Resistance: Fall of Man Review
When the PS3 launched in North America, the talk of the town was obvious: Resistance: Fall of Man. Over the past few months, it rapidly became the focal point of most media attention, and rapidly grabbed the coveted crown of "most anticipated launch title." However, there were a few issues to consider- Firstly, Insomniac was at the helm for this one, and while they're responsible for some fine productions in the past, this would be their first venture into the FPS genre. Furthermore, we'd heard some mediocre feedback regarding the demo on display at this year's Tokyo Game Show, so we weren't certain what to expect.
Enter launch day and everyone's mad scramble to obtain an ultra-rare PS3, and the lucky few were most likely to purchase Resistance, despite any reservations one might have. The expectations remained as high as ever; it should sport some truly astonishing visuals, unparalleled AI, wonderfully immersive environments, a horde of weapons and enemies, and superb online play. And after spending several days with the game, we've come to the conclusion that, despite not fulfilling all expectations, Resistance: Fall of Man is easily the flagship PS3 launch title.
We begin with the graphics, and surprisingly enough, the game doesn't boast the revolutionary visuals we expected to see. In fact, there are already one or two titles available elsewhere that look a mite better, which is even more shocking. But that being said, the overall graphical production is really quite exquisite. The detail is amazing in many areas, every last corner of each level is meticulously designed, and Insomniac did an incredible job creating a nearly flawless atmosphere. The technicals may not be as refined as expected, but the artistry and polish is absolutely undeniable, so if you're disappointed with Resistance, you're just far too anal. They're fantastic.
But the sound is even more impressive. Many games in the FPS genre shine in this category, and the PS3's first shooter is no exception. The sound effects are some of the best we've ever heard; the gunfire, explosions, human voices, and chimera grunts are all crystal clear and perfectly orchestrated. It's the little things the developers do so well: the crumbling of a bit of stone, the jangle of your uniform as you rub against rough surfaces, the metallic "schlink" of reloading or Hedgehog grenades, etc. The soundtrack consists of classic tracks that pick up in both intensity and cadence during series of hectic action, and while we would've liked to hear maybe a few rock tracks for more diversity, the sound in this game is downright superb.
The game is set around the time of World War II, but in this particular past, the chimera breed is rapidly taking over Europe. Their existence began in Russia - under suspicious and mysterious circumstances - and something went very wrong...before long, they owned Russia and most all of Europe. You begin the game following the story of an American soldier, Nathan Hale, who is fighting throughout war-torn England in a desperate attempt to save Europe before it falls completely to the invading chimera. The chimera are nasty-looking things with long fangs and cooling apparatuses on their backs...why? Well, we won't spoil any more of the story.
Right off the bat, you're tossed into a city area that has clearly gone through seven of the nine circles of hell. Your allies are panicked but ready for action, and you've got to work your way through the thoroughly broken town, struggling for survival every step of the way. Once the initial area is complete, you go through a transformation of sorts, and suddenly, things aren't quite as difficult. It will be difficult to explain how and why without tossing up a spoiler, but let's just say you can suddenly regenerate some of your wounds.
The health works much like it does in the Halo franchise. You have four health "pills" in the lower left-hand corner of the screen, and they begin to drain when you become hurt. If you can find cover before one entire pill disappears, that pill will regenerate back to full capacity. But if you lose all the hit points in that pill, you lose it permanently until you locate some health. This will sound very familiar to you Halo fans, and because it works so well, it's one of the biggest pluses the game has to offer.
Control is relatively simple; it's exactly what you'd expect with a few minor twists. Obviously, you use the left analog to move and the right to look, which is pretty standard stuff. The X button is jump, the Triangle is used for melee attack, the Square is for reload, and the Circle is for tossing whatever grenade you have equipped. You can change your equipped weapon or grenade by quickly tapping the R2 button to cycle through your weapons. Or, you can hold down the R2 button to bring up your inventory, where you can cycle through the weapons with the left analog and your grenades with the d-pad.
It all works amazingly well, but it's just too bad those damn R2/L2 button/triggers kinda get in the way. You really have to press the R2 button fast and hard to cycle to the next weapon (as it's also a trigger of sorts, you must press it further down than any normal button). You also use the L2 button to crouch, which isn't nearly as big of an issue, but it can be a touch awkward to hold that down while moving all over the place. But outside of this, the control is as excellent as humanly possible, and with the ability to choose any one of seven sensitivity settings for the aiming, it makes it even better.
There is some motion sensitivity in the game, as certain unarmed Chimera will attempt to attach themselves to you, apparently hungry for your flesh. At this point, you must move the Sixaxis back and forth like a steering wheel to get him off, and while it works fine, it's not something you'll be doing too often. Those things move slow, and because they're unarmed, you can mow them down unmercilessly. You can also attempt to save some ammo by nailing them dead with one melee shot.
You'll notice all of that within the first hour or so, and while everything seems somewhat underwhelming at first, the entire experience just gets better and better and better as you progress through the game. You'll soon be encountering dozens of well-trained and even devious enemies in large, wildly immersive battlegrounds, designed to allow for some open-ended roaming and endless strategic possibilities. The chimera are fast, accurate, and will strafe and find cover at opportune moments. An example of their intelligence is as follows: FPS veterans know that if they enter a room with a ton of enemies, they can retreat into the previous room, hide in a corner near the door, and mow them down as they come through the door.
Try that in Resistance. It doesn't work. Instead, they will take up their positions, finding cover and waiting for you to show yourself. If they do wish to advance, they'll come at you in a planned attack, and only in confined areas will they bum-rush you (as well they should). If they have the numbers advantage, they'll come after you more liberally, but if they don't, they'll hunker down and defend with the utmost skill and ability. No, it's not quite to the point of dealing with human foes, but as far as computer AI goes, it's extraordinary.
The weapons aren't quite as numerous as one might have expected, but that's actually good news. The more weapons there are, the more chances there are of having utterly useless firearms. Each and every weapon in the game is effective at numerous times throughout the game, and you'll soon begin to greatly value every last one of them. Thankfully, the developers decided to give each level a very distinct feel, and due to the wide variety of environments, you'll constantly be forced to adapt and assimilate. And if that's not a giant positive in gaming, nothing is.
Another very large bonus- the challenge escalates at very consistent intervals throughout the game, and ultimately delivers a completely satisfying experience once you conquer a level. The minute you begin to think, "eh, I've got a handle on this now, I sure wish it was just a bit tougher," the game kicks things into another gear and you're locked in a room with creatures you've never seen before, desperately trying to figure out a way to survive. Or you come around a corner and find two chimera soldiers with Augers, and as you retreat, they follow you down the hall on the other side, firing through the wall! Yeah, that Auger weapon is pretty useful. Did you know the alternate fire creates a shield in front of you that only Auger fire can penetrate? Just another nifty tidbit.
And then we come to the multiplayer and online play, which we knew would be a focal point of the game. We've taken the opportunity to play a single-player campaign and a co-op campaign (awesome addition; thanks, Insomniac!) almost simultaneously, and that couldn't possibly be more fun. We also got to notice some small differences between the two; there appear to be more enemies in co-op, and if there aren't, the difficulty is ramped up to support two players. We've also been through the most intense firefights in the game, and only once did we notice even a slight drop in framerate.
As for online, we should probably mention something important right off the bat- you can equip your character with all kinds of goodies, like helmets and armor to increase your defense. However, these must be unlocked, and if you just enter into a random deathmatch without this stuff, don't be surprised to die almost instantly because you're essentially going in naked. It can also be frustrating when you have virtually no way of killing anyone, because they came in fully equipped and prepared. Unfortunately, this means it can be difficult to get going in any online game until you obtain at least a few equipment unlockables, but it'll ultimately be worth the effort.
We got in on Deathmatch, Meltdown, and Capture the Flag matches, all of which worked extremely well. There are a large variety of available maps, and even though it's very early, we still found plenty of players online. Resistance boasts up to 40 players at any given time in a Deathmatch (in comparison, Halo 2 holds a maximum of only 16, as will Halo 3), but we never found that many. We did, however, participate in a 22-player Deathmatch - pure insanity - and a couple 3 on 3 and 4 on 4 Capture the Flag sessions. It takes only a minute or so to sign in, and maybe another minute (or perhaps only a few seconds) to locate a room to join, so you can go Internet gaming very quickly.
The single-player campaign will take you about 10-14 hours to complete, depending on how fast you go and how intent you are on capturing all the Intel scattered around every level. The story is also quite good - something we didn't really expect from a first-person shooter - but they don't waste your time with needless and numerous CGI movies or non-interactive cut-scenes. They simply provide you with a solid plot, advance you through the game at a good clip, and keep you thoroughly entertained from start to finish. In fact, we dare say it's one of the very few FPSs where the single-player campaign is great enough so it might warrant a replay.
And with the multiplayer and online options, the lasting appeal for this game is excellent. Everything is so well done, from the collision detection to destructible environments to stellar atmosphere, that it's difficult to spot any glaring flaws. However, there are a few issues- first and foremost, while your allies aren't totally lame-brain, they aren't as effective as they should be, and they often just get in the way. They're valuable as cannon fodder at times, but how come none of them come equipped with anything but the Carbine? They can't pick up any other weapons; only Nathan Hale has that ability?
While we mentioned that the AI is truly fantastic, sometimes you can catch them sleeping if you approach at a certain angle. They'll just stand around like dopes - a classic drawback of so many AI structures in games these days - but it's a rare occurrence, and they always seem to know when they're being targeted in combat, because they'll immediately turn your way and return fire. Oh, and we must re-emphasize the awkwardness of that R2 button/trigger for cycling through weapons because we really dislike that aspect of the control.
Overall, Resistance: Fall of Man doesn't quite meet our technical expectations, has a few minor yet significant issues here and there, and isn't a revolution in and of itself. However, the complete package is supremely well done; the immersive atmosphere is second-to-none, the action is always either tense and intimidating or all-out madness, the diversity of the levels is a joy to experience, and the story ain't half bad. Add in the fabulous multiplayer and online options, and you've got a game that absolutely shouldn't be missed by any avid gamer. We've played a ton of games over the past few years, and this one ranks right up near the top as one of the most entertaining titles in recent memory. That's not something we say lightly, nor is it something we expect to see a lot of...but it's the honest-to-goodness truth.
Nothing is perfect, and there were some disappointing tidbits. But to say that Resistance is "disappointing" is just absurd; it's the best game on the PS3 by a large margin, and easily secures a place in our top 10 for this year, and perhaps top 10 of the past five years when it comes to pure, unbridled fun. Best FPS ever? Probably not. Must-play, must-own, will-very-likely-enjoy-immensely? Yup.
11/18/2006 Ben Dutka