Without good launch software, even the hottest new console's little more than an expensive pile of plastic and silicon. Luckily, PS3's got an ace in the form of Insomniac's retro-futuristic first-person shooter Resistance: Fall of Man. Unlike most of the other new PS3 games, Resistance has some serious next-gen cred. While not super innovative, Resistance features an enjoyable single-player campaign and facilitates impressively busy online shootouts. Oh and it looks pretty darn hot, too.
One of Resistance 's cooler aspects is its imaginative storyline, which takes place in an alternate reality in which World War II didn't occur. Alas, they have other problems, not the least of which are the Chimera, a race of inhuman monsters that silently encroached over Asia and Europe throughout the '30s and '40s.
As the game begins in July, 1951, England has finally fallen to the beasts and America mounts a last-ditch effort to intervene. Sgt. Nathan Hale is among the first on the scene and proves resistant to the Chimeran virus that wipes out most of his buddies. Thus he's launched into a lonely, four-day struggle against the otherworldly menace, with the fate of humanity resting on his shoulders. No pressure, though.
Resistance feels like a mix of Call of Duty and Halo, with lots of sighting down rifles, running for cover and tossing grenades. While not as amazingly realistic as the special-ops guys in F.E.A.R., the Chimeran enemies are reasonably sharp and do a good job of putting up a fun fight. The difficulty curve is excellent; on medium, we were pleasantly challenged throughout and really had to fight hard toward the end of the 13-hour campaign. There are also two additional difficulty modes, so those looking for a challenge akin to Call of Duty 2's infamous "Veteran" campaign should be more than satisfied.
The gorgeous levels are decidedly linear, which is a bit of a drag, but they're so well-designed that a lot of times we didn't really care. That said, the handful of wide-open maps were our favorites, as they gave us a chance to improvise a bit and really test our monstrous opponents' considerable mettle.
As the creators of Ratchet & Clank, Insomniac is known for creating very fun weapons and though you won't find a sheepinator this time out, Resistance's arsenal lives up to expectations. About a third of the firearms are standard human guns, such as a World War II-style carbine, a scoped sniper rifle and a double barrel shotgun. They're all extremely useful, even to the end of the game.
However, the really cool stuff comes from the Chimera. Their guns let you shoot through walls, setup energy shields, deploy AI turrets, drop goopy mines... Few of these ideas are new, but seldom has one shooter so skillfully contained them all. And in a nice touch, you can find even wackier weapons on your second playthrough.
If online's more your thing, you'll be quite pleased with Resistance's substantial offerings. It supports up to 40 players in a variety of game modes, including capture the flag, deathmatch and a number of variations on king of the hill. The online action is fast and smooth and the creative arsenal makes for some fun encounters. Resistance also features detailed stat-tracking, performance awards, clan capabilities, voice chat... you name it, it has it. Few if any current-gen console shooters are so full-featured, let alone launch titles for just-launched systems.
Our only qualm with the multiplayer is that life's a bit too cheap. Death comes early and often and a lot of times it doesn't feel like there's a lot you can do about it. If an enemy drops in behind you and tears up your back, you'll be dead before you can really respond. It feels like there should be a greater chance for a seasoned player to react skillfully and emerge on top.
Cooperative play is also supported and it's a blast to take on the single-player campaign with a buddy. The co-op difficulty is jacked up, so don't be expecting a cakewalk. Unfortunately, Insomniac decided against supporting co-op online, so split-screen is the only way to play. This is a philosophical choice on their part; we just don't happen to agree. We would like the option to play with distant friends over the 'net. Voice chat's in there, so why not?
As the one launch title to truly harness the power of the PS3, Resistance is an excellent demonstration of what the new console can achieve. The wide-open vistas are drop-dead amazing in scope and detail; the intricately detailed backgrounds are astounding. The foregrounds ain't too shabby either, though sometimes the graphics are a bit blurry. Character animations are smooth and life-like and the air is often dense with smoke and particles. Simply put, Resistance is the best-looking FPS experience on consoles. If you've got a good receiver, it'll rock your surround system, too.
It's got looks, it's got brains, it's got a lot of stuff to shoot. It doesn't revolutionize the genre or even introduce much new, but Resistance remains an utterly solid shooter that should keep you entertained for quite a while. It's an excellent introduction to the PS3 and points toward even greater experiences in the future. Does it justify the enormous cost of the console? Not really, but if you're going to get a PS3 anyway, then this is clearly the game to get with it. If only all launch titles were this good.