Monday, April 5, 2021

Resistance: Fall of Man

With the launch of the PlayStation 3 on the horizon, Insomniac Games, Sucker Punch and Naughty Dog, three high-profile developers for the PS2, collectively and independently decided to use the new system as an opportunity to diversify their portfolios away from mascot platformers and introduce an original IP that aimed for a realistic art style to take advantage of the system’s capabilities. In Insomniac’s case, their follow-up to the Ratchet & Clank series was Resistance: Fall of Man, a launch title for the PS3 and their first FPS since their first ever game Disruptor on the PS1. With this year being the 15th anniversary of the PS3 as well as Resistance: Fall of Man, in addition to general pandemic boredom, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to play it for the first time to see how well it held up, after managing to find a physical copy at a local retro game store. While time hasn’t been too kind to it in places, the game did manage to surprise me with its interesting ideas.

In an alternate history 1900s, the world has been invaded by an alien race known as the Chimera, who spread their influence through an unknown virus, eventually conquering all of Europe by 1949. In 1951, an American platoon, among their ranks Sgt. Nathan Hale, has been dispatched to York, England to try and drive out the Chimera. Hale’s platoon is soon attacked by the Chimera, contracting the virus and then immediately dying. Nathan, however, somehow survives the virus, causing him to become increasingly Chimeran as the story progresses.

Perhaps befitting its FPS nature, the story is primarily told through narrated cutscenes, though some background details are expanded upon through hidden intel documents throughout the game. I should mention it’s also very easy to accidentally skip these cutscenes if you’re trying to follow the story, so it’s best to keep the controller idle when the next cutscene begins. The story also presents an interesting take on the Post-WWII Era, exploring what would happen if aliens invaded the Earth in a time of trench warfare while taking some creative liberties regarding technological advancements in weaponry. Nathan Hale himself hardly speaks throughout the story, though what makes it compelling is the slow transformation he goes through in his more Chimeran attributes and how this aids in pushing back the Chimera.

The basic gameplay is similar to other games in the FPS genre, however it features some new twists to give it the Insomniac touch. Rather than only being able to carry a limited number of weapons, the game incorporates the Weapon Wheel system from the Ratchet & Clank series, allowing you to keep all weapons and swap between them at will with R2. This even extends to the different grenade types, which can be cycled through by pressing Up and Down on the D-Pad, even while scrolling through the Weapon Wheel. Among the loadout includes era-appropriate weapons such as a shotgun (Rossmore 238 Combat Shotgun) and a machine gun (M5A2 Folsom Carbine), though some Chimera weapons can be commandeered as well, such as the Auger and Bullseye.

Each weapon also has unique abilities to give the game the Insomniac flavor, such as the Bullseye allowing you to fire tags for the bullets to follow any target it hits and the Auger being able to shoot through cover. Despite the number of options increasing over time, the game provides plentiful ammo/grenade drops in each level if you know where to look, including some upon killing a Chimera, which, along with the aforementioned intel, encourages exploration.

Weapons get increasingly more outlandish.

Starting from the second level, after getting infected by the Chimeran virus, you gain the ability to recover health while under cover, though only up to the last quarter. You can also recover more health one quarter at a time by picking up vials of Sym-Bac Serum. Since health recovery is not available for the first level, this can lead to some difficulty in trying to get past it, even on Easy difficulty, though I managed to get past it while relying entirely on the M5A2 Folsom Carbine, the starting weapon.

One feature I liked is that, when trying to pick up ammo, grenades or health, the game recognizes whether or not you are fully stocked and will refuse to pick it up if you don’t need it. For the weapons, this goes based on your reserve ammo, so you may have to reload in order to pick up more. This is a feature I wish a lot more games would incorporate, even outside this genre, as it makes it far easier to avoid wasting valuable resources you can otherwise easily go back for. If you die at any point, you respawn at the last checkpoint you reached, though fortunately your progress in obtaining collectibles is retained, saving a lot of backtracking.

Aside from the FPS gameplay, some sections break things up by having you drive a vehicle, often for taking down larger enemies or from getting from one story point to the next. The FPS segments, which make up a majority of the game, present their own variety as well in the form of various Chimera, each with unique appearances and gameplay styles to keep you on edge and encourage using your full range of weapons. One type of Chimera even likes to get up close and personal with you, and should that happen you need to shake the controller to escape their grip.

The graphics are okay for a PS3 launch title, however they’ve definitely shown their age over time, not helped by the fact that it goes for a more realistic art style to suit the setting. One thing I can give the game credit for is the variety in the level design as well as some really good environmental storytelling that sells how ravaged the world is following the Chimera invasion. One detail I liked was the game’s usage of military trenches in at least one level, as they were a staple in the World War I and II Eras and seemed appropriate for the time period. I also thought it was interesting how some of the more dimly-lit levels played on the opportunity for horror. I will say, however, that while I found Nathan Hale’s story more interesting as the game went on, his design is a tad generic even if it fits his status as a soldier.

Nathan Hale's (David Kaye) design is very generic.

The voice acting and sound design, however, are really good. Each of the weapons you can use has a unique sound bank that gives you an idea of what you’re in for, both when using them and when going against them, plus the different Chimera types have sounds as varied as their designs to make them easier to recognize on the battlefield. Of the three primary voice actors, Cornelia Hayes O'Herlihy is good as Rachel Parker, who serves as the game’s narrator and largely supports Hale from a distance Peter Jessop voices Lt. Cartwright, who more directly interacts with Hale at different points in the story and sells the history between the two characters. Meanwhile, David Kaye, best known by Insomniac fans as the voice of Clank in Insomniac’s own long-running Ratchet & Clank series, provides the voice of Nathan Hale, however the fact that Hale speaks very little throughout the entire campaign on account of being the silent type gives Kaye very little emotional range to work with despite his otherwise solid performance.

Since this was one of the various launch titles for the PS3 it lacks certain features that would be adopted later down the line by other games such as Trophies, which the PS3 did not have at launch and would introduce sometime after to compete with Microsoft’s Achievement system on the Xbox 360. Due to legal reasons at the time, the expected DualShock 3 controller wouldn’t be included with the system at launch, instead coming bundled with a stripped-down controller touting the movement-based SIXAXIS feature. This game did, however, later receive a patch that allowed for rumble support, allowing one to use a DualShock 3 without any issue.

Despite showing its age, Resistance: Fall of Man is an FPS with some great ideas that were definitely worth exploring. The Ratchet & Clank elements in the combat help it stand out from the genre’s general glut of Call of Duty clones and the setting is very creative in both presentation and premise. This game is worth playing for fans of Insomniac Games and/or the FPS genre, assuming you can find a copy at a good price. If you are unable to find a physical copy and this game interests you, a digital copy is also available through the PlayStation Store, as of this writing.

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