Resistance: Fall of Man Review
Now that Sony's Playstation 3 has launched and all the hype is over and done with, it's time to look at the games that were released alongside the PS3. Resistance: Fall of Man is the system's first FPS and it's made by Insomniac Games, the guys who created the Ratchet & Clank series - it certainly looks to be the most visually impressive title to release with the PS3, but is anything other than the graphics truly "next-gen"?
Resistance takes place in an alternate-history World War 2. It's 1951, and since the 1930s, an alien-like race called the Chimera have been storming west through Russia and Europe, and they have finally invaded and taken over England. That's right: there are no Nazis here, as World War II has become something entirely different in this game. You'll play as Army Sergeant Nathan Hale who has been sent over the Atlantic to help the British in their last stand to stop the Chimera from finishing off what's left of Europe.
You'll quickly find out that the Chimera are a rather disgusting race of alien life forms that convert humans into their own kind (like the Strogg did in the Quake series). Their technology is more advanced, giving the game a nice feel of WW2-era environments mixed with some really futuristic Chimera architecture and weapons. The action is 100% first person and you'll find yourself fighting alone pretty often. Sure, you've got some British troops to help you during the bigger firefights, but you will quickly realize that this is no Gears of War - your buddies are little more than speed bumps for the Chimera onslaught. It'll be up to you to take out dozens of the Chimera at a time while the rest of your allies are killed by the dozen. The Chimera are definitely tough creatures and it will take you plenty of ammo to get through even a squad of them, so it becomes important early on to use the right guns against the right enemies and not to waste ammo or you could find yourself totally empty. And this stays true even though you can carry around all of your guns at the same time.
There are some interesting parts to the story here that affect gameplay. The Chimera are able to assimilate humans by infecting them with a virus, then their bodies are taken to facilities for the final steps of conversion. But Hale seems to be partially resistant to the virus, as he has been infected along with thousands of others yet he has not been "turned" and has retained almost all of his human qualities. One perk is that Hale's health can regenerate, although not fully. The way it works is this: you've got four "blocks" of health which can be whittled away one at a time, but if you can get behind cover for more than a few seconds, then your health will regenerate to fill up whatever block of health you're on. So the end effect is that a few hits here and there won't cause any real damage if you can stop getting hit, but if you take major damage then you'll have less to work with until you can find some of the Chimera's serum stuff that is lying around.
The weapons you'll use are a mix of human and Chimera types, and there's a pretty good variation here along with a few new ideas (which is saying a lot considering how many shooters have tried and failed to innovate their arsenals). Beside the automatic rifle with included grenade launcher, there's a sniper rifle that can induce slow motion, a sticky-mine launcher, a rather erratically-firing machine gun that can become deadly-accurate when you paint your target first, a very satisfying shotgun with an alternate double-barrel trigger, a nailgun-type weapon whose projectiles can ricochet off walls, and plenty more. There's even more that unlock once you beat the game, and three difficulty levels help to make sure that there's a challenge for any player. There are also vehicles you can use in Resistance like a very powerful tank, but overall I found that these sequences are few and far between. I would have liked to see a bit more of the vehicles overall.
Your enemies are mostly the "grunt" form of Chimera, but there are plenty of battles where you'll have to take on larger Chimera bosses and other constructs, and sometimes you'll need to find weak points to pinpoint or fight previously-killed bosses over again with less ammo or in cramped spaces. Most of your enemies use the inaccurate Bullseye gun, but its high firing rate mean you'll definitely be taking some hits here and there. Some of the boss fights take place at the end of a rather large battle where there's plenty of explosions and gunfire going on, but I found that overall Resistance doesn't do quite as much to give you the full experience of a true war as we've seen in games like Call of Duty. Maybe it's because none of the other characters in the game are remotely memorable, and maybe it's because what little they say is largely useless to you, but while the action's great, it just doesn't have that extra "oomph" that many of true FPS classics have to make them stand out.
As far as controls go, I think you'll find that Resistance is pretty similar to most FPS games out there with only a few notable changes. One is that the PS3's SIXAXIS controller now has two analog, squishy-feeling triggers in place of the L2 and R2 buttons. It seems that the guys at Insomniac didn't like the idea of firing your guns with these, so those buttons are assigned to crouching (L2) and switching weapons (R2). The R1 button is actually what fires while the L1 button is an alternate fire, and this will likely take some getting used to. You can change the assignments if you like, but I tried it and I think I'm in agreement with Insomniac - the default controls work best.
The motion-sensing features of the SIXAXIS are also used - tilt the controller to one side to see a map in multiplayer, tilt to the other to bring up a scoreboard. There are a few in-game sequences where you'll also need to shake the controller wildly to escape tough situations, like when you're on fire or are being grabbed by a Chimera up close. It may not be revolutionary, but it is a nice change of pace to actually have to physically do something to break free.
The graphics in Resistance are great, although I'll admit right now that my 50" DLP television doesn't do "full HD" - it only does 720p instead of 1080p. That being said, the textures and designs of the crushed and battered English cities still look very nice and the level design keeps you moving without too much delay. The frame rate is a rock-solid 30fps in all gameplay modes online and offline - certainly a nice change if you've played some recent multi-platform PS2 shooters. From a visual perspective I still prefer Gears of War's art style, but this game is certainly a worthy competitor.
The story winds up taking a couple of twists and turns and the ending is a little disappointing, but overall I enjoyed the twelve hours or so of single player action. Story elements are mostly explored via some hand-drawn cutscenes between levels and through some intelligence items you can pick up here and there, but overall the game really is pretty light on story and it doesn't give you the feel of a living, breathing world like Gears or even Half-Life 2 does. The game does include co-op play through the whole thing, but it's only in a two player split-screen mode and not online. Still, Resistance is even more intense and fun in co-op than it is when playing alone.
The versus online play makes up for the lack of online co-op at least somewhat. Resistance supports up to 40 players on one server and five distinct game types and across quite a few maps, all of which scale in size for different numbers of players - this ensures a tight, competitive game even if you've only got 8 or 16 people. There are plenty of welcome online features like clan creation, 60 military ranks which you can climb through via online achievements, the ability to play Humans or Chimera (each with unique abilities), and some great, fast-paced FPS action. If you haven't taken your PS3 online yet, then four-player split screen versus play is also available.
As far as console launch games go, I've seen better (Soul Calibur, Lumines, Halo, and a few Mario titles come to mind), but Resistance: Fall of Man is certainly up there with some of the best. It's got fast action and a great mix of WW2 and sci-fi atmospheres, and offline co-op and some frantic online versus play really round out the package. With only a few disappointments to really note and plenty of good reasons to pick this one up, you should definitely consider Resistance once you get your hands on a PS3.