It just never really clicked, did it? Despite all the advertising and hype and expectations placed upon it, Sony’s Resistance series has always just…been there. People like it, sure, but it’s not exactly a blockbuster, certainly not to the level Sony were hoping/expecting when it debuted alongside the launch of the PlayStation 3.
I remember overhearing an Insomniac developer at TGS a few years ago explaining the series’ development history to some business types. How Sony had literally approached the studio and said, “make a Halo clone”. What began life as a space shooter later evolved into something a little different, the retro-future setting the franchise is now known for, but those roots made one thing clear: it was intended to be Sony’s Halo-killer. Or, at least, a Halo-fighter.
Which never happened. Sales were good, but not great. Public perception of the franchise has been warm, but never rapturous. In short, it’s been a solid performer for Sony, but it’s also fallen far short of what it was meant to be.
Why is that? I’ve always felt it was down to two things: presentation and design. The setting for Resistance sounds awesome. An alternate history where aliens, and an alien virus, drive us to the brink, and humanity is forced to survive by crudely combining existing technology with whatever we can scrounge from our superior foes.
But it never looked that cool. The uniform and tech designs for the humans wasted that setting by looking mostly like, well, generic sci-fi gear. The kind of stuff you’d see in a near-future shooter, not something set in the 1950s. It was all future, little retro. Which I think wasted the real potential of the premise in the first place.
That feeling of malaise extends to the characters. I know Nathan Hale because I write about video games for a living, but alongside a lack of visual flair, Resistance has also suffered from a dearth of memorable and interesting characters. There hasn’t been a mascot to really pin everything on, a recognisable and identifiable hero to drive things forward.
The next was the design of the game. Resistance is a very old-fashioned shooter. Like something you’d have played on the PC in the late 90s. It has lots of weird guns (which you’d expect, given it’s made by the same guys who made Ratchet & Clank), but also a very “floaty” feel, and it doesn’t really bring much new to the table. There’s nothing distinctive or memorable, no trademark feature about the way Resistance plays when you compare it to, say, Halo’s “30 Seconds of Fun” arenas, or Gears of Wars’ cover mechanic, or even its label-mate Killzone with its heavy, hulking immediacy.
Some people like that! And I’m not hating on it. I like (most of) the Resistance games too. But to be great, to be something worth coming back to over and over and over with sequel and sequel after sequel, games need to offer something more.
Now, most of that is just me. It’s why I’ve never particularly warmed to Resistance. But I’d bet at least one of those reasons, in particular the second, is why you never hear the series mentioned in the same breath as Call of Duty, or Halo, or Gears, or these days even Crysis.
It also may explain why series creators Insomniac have left the property behind, and why Sony has now said, in light of the poor reception to the franchise’s Vita debut, that “We have no definitive plans” for the future of Resistance. Hardly encouraging words, those.
Hopefully that means the series has been put to bed.
But not killed. There’s promise in the premise, and at the very least it’s a nice trademarked name to have hold of. Resistance. Simple, evocative, sums the whole thing up perfectly.
It’d be great to see Sony let the current take on Resistance go, and then in a few year’s time – you know, with new hardware – revisit the series. Give it to a new developer, let them reboot the thing from the ground up, take what works, throw out what doesn’t and come up with something fresh.