When creating a new first-person shooter, a game which will undoubtedly run the risk of being just another drop in the already overflowing bucket, a developer has two options: either focus on creating something new and revolutionary, or focus on creating a game that merely makes use of all the generic conventions in a polished and refined fashion. Resistance: Fall of Man is a game that attempts the latter. The problem is that while it does include most of the conventions that gamers know and love about first-person shooters, it doesn’t use any of them with any success.
Perhaps the first problem with Resistance: Fall of Man is how by-the-numbers it feels. When playing the game, you can’t help but be reminded of the genre’s greats: that part reminds you of Call of Duty, that part reminds you of Halo, and that part reminds you of TimeSplitters – and that’s only naming a few.
The real problem is that because you are reminded of these games, you can’t help but feel compelled to make comparisons to them. Climbing into the tank and driving down that bridge in Halo 2 is a memorable experience. Climbing into a tank for the first time in Resistance: Fall of Man is an empty experience, its hollowness only reinforcing notions that it was only included because it needed to be.
Indeed, it is this hollowness that hurts it in comparison. For nearly everything Resistance: Fall of Man tries to do, you can’t help but feel it’s been done better. For example, fighting the Chimera, your obligatory technologically-advanced and overpowering “alien” enemy, never feels enthralling. Indeed, it really feels that like the game, you are only going through the motions. Frantic shootouts are quickly reduced to the typical shoot-and-hide affair.
This is exacerbated by the fact that Resistance: Fall of Man uses a partially recharging health system. It has health bars, it has health packs, and the game could have taken an every-hit-counts approach. However, because of the decision to include another generic convention, firefights quickly revolve around recovering after every few hits. Whereas the pop-and-stop mechanic has been used to great effect before, in Resistance: Fall of Man, the combat ultimately feels more cowardly than anything.
That’s not to say that Resistance: Fall of Man does nothing right. Insomniac is known for their crazy weapons in the Ratchet and Clank series, and Resistance: Fall of Man demonstrates that Insomniac knows its strengths. One notable weapon is a spiked grenade known as the Hedgehog, which bounces up to head height before exploding in a plethora of sharp shrapnel. Firing one off amongst a large crowd – and gaining one of the many “achievements” the game offers in the process – is one of the few genuinely satisfying moments in the game.
The story is also worth mentioning. Although it falls under the Red Alert "World War II didn’t happen but something just as bad if not worse happened so once again the Allies have to rise up to the occasion" narrative family tree, it’s well thought out and at times genuinely intriguing. The cutscenes do fragment the gameplay, but since the story is the more redeeming feature, it’s not necessarily a negative thing. Unfortunately, the only gripe possible is that the game’s hero, Nathan Hale, is about as charismatic as a brick, meaning that you don’t actually care about him most of the time.
Multiplayer is also something that the game excels at. If Resistance: Fall of Man underachieves on most levels, from character design to presentation, multiplayer is where the game overachieves. Offering support for up to 40 simultaneous players, the fast-paced, twitchy and, most importantly, lag-free multiplayer is some of the best to be found in the genre. More TimeSplitters than Halo, it’s the one saving grace of Resistance: Fall of Man. Best of all, it’s free to anyone who has a decent broadband connection.
However, Resistance: Fall of Man just doesn’t deliver on its many promises. Graphically, it’s unimpressive, with some of the textures almost looking last-gen on a standard television, and character design being bland and unappealing. Its presentation, especially its lacklustre front end, is disappointing and doesn’t feel like much effort was put into it. The gameplay is hollow and doesn’t capture or excite. The game feels, for lack of a better word, stale; it’s yesterday’s news.
If you’re the owner of a flash HDTV capable of 1080p, and if you own a super-fast broadband connection, then Resistance: Fall of Man is definitely worth the investment for its excellent multiplayer alone. Indeed, if this was an online-only affair, this review would likely be entirely positive. However, as it stands, Resistance: Fall of Man is also being marketed as a single-player affair, one so worthwhile that it’s worth purchasing a $1200 PLAYSTATION 3 in order to play it. Unfortunately, while it’s probably worth a look if you already have one, it’s certainly not worth purchasing Sony’s new console just to play Resistance: Fall of Man. A solid, if often empty entry to the first-person genre it is, but an essential system-seller it is not.