Fall of Man steals and modifies the best elements of past games to make a remarkable and enjoyable if unoriginal FPS
Resistance Fall of Man was that game.
Resistance: Fall of Man is an alternate history sci-fi shooter developed by Insomniac games. The same people who brought you Spyro on the PS1 and Ratchet and Clank on the PS2. You play as the US army ranger Nathan Hale, a man of few words and similar levels of charisma. The premise is interesting but almost comically contrived. While back in the 1940's the world watched Germany for the first sign of war a silent threat swept from east to west along the European peninsula, within a year Europe goes silent and then 1951 the threat crosses the channel to Britain. The threat of course, being a race of aliens called Chimera intent on infecting us with their nasty viruses and turning us into them. Our hero (loosely speaking) joins 12,000 men in an assault on the sceptered isle in return for valuable Intel on the alien threat and of course things don't go according to plan.
There is a story here; it's mainly communicated via static monochrome panels while one Captain Rachel Parker narrates the events of the story. It's neither well written nor particularly engaging at first because you'll have trouble caring about Hale, he rarely speaks and when he does it's generally some military sounding imperative in a suitably manly husk of a voice. You'll never find out anything significant about his back-story over the course of the game and apart from the notable fact that early on he somehow survives being infected by the Chimera virus he's basically a cipher to allow you to shoot a lot of aliens.
Luckily Captain Parker's narration lends a futile tone to the story and somehow manages to wrap some mystery around Hale's miraculous survival. She's got the stereotypical clipped accent that Americans think we all have but her voice actor does a decent job with the mediocre lines provided and manages to make the story seem deeper than it really is. Her narration over the nicely presented panels is what saves the game's story from being completely forgettable and manages to imbue the narrative with a personal tone which our protagonist is completely devoid of. At least the campaign is well paced over its roughly 12-13 hour length which is pretty respectable for a shooter and there's a brutally challenging unlockable difficulty once you complete the main story which should ensure appropriate bragging rights amongst your shooter-ish friends.
As this is a alternate history tale set in 1951, what Insomniac have done is lift the common artistic design found in most World War Two shooters and superimpose the Chimeran architecture onto it. In fact for the first half of the game you'd be forgiven for thinking you were playing a war game if not for the hoards of four-eyed extraterrestrials doing their utmost to kill you. Said extraterrestrials which are known collectively as Chimera although there are video gamey names for the subspecies are appropriately ugly and other-worldly. There's a nice variety in enemy design both artistically and when it comes to their behaviour which is complemented by their smooth animation and believable movements. Insomniac plainly put a lot of effort into designing a threatening enemy for the game.
What will dull this far-fetched and novel premise is the design and look of the game itself. The world's colour palette is a drab mix of browns, greys and khaki greens which is suitably in-keeping with the Second World War themes but it doesn't make it any nicer to look at. You'll never be impressed by the artistic direction in Fall of Man until you venture into Chimera-occupied installations, the alien architecture is dark, angular and serviceable which is a welcome change from the extravagant detail of the Halo games although it seems more like a natural evolution of the Combine architecture see at the end of Half Life 2.
The art design is questionable to say the least but at least it's been implemented thoroughly. There are thousands of little 1950's details littered about Fall of Man, disturbing little touches to the Chimeran structures and installations and the art style conveys a definite "what if" regarding the possible Nazi invasion of England in the early 40's and it gels well with the horror elements surrounding the creation of the various Chimera species that are introduced early in the game. At its best you'll feel like you're looking at a fantastic recreation of WW2 battlefields and the rest of the time it's 1950's England with aliens
On a technical level Resistance is quite impressive. This game was the first to showcase the raw processing power of the PS3 and even after five years Fall of Man stands up well to the test of time. Environments display a good level of detail, debris hangs and floats in the air, explosions raise some impressive dust effects and there's a great physics engine allowing for some nice ragdoll effects as well. There are plenty of eyesores though, Hale's face starts off waxen and shiny before his face fuzz begins to encroach on all available facial surface area (a nice touch), there are plenty of flat textures littered about the more predictably WW2ish battlefields and the fire and explosive effects are hideous which is highlighted by the unwelcome fact that Insomniac in their wisdom have provided us with a flamethrower and plenty of explosive firepower. Lighting is also drab and lifeless, it barely varies over the course of the game and only really makes a difference when you venture down into the underground levels where the darkness and dirt of the world will sell you on the atmosphere much more effectively than the scenes you experience above.
Fall of Man makes up for this with incredible stability, the game will never drop below 30 frames regardless of the goings on and this is especially impressive given the stress Insomniac puts on the first version of their proprietary PS3 engine. Where most FPS games may put 10 enemies onscreen at once Resistance can support up to what seems like 30 or 40 Chimera onscreen without any drop in framerate or graphical fidelity, the number of enemies that game will throw at you will do more to convince of this alien invasion than any amount of bleak recounting on the part of Rachel and once the battle is over and you wade through piles of Chimera bodies you'll feel invincible. The scale isn't a constant feature but when you do end up in a large scale fight there isn't a shooter out there that can match this game in terms of raw energy and intensity.
It's worth noting that Resistance Fall of Man has a fantastic original score. It's mostly orchestral with dramatic string arrangements and a full orchestra is on hand to supply the more action-packed sequences with a reasonable amount of bombast. It's heady and rousing and is probably the tipping point in terms of your immersion into this gonzo alternate reality, it's used sparingly but when Insomniac cranks up the volume you'll feel more like a pivotal cog in the fight against the Chimera than any amount of story-driven context the game can throw at you. The score is also nicely varied, you'll definitely notice the more subtle and foreboding tracks as you move into the more horror-driven Chimeran levels and underground locales. There may not be anything as memorable as the stellar work from Martin O'Donnell but it's still a highlight of the game's presentation.
The gameplay is a calculated mix of elements cadged and lifted from recent first-person shooters. You'll have access to each and every weapon once you find them and you're drip fed new toys over the campaign like Half Life 2. Fighting the Chimera generally requires a mix of grenade lobbing and strafing reminiscent of Halo but you'll fight at medium to long range like Valve's landmark shooter, there's an odd lack of a sprint function in the singleplayer which will be noticeable and very irksome for those of you who have grown accustomed to the rapid movement and mobility of recent FPS games.
Resistance further reinforces the sense that the gameplay is a carefully constructed hybrid of other games by the amalgamation of both Half Life and Halo's health system. Your health bar is separated into quarters and as long as it doesn't drop below a quarter boundary it'll recharge up to the nearest quarter. The only way to get a quadrant back is to find a health pack which creates a good feeling of tension as once your health is in the last quarter you will have to perform at your very best, pick your route around the battlefield well to take advantage of the health packs and use every tool you have at your disposal to avoid ignominious death.
And you will die a lot. Because what makes this game really worth picking up is the quality of the Chimeran AI and the difficulty they'll lend to your single-player experience. Insomniac seem to appreciate the importance of great grunt AI in a shooter (they've played plenty of Halo I'm guessing) and have created some of the most ruthless and intelligent AI you'll find in a game. The ordinary hybrid chimera who you'll spend the majority of your time fighting will move quickly about the battlefield, flanking and suppressing you while pelting you with deadly hedgehog (read: spike) grenades. They are also prone to charging you and will beat you senseless in seconds if you get too close. Battles and skirmishes are unpredictable, especially when other more traditional sci-fi enemies are thrown into the mix as well. On many occasions you'll have to die several times before figuring out which threats to eliminate first and where to go on the battlefield to find salvation in the form of a health pack before the Chimera catch up to you.
The AI isn't unfair though, they rarely just concentrate on you unless you're right in their faces or draw attention to yourself. If you don't fire continuously then they'll turn their attention to more immediate threats which allows you to flank them although this will only be the case in larger fights. It'll take plenty of trial and error to get through Fall of Man on the harder difficulties but it's all down to how well you can play the game, when you die it was your fault because you didn't keep an eye on all your enemies and so missed that one chimera that managed to flank you. Due to this difficulty you'll probably spend around 12 hours first time through on the hardest available difficulty and maybe 15 on the ridiculously challenging Superhuman difficulty which puts Halo's Legendary to shame.
Insomniac games are famous for their inventiveness when it comes to weaponry as a fan of the Ratchet and Clank games such as myself can testify. Fall of Man puts itself leaps and bounds ahead of the competition when it comes to giving us fun and interesting methods of Chimera murder. The standard FPS weapons are all here but they have been augmented with secondary fire functionality ala Half Life 2. The standard sniper rifle can slow time to allow for that perfect headshot and the Chimeran Bullseye rifle can fire a tag which will draw every subsequent shot fired to that point meaning you can fire round corners and over cover, sound cool? That's because it is. Very. The best toys come later in the game but suffice it to say that you'll never tire of shooting through solid walls with the Auger.
Unfortunately you may have to rely on the Carbine for much of the time due to the abundance of ammo coupled with its effectiveness against pretty much anything the game throws at you, happily it's satisfying to fire and you'll have every single one of these glorious tools available to you if you want to change things up via the weapon select towards the end of the game. All the weapons are accompanied by the kind of sharp and impactful sound design that is begging for a surround-sound system and the sound of 20 Bullseye's blasting away will make you feel both outnumbered and outgunned, something that works perfectly with the AI in its impressive numbers.
Resistance Fall of Man supports local co-op (the ideal way to tackle Superhuman) and both local multiplayer for up to 4 people and online multiplayer for up to 40 players which is admirable for consoles even today. The online component is incredibly frantic especially as a crowd favourite is for Team Deathmatch with one-hit kills, nearly all the weapons from the single-player are here and they're just as fun to use on your friends and rivals. The online component does suffer from lag issues on occasion but strangely the hit detection system means if you're lagging you're more likely to do well as you can get more shots off before the game registers the fact.
All the standard game types are here with the added bonus that you can play as either the Chimera or the Humans. Chimera players can see enemies through ways and human players can sprint and generally be more mobile than their alien counterparts. These aren't really game changers but they're a thoughtful inclusion. The Breach game is especially fun and stands out as one of the more unique objective based game modes on offer. All the maps are well designed; many of them come straight from the singleplayer, Gears of War style and have been specifically mapped out with the idea of 40 players in mind. Sadly not many people are playing anymore and you'll struggle to find a game but back in 2007 this was the place to be online on the PS3 until CoD 4 stormed onto the FPS scene.
Resistance Fall of Man borrows, re-imagines and downright thieves its way though the best elements of recent shooters. It takes the art style from the WW2 Call of Duty games, the design and gameplay elements of Half Life 2 and mixes them all up with a healthy dose of bits and pieces appropriated from the Halo series. It may not be wholly original but it's one of the best playing FPS games on the PS3 even today and without it, the PS3 may have died an early death.
+ Dark, gritty atmosphere and themes work well with the bleak tone and horror elements introduced later on. Engaging and enjoyable "what if" scenario regarding the possible Nazi invasion of Great Britain, just imagine the Nazi's had two extra eyes.
+ The Chimera are a suitably horrific and despicable foe
+ Gameplay takes the best elements of successful shooters and combines them to create a fantastic if very familiar first-person shooter.
+Fantastic and dramatic original score which is accompanied by stellar sound design for each of the weapons.
+ A reasonable if predictable story is told by Rachel Parker despite the contrived premise and poor writing. It's amazing that her character manages to weave some mystery around the wooden killing machine that is Nathan Hale. The monochrome story panels are a nice touch as well.
+ Impressive levels of detail in both the environment and Insomniac's attempt to evoke a 1950's warn torn England
+ Shows of the early potential of the PS3 in terms of processing grunt. 30 fast-moving Chimera onscreen at once along with larger enemies, huge explosions and all without a drop in framerate stability and graphical fidelity.
+ Insomniac proves again that it makes the best weapons in the business
+ Wonderfully challenging AI which is a true test of skill to fight and will keep you guessing constantly over the course of the campaign
+ Online multiplayer is huge and frantic, supporting up to 40 players competing on well-crafted maps
+ Local Co-op is the best way to play through the harder difficulties.
- Art design is passable at best, dull and uninspiring the rest of the time despite the tone it can elicit. Fall of Man is grey and brown and it doesn't change that much as you progress
- Plenty of the effects are less than impressive and you'll notice flat textures aplenty in the more WW2ish environs
- Takes a lot of trial and error to combat plenty of situations, you'll have to die a lot before figuring out the best method of survival
-Odd lack of a sprint function given that this game cribs so much from Half Life 2
- Hale as a character will neither hold your attention nor gain your support at any point in the game
- Not many people online anymore means the single-player and co-op is all you'll be really getting if you try this game now. Even when people were playing it suffered lag issues.
- Originality is not on the menu, you'll recognize a lot of other games stitched together here
- Story is poorly written and contrived for the most part.
- You'll get very familiar with the Carbine.
- Health system leaves only a little room for error
Resistance Fall of Man may not be the most original or unique shooter on the market but it's still one of the most mechanically sound and well-designed first-person shooters on the market with some of the best weaponry and AI you'll find in any game on this current generation of consoles.