Every console launch needs a game that shows what the new machine is capable of. If you're lucky you get a Halo, but these blockbuster launch titles are rare, with ports and rushed exclusives generally being more par for the course. Resistance Fall of Man from Insomniac Games is Sony's big launch hope. A first-person shooter set in an alternate history where WW2 didn't happen and an alien race has invaded earth, Resistance features solid next-gen visuals, tight gameplay and some great online support.
At around the middle of this alternate 20th Century a vile alien race known as the Chimera invades earth and starts killing off humans. You play as Nathan Hale, an 'all guns blazing' American soldier who is sent over to the UK in order to bolster British defences against the growing Chimera threat. Throughout the game you move across the British Isles, taking on the alien scum and delving deeper into the inner workings of their race.
Coming from the development studio behind Ratchet & Clank, weapons unsurprisingly play a big part in Resistance. Although set in a time that would usually prevent the use of technologically advanced weapons, Insomniac's decision to create a fictional history has allowed them to be rather experimental. You'll run into some standard looking firearms, but most cater for the sci-fi crowd, featuring primary and secondary fire modes that often verge on genius.
There's a certain amount of fun to be gained by discovering some of the more exotic weapons yourself, but I can't review the game without mentioning the awesome fuel grenades - throw one into a crowded area and watch as gas spreads before igniting and torching all caught in the explosion. There are so many weapons that it's unlikely you'll get to use them all fully on your first run through and new weapons can be used once you've beaten the game for the first time. Enemies, too, vary quite wildly, from the small and scurrying to the large and powerful.
All this would count for nothing if the gameplay didn't hold up, but thankfully it does. Compared to classic console shooters like Halo and Gears of War, Resistance is a much faster game, and feels far closer to older PC titles in terms of pacing. Enemies can be taken out in numerous ways and the AI is competent, but Resistance comes to life in set pieces. You get less original 'wow' moments, the kind you get in AI focussed titles like F.E.A.R., but the campaign is never dull and throws more and more at you until it's all over. Difficulty levels rarely spike unfairly, but on occasion a checkpoint placement will force you to replay a fairly lengthy section numerous times. On the whole, though, Resistance is challenging but rarely annoying.
If there's one area that lets Resistance down it's the way the story and campaign is structured. There is a story that runs throughout the entire game, told through cutscenes, but it's the way levels end that causes the problems. You'll be fighting off enemies, perhaps even blasting through barriers in a tank, and then the screen will blur and it'll be the end of the level. At times the end will come rather out of the blue, at points where you're having fun and expecting an intense shoot-out or similar. When the screen blurs and you're shown a cutscene this excitement is shot in the foot. It's something that might not bother some players, but it makes the game feel rather disjointed.
Being one of Sony's key titles you'd expect Resistance to lead the pack in terms of presentation and it certainly doesn't disappoint, although it won't excite Xbox 360 gamers as much as PlayStation fans who have chosen the PS3 as their debut next-gen console. The game has a unique look due to the real-world setting that's been mixed with alien technology. Alien structures litter war-torn towns and cities, and the sense of scale in some areas is astounding. The setting might be based in reality, but so many fresh ideas have gone into the design that it feels completely original.
When you do finish the single-player campaign (playable in split-screen co-op too), which will take a little longer than you probably expect, Resistance includes a fully featured online multiplayer mode to get stuck into. Sony's online service still lacks many of Xbox Live's leading features, but 40-player online matches can't be sniffed at. Because of this large player limit the maps on offer vary quite wildly in size, with some catering for smaller 8-16 player games while others have to house the full 40 players.
As well as standard detahmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag game types, Resistance bolsters its online offering with 'Conversion', a mode not too dissimilar to last man standing-style game modes from other shooters, and two assault modes. These two modes make players battle for control points in the map and will feel familiar to players of Unreal Tournament's Onslaught game mode. The Chimera is also a playable race online, and they have their own specific nuances, making them more than simply another model skin.
Matchmaking and general multiplayer features are excellent too, with ranked and unranked matches, clan support, friends list and a party system for playing with a group of friends. While all these features would have been better had they been built into the PlayStation 3 online service as a whole, Insomniac should still be applauded for including such thorough online support and functionality.
Resistance is unlikely to be remembered as fondly as shooters that will arrive later in the PlayStation 3's life, but as a launch game it ticks all the boxes. It looks great, features an action packed campaign, includes some splendid online support and generally points towards a great future for action games on the system. If you're picking up a PlayStation 3 Resistance Fall of Man should be high on your must buy list.