Reviews  |  PlayStation 3


Resistance: Fall of Man
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By Alex Kierkegaard / February 20, 2007


At this point in time, Resistance: Fall of Man defines mediocrity in the FPS genre. It's got absolutely nothing new to offer, and the only exceptional thing about it is that it's remarkably polished, considering it was made by a company that doesn't usually do FPSes. Apart from Disruptor (1996), Insomniac's first title, which actually was a first-person shooter, the company has churned out three Spyro the Dragon and four Ratchet & Clank games, so yeah, the lack of innovation in Resistance is not surprising -- we are not exactly talking about the most inventive guys in the business here.


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But they sure are a hard-working lot! They built their own engine, for one thing, doing a far better job at it than I would have imagined. You won't see anything here that hasn't already been done on PC during the last couple of years, but it's nice to be able to just stick a disc into a console and play a modern, technically competent FPS, without having to worry about whether your graphics card can handle it.


And that's the most positive thing I have to say about Resistance.


That's not to say that otherwise the game sucks. A lot of effort has gone into getting the basics right, and I could certainly appreciate that. The controls are perfect; there's decent variety in stage and enemy designs; the weapons are satisfying to use and the vehicles handle well; the online mode is of course perfunctory, as in nearly all such games, but at least it supports an unusually large number of players (up to fourty of them on certain maps)... I'd say that anyone but the most hardcore FPS fan would be hard pressed to fault Resistance at a technical level. And yet, despite all that, I was bored with it before even firing a single shot.


That was mostly due to the drab setting. The plot, which can be succinctly described as "World War II meets aliens", is about a parasitic species of monsters trying to take over the world, or something. They've already conquered most of Asia and Europe, and now the British and the Americans join forces to try and hold back their advance in England.


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It boils down to a lone soldier (who has been infected by the virus in question, but somehow survived and gained the ability to regenerate) gunning down hordes of ugly monsters through deserted streets and assorted military installations, arbitrarily whisked off from one location to the next while a female narrator with a ridiculous English accent (I lived in England for five years and I can tell you: no one there talks like that) yaps on and on about instantly forgettable mission objectives and plot developments. The game is as linear as it gets, and the only mildly engaging segments are a couple of open areas that give you a bit more choice in how you approach the enemy, and the few instances when you get to use one of the vehicles (there's a jeep, a tank, and a spider-like robot called the Stalker).


Scripted events and set pieces are recycled from other FPSes and generic sci-fi. There's the scene where you are attacked by dozens of small, agile creatures; the scene where you are called in to give back-up to allies under attack; the scene where a giant monster suddenly bears down on you, etc. etc. None of this manages to make an impression, partly because it's already been done to death, and partly because here it somehow feels thrown together. The obligatory jeep-riding segment, for example, plays as if someone designed it using a math formula. You drive down this gorge which looks as if it's located in someone's backyard, stopping at regular intervals to clear out enemy-held outposts so that you can open up a series of gates. A few minutes later it's all over and you're like "Was that supposed to double for all the awesome Warthog-riding scenarios found in Halo?". And it's the same thing throughout the rest of the game, with stages feeling like disparate locations that you need to empty of enemies, rather than forming a fully-realized environment.


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Almost every effort to generate intrigue and breathe atmosphere into Resistance's world falls flat. Radio chatter and conversations between allied soldiers are unconvincing; the supposedly scary enemies rarely ever manage to scare you; and England never feels as if it's been subjugated and processed like the dismal City 17 of Half-Life 2.



But even those willing to look past the unimaginative setting, contrived plot and humdrum execution shouldn't expect much of a reward. Resistance may be technically competent, as I mentioned, but that's only true up to a point. An hour or two into it and all kinds of shortcomings become apparent.


The stages, saturated as they are in countless shades of grey and brown, are not much to look at: once you've seen a couple of them you've seen them all. It's a case of having an engine capable of producing impressive visuals, but no good artists to take advantage of it. Meanwhile, the physics part of the engine is quite primitive. Explosions are weak, there's little interaction with the environment, no destructible structures, and you can't even open any of the hundreds of doors scattered all around the stages. The giant enemy ships that occasionally fly overhead in the outdoor areas also remain safely out of firing range at all times. The A.I. is also basic -- enemies side-step and duck for cover, or they may move around a bit if they realize you are running scared, but they mostly just sit in one spot waiting to die.


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Resistance does have a few good ideas. Some exotic weapons (a rifle that shoots through solid objects; a chaingun whose fire ricochets off walls); various types of mines that are used to keep you on your toes; a platforming segment where you make your way up a shaft by jumping on air vents blowing upwards. But it's also burdened with gimmicks. Half the weapons are useless, for example, and SIXAXIS functionality is wasted -- when an enemy leaps for your face you have to shake the pad to break loose, in much the same manner as you shake the uzi in The House of the Dead 4, only this ended up happening to me just a single time throughout the whole game. And the skill-points you are awarded for performing certain feats multiple times, and the scraps of intelligence scattered around the stages, are the usual collectible trinkets not worth bothering with. Meanwhile, the lack of vehicles in the online mode is inexcusable, as is the lack of rumble in a console FPS in the year 2006 (though I guess I can't blame Insomniac for this oversight).


I think I would have enjoyed Resistance a lot more had it come out four-five years ago, but by now the bar has been raised a whole lot higher, and so have my expectations. If you don't have access to a decent PC (or even an Xbox 360), in order to taste the latest and greatest the genre has to offer, then Resistance might tide you over for a while (for too long, perhaps -- the game could have benefited from some serious fat-trimming), especially if you intend to tackle the campaign together with a friend (there are still too few co-op games out there). Just, you know, don't expect to be amazed by anything you'll find here.