Churches in general have a long history of providing alms to the impoverished and the displaced, for community, safehouse, for care, or for passage. The earliest hospitals were often created by Bishops and other clergy to serve the local poor and sick, or travelers on pilgrimage. In the fictional backstory of Resistance, Manchester Cathedral had been converted for use as a hospital during the Chimera’s initial attack. Upon entering, the player can see the rows of cots and dismantled medical equipment. This field hospital had either been abandoned or, more likely, its patients and staff had been overcome.
In "civilized" wars, opponents distinguish military from civilian targets. The fact that the cathedral-made-hospital was not spared attack in the game’s fiction not only helps establish the savage inhumanity of the Chimaera but also demonstrates that in the face of this apocalypse, the church carried out its charter, to support people in need, to stand resolved in the face of death.
Some might argue that such a claim could be made about any church. In their rejoinder of Sony, the Church of England asked this very question: why Manchester instead of a fictional city?
Video games frequently recreate real cities as settings. Usually these cities are immediately identifiable for players worldwide: Los Angeles (True Crime: Streets of LA), London (The Getaway), New York (The Godfather). Such major cities provide a built-in context for gameplay that helps set expectations and context. Resistance uses real locations but not well-known, highly identifiable ones — Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol, York. This wasn't a matter of hometown pride; Insomniac is based in Burbank, CA. Outside of the UK, players likely have little or no personal experience of cities like Manchester, and thus their expectations for geographic accuracy are lowered. Like Burbank, Manchester conjures a culturally specific location without needing to exceed unfairly high expectations.
Manchester Cathedral cements this sense of place in the game. The cathedral is an impressive monument, a marker of cultural and social heritage with a long history. It was constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries, in the gothic style common to that era. The cathedral occupies a prominent place in central Manchester, an historic region of the city that can trace its roots back to the first century A.D.
Graphical realism is where the PS3 really shines, and the in-game cathedral is a convincing rendering of the real thing. As with most Gothic churches, the player can't help but try to take in the sublime grandeur of the cathedral when he enters. The game affords a few second of exploration, but then a torrent of Chimaera appear, a barrage of creatures unlike any that the player has previously encountered in the game. The natural response is to unleash a frenzy of fire, swirling rapidly around the church, between what remains of its pews and its enclaves. Careful cover and selective bursts of fire are not much of an option here.