IGN Review of Resistance: Fall of Man
Owners of some gaming systems have to wait years before they get a true "killer app," but PlayStation 3 users get theirs on day one. Insomniac's Resistance: Fall of Man is far and away the most impressive title on the console -- delivering on everything that it promised with a strong single-player experience, plenty of kick-ass multiplayer options, and stellar gameplay mechanics that equal those found in other elite shooters. But being like "other elite shooters" isn't what makes Resistance so compelling... it's what separates it from competitors that does.
On the exterior, Fall of Man doesn't look all that different. Take a few steps away from your television with squinted eyes and you could mistake it for Call of Duty or Medal of Honor. But do yourself a favor, open those peepers up and step towards the screen because Resistance doesn't pay homage to World War II... it attempts something on a scale of much larger proportions.
It's July 1951, and the mysterious "Chimera" has overrun Europe. Originally having conquered Russia in the '30s, the bizarre alien race has moved westward to infect the entire European continent with a virus that transforms its people into ugly gun-wielding monsters. Sure World War II never happened, but humanity's cities still fell -- replaced by the rubble of what came before it and giant tower-like structures of unknown origin. In the midst of this mess players assume the role of Sergeant Nathan Hale, a tough-as-nails American soldier that joined Britain's final defense effort. But what secrets is Hale hiding and more importantly, what Chimeran secrets will he help the British uncover?
And so begins Fall of Man's overarching storyline; a narrative that benefits from talented voice actors, multiple in-game cutscenes, and a series of old-school "freeze frame" transitions. Though there aren't too many surprises to be found across the game's 20-plus chapters, the plot still plays out well and has interesting, albeit few, main characters. It's likely that by the time you get to the end of this 12-15 hour experience, it was because you were compelled to find out what Hale and the Chimera were really all about... even if the story's ending is a little unclear and open-ended.
One of the primary reasons' that Resistance's plot works so well is because of how effective its atmosphere is. The game is surprisingly creepy and has a decent portion of cheap scares and explorations of dark, winding corridors. Walking through a wasteland of human bodies, avoiding super-fast crawler-things, and reacting to hidden snipers keeps you on your toes at all times... as does the realization that the farther into the game you get, the less human the world becomes.
Further enhancing the atmosphere are the visuals themselves. Though they're certainly not the most impressive we've ever seen, they're still pretty powerful and accomplish a number of remarkable technical feats. The framerate is locked at 30 the whole way through and doesn't falter anywhere... ever. In fact, regardless of how many enemies and moving objects were on the screen at one time, there wasn't a single frame hitch the entire way through. Oh, and since we're talking about enemies and objects, there are scores of them -- Chimera, British soldiers, tanks, VTOLs, debris, tracers, explosions, and plenty of other moving and stationary are everywhere with alarming frequency. Each and every environment is noticeably different from one another as well, and while the texture work isn't overly detailed, it still looks pretty good. Of course, being that Fall of Man is a first-person shooter, it's the gameplay that matters most and thankfully, Resistance has that in spades.
At its heart, Fall of Man feels a lot like TimeSplitters -- offering quick, twitchy movement and high-speed targets that test your defensive reactions as often as they test your trigger finger. The default control configuration and its sensitivity work great too, and Insomniac has done a stellar job of encapsulating the feeling of wielding heavy and light weapons via onscreen responses. Part of the success here can also be attributed to the sheer number of options that the developers have assigned to the SIXAXIS without the need for menus. Switching weapons is a breeze (just tap R2), as is bringing up the map (tilt the controller to the left) or checking the multiplayer stat screen (tilt right). You can even rid yourself of targeting tags, fan out fires that have caught your back, or wrestle yourself loose from the grip of enemies by shaking the SIXAXIS like a maniac.
The real stars of the show, however, are the weapons. As Insomniac has proven before with its Ratchet and Clank series, this team knows how to design varied and interesting instruments of destruction and have done so again here. Whether you're wielding the game's first weapon or its last, there's always a new gun to shoot or a new tactic to try out (it's likely impossible to finish the game using only one or two selections, you'll have to use most if not all weapons at multiple points). Just a few examples of what players can expect: A sniper rifle that can slow down time (L23 Fareye), cannons that shoot needle-like subsonic bolts which bounce off surfaces (XR-005 Hailstorm), and a mine-launcher that shoots organic slime bombs that can be detonated remotely as makeshift plastic explosives. There are more than a dozen different weapons like these in all, including a hidden assortment that won't unlock until you've beaten the game.
As great as the weapons are, they wouldn't matter much if the enemies you faced off against didn't provide any kind of resistance (ahem). The good news is that the enemies ARE tough. In fact, the AI in Resistance is pretty decent and it makes for quite a challenging time. Some Chimeran soldiers, for example, are smart enough to take cover, change strategic positions, or team up with other monsters in an effort to kill you dead. Granted, their level of intelligence isn't going to blow you away (a large portion of the "first half" enemies dawdle about just waiting to be shot after ambushing you), but it's still good enough to offer surprises and should give even veterans of the genre a thumb workout. Oh, and there's a huge variety of enemies too -- from low-level grunts and Ghostbuster-like demon dogs to enormous cannon-wielding giants and towering spider-creatures.
As strong as everything in Resistance is, the real standout factor in the experience is its multiplayer. Simply put, it's incredible. Jacked in from multiple locations (via broadband Internet connection) we were consistently able to enjoy 30-40 player games with no noticeable lag whatsoever (Insomniac did a fantastic job of hiding what little latency there appears to be). And while all these opponents made for crazy all-out wars, the multiplayer options are flexible enough to allow users to scale maps downward to accommodate smaller parties (40, 32, 24, 16 map types), choose Chimeran or Human sides (complete with unique abilities), and alter the rules to allow for a multitude of possibilities.
But match customization and excellent 40-person play isn't the only thing that Resistance has going for it -- it also has strongly-designed maps, a countless number of trackable stats, a Battlefield-like ranking system (60 ranks in total), clan creation support for up to 200 members, and several different modes that include standard Deathmatch, Meltdown (aka "Battle of the Node Control"), Breach ("Destroy your opponent's Base"), Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, and Conversion ("Last Man Standing"). Buddies can even team up on the same machine and play through the single-player game via split-screen, or go head to head with three other users for four-player versions of the online features.
As you can tell, we found Resistance to be a heck of a good time, but it did offer up a few disappointing moments. For example, players can and will find several areas in the game that consist of just walking -- a sort of "do nothing" jaunt to the next big action sequence. These are meant to be breathers, sure, but midway through the story it comes across as an unnecessary way to extend stage time longer than it had to be. It's also disappointing that most user-controlled vehicles (which include tanks, jeeps, and a few other surprises) are so incredibly powerful that, unless you're playing on hard, will totally dominate an otherwise-challenging enemy. Throw in the fact that co-op can only be enjoyed offline (online co-op is becoming more and more common these days) and the ending disappointment I mentioned earlier, and you have a less than perfect game.
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