Resistance: Fall of Man (PAL) box

Let’s face it, Halo: Combat Evolved was big. It created an entire franchise base in one sitting. Halo 2 effectively, and tragically, killed off the health bar in first person shooters. It is responsible for the many pretenders on the market because companies wished to cash in on the willingness of nerdy humans to part with their money to indulge in a fresh shooting experience. Sometimes it involved the futuristic setting that Halo: Combat Evolved popularised. Sometimes it involved the more realistic setting of a previous war. But at the end of the day, it was an excuse to say to shooter players; “Here is a gun, go play on our online mode”. So with the advent of the George Foreman Playstation 3 came yet another franchise to conscript early adopters. Will this prove to be just another shooter, or will it let us in for a rather big surprise?

In an alternative timeline to our own, World War 2 never happened. This trend is a fairly common one amongst modern fantasy, but we’ll run with it. Instead, the Russians closed their borders to the rest of the known world. It was not known why and many speculated that the Soviets were creating a new weapon. “The truth is far worse”. Turns out that a virus engulfed Russia, turning its people into monsters. Before long, Europe succumbed to the plague in a matter of weeks. England thought it was safe due to water. But three months after the Chimera burrowed under the English Channel, they won. America responded by closing its borders and suppressing its people in an oddly dictatorship-like state. Resistance: Fall of Man tells the story of one Nathan Hale, an American soldier sent on a mission to rescue England from the Chimera plague. His squad however becomes infected with the plague, but he somehow doesn’t fall into a coma. The only signs that he has been infected are his golden irises. The plot from there onwards becomes one of rescue and shooting more alien scum, much like Halo was when the Xbox surfaced. The plot here though is thankfully viewed from a human perspective rather than supped up macho men from the future.

The combination of a 1950s England together with the monstrous Chimera as the foe of choice is an interesting one. Capturing a war torn York with a small degree of accuracy is nothing short of remarkable, and co-operation with Ordinance Survey GB is a cunning way of getting good material. Gunning your way through hordes of enemies through Manchester Cathedral is enough to have the Church of England complain, but it all somehow adds to the authenticity that the game tries to create. This is combined with a protagonist who has a slightly different and better explained take on the whole health regeneration thing. In the first level you get no regeneration. You must take on a barrage of these monsters as a plain old human. Then in the in-game cut scene, he eats one too many scarabs and develops the ability to regenerate. While most would groan that this would be all too easy, Resistance: Fall of Man provides a solution to provide some sort of challenge. Your health bar is split into four sections. If you don’t get shot for a while, your health indeed regenerates, but only as far as the portion of health you are currently on. So if you take two full sections of damage, you don’t regain that health back. Unless you pick up the health pack variant of course. Much as health packs are a cheap way out, I like the way the game explains what is going on and why this is happening. It provides a certain amount of depth that is absent from other shooters of recent times.

The Chimera are as ugly as any other "alien" FPS target, but at least they have funky guns!

First person shooters are of course all about blowing things up with guns and explosives and Resistance: Fall of Man caters for your hoplophiliac tendencies. You start with the standard American assault rifle, which lets be honest is the gun that we use until something more interesting appears. In most games, the shotgun is usually the one it replaces. But in Resistance: Fall of Man, that gun is the Bullseye. It is another machine gun that on first glance seems unimpressive due to its lack of accuracy. It is when you discover that this gun can produce beacons that impale enemies and attract your bullets to it that things become infinitely more interesting. Essentially you can hit an enemy with the beacon, get behind cover and impersonate Johnny Utah at the end of Point Break and hit your enemy with every bullet. It is only upon the realisation that the weapons in the game were created by the same team that dreamt up the Ratchet and Clank series that it becomes clear just how bizarre the weapons can be. My personal favourite is the XR-005 Hailstorm. A gun that shoots out an auto-targeting turret. Having something shoot at the enemy while I sneak behind them is an amusing tactic that never fails to baffle them.

Not that there is that much of a degree of intelligence in the enemies to warrant this manoeuvre. To dub them as “thick” would be unfair, but “gung ho retards” however is a far more accurate description. When they’re not charging at you like Italian football fans invade pitches, they’re ducking in and out of the same cover shooting at you with whatever weapon they possess. The only real difference comes with the variety of enemies and the differing tactics. Menials are the game’s equivalent to zombies, while the scorpion-like foes scuttle down walls and small entrances. They provide little in the way of a challenge alone, which is why Resistance: Fall of Man attempts to overwhelm you with hordes of around fifteen at a time. I understand that this is the Playstation’s answer to the Halo franchise, but a more intelligent AI wouldn’t have hurt. Thankfully there are a lot of set pieces and the enemy on turrets are bizarrely more challenging, due to having some kind of instruction manual implanted into the barrier on how to use them.

Multiplayer mode while it has the potential for 40 players at once, doesn't have many modes.

Every so often, you’ll more than likely score Skill Points. While in more recent times Trophies have become the answer to Microsoft’s achievement points, Resistance: Fall of Man felt the need to have its own. You don’t get a description on how to unlock them, just a name. Each one is worth a fixed amount of points, which can be used to unlock content. I would have liked achievement points/trophies to count towards unlocking stuff more as this is far more of an incentive than just score hoarding. There are also various intel reports scattered around each stage. There are a variety of different locations in Resistance: Fall of Man, with the entire game set in England. Which brings up a question: Was 1950 in the British Isles really that brown? All the locations that aren’t Chimera strongholds look like someone had smeared them with mud. Dialogue is generally good, though some of the characters are a little…forgetful. That is probably because the only two that survive for longer than a mission or two are the protagonist and the English narrator you rescue in the second chapter, though the only mildly interesting one here is Nathan himself. Even that is only due to the fact he has irises that are 24 carats each.

When a first person shooter fails to provide some kind of multiplayer option; we stop, stare and then point and laugh at it. That is not the case with this Playstation 3 exclusive as there happens to be a fairly extensive one. You have the potential to take part in forty man skirmishes, which is as frantic as it sounds. From an outsider’s point of view, this seems a daunting task. Kills tally up towards experience points which unlock new outfits for your online avatar of bullets and grenades. Thanks to the Playstation 3’s hardware capabilities, so long as you have a decent connection, you shouldn’t experience any lag at all. The only issue is that the multiplayer modes themselves are a little uninspired. For a game where inspiration is in the weaponry alone, this is a disappointing truth. I would have loved to have seen game modes that are as mad as the sniper rifle that grants you bullet time when zoomed in. It is a common complaint in first person shooters, and I would have imagined Resistance: Fall of Man would have addressed it.

As one of the flagship titles on the Playstation 3, Resistance: Fall of Man does what it probably set out to do quite nicely. Providing those who invested in the most expensive console available with a fun shooter with tales of monsters wiping out the human race bit by bit and the protagonist being some kind of superman in comparison to the rest of the army. To the untrained eye, you could pass this off as “what happens when Halo meets Gears of War. For the large part, you’d be exactly right as there are a lot of aspects from both series present in this game. Halo styled shooting sections with Gears of War grittiness. But it isn’t. It is cleverer than that. It manages to utilise the notion of the past to create a real sense of peril. If this was done in the macho futuristic setting that the Microsoft titles had, the goal would be spelt out from the outset because they knew what to do. Here, the army doesn’t, and that is what makes it ultimately different. It feels almost like a story. Also having an armoury that incorporates a host of unique weapons that are fun to use makes the deal all the sweeter. It is far from a perfect representation of the first person shooter, but it is at least a step in the right direction from the Microsoft “sit in a corner and will the pain away” style of shooters, even if it is only baby steps…