A mundane shooter with an awesome collection of weapons
The standards for first person shooters are incredibly high nowadays. The genre has had many outstanding entries in the past seven years. Games like F.E.A.R., Rainbow Six: Vegas, Crysis, Half-Life 2, Call of Duty 4, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. have advanced first person shooters with breakthroughs in AI, physics, tactical firefights, and level design. As a result, games that would have been great five years ago have become somewhat mundane. This brings us to "Resistance: Fall of Man", the flagship launch title for the PS3. It is solid and competent in every way possible, which makes it at least playable. However, other than an excellent selection of weapons, it is lacking in traits that make it particularly exceptional or fun. It is at least worth adding to your collection if you are a hardcore fan of first person shooters, but it doesn't necessarily need to be at the top of your list.
Resistance starts with a twist on a hopelessly overcrowded genre – the World War II shooter. In this game, a mysterious viral outbreak is transforming millions of people into monsters, known as The Chimera. Instead of fighting the Nazis, the British and Americans are fighting for the survival of the human race. You play as Nathan Hale, an American infected by this virus who, for some reason, remains human, but with some special abilities. This story, unfortunately, does not get very interesting beyond a promising beginning. The game occasionally suggests that you will uncover a conspiracy behind the origin or the spread of the virus, or that there is something interesting behind your immunity to it. Documents that you find on each level and some voice-over narration suggest that there is a huge back-story surrounding the game and greater universe built that could come into play later. These potential storylines are never developed, and instead the virus seems like just a convenient substitute to what is essentially an alien invasion. The Chimera end up conveniently providing some sci-fi weapons and nonhuman enemies to keep the game from being just another World War II shooter. Perhaps future installments will round out the story.
The interesting mixture of World War II era and alien sci-fi weapons is easily the strength of this game. It contains the usual weaponry like the automatic rifle/grenade launcher combo, shotgun, and sniper rifle. On top of those weapons, it has some very interesting and creative alien guns. There is the standard issue "pew pew" laser rifle that enemy grunts carry. The alt fire on this weapon tags enemies so that shots will track them – even around corners. Another gun can shoot through walls. Another can spend its entire clip to launch a floating turret. The usual frag grenades are augmented by a "bouncing betty" type grenade that shoots spikes and a fuel-air bomb that creates a big inferno. The strength of the weapons selection isn't just that they have some creative alt fires or the novelty of mixing World War II with science fiction. They are very well balanced and the interesting functions that they provide are also practical. You eventually round out your arsenal with eight guns, all of which you use on a somewhat regular basis. This says a lot for the design and balance of the game, since most games that allow you to carry a lot of guns have just a few that dominate and a few that are useless.
The weapons are the most notable feature in a game that is otherwise lacking in notable features. The enemies that you fight suffer somewhat from a lack of imagination on the part of the developers. There is a basic grunt that you will fight a thousand times with essentially the same weapon every time. There is a tougher version of these guys who carries the gun that shoots through walls. Then there are occasional swarms of spider-like creatures that rush at you and jump on you -- as if fans of first person shooters weren't tired of fighting spiders years ago. There is a tough dog-like creature that howls at charges at you. There is a big tank-like monster that shoots rockets. Then there are gigantic mech creatures. None of these creatures are especially creepy or interesting. Their AI is functional, but not very robust. They have that magical wall-hacking and always aware capability that tends to define AI in less impressive shooters. This means that it is totally impossible to do something like flank your enemies. They also have pretty much perfect aim, even when they are strafing at full speed.
Resistance's firefights are also okay, but not superb. Your regenerating health bar means that you can take out most groups of enemies provided you can find a place to hide if you take a little bit of damage. The fighting lacks some of the special details that have improved some recent shooters. The enemies aren't very dynamic. They generally rush at you or pick one cover spot. There are no cover mechanics that allow you to safely pop in and out of cover to return fire. The shouts and AI barks that you hear from your occasional companions are pretty generic stuff that has been in a dozen other shooters. A lot of fights involve moving forward to trigger the next wave of enemies, and then running backwards for cover, where you can pick them off one at a time.
Most of the levels are also somewhat unremarkable. There is an impressive mixture of indoor and outdoor areas though, so you will get a chance to use your short range melee attack in addition to your sniper rifle and rocket launcher. Beyond this bit of variety, they can get a bit dull. Most of the scenery looks directly pulled out of any World War II game. The bombed-out buildings, the trenches, and the inside of a military base – they are all there. There are also some tunnels and some rather generic sci-fi locations that might remind you of the Combine facilities in Half-Life 2 or The Orange Box. Square shapes like boxes and crates abound. The color palette is a predictable sea of browns and grays. There isn't much to do besides move through each level and shoot everything that gets in your way. Destructible elements in the environment are almost nonexistent. There are some very rare and short-lived vehicle sequences which are a lot of fun to play. In particular, there is one sequence where you drive a jeep cross-country and splatter enemies under your tires while your AI companion mows them down with the machine gun. At the end of the game, you might find yourself wondering why there weren't more of these to break up some of the monotony.
One other asset of this game is its length. There are eleven huge chapters, each of which is broken down into three or four levels. If you are an experienced gamer, the campaign will take you 12 hours or more to finish, even if you don't get killed very often. As modern action games go, it is quite long, and other than an extremely hard first fifteen minutes, there aren't any really bad levels or parts that fail. The downside of the length is that it gets repetitive and bogs down pretty badly in the middle of the game. A little bit more variety in the action, scenery, and enemies could have gone a long way into making this game a great one.
"Resistance: Fall of Man" is very good for a launch title and a solid first entry into the FPS genre for Insomniac, a studio more known for its offbeat "Ratchet and Clank" series. The studio's penchant for creative weapon design shows up here, and everything else in the game at least functions. Resistance is at least a good game, but it is also overshadowed by numerous other genre entries that are worth playing first. If you have already visited these games on your PS3 though and you would like a little something more, you could make a lot worse choices than playing this game.