In Resistance: Fall of Man, scrappy human soldiers in the UK go up against a technologically superior (and seemingly alien) foe in an alternate, World War 2 era universe. To those uninitiated in gaming culture, this may sound like War of the Worlds updated by half a century.
If only it were that whimsical. As a PS3 launch game, you can’t fault developer Insomniac for making Resistance a comfortable and conservative experience, but at this point it is mostly good for building up interest in Resistance 2.
Almost everything in Resistance will be familiar to action game aficionados. While technically set in the early 1950’s, the outdoor environments are reminiscent of any World War 2 shooter. The enemy Chimera bear some resemblance to Gears of War’s Locusts, while their technology and architecture looks to have been contracted out to the Combine from Half Life 2. The controls are immediately familiar, the health is Halo style, and the friendly AI worthless.
About the only thing it does drastically different is the weapons, which is understandable because the developers are the guys behind Ratchet and Clank. The arsenal in Resistance is divided between conventional ballistic weapons, and exotic Chimeran technology. The former are not surprising, but they all have a distinct feel and behavior. Even the standard assault rifle and shotgun will remain useful to the end once you get the feel for them, and in fact may be your staple weapons.
The Chimeran gear is rather exotic and most are interesting to use. The base plasma rifle is slow and inaccurate, but allows you to tag enemies, which will cause rounds shot in any direction to home in, meaning you can shoot from around a wall or into the air. There is also a heavy weapon that gets stronger when it is shot through walls, and will shield all incoming fire except for its own type.
Mastering these takes some time, but becomes crucial on the harder difficulties when Chimera rush you in great enough numbers that every round in every gun is needed. For the record, Resistance’s weapons are also different in that you get the whole arsenal rather than two guns at a time, something that every developer other than Valve seems to fear.
Considering how safely Resistance is designed, I had both more and less fun with it than I expected. The weapons make each battle much more interesting than they would have been otherwise, and the HL2 inspired areas are very welcome. On the other hand, the scripted sequences are hardly exciting, and are often done on the sly to keep you from noticing them. Even with the maximum number of troops on the screen, Resistance rarely gives the same feeling of scope and intensity as many of the best shooters.
By the end of the overly lengthy campaign I felt little reason to continue. The fact that the finale (obviously) sets up for a sequel makes it even less compelling. The ending is the typical “this was only one small part of the much bigger war,” making you wonder why you even bothered in the first place. There is no sense that maybe, just maybe, the apocalypse occurs. The heroes were always going to win, so why were you needed?
There are other factors to consider when weighing the case for Resistance. For one, it was a launch title, and from that perspective there is loads more polish and care put into this than you normally see in launch window games. Second, it is the multiplayer that is the actual focus. With support for up to 40 players, the MP goes for a level above and beyond its console competition, and the unique weapons grant the potential for interesting strategies.
However, the lack of a strong userbase for PS3 multiplayer means that by now the game is owned by the elite players who can snipe you with a shotgun blast. Like Counterstrike, you can get better with practice, but mastering the weapons may not be worth it when there is better competition to be found in other games.
So, as mentioned at the start, Resistance best serves as a reminder of what a better game its sequel might be. Everything here is in place, and Insomniac just needs to build on it. Bigger levels, bigger multiplayer battles, new weapons and some co-op modes could make Resistance 2 the go-to shooter on the PS3.
Yet by doing these things, it will only continue to ape the competition. All of these improvements are on the bullet lists of every other premier action game in the business. Certainly the PS3 could use an exclusive to match the 360 exclusives like Gears of War and Halo, but the formulaic nature of these games makes me pine for none of them.
In the future, whatever franchise has the most well rounded offering is going to get my time and money. Everything else will get a rental at best. For now, Resistance falls squarely into the latter camp.