Since its debut alongside the PlayStation 3 in 2006, Resistance has always seemed like a series in search of an identity, with the original Resistance: Fall of Man coming off as a remarkably strong blend of popular genre entries, and sequel Resistance 2 delivering a buffet-like assortment of play options. But latest game Resistance 3 finally establishes a fresh voice for the series, and it's not accomplished through a laundry list of modes or bullet-point-ready features; though with PlayStation Move and 3D support, it certainly has those bits covered. Instead, the third entry stands out thanks to a constant sense of dread and terror that hang like a pall over the unfolding events, which depict the Resistance universe in as grim a fashion as we've seen to date.

Past constructs like the military and government have fallen in the wake of the alien Chimera invasion, and all that's left is for lead Joseph Capelli -- who wrested that role away from Nathan Hale in Resistance 2's bloody coda -- to fight for his family and other remaining survivors by trekking from the Midwest into the frozen core of New York City.

Capelli's quest takes on a strange road trip feel to it, with new adventures, allies, and antagonists found in each point on the map, but it's not the narrative or characters that help Resistance 3 deliver one of the most sensational shooter campaigns in recent years. It's the constant tension felt in each and every enemy encounter, whether you're fighting off a swarm of crawling buggers, wearing down a towering spider boss, or introducing flaming buckshot to scads of fast-moving bipedal beasts.

Many shooters try to build tension via momentous cutscenes or frustrating bottlenecks, but Resistance 3 keeps the pace delightfully stressful throughout thanks to challenging and resourceful foes, plus careful health and ammo placement and the expected slate of fabulously creative and multidimensional firearms. In place of the military tone that dominates the genre, Resistance 3 emphasises terror and uncertainty via harried battles and a killer dose of atmospheric aesthetics.

It's rare that the room you run into will be any more hospitable than the one you scurried out of, and no other shooter in recent memory has delivered the kind of breath-stealing mini-freakouts that I experienced here.

Resistance 3

And while some of the up-close details (notably the character models) lack crispness, the overall visual approach here is outstanding, with wonderfully depressing views that are picturesque in a miserable, "world-is-doomed" sort of way. Thanks to some sizzling camera effects and slick set-pieces -- like a barn collapsing around you early on -- Resistance 3 makes a strong aesthetic impression. Its vision of a destroyed, post-invasion 1950s may not offer the kind of iconic originality of BioShock's Rapture, but it's clear that Insomniac put a ton of time into delivering a world that feels simultaneously lived-in and now utterly devoid of meaningful occupation.

 Next page: Heart and soul?