Resistance: Fall of Man Hands-On Update: Fighting the Good Fight

The veteran developers at Insomniac are pounding away at the Chimeran menace, and we got to check out a new build in advance of the PlayStation 3 launch.

Resistance: Fall of Man

Microsoft's mammoth Halo franchise has long held dominion over the console-bound first-person shooter fan, but Sony and developer Insomniac Games are planning an insurgency with Resistance: Fall of Man, arguably the flagship title set to accompany the PlayStation 3's launch in mid-November. We were fortunate to visit Insomniac's Burbank, California-based offices recently to get a load of Resistance running on final PlayStation 3 development hardware. Lead members from all departments of the game's massive development effort took time out of their schedules to give us a look at the game, which is looking to be one of the more solid (and prettier) shooters we've seen in some time. The team even showed us a few tidbits not already covered in our exhaustive exclusive preview a few weeks ago.

Insomniac tantalized us with spare new details on the mysterious storyline in Resistance--but only enough to make us more interested in what exactly is going on. We've known for a long while now that the game takes place on an alternate timeline where World War II never occurred because Asia and most of Europe were ravaged by a monstrous armed menace known as the Chimera. We knew you'd play as American soldier Nathan Hale, who contributes to the English resistance against the Chimeran threat. But we didn't know until recently that the game would take place in flashback form, as British Capt. Rachel Parker narrates the last recorded days of Hale's military service. And we especially didn't know that Hale would himself be infected by the Chimera, who apparently spread to other humans by way of insect hordes. But how long can Hale resist the virus? Why can he resist it? Where did he go and what did he do after the resistance lost track of him? Those are the questions that will compel you to play through to the end of what's looking like a fairly unconventional storyline, by first-person shooter standards.

The developers have apparently been slaving around the clock to beef up Resistance's already considerable visuals, as we saw in a number of instances. In a special test level set up to demonstrate dynamic death animations, for instance, we saw how the game's advanced rag-doll physics cause the enemy hybrid soldiers to be knocked back with extremely realistic results depending on exactly what part of the body they're shot in. If you're big on numbers, the devs also claimed that Resistance will feature roughly 256 times the texture detail of a typical PlayStation 2 game. Insomniac has been further enhancing the game since its successful showing at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, adding more diverse animations, smarter artificial intelligence, and more lighting and special effects than were present before. It's also worth noting that the game is still planned to work at 1080p resolution, support of which is one of the PS3's big selling points in the first place.

Hale's time may be running out before a monstrous fate befalls him...but what will you do with his remaining days as a pure-blooded human being?

As a follow-up to our original look at Resistance's class-based multiplayer in our exclusive preview, we got to try out a new mode called breach. Breach is similar to the meltdown mode covered previously--the human and Chimeran sides each have their own racial abilities, and each side's base can respectively be upgraded five times to add extra defense. The big difference here is that each team's base houses a reactor, and the goal of the mode is naturally to destroy the opposing reactor to achieve victory. Insomniac is reaching all the way back to its first-person shooter experience with its PlayStation game Disruptor, and what we got to try of breach felt like quite a satisfying online-shooter mode indeed.

In addition to the hands-on opportunity with breach, we learned more about Resistance's online setup. You'll be able to increase your multiplayer rank up through 60 levels, and every three levels, a new military rank (sergeant, for instance) will be conferred on you. This will not only increase your cachet with the online set, but also grant you new player skins that will let you wear your skill on your sleeve, literally. The community features were described as "robust," as Insomniac will be supporting buddy lists, clans, and so on (within the game's own infrastructure, it was said, and not within a generalized PS3 online interface). The team-based multiplayer modes are tailored for the whopping maximum 40 players, but luckily the multiplayer maps will be able to scale down to accommodate games of 16 or even eight players. Lastly, budding Resistance junkies will be glad to know Insomniac is already planning to release downloadable content for the game later on.

We also got a look at Resistance's cooperative two-player mode, which works in a by-the-numbers fashion but is nevertheless a welcome addition in a time when many developers sadly neglect co-op entirely. In essence, two people will be able to play through the entire story campaign side by side in split-screen mode, with unique character models and no apparent sacrifice in terms of visual fidelity or performance that we could notice. This is the same game you'll play by yourself, although the number of enemies and their strength will naturally be tailored to make the two-player experience more difficult. You'll be able to respawn after 30 seconds when you die, although if the other player is still standing, he or she can head over to your corpse and administer aid to bring you back more quickly.

Can Resistance live up to its considerable expectations? Insomniac is burning the midnight oil in a valiant effort to make sure that it does.

Finally, we got to try out a previously unseen level set in a sort of cannery where the Chimera had set up a birthing facility for hybrid soldiers. We don't know by what process exactly the beasts create these unpleasant-looking foot soldiers, but we can say they were certainly bent on protecting them, as they met our trespass with a ridiculous amount of defense. This was a more confined indoor level, in contrast to some of the action we've seen in wider battlefields in past demos, which hopefully indicates that Resistance's single-player game will be varied and interesting from start to finish, though we'll of course have to wait for the final game to make that determination.

In the meantime, from what we've seen of Resistance so far, we'd say Insomniac isn't exactly reinventing the wheel here; it's just making a really nice-looking, exceptionally feature-packed wheel. The single-player game recalls the hard-hitting style of action you'd see in games like Call of Duty, but with sci-fi flavoring and cryptic storytelling, and the multiplayer seems to offer enough modes and diversity to keep fans of Halo and its ilk busy for quite a while. Resistance will be one of the most-watched games at the PS3's release, and we'll bring you more on the game from the upcoming Tokyo Game Show and beyond in advance of that looming November date.

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