Resistance: Fall of Man - Brutal Backlog
Brutal Backlog is a semi-regular feature where JDR team plough through some of the unplayed games on their shelves (both digital and physical), disregarding their age or the technical limitations of their era. Only the very best titles will stand up to scrutiny today.
There are two things I remember about Resistance: Fall of Man. The first is that it was a launch title for the PS3 back in 2006 and became the system's first title to sell over a million copies. The second is that the Church of England despised it for depicting Manchester cathedral as an area you can run around in with a gun. While that controversy no doubt helped shift the amount of units it did, it seems almost quaint compared to some of the bigger outrages over the last few years (such as “No Russian”, one of Call of Duty’s more notorious missions, for instance). This all passed me by, however, since I refused to pick up a PS3 until its library vastly improved. Fast forward a dozen years, and I managed to get the Resistance trilogy for three quid second-hand. I should probably start with the first one, eh?
Ten Minutes In
My goodness, this is drab. I’ve not seen this much grey outside of an Imperial Command Post. It’s funny to look back on first-person shooters like this with today’s eyes and wonder how we considered them pretty, but Fall of Man was no doubt an example of technical wizardry at the time — at least for the shiny new PS3 (the Xbox 360 had been chucking out classics for just under a year at this point).
The story doesn’t really inspire, either. It’s 1951, and the alien species Chimera has invaded. Only one man, Nathan Hale, has the power to stop them. Well, him and a load of cannon fodder grunts. The action is set in Blighty, but Hale is obviously American since we’re unable to do anything heroic without assistance from across the pond. Also, he has some sort of immunity to the infection which turns humans into Chimera, so that’s pretty useful.
Thirty Minutes In
The first couple of guns I’ve picked up are a standard carbine and an alien Bullseye, the latter of which lets you tag the enemy and then blast off homing rounds. It took a little getting used to, since zooming is almost mandatory to be sure of tagging an enemy. Even so, alien AI patterns feel robotic as they cower in their allocated zone and pop out to shoot you every so often. You can pick them off, but it doesn’t feel very exciting. Also, the murkiness of the surroundings makes ammo difficult to spot; I’ve resorted to running over to the bodies of any alien I waste and circling around in the hope of collecting bullets.
An English lady called Parker is narrating the action, with the heightened received pronunciation of a wartime heroine. She has a very matter-of-fact way of describing the human-to-Chimera conversion process, like if Agent Carter ran a biology lesson. For my part, I’m not hugely interested in the story as it’s done nothing that other games haven’t already done before or since, and better.
Two Hours In
Fall of Man seems to be a succession of war zones. Around every corner is another bombed-out building, or a wasteland of hilly rubble, or a selection of samey ruins. I’ve fought the enemy on so many different levels and conditions of concrete, I could probably qualify as a structural engineer. And of course, it’s grey. So. Much. Grey. Even the camera is getting in on the action since it seems to have a muted smear across the lens. At times the game shakes things up with a few brown areas, but then it feels like I’m playing Quake: WWII Edition. While the alternate history of this timeline has removed any reference to the World Wars, you could basically substitute in Nazis for the Chimera and you’d be playing an early Battlefield game.
There are a few new enemies outside of the standard grunts: a big dog who definitely doesn’t want to play, heavies carrying Auger guns which can shoot through walls and floors, and crawling things that leap at your head which are absolutely nothing like Half-Life’s Headcrabs. The worst thing about this last enemy is that you have to shake your controller to get rid of the damn things if they latch onto you. I am not a fan.
Four Hours In
During my trundle across the depressing landscapes, I picked up a few intel packets which serve as the game’s sole collectible. I must admit, it’s refreshing not having forty different types of useless tat to pick up to fill an arbitrary meter. There are other optional achievements (in-game targets rather than PlayStation trophies) as well, whether it’s for killing multiple enemies with certain weapons, getting through areas without taking damage, or doing fun things in vehicles. Yes, there are vehicles…but they aren’t particularly fun. The best of the bunch is the Lynx combat jeep which I ragged around Cheddar Gorge, squishing aliens and leaping off ramps. Tanks are more ponderous and vastly overpowered in comparison to the enemy — missions which include them would be fun, if only it didn’t take so much time to manoeuvre the lunking vehicle around corners.
Difficulty-wise, the game yo-yos all over the place. Some missions are a breeze while others will have you heading back to the same checkpoint over and over until you learn enemy patterns. I’ve never been totally out of ammo for all of the guns I’m carrying, but Fall of Man does a decent job of letting you get close to it and upping the heart rate as swarms of Chimera assail you from all sides. The sniper rifle is very satisfying to use, while the Auger feels like it should be super powerful, but isn’t. The Sapper is awful,limply spewing out exploding blobs of jelly with all the excitement of folding laundry.
There are boss fights, but they don’t really feel like it because the same big enemies you fight early on pop up again later in the game when you have more powerful weaponry and their impact is as muted as the scenery. Even then, there’s no finesse to them: the robo-spider Stalkers have a glowing spot to shoot, while the bigger Titans just act as bullet sponges until they explode in sepia-tinged viscera. At this point I’d give anything for a run button, since Hale’s pace is just the wrong side of sluggish, but it seems Insomniac didn't feel the need to add a sprint ability until the second game.
Eight Hours In
I’m in London. I can tell it’s London as there are red phone boxes everywhere. Like, within metres of each other. This was 2006 — surely someone from Insomniac Games had visited the UK? We had mobile phones back then. It’s not the only “cor blimey” aspect of the game, since one stage had me literally leaping over rooftops as if Dick van Dyke was a hardened military vet.
The difficulty has ramped up significantly now, as wave after wave of Chimera are thrown at me. In all honesty, I’m bored. The game could have been finished two hours ago and I’d have been happy. Now I just want it to be over. It isn’t awful; some of the gunplay is fun, and the whole package is put together well for its era, but it offers absolutely nothing new. Oh, and the rocket launcher’s “air brake” function is complete garbage, making the most powerful weapon in the game one you have to grit your teeth to use.
Ten Hours In
It’s finally over. The final sequence involved shooting reactor cores while being attacked by waves of enemies, and was as monotonous as what came before. The story predictably ended on a sequel-bait mystery which was solved immediately after the end credits. This was storytelling by-the-numbers, and I’m so happy that there are games like Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus out there which are willing to push the envelope and go to some truly fantastic places. I was offered a few more weapons to take another run at it from the beginning. I politely declined.
Given how the grey gave way to various shades of brown halfway through, the game should probably have been called Russet-stance: Fall of Tan. It is so supremely average in almost every regard, that it’s pretty much impossible for me to recommend picking it up and I’m desperately hoping that the sequels do something, anything, more interesting with the genre.