Resistance: Fall of Man Review
Developer: Insomniac Games
Platform: PlayStation 3
Reviewed on PlayStation 3
In the mid-1930s, reports of biological experiments began to emerge from Russia. Reports were increasingly terrible, with tales leaking from the near-silent country of horrific biological experiments involving a dreadful virus and entire villages being wiped out. In 1949, the truth burst forth on the world. The inhabitants of Russia were quickly transformed into monstrosities we call the "Chimera."
When the Chimera exploded into Europe, it only took a matter of weeks before they had subjugated the continent, harvesting humanity and transforming it, with the help of the Chimera virus, into horrific organisms that continued their genetic blitzkrieg across Europe. In October of 1950, the Chimera burrowed under the English Channel, conquering Britain over a span of three months.
Throughout, the United States remained silent and isolated. Only in July of 1951 did the Americans get involved, invading York to support the British and trade for a truly horrific secret. Sergeant Nathan Hale was among the American soldiers who landed at York, and single-handedly turned out to be the key to slowing the Chimera. But what can one man do against a horrible genetic onslaught, supported by unthinkably advanced technology?
It's only appropriate that this alternate history should have an alternate Nathan Hale, although this Hale is battling with the British in the 20th century war against the Chimera, rather than against them. In this history, Hale had more than one life to give for his country. In fact, with enough Sym-Bac serum, Hale had so many lives that that he could afford to spare a few on the British.
The alternate World War II setting makes this, "just another" WWII game, exciting. There's nothing like advanced technology and an alien threat to make it more fun to throw back on the shoes of an infantryman. Admittedly, Resistance: Fall of Man never explicitly acknowledges the alien connection (except in the credits), but the game implies that somehow an alien virus (that perhaps arrived as part of the 1908 Tunguska event) is busy transforming humanity and harvesting the resources of our planet.
In biology, a chimera is a construct that includes material from multiple organisms. That seems to be what the Chimera are in Resistance: Fall of Man. Humans get infected once roach-like creatures called Crawlers crawl inside the living victim, delivering the virus to its new host. That human is then... changed... into something horrible – and armed with futuristic weaponry. Hale somehow fell victim to the Chimera virus, and (so far) has emerged with his humanity intact.
Player take on the role of Hale, whose infection gives him the superhuman strength and healing power to overcome the Chimeran threat. Fortunately, the enemy's strength becomes Hale's. With the help of a symbiotic bacterium (Sym-Bac), the Chimera can rapidly heal damage. And when Hale finds yellow canisters of Sym-Bac, so can he.
With the help of British Intelligence, Hale rapidly strikes at the Chimera, travelling to famous landmarks like Manchester Cathedral and battling at the foot of Tower Bridge. The game looks amazing, really showing off the power of the PlayStation 3, clearly representing a leap in realism and detail over Sony's previous platform. The colors are rich, the explosions, dramatic, and the Chimera, horrifying. Everything from the demolished cityscapes to the underground tunnels through which you pursue the Chimera is a pleasure to look at.
Resistance: Fall of Man was developed by Insomniac Games (the studio behind the Ratchet & Clank games, so the ordinary weapons are augmented with strange and wonderful weapons (although not entirely effective, compared to ordinary munitions) arranged in a convenient ring like in the R&C games. I particularly liked the basic Chimera weapon – the Bullseye. The secondary function lets soldiers tag an enemy with a special dart, then all further shots home in on that dart, letting you blast tagged foes, even over cover.
To shake things up, there are vehicular sequences in jeeps, tanks and even the Chimera Stalker (a four-legged mobile weapons platform). They aren't just rail shooter sequences (although they are typically linear), and nicely change the pace of the game from running, taking cover and shooting.
Resistance: Fall of Man has a few problems, most of which are probably tied to the brand-newness of the PlayStation 3. The biggest complaint is the long load times. Every level has you watching a spinning folder for a long time before the action gets going, and that can be frustrating, as it draws players out of the otherwise excellent pacing.
Also, the game's minimal implementation of the motion-sensitive PlayStation 3 controller feels like an afterthought. Given how late the motion sensitivity was announced for the PlayStation 3, it's hardly a surprise that the game launched with conventional controls, but the capability isn't really used. The only time it comes into play is if the player is grappled by a Chimera – then you shake the controller to get rid of your foe.
Other minor problems are just ordinary "gaminess." Most noises (including a rocket-propelled grenade) don't attract Chimera attention unless you are already in the enemy's "perception radius." There are also creatures that should be stealthy assassins, clinging to walls and leaping from place to place, only to take potshots at the player. Since they only jump to predetermined spots, it's easy to wait out of range with a gun trained on a jump point and kill them all before entering an area. Finally, the late levels devolve into a bit of silly platforming. Insomniac bolsters the difficulty by making it possible for you to fall off high pipes and restart the level from the last checkpoint.
Despite those minor issues, Resistance: Fall of Man is an intense experience. It pulled me all the way through with a clever plot, solid narration and levels designed to provide unseen guidance toward my goals. Insomniac even provides plenty of incentives to try the single-player game again. Like in the R&C games, Insomniac offers skill point rewards for completing secret objectives (identified only by clever titles). There are also more weapons unlocked after completing the game once, and while they are entertaining, none are more than a diversion – I still found myself falling back on the basic Bullseye rifle.
Like most shooters nowadays, Resistance: Fall of Man features online multiplayer modes ranging from basic deathmatch to objective-based team modes and modes that pit humans against Chimera. All are entertaining versions of the same sort of multiplayer modes available in other multiplayer online shooters. You can also play the game with a friend in the offline, two-player cooperative mode.
The worst thing about Resistance: Fall of Man was that it ended. Fortunately, the scene that follows the (extensive) credits tentatively promises more...