Remembering Insomniac’s Resistance Trilogy

Halo killer” was a common term during the unparalleled heights of the previous generation’s console wars. Let’s be honest though, looking back now it was all just a little bit silly.

Released by developer Insomniac as a PS3 launch title back in 2006, Resistance: Fall of Man saw the launch of the series, with many Halo naysayers hoping that it would succeed where Sony’s other first-party FPS franchise Killzone had failed. In terms of cultural impact or gamer mindshare, there’s a fair argument to be made that neither series was able to reach the levels of celebration Master Chief’s intergalactic outings garnered, but either way, in terms of importance to the platform, the core Resistance trilogy played a major role.

Taking place within an alternate historical timeline where World War II raged on into the 1950s only to be invaded by an alien race, Resistance: Fall of Man set a new benchmark for the shooter genre. It wasn’t simply another military first person shooter; it was a genuinely unique and thoughtful game series. What I’ve always found interesting about the Resistance trilogy on PS3 is that each of the three games each offer a distinctly different experience whereas other IPs chose to stick to a similar tone and feel.

Take Resistance: Fall of Man for example. This first game ostensibly offered a military shooter similar to the likes of pre-Modern Warfare Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Battlefield, and Spec Ops – with just a sprinkle of sci-fi added for good measure. It had trenches, evocative wartime imagery, and even an arbitrary vehicle mission most military games were so known for plopping in mid-game.

Rather than stick to this simple formula with Resistance 2, Insomniac allowed the game’s world to change within the narrative, and so the gameplay, presentation, and general feel of the title could evolve too. Resistance 2 was more representative of a squad shooter, á la Socom, MAG, and Rainbow Six. It placed emphasis on “togetherness” and working in a group; even if that group happened to be AI managed. Gone were the WWII Tanks and shell helmets, replaced instead by a literal team of Resistance fighters who acted as humanity’s only hope.

Fast forward three years, and the aptly titled Resistance 3 once again presented a very different game with a totally new tone and feel. Your efforts at the end of Resistance 2 by and large failed, and so players took on the new role of unlikely survivor Joseph Capelli – the everyman wanting to secure the existence of his family which impressively resulted in a more personal tale. This is a genre of FPS I’ve taken to call “the lone shooter”; very reminiscent of titles such as Singularity, Bioshock, and Half-Life.

Such genre shifts made the Resistance trilogy something wholly unique every time, with each game offering players a fresh experience that still made sense within the continuity of its overarching story. This is something I’ve always loved about Insomniac’s series just as much as its weapon variety, and it’s something I’m hopeful I’ll be able to love once again given the opportunity.

For now, Insomniac’s elseworld sci-fi shooting franchise remains on ice, in the same state as Guerilla’s Helghast-centric FPS series. And without even the hope of a future PS4 remastered release on the horizon, players who wish to experience these vastly different and wildly unique games are either forced to indulge in some very latency-driven PS Now, or brush the dust off their old PS3. It’s with this in mind that I’ve chosen to remember the Resistance trilogy, exploring how each game succeeded in making an impact on an initially under-selling and over-priced platform, resulting in one of the most interesting and under-appreciated shooter experiences which should be had by all.

Be warned – spoilers are afoot, but hey, these games are about a decade old so I’m not apologising.

Resistance: Fall of Man (The “Military Shooter”)

Unabashedly hindered by many of the usual drawbacks that come with being a console launch title, Resistance: Fall of Man might not be anything special to look back at today, but at the time it was pretty impressive. Fall of Man did a great job of creating a believably grim world that would come when experiencing an alien invasion in the midst of a world war – and that’s surely no easy feat. Placing you in the role of grit-voiced army staff sergeant Nathan Hale, things consistently go from bad to worse as the scope of what’s happening progressively widens as you make your way through war-torn London and its surrounding areas.

As the series’ resident military shooter, Resistance: Fall of Man was no stranger to flooding the screen with horrific imagery commonly associated with either World War. Churches were crumbling to rubble, the air was filled with the battle cries of joint British-American forces, and of course there was never a shortage of trenches to shuffle through and hop over. Only in its sequel would Resistance truly commit to full-scale alternate sci-fi: Fall of Man ends with Hale being taken into custody after destroying the aliens’ – known as the Chimera – central tower in London.

Resistance: Fall of Man is admittedly quite a clunky experience when compared to the slick shooting experiences available today, but before the arrival of Halo 3 in 2007, it gave PlayStation fans something to slobber over and made for some truly original fiction and world-building.

Resistance 2 (The “Squad Shooter”)

If Resistance: Fall of Man laid down the initial groundwork in terms of universe building, its sequel Resistance 2 was the game that took the concept of an interplanetary invasion and fully ran with it. Once again letting players take hold of now-infected super soldier Nathan Hale, this sequel upped the ante substantially by setting players on a globe-trotting journey, viewing the invasion from various viewpoints and angles. The whole experience was much grander than its predecessor, with a much bigger scope of areas and boss creatures; it’s as if Sony and Insomniac suddenly had more confidence in their new IP.

Resistance 2 is the series’ resident squad shooter, keeping very much in line with the modern Call of Duty method of having a companion NPC dart off into the distance, requiring you to rally behind them as you work your way through waves and waves of enemy forces. The game did a fantastic job of relaying to you the need to work well with others as part of a team, and this was reinforced further with the addition of an independent eight-player co-op campaign. If Resistance 2 had to be likened to a movie, it would be Aliens, with more and more of your super squad buddies being picked off mission by mission.

From a plot perspective, Resistance 2 struck the right balance between introducing a fixed narrative without revealing too much about the enemy – namely, where they come from, what they want, and how to best stop them. In tandem with the overarching story was a surprisingly personal narrative that explored what could happen if a previous army recruit became infected by the Chimeran virus to the point of insanity. This was the tale of Daedalus, who at the end of the game Hale is forced to kill. No worries though – Hale himself his offed before undergoing a similar process.

Resistance 3 (The “Lone Shooter”)

In the grand scheme of things, you have to give Resistance 3 some credit for dabbling with themes and ideas that the likes of The Last of Us would go on to be revered for. After being dishonourably discharged from the SRPA for killing the previous games’ protagonist, you’re in the shoes of Joseph Capelli, experiencing the alien invasion from the perspective of being scared, vulnerable, and severely underpowered.

The main crux of the game tracks your attempt to travel across an apocalyptic America with and companion alongside you in a bid to save humanity in one last endeavour. Sound familiar? Of course it does. Resistance 3 was riffing popular fiction long before Naughty Dog’s magnum opus ever did (but granted there was an overlapping development period). So while Dr. Malikov travels with you on your journey through the majority of the game, Resistance 3 is still the franchise’s “Lone Shooter”, a far cry from the grand scale squad shooting you would’ve experienced in Resistance 2.

Saying that Resistance 3 is a joy to play and experience might not be the most apt or appropriate term to use, but regardless it remains to this day one of the most thought-provoking narrative-driven FPS experiences I’ve played, and I personally hold it in the same regard as the original Bioshock. The tone is sombre, bleak, and everything else that makes it difficult to soldier on, and for those reasons, Resistance 3 represents the series’ best by far.

At least Resistance left on a high, but even though it’s six years since its release, I’m still left wanting more.