Resistance, as they say, is futile. As it happens, 'they' were dead right, as showing this off at the last E3 was an utterly futile exercise. Futile in that the game was just so evidently being shown off way too early, and giving the distinct impression that Insomniac's latest game was little more than Call of Duty with rather dim aliens instead of lemming Germans.
Rather than set off on a futile whinge about how unfinished the visuals looked, or how uninspiring the combat felt, or how rudimentary the deathmatch multiplayer came across, we said nothing. More out of respect to the evidently talented folks at Insomniac than anything.
Within seconds of clapping our eyes on the monster 1080p Sony Bravia screen being used to show of the game off at its best (to confirm, it'll be one of the 1080p titles for launch), it's clear that this sci-fi shooter has moved on enormously over the past four or five months since that hobbled demo in LA. Better still, we'd go as far to say that it looks like it could well be one of the must-haves when the console launches in November in the US and Japan (cue violins all over Europe).
Throwing us right into the action with barely a chance to get our bearings, the TGS demo left us in no doubt of two things: 1) those bloody bastard insect aliens aren't messing around any more, and 2) it's going to kick an inordinate amount of (my) arse.
In Resistance, the Second World War never happened. Instead, mainland Europe and Russia have been decimated by a terrible virus perpetrated by a species of unknown origin known as the Chimera. These 'alien' beings - over previous decades - have infected other life forms into more Chimera (who are essentially giant insects from what we can gather), leaving the US and the Brits to form an alliance to wipe this deadly alien scourge off the planet. And presumably sing really bad songs to embarrass later generations of unwitting children.
The latest demo level puts you in the shoes of US Army Ranger Sgt Nathan Hale in a typical 'against all odds' battle for survival that marries elements of Call of Duty 2, Black and even has a whiff of Half-Life 2 about it. In essence, the demo features the same ultra hostile multiple-eyed insect aliens from the E3 build, and roughly the same sort of shattered urban environments. But our initial reaction was mightily different as the game's vastly improved AI and much-improved visuals combined to show off Resistance in a much better light.
This time, rather than being able to plough through a fairly forgettable run of cannon fodder, the appearance of giant enemy crabs, sorry, I mean giant, multi-limbed, laser-pulsing insectoid creatures soon evened the odds. With little choice but to scuttle off to find cover behind a tree or shattered piece of building, it was an instantly challenging encounter, which was swiftly followed up by more of the same brutality. Feeling more like Call of Duty 2 on Veteran mode (but without the recharging health), it's a game that appears to delight in putting players on the back foot rather than one that you can simply charge around being trigger happy.
But with a full compliment of weapons available to deal with the alien scum, you can either tap R2 to cycle through, or select from a specific menu that apes the excellent system that Ratchet fans will be used to. Without the benefit of the exact names available, the game combines classic and futuristic armaments, including bog standard machine guns, rifles, chain guns and RPGs, alongside plasma cannons and slightly more exotic-looking firearms - though it remains to be seen at this stage whether Resistance will take elements of Ratchet's weapons upgrade/experience system with it. Somehow, we hope so.
With hands-on time limited by the strict time-allocated system imposed by the TGS organisers, we barely had time to deal with an enormous hairy arachnid before we were jettisoned to make way for the next eager soul in the snaking queue to play the game. Even so, our hands-on left us nodding with agreement at Insomniac's previous claims of large-scale warfare, highly detailed environments (said to boast 256 times the texture detail of the average PS2 title), convincing rag-doll physics, and convincing AI. For example, there were times when it was obvious that the AI reacts slightly differently every time we ran through the demo. Sometimes the giant aliens would focus their fire on your buddies, but if you decided to take the attack to them, the chances are they'd be hell-bent on pursuing you instead.
Batting for the other side
Other interesting facts we managed to glean on Resistance reveal that the actual story is told in flashback form, with a certain British Captain Rachel Parker regaling the story of Nathan Hale's heroic last acts of service. We also found out that the game even slips into Quake 4 territory, with Hale becoming one of them (gasp) over the course of the game. With a potentially grand tale to unravel in single or co-op up mode (via split-screen), it certainly has the potential to be a compelling enough shooter, though admittedly not one that's in any way breaking new ground. We don't mind, though. For shooter fans, Resistance definitely has enough promise to play close attention to when the PS3 launches.
But what of multiplayer, we hear you cry? Well, Insomniac is certainly working hard to deliver. Familiar modes such as the ubiquitous deathmatch will be complimented by team- and class-based offerings, such as Meltdown and Breach modes. The latter, for example, features specialised types of players on both the human and the Chimeran sides as players try to destroy each other's respective reactors.
Elsewhere, Insomniac promises an online ranking system to allow players to move up to level 60, with a new rank bestowed every three levels - granting players new skins to make the promotion visually apparent to others as you play. Meanwhile, in terms of player support, up to 40 players in total is mooted in the team-based modes, clans can be formed, while Insomniac has confirmed elsewhere that additional downloadable content is also in the planning stages.
All in all, although there's nothing amazingly new about Resistance that we can't say we've seen in numerous other shooters, it manages to tick all the right boxes and impress in every area that counts. Just like the Ratchet games, they might not look amazing during the chaos of events like TGS, but you can be sure that Insomniac won't let you down once you spend time getting to grips with its intricacies. With an intriguing storyline and premise, technical brilliance and a solid multiplayer component, it's definitely near the top of the pile of PS3 launch titles and one you should check out when the time comes.
Resistance: Fall of Man has been confirmed as a PS3 launch title. Check out a full review of the game close to the US launch in November.