Reviewed: November 28, 2006
Released: November 13, 2006
As I was preparing this review I was thinking, Resistance: Fall of Man might just be the first game to get more hype than the console youíll be playing it on. Every system has its launch title and the PlayStation 3 gets this FPS from the veteran designers over at Insomniac. And while Resistance may look and play a lot like Call of Duty 3, another FPS launch title, there are some pretty interesting concepts at work.
The story for Resistance is a convoluted mess. Are the Chimera aliens, zombies, or some ancient civilization slowly being dug out from the bowels of the Earth? Actually, itís all three but youíll have to play the entire game to figure out the details. Whatís important is that youíll be spending the next 15-20 hours in some serious combat against creature, machine, and some scary mixes of both.
Even more interesting is that the game takes place in some alternate time line or parallel universe where the Chimera have already taken over Russia back in the 30ís and are now trying to take over England in a far more technically advanced 1951 where US and British soldiers wield all sorts of inventive weapons Ė and not just alien ones Ė as well as flying futuristic drop ships that are more suited to Halo than a post WWII-that-never-happened timeline.
The story is told through lots of maps and black and white photos and still images, mostly narrated by a female voice. Actually, the entire game is played from a storytelling perspective, with you reenacting events that have already transpired. You play as American soldier, Nathan Hale, who has been sent to help with the British resistance, but secrets and plot twists are lurking around the corner of just about all of the 20 chapters.
Resistance offers several game modes including online multiplayer for standard Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and CTF. Then you have some really cool and original modes like Meltdown, which is a domination variant where you take control of cooling stations in an attempt to overheat the enemy reactor. Breach is a variation of Meltdown where you try to destroy the reactor and capture spawn points along the way. And then you have Conversion, a very cool mode where everyone starts off as human and when you die the first time you come back as Chimera and if you die a second time you become a spectator for the rest of the match.
Sadly, the PS3 online network hasnít improved much from what we were forced to tolerate on the PS2. There is little structure to organizing games, and while you can create friends lists and organize clans, it is far more tedious than doing the same thing on Xbox Live. Plus, with no voice chat support, you are forced to text-message gamers in the lobby and have no way to coordinate your team-based games online. Plus, the overall network is plagued with lag and dropped games, making all these amazing modes virtually unplayable, or at least unenjoyable, and that was with games that didnít even approach the maximum of 40 gamers. We had trouble getting 8-on-8 matches to flow smoothly.
Sticking closer to home save the day with a competent solo campaign that you can even play cooperative in a split-screen mode. I couldnít see a noticeable increase in enemy numbers or AI so adding a second player can make the game almost too easy at time. If one player dies they will respawn at the last checkpoint after a certain amount of time or the other player can heal them. If both players die you both respawn at the most recent checkpoint.
Speaking of checkpoints, we may as well get this out of the way earlyÖcheckpoints suck in this game. There is no logic to their placement. Sometimes youíll hit two or three checkpoints really fast with nothing in between and other times youíll play for 20-40 minutes, engaging in multiple serious battles only to die and have to replay those same 20-40 minutes overÖsometimes multiple times. It really kills the spirit of the game because I would always try to play ďintelligentlyĒ, taking cover and taking my time, picking off the enemy and playing like a smart soldier. Then I would die from some stupid mistake and have to replay, only this time I was pissed so I would just rush through like Rambo. And sadly, I often did better playing that way, so the game doesnít really encourage or reward immersive gameplay.
The story mode begins with you getting dumped onto an urban battlefield full of debris, friendly soldiers, and a whole mess of Chimera advancing down the crumbling street. Veterans of FPS games will feel right at home with the controls. Everything is right at your fingertips for switching weapons, firing in both primary and secondary modes, and even tossing grenades. There is a context-sensitive use button that flips switches and enters and exits vehicles. You can crouch but you canít snap to cover, lean, or even go prone. The SIXAXIS is used to some limited extent. I was assuming you could steer the vehicles (like COD3), but alas, I was only able to shake the controller violently to break the hold when I was grappled by an enemy.
Combat is a lot more fun than other FPS games thanks to a great selection of weapons and an arsenal that grows all the way to the very end. Youíll start off with only two or three guns, but by the end youíll be using the radial menu to choose from all sorts of human, alien, and experimental US weaponry, each with exciting primary and secondary functions. There is also a fun assortment of grenades including my favorite; the Air-Fuel grenade that disperses a cloud of gas then ignites the entire room on fire burning anybody and everything inside.
Youíll have plenty of chances to try all these weapons as you go up against an amazing number of enemies. These can be as small as those spidery creatures that hatch from pulsating egg sacks or as large as giant spider tanks who only have a small weak spot. The one thing that really annoyed me was that even when I was a part of a huge battle with dozens of other soldiers all around, the enemy would always focus their attentions on me.
Friendly AI is surprisingly good, especially on the jeep levels where I was driving and the commander was manning the turret in the back. He would lay down some serious cover fire so I could unlock a series of gate switches. He also did quite well when we worked as a team in a few mission. Iím pretty sure he couldnít die, which is always a good trait to look for in a partner.
I really didnít like Resistance when I started playing it. Other than some kooky weapons the game seemed to take the FPS genre back a few years in development, especially when you had the superior Call of Duty 3 being released right alongside. But the more I played the more I liked it, and once they started breaking up the repetitive missions with jeeps and tanks, and started introducing more enemy types and weapons, it got pretty cool. Insomniac did a great job of evenly distributing the content across the entire game, so there is always something new as you advance to the epic final level, which words canít even begin to describe.
Resistance has some incredible character designs with detailed facial features and emotive expressions that come dangerously close to photo-realistic. But overall, the game is pretty standard for a next-gen FPS. There are a handful of soldier model and probably a dozen variants of enemies that you really canít appreciate their gory detail until you are standing over their dead bodies.
Level designs are also pretty standard, at least until you enter alien territory and especially that final levelÖoh, that final level. You have a mix or urban settings as well as wide-open hillsides and even a trip through downtown London in a tank, but the level of destruction is disappointing. Almost nothing explodes or breaks apart. I can fire the main cannon at a row of phone booths and they remain intact. This gets confusing in the jeep levels where you can drive through some fencing but others (that look the same) will stop you dead in your tracks.
Cutscenes are stylish and simple, but for a launch title I want to get blown away by movies, not a boring slideshow that makes me feel like Iím in history class. It seems Insomniac took the cheap and simple route for telling this story. When an actual in-game cinematic happens, itís pretty cool.
The entire game seems to be running through some sort of filter that not only smoothes everything over but also washes out all the imagery. Itís almost as if somebody has been tweaking the brightness and contrast settings. There are no sharp edges or even any real bump mapped textures. The game runs natively at 720p and maintains a silky smooth 30fps in solo play and split-screen.
Itís been awhile since Iíve seen the THX logo on a game case, but Resistance really makes the most of this certification with a brilliant multi-channel sound mix that totally immerses you in the sounds of war and some really creepy alien environments. Considering how smart the flanking AI is in this game it is nice to know you can hear those alien bastards sneaking up on your six.
The music is pretty minimal, mostly kept to the slideshow cinematics and a few ramped up moments of encounters and boss fights. Most of the time youíll be left to the raw sounds of war where each weapon makes numerous unique sounds resulting in devastating effects. Combine all that with soldiers yelling, Chimera hissing, and giant war machines terrorizing the landscape and you have a pretty energetic aural experience.
The voice acting is excellent although most of it is limited to the narration during the cutscenes and the occasional scripted lines for encounters and radio updates. Hale, like most video game heroes, is a man of very few words, so donít expect any witty one-liners.
Solo gamers can blast their way through the campaign in 15-20 hours and you can reduce that estimate if you tackle the game in co-op mode. There is some compelling reasons to replay the game including multiple difficulty levels as well as hidden weapons, and secret documents scattered about the levels, usually in very out-of-the-way locations.
The multiplayer games modes, at least at launch are virtually unplayable. We tried for weeks and only achieved reasonable results on very small sessions of 8 total players or less. Hopefully Sony will work out their online issues, but even if they can reduce or eliminate the lag and dropped players, their entire network needs revamped if they want to ever come close to what Xbox Live is offering. You canít play a team game very well when you can talk to your teammates.
Resistance: Fall of Man started off as just another FPS game with some fancy new weapons, but by the end of the game I was admittedly quite captivated by the variety of monsters, intriguing level design, and the various tactics that my growing arsenal provided. I still hate the illogical checkpoint system that turned a 15hr game into a 22hr game, and the fact that the game can be won by running and gunning more easily than tactical gameplay.
Resistance is good but it certainly isnít as good as everyone wants you to think. Much like Halo 2, the media has been sucked in by all the pre-release hype. And when compared to Call of Duty 3, the only thing Fall of Man really has going for it is that itís a PS3 exclusive. So if you have a PS3 you will most definitely want to check it out.