An Hour With... Resistance: Fall of Man

Hey there folks and welcome to another instalment of An Hour With..., my still relatively new blog feature wherein I choose a random game from my enormous backlog and spend sixty minutes with it to determine whether I should PLAY it to completion, or PASS on the experience. The overarching aim of this feature is to help me whittle down my immense Pile of Shame by giving me some formative time with each title rather than simply casting games aside at random. If you're a newcomer to the series then you can get a flavour for what I'm trying to achieve my reading this introduction to the concept, or you can peruse the list of previous entries by means of the table below:

Previously on An Hour With...
#001 - WipEout (PS1C)

Today's game chosen at random by the Backloggery's awesome Fortune Cookie feature is a first-person shooter from the earliest days of the PlayStation 3. What is it, and how will it fare through its opening hour? Read on to find out more...

The Game

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Resistance: Fall of Man is a sci-fi first-person shooter developed by Insomniac Games and released in November 2006 (at least in Japan and the US - Europe had to wait until March 2007) as a launch title for the PlayStation 3. Set in our world, albeit on an alternate timeline where World War II never happened, the game puts the player in the shoes of Sergeant Nathan Hale, part of an American task force sent to England to assist in the fight against a mysterious alien race known as the Chimera. Combining Insomniac's established love of weird and wonderful weapon designs with a real-world setting and a first-person perspective, Resistance was very positively received at launch. It gave birth to a franchise which to date consists of two sequels and two handheld spin-off titles, the most recent being 2012's Resistance: Burning Skies for the PlayStation Vita.

The History

I'm afraid this section of the blog, dedicated to explaining why I own the game and whether I've attempted to play it before, won't be quite as interesting as it was in the last instalment of An Hour With.... I bought the digital version of Resistance: Fall of Man in a sale on the PlayStation Store back in October of last year. My main drive behind buying it was curiosity - I was aware of the franchise's reputation, and I've loved every Insomniac-developed game I've played to date, so it seemed like a smart purchase. I can't remember the exact amount I paid for it, but I doubt it would have been anything more than a few pounds. Beyond launching it and playing the opening five minutes a couple of times, I haven't touched Resistance before, so I'm going in pretty green today.

The Hour

This is the bulk of the blog, where I get down to the nitty gritty and provide a blow-by-blow account of my first sixty minutes with the game in question - in-game actions and progress, along with observations and opinions can all be found below. An advance warning that these next few sections will contain some early story spoilers, so anyone who hasn't yet played the game but intends to in the future may want to give this a miss. After powering on my PS3 I locate Resistance in the XMB menu and hit the X button to launch the game...

Five Minutes In...

As is usual for me, my first couple of minute with Resistance are spent in its Options menu. There's nothing much of note - the expected option to invert the Y axis is here, alongside a handful of controller layouts to cater for all FPS tastes. I decide to settle for the default layout, slightly worried about some of the controller mapping (putting grenades on a face button that a lot of other shooters use for reloading is bound to cause some hapless suicide bomber moments over the ensuing hour). With that, I return to the main menu and opt to start a New Campaign. Given a choice of three difficulties, I select Hard. I'm not the best player out there, but I can usually hold my own through an FPS campaign one step above the default difficulty level.

The game opens with a lengthy cut-scene that sets the stage for the ensuing action. It's pretty standard alternate timeline sci-fi fare - biological experiments in Russia, alien creatures wiping out human-kind, last-ditch resistance efforts by the survivors, and so on. The plot isn't going to set the world on fire, but the opening narration does enough to get me at least a little invested in what's going on, as does the setting (it's not very often you get a game like this set in jolly old England, after all). Interestingly, this initial cut-scene (and most of the others that come after it) isn't rendered in-engine. Instead, it's laid out like a field report with grainy static photos and pieces of intel filling the screen. I'm not sure if the effect is intended, but it serves to make the actual gameplay footage look all the more impressive once the sepia filter fades away and the action gets going. Considering it's a launch game running on hardware that's over a decade old at this point, Resistance still looks pretty damn good. I'm sure it must have blown away anyone coming to this from the PlayStation 2 as their introduction to the new generation (a judgement I feel qualified to make, having started this almost straight off the back of playing Beyond Good & Evil).

After a short loading screen, the action shifts to a first-person perspective and I'm handed the reins. Let's shoot some aliens!

Fifteen Minutes In...

I guess I'm not quite as good as first-person shooters as I thought. Either that or I've been completely spoiled by modern shooter conventions like regenerating health. I've managed to make it through the first level of Resistance at this point, but I've died a lot in the process. Enemy fire is frustratingly accurate, to the point where it feels like bullets are homing in on me at times, and the lack of regenerating health or discernible healing items throughout the level means I've inched forward in stages rather than feeling like I've made solid progress. It's become so frustrating that I decide to back out and start over again on the Normal difficulty level - I'd rather see more of what this game has to offer than keep bashing my head against the same encounters over and over again.

It's not all bad news though. The shooting feels great, the aiming is responsive and the guns I've used so far have been fun to use and mess around with. The Chimera's Bullseye rifle is particularly worth mentioning - its alternate fire can be used to 'tag' enemies with a homing beacon which draws all subsequently-fired bullets in their direction. It's really rewarding to land one of these beacons on an enemy, then duck behind cover, fire into the sky and watch as the bullets re-route themselves towards your painted target. It's a great design for a weapon and one that screams Insomniac, given their inventive history with the arsenals in the Ratchet & Clank series. I'm really interested to see what other kinds of weird and wonderful weapon designs the Chimera have up their sleeve. Hopefully I'll see something else before my hour with the game is up.

Thirty Minutes In...

Okay, maybe I shouldn't have scaled back the difficulty when I did. It proves much easier to retrace my steps through the campaign's opening level on Normal, but within a minute of the second level starting, new gameplay mechanics are introduced that dispel a lot of my concerns on Hard. Hale's four-section health bar can now be recovered in two ways - taking cover for a few sections will regenerate enough health to refill the currently depleted section, while generously distributed vials of a substance called 'Sym-Bac' will fill a whole lost section. It's a cool system similar to how I remember Far Cry 2 handling its health and healing. It also means I can afford to be a little more reckless and gung-ho in my approach to combat, which makes things a lot more fun and action-packed. This is how I like playing shooters, as opposed to spending forever ducking behind cover and emerging to take pot-shots now and then.

Within fifteen minutes I've managed to re-clear the first level and march through the second as well. The latter features a vehicle section towards the end that feels a little superfluous to me. It controls fine, and its weapons pack a satisfying punch, but it's incredibly overpowered and I'm not sure the gameplay actually warrants it (although it may pan out as slightly better for those playing in co-op, since they won't have to keep intermittently switching between the driver's seat and the mounted turret). It's too late to do anything about the difficulty now - I've got half an hour left with this game, and I don't want to spend it replaying the same levels over again. On to the third level...

One Hour In...

Resistance continues to throw surprises at me through the last thirty minutes I spend with its campaign. The third level plays very differently to the two before it - whereas those were tightly scripted corridor-based FPS levels, this one throws me into a much more open environment and challenges me to drive off waves of Chimera attackers. The more open level design adds an extra dynamic to the gunplay, making flanking a viable tactic for the first time in the game (up to now the levels have mostly been too narrow to approach enemies from the sides, forcing me to trade bullets from cover most of the time).

From here the game switches things up visually, as Sgt Hale is captured by the Chimera and transported to a conversion centre in Grimsby (and let me tell you, I never thought I'd be playing a game set in Grimsby, of all places). The war-torn streets of York are substituted for interiors that marry the red-brick aesthetics of industrial England with sleek, metallic structures not unlike those of the Combine in Half-Life 2. It's here that I'm introduced to my next piece of Chimera weaponry - the Hedgehog grenade, a thrown weapon that jumps into the air after landing and shoots a multitude of lethal spines in every direction on detonation. I giggle gleefully as my first attempt at using one sends two Chimera hybrids ricocheting off the walls in different directions.

The action moves on much as you might expect, and by the time my sixty minutes with Resistance is up, I've made it comfortably into the campaign's fifth level. Time to weigh in on the overall experience...

The Verdict

I've come away from Resistance: Fall of Man having thoroughly enjoyed my first hour of it. The combat, the core of the whole experience, has been almost constant fun from start to finish. I loved the feel of the guns and the inventive alternate fire modes that encouraged me to approach situations in a multitude of different ways. I liked the way the game mixes things up by including both corridor- and arena-style level design. I also found myself getting caught up in the story, despite its slightly schlocky, B-movie-esque qualities. There's something about the juxtaposition of futuristic alien creations with familiar English architecture that reminded me a little of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, one of my favourite books of all time. I'm particularly keen to find out what becomes of Sgt Hale given he appears to have been infected by the Chimera's Crawlers.

I do have some reservations about Resistance. Chief among them is the current dearth of enemy types - so far I've fought nothing but humanoid hybrids and the occasional pack of skittering leapers (by the way Sgt Hale, Lt Ripley called and she wants her Facehuggers back). I'm hoping that later on the game expands its repertoire of moving targets to include some slightly more weird and wonderful creatures. I'm also a little worried that the slow trickle of new weapon types might dry up as the game progresses, as if that does happen, my interest in seeing more might dry up with it. This is something that Insomniac have always done well with the Ratchet & Clank series, where half the fun of arriving on a new planet is heading to the Gadgetron vendor to see what new implements of destruction on offer. Even so, these relatively minor concerns aren't enough to put me off playing more right now, and that's why Resistance: Fall of Man gets a PLAY verdict from me.

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That's going to do it for this instalment of An Hour With.... Join me again next time when I'll be putting the opening hour of another game through its paces to determine whether I should PLAY it or PASS on it - specifically, I'll be visiting an old survival horror game from the original PlayStation. Until then, thanks very much for reading this blog. Take care folks, and I'll see you around.

Daniel

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Currently playing - Resistance: Fall of Man (PS3)

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