Last Level Press

Review: Resistance: Fall of Man

Reviewer: Cliff Davenport

The year is 1951.  Russia has gone dark.  Europe has fallen.  All that remains are the few brave souls of the joint British-American task force hell-bent upon reclaiming the British Isles.  Their enemy is enigmatic and powerful beyond reckoning, swelling and replenishing their ranks with every city, town, and hamlet lost to their merciless onslaught.  This enemy is not so familiar a threat as holdout Nazis or renegade Russians.  This foe is no longer human; they are the victims of an intelligent, infectious disease known only as the Chimera.  You are U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. Nathan Hale, and you are the resistance.  

Also, you’re jolly well screwed.

Want to play Resistance yet?  I know I did when I first caught wind of it, though regrettably, I never got around to the PS3 launch title it until recently.  It’s a great concept: an alternate, “what-if” timeline of an alien invasion just post-World War II.  Unfortunately, despite its novelty (or perhaps in the face of it, but I’ll get to that), Resistance only brings a mediocre execution to bear.  

As is the unfortunate trend amongst many FPS titles, Resistance’s confused writing quickly leads to a “whatever, I’ll just roll with it” mentality, rather than really engaging players and drawing them into the plot.  Things just sort of happen, and the bipolar narration disjointedly guides players from one rail-roaded level to another.  Disjunction between said narration and what players are actually seeing and doing frequently leads to yet more confusion of both the plot and players’ expectations for the game.  Players are either told far more than Hale knows in-character, or even less, but certain plot-critical elements are arbitrarily held from us as players until it’s convenient for the story.  In many places, this withholding of information is transparently obvious in its purpose to instill a sense of suspense, but when we’ve already been told vastly more than Hale knows on a regular basis, it just comes across as poor, heavy handed writing meant to keep us in the dark for the sole sake of not spoiling the one good twist they’ve been saving, which (minor spoiler alert!) ends up amounting to little more than a good ol’ Michael Bay-splosion, answering exactly none of the admittedly interesting questions raised by the game since level freaking one.  

Hell, I was under the impression for a good long while that Sgt. Hale was a silent protagonist until, about halfway through the game, he up and started talking!  Quickly, that led me to wonder why he had never chimed in until then, even though several scenes called for survivors to sound off, and we repeatedly see Hale wearing a radio.  I can only guess at why this is, and it’s clearly no oversight on Insomiac’s part, seeing as the writers even poke fun at Hale for being “coy” near the end, when he flat out ignores multiple radio calls during an historically pivotal mission.  

So, really, Hale’s just an asshole.

Not that what voice acting there is in Resistance is much to write home about.  Forced British accents and comically overdone American commanders abound, and despite my having just put this game down a few days ago, I can’t remember a track one from its soundtrack save the bland main menu tune and the clichéd victory jingle upon accomplishing checkpoint or mission-critical tasks mid-level.  

By far the most interesting facet of Resistance’s admirably lengthy narrative, that regarding the enigmatic “Cloven” faction, is also its most subdued, and unfortunately, I don’t think that does the game any favors.  Lore about the cloven is delivered nigh-exclusively by collectible intel packages hidden throughout the game’s levels.  While this does provide some incentive to look for them beyond the mere accrual of achievements, it feels like the best part of the story is arbitrarily obscured, and if you’re an immersion-player like I am, it can really interrupt your already tenuous appreciation for the story’s momentum.  

As far as performance goes, I have to admit, I wasn’t very impressed by Resistance.  None of its environments are particularly interesting, and most of them are rather bland, with frequently recycled textures and models.

“Didn’t we pass this place half an hour ago?  Damnit, Cartwright,

you’re leading us in circles!”

I had a few moments where I found myself stopping to ask, “Am I sure this isn’t a PS3 port of an older title?”  There are no “wow” moments over the environments, no awe-inspiring vistas, and no setpiece encounters or particularly dramatic firefights the likes of which one might expect from a WWII-era shooter.  Hell, the first major boss fight that players are built up to fear is taken out via cutscene before the fight even begins!

And then becomes trivial later, plot emphasis be damned.  

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.  Resistance sports truly abysmal A.I. for friends and foes alike, with allies constantly gallivanting in front of firing lines, disregarding cover, and contentedly standing in place as some of the slowest moving projectiles I’ve ever seen in an FPS come screaming into their dough boy faces.  Enemies, meanwhile, seem to have what I’ve termed observational bipolarity.  Either they’re completely oblivious to players’ presence, ignoring even little things like, say, bullets through their eye sockets, or they all know exactly where you are, cover be damned, and they’ll charge you like an army of lobotomized Predators.  

Good luck making a tactical retreat from said charge, by the way, seeing as Insomniac made the glaring oversight of omitting a bloody sprint button in a modern FPS.  “But this came out in 2006,” you cry!  Killzone, I reply.  2004.  No excuses, Insomniac.  Resistance does at least sport a fair variety of weaponry, and each weapon has both a primary and secondary function.  Gaining mastery over said functions quickly becomes the key to navigating and surviving the game’s increasingly difficult shoot-outs, though I do lament how long it took to get my hands on a proper sniper rifle.  At first, some of the more specialized weapons, like the cover-drilling Auger, are of cursory benefit, but as the challenge ratchets up in the later stages of the game, every weapon comes into its own at one time or another, though it can feel rather forced when so many fortuitously placed weapons just happen to be present exactly where they’re the only one capable of getting the job done for any number of encounters.  

On that note, don’t bother trying to play this game tactically.  It’s a waste of your effort.  You’ll just frustrate yourself.  The A.I. doesn’t accommodate it, and scripted ambushes render your careful room-clearing moot.  If they want you to get shot from behind, you’re going to get shot from behind, no matter how many times you’ve checked the very place that six-eyed jackass appears from.  Egg things lining the walls, pulsing like a migraine, ready to pop little facehugger headcrab scorpion things at you by the hundreds? Keep on walking, ‘cause no matter how many times you shoot, bash, or detonate those eggs, they won’t pop until the scripting says you’re safely in the midst of a few dozen of’em, and that leads me to my next point.  

Bitch slap!

I know most shooters fall somewhere along the continuum between relative freedom across iterative stages and bullets-by-the-numbers shooting galleries with a plot sprinkled in to make some sense of’em.   Insomniac took the latter end, and built a game around it.  This did come in handy however, when I realized upon my second death that I could simply memorize a level from sparse checkpoint to death-site, and run through it in exactly the same way, ready now for the creep that spawned right behind me, because he will every time.  Trial and error gameplay is the name of the game here, and Demons’ Souls this ain’t.   

On the plus side, Resistance’s impressive (especially for a PS3 launch title) 40-player online multiplayer support and vast maps lend it a longevity of entertainment potential beyond its single-player campaign.  Its occasional driving segments aren’t too bad either, and reminded me a bit of those from the Halo series.  Vehicles handle smoothly, the controls are intuitive, and switching from driver’s seat to mounted guns is a breeze, though one that I admit, I rarely used, and is more a convenience for co-op gameplay.  I do wonder who’s reloading the tank’s main cannon, however, if Hale’s busy driving it and no one is seen getting in with him, and that leads me to one of the biggest issues I take with this game.

I am sadly disappointed in Resistance for its lack of follow through.  It’s tough to deny that a lot of this game’s shelf-draw comes from the novelty of the era it’s set in.  You’re fighting aliens in a war-torn 1951 Britain with World War II-era weapons and technology!  Or at least you should have been if the design team hadn’t choked and just dressed up modern technology in a WWII skin.  Case in point: Hale’s default main battle rifle, the M5A2, is obviously the fictional bastard child of the BAR and the trusty M-14.  Good start, but it’s fumbled into half-assdom immediately, when players realize that the weapon is fully automatic, sorrily inaccurate, and sports a 40mm, M203-style under-barrel grenade launcher, just like you’d have if you jumped into any Call of Duty game in the past decade.


Call of Duty: Grey Ops

Why do that?  There are aliens and alien technology in this game, Insomniac.  Give them the advanced weaponry, and I wouldn’t care!  By giving it to the ‘50s era humans, you’ve undermined your opportunity to further illustrate the contrasting firepower gulf between the resistance and the Chimera, and spat in the face of history, alternate or not, besides!  Before long, players with half a mind for history will rack up note after note like this, such as the proliferation of personal long range radios sans backpack units, or the American soldiers’ reliance upon VTOL dropships whose designs are obviously lifted from the V-22 Osprey, an aircraft whose virgin flight didn’t leave the ground until 1989.  

Close enough, right?

Lastly, and this is just a personal gripe, we see Hale make a notable little production of sheathing his knife onto his forearm during his introductory montage…and then he never uses it.  Why go to the trouble of giving him an abnormally placed piece of equipment, and then call even further attention to it by animating it, if Hale’s just going to butt stroke everything to death?

Should have been a sailor, that boy.

It’s very clear to me that, intentionally or not, the developers of Resistance were afraid to fully invest in their concept, content to instead play it safe with the genre norms established by more well known FPS IPs, half-assing the rest of the game’s potentially unique design characteristics to accommodate those norms.  I wouldn’t even mind those things at all if the game were set in a different time period, like the 70s, much less modern day, but because it’s set in ’51, they do a tremendous disservice to the experience the writers ostensibly aimed to deliver.  

Overall, Resistance: Fall of Man is not a bad game, though it can be a frustrating one, and it was a launch title, so Insomniac was just as busy as other developers at the time, working the kinks out of the now notoriously troublesome PS3 hardware.  Does it deliver a solid FPS experience?  Most certainly.  Could it have used a bit more polish?  Absolutely.  Has it aged well, or at least well enough to give its sequels a shot?  Debatable, but if you’re an FPS fan, it’s at least worth a rental.  It’s a game with a great deal of untapped potential, and it will make you think from time to time (in between yelling matches at the screen over checkpoints), so I would recommend it to sci-fi fans as well as FPS junkies.     

Rating: 5.4

Visuals: 5
Audio: 4
Controls & Mechanics: 6
Atmosphere & Experience: 5
Entertainment Value: 7

  Consoles: PS3

  Developer: Insomniac Games

  Publisher: Sony Computer Ent.

  Release Date (U.S.): Nov 17, 2006

  Release Date (U.K.): Mar 23, 2007

  Release Date (JP): Nov 11, 2006

Final Verdict:


Last Level Press © Copyright Cliff Davenport  Est. 2013.  Links | Legal Notices

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