Resistance: Fall of Man PS3 Review - 09/04/2007

Touted as Playstation 3's killer app, or at the very least its best launch title, Resistance: Fall of Man has had huge pressure heaped upon it throughout development, but have Insomniac Games fulfilled everyone's great expectations?

The game takes place in the somewhat tired World War II era, albeit slightly later than usual, and containing aliens, futuristic weapons and an alternate history. Ok, so it's not exactly Call of Duty, but the levels and settings all feel a little familiar if you've played virtually any World War II game within the last five years – however, you could argue that Insomniac has used this to their advantage. This common (yet dramatic) setting, suddenly packed with ugly, beastly aliens is a shock to the system, and creates an eerie atmosphere within the game.

You play as Nathan Hale, an American soldier shipped to our very own Britain to join the last line of defence against the Chimera, who were brought about from an alien disease that infected humans in Russia and spread quickly across the rest of Europe. The world was forced to unite against the threat, thus in an alternate history that avoids the Second World War, until eventually, much like in the real history of the time, just Britain and America were left against the ultimate enemy. It's basically a mix between War of the Worlds and every other sci-fi book and film ever produced.

The Chimera aren't just your every day green aliens, they've been lovingly created in the style of Insomniac's other characters – pretty bizarre looking, yet strangely believable. Because most of this particular species is made up of captured humans (with implanted breathing apparatus and heightened abilities and reflexes) they do look appropriately real in that sense. Seeing your comrades taken and merged into aliens is an emotional experience, especially as one of the levels takes place in a fish-cannery in Grimsby, or more precisely, a conversion centre for the Chimera.

It's all set in England in fact, ranging from York, to Grimsby, to London, and while there's not a huge variety in the backdrops in terms of colour and design, with most of it being browny-grey bombed out buildings, it look beautiful and there is so much going on at once.

He may be ugly, but that monstrous fiend used to be human – as you can tell by his atrocious aiming

Of course, Resistance is first person, and while the PS3 certainly needed a great game in this genre for launch, there are reams of similar games on other consoles. However, Resistance does a number of things differently to the Call of Dutys and Halos. While the structure is mostly the same in that you kill as many enemies as you can, pick up 'med-kits' (in the form of yellow Chimeran glass jars), and use an extensive array of weaponry in the process, Insomniac have given the game their individual charm – it certainly has a lot more character than Call of Duty 3, and when compared with Halo 2, the story is a lot more FPS-friendly, with none of the confusing intertwining plotlines going on.

However, it's not as simple as fighting the aliens until everyone except you is dead in a slushy mulch on the floor – far from it. In fact, there are numerous plot twists along the way, and you get very attached to Hale and the female British Intelligence Officer narrating and helping you (and getting herself into trouble) along the way.

The Chimera's most popular infection device are cat-sized crawling scorpions which look fantastic in one of the game's many film-like set pieces, with hundreds of these creatures scampering down the inside of a cathedral you just entered with a few fellow soldiers. Earlier in the game, when you first come across these aliens, you are knocked unconscious and infected, but you remain human, the only person to have reportedly survived such an attack. Hale is actually half-transformed into a Chimera from this assault, with their strength enhancements, yellow eyes, and their respective weaknesses too – however, visually he's still human, and as the playing character in the game, you must help the Americans and British fight against the aliens, exploiting your newfound strengths.

Mellow yellow – there is a definite blandness to certain environments, but this is Grimsby we're talking about

This actually explains a lot, such as your ability to use the Chimera's medkits, your increased power, and instant knowledge of their weaponry. It's actually nice to have a game that explains your superhuman abilities, rather than simply putting cheesy bullet-time or fifty feet jumping down to heightened reflexes – thankfully, Resistance contains none of the gimmicks that similar games have fallen into the trap of using.

It all feels strangely realistic. Insomniac have used their expertise in adventure and platforming games to create a slow pace in the opening few levels, which still manages to be compelling. You're drip-fed the different guns in the game, allowing you to get highly skilled at using each one before the next comes along. You can carry as many weapons as you like, which is just as well because they're all so much fun to use that you'd be constantly cringing to see any of them left on the floor. Couple this with the fact that you need to employ each weapon skilfully to take down certain enemies, and it's a very welcome feature in the game. Ammo is scarce too, so you won't necessarily have a choice over which weapon to use on the general cannon fodder, and it's up to you to be intelligent about the conservation of your ammunition.

New enemies are introduced similarly slowly to the weapons. Having to take on some of the behemoth sized aliens you see later in the game with the World War II shotgun or machine gun you begin with would be ludicrous and virtually impossible – similarly, starting with all the guns would be overwhelming and shallow once you begin to get into the eleven large levels of the game's core (each split into three mini-levels, expect for the finale, which is two). You patiently gain access to some truly amazing weaponry that the Rachet and Clank developers are loved for.

One example is the Hedgehog grenade, which hovers up from the ground after being thrown, before unleashing a hail of nails outwards – great for taking out many Chimera at once (although similarly effective at killing yourself). Another fantastic armament is one of the earliest weapons, virtually a Chimeran assault rifle, which has an ingenious alternate fire mode that places a tag, and if carefully aimed, can allow you to fire blind from behind cover, with all your quick-fire laser bullets homing onto the tag. There are heaps of weapons in the game, all with alternate fire modes, and each as effective and instantly likeable as the last. You'll be using your very first weapon right on the last level – the balancing of each is so impressive that you wouldn't ever want to dismiss one from your arsenal.

You really get attached to your allies, and fight for each one's life – they'll all die of course, but nevertheless, they're certainly not mindless drones

Enemies range from human-like beings to giant mechanical striders and huge wolf creatures – the first time you see each one is a moment to remember – you also get the Insomniac sense of humour coming through in some of them, particularly the stumbling, yet deadly, worker drones, which we'll leave you to enjoy if you buy the game. There are many moments of awe throughout the game, and, quite a lot like Halo, they're all very memorable and the sort of things you'll want to tell people about later.

The gameplay itself is structured around objectives, which usually involve getting to a certain point before a cut scene triggers the main task (although there are context sensitive commands that activate certain objective completions). This leaves you just shooting things for the mostpart, and it would be nice to have an element of strategic play in there – even if it's just flipping switches to open doors, no matter how much fun the gunning is. However, the no holds barred shooting elements mean the game flies at a fast pace, because while cover is vital in the game, you do feel that there is a sense of urgency about everything in the game – it never really occurs to you that you have the time to stand still and admire the levels.

Insomniac have also used the medkits to create a very tense and strategic style of combat. It may just be shooting the enemy in theory, but your health is displayed in the bottom left of the screen, and split into quarters. Once you get infected early in the game, your health will automatically recharge to the top of the quarter that your health is currently in; so if you narrowly avoid death from a grenade, your health will in time recharge to fill the first quarter, leaving three empty. Every 'medkit' or bright yellow jar that you pick up fills a new quarter of the bar, so it's essential that you find as many of these as possible. The developers have masterfully placed these so that every section of every level is a struggle – you'll be longing for the next checkpoint and medkit, but it's always within range and nothing ever feels overly harsh or stingily placed.

There are a few variations in Chimeran character models, but the ginger humans captured don't necessarily get changed into freckly, sunburnable mutants – they're all pretty similar

Covering is basically done using L2, which is crouch. The key is to wait until you're at the lower end of a quarter in health terms, and then retreat to let it recharge before going in again. However, this is easier said than done, and the Chimera aren't stupid – they will advance on you if they see you turning your back and legging it away. Their flanking ability is intermittent, but for the majority of the time they are much more than the stationary targets some have suggested. Because the next medkit is likely to be just after you clear a barricade or room, there is always that reachable target to strive for, and huge sighs of relief are constantly breathed when you get back to full health. The checkpoints are not regular, but because each section always feels winnable, it's never too taxing or frustrating. It's certainly far better than just respawning outside the room, or at the other extreme, starting the level again. Some will get annoyed by it, but for me and what I want from games, it keeps me on my toes, and gives it all an edge of tension.

The physics in the game are also particularly impressive. Pretty much all objects will be moved with a grenade, and doors will open on fridges, snooker balls can be shot around a table and there are spherical explosive devices which litter most levels, and are great fun in co-op. As an example, a friend and I were playing through the level, laughing as we blew up the spheres that some Chimera workers were carrying around, until we came to a tunnel leading into the depths of the facility. Surrounding it were ten or more of these explosive balls. Usually you find them in vertical racks, allowing you to blow up the one at the bottom and see the others jump up in the air, then down, then have the next one explode and see it all repeated with the physics, like an upright Newton's Cradle.

It's all very unpredictable though, but you can plan attacks using grenades and the physics very effectively. As we approached the tunnel, my friend who was in a bit of a careless frame of mind, waited until I was in the tunnel, before shooting the ball furthest from us – this set off a chain reaction and sent the remainder of the balls hurtling down the tunnel, which he had now fled into, and it all kicked off. He was thrown off the edge of the raised platform on the other side of the tunnel, whereas I crouched down low and survived with the very lower end of the final quarter of my health remaining.

One of the standout moments in the game, ruined for you. Still, it looks incredible yes?

As one last example of the great physics, you can actually shoot the pipes on the Chimera's breathing apparatus, causing them to slowly lose health and their healing ability. You always know a great game when your best moments aren't 'killing that boss' or 'completing that level' – the games that let you define your experience, whether it's with weapon choice, multiple routes, multiplayer or something else.

Speaking of multiplayer, as well as offline co-op, you can go online with 40 players in huge lag-free environments, over tons of game modes. When the Xbox 360 can barely manage 16 players (in fairness), to see Sony providing lag-free dedicated servers for everyone, and with 40 players in each, and for free – it's a very good early sign. The scenery and graphics are straight out of the single player but with the buildings and structure of these maps completely reworked. This is so much more than the traditional tacked on FPS multiplayer.

Playing in ranked games will advance you in levels, with accessories and unlockables available as you progress, and there are numerous intelligent features impressing instantly for a developer with little experience in the field. Weapon placement is clever, with a certain time elapsing before they reappear, and with the fantastic balancing on each gun anyway, you never get the Halo feeling that people are rushing for the best gun. The sniper rifle for example is pretty poor, and while you do see people running and gunning at close range with it, they very rarely get a kill out of it.

Co-op play is great fun, especially if you kick ass like these two

Each weapon in the single player has been designed with multiplayer in mind. The Auger, which fires laser pulses that can travel through cover, building up more momentum with each object passed through, has an alternate fire mode that deploys a shield, deflecting all weapons except Auger fire. Seeing people's reaction to the deployment of these shields is great fun, and barraging them with Auger shots while confusion reigns is truly satisfying. The other guns too have similarly deep and involving moments to savour. Even the basic human machine gun is effective enough to fend off even the most skilled online gamers – it really is brilliantly balanced.

Updates are already coming in quickly too, with two new modes out now for free and premium maps following shortly. Clans are supported, and while the friends list is specific for Resistance, the players-met list is updated with who you've played on the XMB, allowing fairly easy friend additions. Of course, arranging games isn't exactly polished with no system wide chat feature like on the Xbox 360, but it's still not too hard to get it all worked out. Headsets are supported and various people set it upon themselves to create headset only games, which is all for the best.

One thing which flows throughout this game is the atmosphere. Whether it's eerie background noises, drifting dust, empty rooms and locations that still feel so 'lived-in', or just the characters of your friends and fellow soldiers in the game, that are brought out brilliantly with instantly lovable, if not stereotypical, voice acting. There's a coat of polish throughout the game, which, even with fifty enemies on screen, mind blowing detail in each area and explosions going off all around, stays constant and impressive.

The Chimera and their character models look and sound brilliant. However there is limited variation in each different alien class – so every worker and soldier on the enemy side looks pretty much the same. Human soldiers have different appearances, and online you can customise your character nicely. Some of the enemies in the game look genuinely terrifying, and while a few more death animations would be appreciated, it really does all look top notch for the mostpart. Don't listen to the people calling it bland, boring and repetitive – that couldn't be further from the truth.

Some of the scenery is simply breathtaking

An improvement for the game that I certainly would have appreciated is a bit more of a tutorial. You're left in the dark as to what part the SIXAXIS controller plays and it's often crucial to use it to shake off a grabbed on enemy, remove weapon tags and extinguish yourself if you catch fire and the online play is similarly difficult to get into with little guidance available. Something as simple as figuring out who's on your team is troublesome, with the ability to play as human or Chimera (with a unique special ability for each, again not explained) leaving a great deal of ambiguity over the enemy – basically it should only show their PSN ID if they're an enemy, but this isn't the most reliable thing in the world and can lead to embarrassing hesitance. With that said, the rest of the multiplayer is brilliant, and after a few games you'll be well and truly hooked.

Killer app? It's the best launch title and much better value for money-wise than MotorStorm, whether that makes it a killer app is really down to how much you love aliens, online deathmatches, and first person shooters. 425 is always going to be too much money for one game alone, but strengthening the PS3's launch lineup as this has done, you could quite conceivably state that the Playstation 3's launch as a package is its killer app, and that this goes along way to helping that thought.

There is a huge amount of life in Resistance, from the multiplayer, to the extra targets such as getting ten headshots in a row, it really is the complete package. Fighting off the alien hordes is a joy, and the game has such excellent graphics, audio and story that you really won't want to put it down for a long time.

- Michael Hazleton


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