Set between the events of Resistance: Fall of Man and Resistance 2, Retribution follows the third-person action packed journey of a discharged British Marine, James Grayson.
The game opens with a cutscene where James stumbles across his imprisoned brother in a Chimeran conversion centre and is forced to execute him lest he become one of the enemy. Left with nothing but a traumatising anger, he goes rogue and destroys dozens of conversion centres before being arrested and jailed for desertion.
While in confinement, a French resistance force known as the Marquis call upon his expertise to infiltrate European facilities to assist them develop a serum that will counteract the Chimera conversion process.
The story unfolds in a very interactive way; you can zip through the game watching only the CG and in-game cutscenes, but to get the most out of it you'll have to read Grayson's journal entries and find "intel" (hidden documents). What makes the story work so well is our hero, James Grayson. He starts off as a seemingly clichéd character, but as the game progresses it's hard not to think of him as one of most memorable video game heroes, period. He's a hard arse bloke who's straight to the point; he doesn't care much for anyone else or their cause, and is simply taking the opportunity given to him to further his vengeance for the fate of his brother. There are many cutscenes where you'd think he'd do the "right thing" only to punch someone he doesn't like in the face.
Multiplayer supports up to eight players locally or online, splitting players into teams of Maquis and Cloven soldiers. Modes include the standard deathmatch, capture the flag, containment and assimilation. There's even a point system to track your stats.
Once you've had a run through the twelve hour single player campaign you can play it again for a different experience. By connecting your PSP to the PS3 and selecting Infect Your PSP from the Resistance 2 menu you can infect Grayson with the Chimeran virus.
Grayson will gain a menacing orange glow to his eyes and a stylish black outfit similar to Hale's from Resistance 2. The change isn't purely cosmetic, however, as Grayson gains a regenerative health bar, the magnum from Resistance 2, and the ability to breathe underwater as well as gain access areas otherwise inaccessible while uninfected. In-game cutscenes are affected too with characters commenting on your affliction or exhibiting a more wary attitude. These changes don't carry over to the pre-rendered cutscenes though, but it's a minor quibble.
The weaponry at your disposal is highly satisfying and each piece has a purpose. You won't be able to pick a favourite and play shotgun-hero from start to finish. Sure, you'll find the versatility of the assault rifle and the Chimeran equivalent (the Razor) indispensable, but every situation and enemy requires a thought out approach where your choice of weaponry can determine the difference between a massacre of your foes or the slaughter of our hero.
And if that wasn't enough there are even trophies to unlock not unlike those found on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. While they don't present too much of a difference on the actual game they do provide you with some bragging rights, which is essentially the point of the system anyhow.
So not only do you get a solid single-player campaign, the game also comes with a comprehensive multiplayer aspect and some other unique features. It's very difficult these days to find a PSP title that delivers such a tight package, and it's our hope that this is a taste of what to expect from Sony's other big franchises as they hit the platform later this year.
Sony's Bend Studio's experience with developing third-person shooters for the PSP truly shows as the game is technically solid with minimal load times, excellent graphics and a control scheme that just works. In my preview of Retribution I complained about how the controls initially felt awkward, and took some time getting used to. This still holds true but once you've got it sussed... honestly, you can't imagine how else you could play the game. The nub controls movement while the face buttons control the camera, the d-pad is resigned to multiple actions and R1 is there to fire. It all gels together after about fifteen minutes and your fight against the Chimera with a PSP becomes second nature.
The lock-on assist helps things a lot too; however, this feature is disabled if you connect your PSP to a PS3 and use the option to control Grayson with a Dual Shock 3. Given the higher accuracy of the console controller this is a justifiable trade off.
If there's any fault to be found in the control scheme it's in the cycling of your weapons; you can only cycle forward, not back. It's a strange design choice but is somewhat compensated for by being able to bring up a quick select menu by holding right on the d-pad.
Retribution is similar to how Gears of War works, where you'll have gunfights in setpiece moments while running from cover to cover waiting for an enemy head to pop out. All the way through you'll be taking down Chimeran forces, and while AI isn't anything to write home about, it's the sheer number of enemies you face at any given time that heat things up. About a quarter way through the game you'll have encountered all the enemies the game has to offer but the arenas you fight in as well as the various boss encounters that break them up spare the game from becoming routine tedium.
Retribution is easily one of the best looking games on the PSP with some excellent lighting effects and great level design, but it's the tight audio mix that'll impress. The solid voice-acting brings shame to most console titles while the orchestral score is one worth buying on CD should it become available. Each weapon is given character and punch by its respective sound effects and it's likely the game's sound cues will play over in your head even when your headphones aren't on.
Retribution shows that a console experience can be pulled off better on a portable platform; a paradox of sorts but one formed by truth. It's an essential purchase for any PSP owner and represents an unmatched value on the system. If Sony is saying 2009 is the PSP's year, well then, this is a damn good start.