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Recently, Sony prematurely pulled the online support plug on all three Resistance games. In doing so it became apparent the series never quite reached the popularity their creators intended them to, but the guys at Insomniac Games did manage to achieve something special. A look back at the evolution of Resistance looks like a cross-section of all of last generation of first person shooters.
Resistance: Fall of Man saw the light of the day in November 2006 as a PlayStation 3 launch title. Everybody marveled at its supposed visual and gameplay fidelity, and not having to wait for a quality game for a new console: four million copies were sold. Booting up Fall of Man today it’s hard to believe all that, because the game looks and plays like a PS2 title on steroids. The character of Ted Price’s game is more in line with Quake than Call of Duty – which may seem weird given the post-World War 2 setting – but that was the time when Modern Warfare was still yet to be released.
Ye olde school
Before Insomniac dove into the world of regenerating health, bombastic scripted events and aiming down sights, it searched for an inspiration amidst the works of id Software. Therefore the protagonist Nathan Hale is silent, carries around a whole arsenal of weapons and replenishes lost health with good old medpacks. At one point he even goes through a mutation, just like the “stroggification” in Quake IV (which in Resistance’s world means amplified strength and a self-regenerating body).
The weapons at a player’s disposal feature more ammunition than in your everyday FPS (a regular carbine is fed with 50 rounds instead of 30) and the enemies are bullet sponges. The weapons sights are unusable, so you don’t have to bother with precise aiming and the movement speed is high, thus you can easily engage your strafe’n’circle routine. To strengthen the old school feeling, there are rare checkpoints, ascetic cut-scenes and 12 hours is needed to complete the campaign. Even the level design brings back the old times, although backtracking is mercifully spared.
The second installment of Resistance shocked the fans of the original. It’s really hard to find another franchise that changed so much over the course of mere two years. The ammo clips suddenly lost rounds, the grenade pouch became smaller, the enemies bit the dust after just a few hits. And the protagonist spoke! The list of surprises for the Chimeran war veterans goes on. If a player is hit, the screen gets engulfed in a familiar red tint, telling him to get behind cover to regenerate health. Aiming down the sights is now possible, although not quite, as the game displays both iron sights and a painted crosshair. Finally Nathan Hale himself, during those few years that separated the two games, must have put on some pounds, as his movement speed is significantly diminished (despite carrying only two guns). To compensate for this, a sprint ability was added.
Although some of the changes may not seem like a step forward, in general Resistance 2 was better designed. There were more checkpoints, difficulty spikes were less frequent, level design got better and the plot became more interesting thanks to a brand new antagonist and fully fledged animated cut-scenes in place of the original game’s slide shows. It’s worth noting that completion time shrank to about 10 hours, which obviously isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Despite being vastly better than the first installment, a lot of Fall of Man fans found Resistance 2 disappointing. Thus, when creating part three, Insomniac decided to consider the cries of their fans and fused together the best of each of the previous’ games. The compromises made are greatly exemplified in the ammo count of the .303 Storm Rifle, now set at 36 (previously respectably 50 and 30). No more limiting arsenal to two pieces plus each and every gun has working iron sights and unlockable parts. The player character gained a brand new climbing ability and amped up movement speed, which comes in useful in the more spacious levels. There was also a symbolic change – Nathan Hale wasn’t around to be a protagonist, so Insomniac could get rid of the regenerative health
The plotline in Resistance 3 was, in keeping with the latest trend, more personal. The time needed to complete the campaign shrank to a mere eight hours and the looks and sounds were seriously improved. Back was single player cooperative mode, while multiplayer had a popular progression system, with passive and active perks for our character.
In five years an almost nonexistent protagonist became a fleshed-out character. He recalled how to use medkits, learned how to sprint, climb, and use weapon iron sights, while carrying a whole arsenal. He had an open mind and invested in himself, learning new skills and honing known ones. The world around him also got better – more spacious, accessible, with branching paths.
Taking a closer look at each Resistance, we see, clear as a day, the road taken by the whole genre of first person shooters over the past eight years. We realize, how similar designs were integrated into countless of other FPSes, how great the influence of Modern Warfare was and how, with the power of nostalgia/getting back to the roots, developers started to reintegrate old ideas. Lastly, we see clearly the newest trend in the whole video game industry – the going for RPG mechanics, various systems of character/equipment progression. What’s next? Only time will tell, although the next Resistance most likely isn’t happening.