic, fighting my way through swarms of enemies, throwing switches, riding floating platforms, venturing deeper into metallic caverns. The demo climaxes with a mid-level boss battle: a giant mech of a thing.
I was nervous at first, still not buying into the control mechanics. How am I gonna get through this one? I worried, imagining a tangled mess of fingers and wrists wrapped around the PSP, struggling for control. But, sure enough, Bend had given me all I needed, and nothing more. I downed that mech, ducking and dodging, firing rockets into its dome. Too easy? No, I died once. But it was no fault of Sony Bend's.
Resistance: Retribution is currently on schedule for a spring 2009 release. The game will also include a multiplayer component.