Augers well for innovation
Probably the one truly innovative weapon is the Auger, which allows the recipient to shoot through walls, with a delayed burst of white energy emerging from any solid barrier. But, again, it's pretty easy to avoid, and in terms of actually killing your enemy, you're often better off getting a proper bead on them. Gamers don't need weapons that look cool, as such, and the rather standard load-out (shotgun, sniper rifle, rocket launcher, and various rapid-fire guns) demonstrates that. It's far more important to give players enemies that are reactive, dynamic and intelligent. That's, ultimately, where Resistance fails, without wishing to labour the point to death.
And having done little to make the core shooting gameplay in any way different to any number of games that have gone before, it's perhaps even more gutting to see the title fail to shine as a next generation spectacle. As a first party title, at least part of its job is to act as a technical showcase for the PlayStation 3. The fact that the results are so strangely unambitious makes it even harder to care about Nathan Hale's Chimeran fightback. Right from the start, the game world is bordering on sterile, feeling like yet another indestructible set that never allows you to carve a different path through, or even vaguely interact with on any meaningful level. Sure, the environmental geometry is well up to scratch, and Insomniac has managed to tick most of the boxes that give it the initial ambience of being an impressive spectacle, but you don't have to look very hard before it all feels decidedly underwhelming.
Mostly, it's just like any other bombed out WW2 set, and just as restrictive in how you're allowed to navigate your way through it. It's yet another instance of 'look but don't touch', and never once even gives the hint that you can cut loose and do things your own way. It's just move on, clear out, move on through numerous short sections before the narrative curve fades to a blur. In a way that's a fitting visual cue, because, played end to end, the game tries to string together a coherent narrative, but fails to effectively link together the action in a credible sense. Missions often end suddenly, with no real sense of having concluded your efforts. The stylish cut-scenes do, admittedly, lend a polished reward to your efforts, but it doesn't really make up for the harsh edits. Meanwhile, no matter what goes on, Hale remains the dead-eyed mute throughout, as if adhering to some unwritten FPS law. After Insomniac's personality-laden past, Resistance is the polar opposite, and you have no real affection for him as a result.
A weekend in the cities
It makes a pleasant change to be playing in places like York, Grimsby, Manchester, Nottingham and eventually London, but even if you're familiar with such places, for most of the game you could be fighting anywhere. The hilarity of hitting London and seeing three red telephone boxes standing in a line (apparently in a side room of an indoor market of all places) just adds to the cut and paste feeling of some of the sets. And did they even have those 'keep left' traffic bollards in 1951? (And while we're on this, why is the radio communication so sophisticated? In 2007 I can't even use my mobile phone on the underground trains, so how, exactly, is Hale able to get updates when he's deep underground?) There was clearly so much potential in this 'what if?' scenario, but even by the end we don't really fully get a picture of the Chimeran motivations, or why it all started, or anything that leaves you with any resolution. By boiling the whole episode down to good versus evil mutants, there's not even the scant consolation of a great storyline to rake over at the conclusion.
All the game can offer the player at the end is the chance to play through again and unlock some new weapons. If we're honest, playing it through once was enough of a slog (and only out of duty) - the desire to run through a tired, derivative cookie cutter FPS like this would have to come with a cash prize attached to it to make us do it again. And the discovery of concept art as a reward for unlocking the various skill points felt like the ultimate slap in the mush. Are they trying to upset us?
Of course, many would point to the lure of the co-op or competitive multiplayer. Well, for one thing, the potential lure of co-op is dampened by the fact that it's offline split-screen only, while the other modes are competitive only. Upon entering the online menu for the first time, the update patch takes fully 15 minutes to download and apply itself - and the promise of 40-player online relies on extensive waiting around and other players' patience. Most matches during the review phase were limited to 16-player only, which evidently makes it difficult to comment on the mayhem of mass deathmatch madness.
But as many have noted, the game's best weapons are the real star of the online game, and make it a lot easier to tolerate the utter blandness of some of the maps. The balanced nature of the weaponry makes it an intriguing battle on some levels, with weapons like the Auger making it a real cat and mouse affair - especially with someone, say, capable of rebounding Hailstorm fire with skill. The addition of thousands of European gamers on the servers won't hurt the game's appeal in the initial launch period, but it's hard to say whether that will last long. Certainly, the US servers still had plenty of games up and running even at unfavourable times of day, which is a good sign.
That said, in the cut and thrust world of online shooters, Resistance ranks well below some of the established big hitters out there. The lack of co-op, in particular, is a major oversight. Time will tell if it's significant, but given how popular the co-op online modes of Gears of War, GRAW 2 and Rainbow Six: Vegas have been, you can't help but feel that gamers have a basic requirement for collaborative online play these days. Another black mark, then.
The overall disappointment that comes from playing Resistance is troubling. For years, Insomniac has carved itself an impressive reputation, and had a golden opportunity to throw its creativity at a genre which has been stuck in its ways for far too long. That it merely aped almost all of the things wrong with this creatively moribund genre is alarming. That's not to say that it's a bad game at all, because in most senses Resistance bears a solid resemblance to a lot of very successful shooters of the last few years. But to simply come up with a game on a new platform that completely stands still feels like a huge disappointment from a studio that's more than capable of doing thing differently to everyone else. Put bluntly, the combat and AI is merely average, the visuals don't really wow, and the much-vaunted weaponry makes little difference to how it plays. To say we're underwhelmed is the understatement of the year.
6 / 10