Resistance: Fall of Man’s job wasn’t just to shift a machine, it’s job was to shifty a bloody expensive machine — one touted as being as about as powerful as five overclocked DeepMinds on RedBull stuck together with ducktape. The Sony PlayStation 3 was pitched as a video-game console turned lord and saviour – and all you had to do was sacrifice the contents of your entire bank account to bask its finger-printed, Blu-ray playing glory.
Tall order, then, for a game that doesn’t tick the boxes you’d expect of a very-expensive-machine experience. It’s not exactly a looker, with a colour palette fit for the original Game Boy. And it’s married to a framerate that’s about as stable as a two-legged chair on balanced on the head of a pin on quicksand. Its story isn’t exactly Shakespeare with pew-pew guns, either – vast swaths of narrative presented in what’s effectively a PowerPoint presentation with a bit of background music and a seemingly indifferent narrator.
Resistance then and now – 15 years later – is okay, passable, average, mediocre. A game clearly assembled under the unwritten commandment of consoleth musteth haveth gameth at launcheth. There’s only really one way to describe Insomniac’s launch title: a great shooter trapped in a mediocre game born from a deadline to get something, anything, over the line for the launch date of the new-fangled PlayStation machine.
Even then, it’s a fairly-decent shooter that becomes a great one hours in. When that weapon feel eventually fills out, the game slams you with everything it can must. It puts your knowledge of the tools it provides to the test – getting to the point where you’ll be switching guns on a per-kill basis. Not because you just happen to have ammo in that particular weapon – but because it’s the most effective and most fun to use.
It’s a bit of a shame, then, that Resistance looks like a poster child for the sepia-tone shooters of yesteryear. It’s an accidental cliché: brown baritone shooting with death and war and guns and stuff. In broader terms, its proper ugly. But perhaps that’s fitting, really. War isn’t pretty – and there’s no reason why Resistance should be. A bold choice for a shooter meant to move a console that was all about those ‘teh graphics’,
A solid shooter, then, that betrayed the platform it was meant to help shift. There’s something remarkable about just how unremarkable – and how bleak – Resistance really was. A developer with a penchant for the weird and wonderful makes a shooter about humanity getting its ass handed with a colour palette that – to put it generously – features about four colours. A bit like a kid who suddenly decides to don eye liner and black nail polish on its 13th birthday.
It’s case study into what makes a shooter fun. No hot story beats, zero memorable characters, little visual flair: Resistance strips out everything you’d normally attribute to a successful game – things even Halo had going for it years before. It omits these supporting structures and it’s still stands relatively strong, a confession that all a decent shooter just needs to let us kill some very ugly, very aggressive aliens with some very fun, very pew-pew guns. Groundbreaking, it ain’t. A cult-classic, it’s not. But a solid shooter that does a decent job of the first-person and ‘shooting’ bits is exactly what it does right.
Resistance isn’t a bad attempt at someone doing something for the first time on a new box in a new generation. It’s impossible not to commend Insomniac for making a game that still works nearly two decades later.
But for every line waxing lyrical on how to inventive its guns can be, there’s a line to lament just how uninventive, just how corner-shop the rest are. The sniper rifle is a sniper rifle, the shotgun is a shotgun – which makes sense in 1950s England. Good job that it’s other pew-pew pointers make up for that, then. The Bullseye tags enemies and swarm them with barrage of orange projectiles. Through door ways, over walls, around corners – this bad boy is a saviour on harder difficulties, letting you punch up without actually punching up. It’s Resistance a tits best – and Resistance at its most memorable, partly because the gun’s orange projectiles actually inject a bit of colour into the proceedings while making you feel like The Art of War on legs.
Fun, inventive guns that turn decent shooting into great shooting – an arsenal that throws into sharp relief just how uninventive the genre really is with the weapons it provides. Halo is literally about aliens from the other side of the galaxy who produce weapons that disappointingly archetypal across multiple alien races with different technologies and different. It’s weird that in the the bigger-budget, high-profile water’s Resistance tread in, nothing really came close to its roster of zany weapons.
But that same case study on what makes shooters work really reveals what stops shooters from becoming transcendent, industry mainstays. Why Resistance – unlike Halo before it – doesn’t rest in the retirement home of the great video game shooters of its time, or even of its generation. Discarding what it didn’t need to be fun meant it discarded what it needed to be truly great. It’s the economy-class of shooters that ironically pays the ultimate price: a shooter that’s remember for all things it didn’t quite do – not all the things it did.