Earlier this year, the Church of England threatened to sue Sony Computer Entertainment Europe for depicting the Manchester Cathedral in the latter's sci-fi shooter Resistance: Fall of Man.
The church had complained about the game's inclusion of the cathedral, which was named and modeled after the 700-year-old church in this industrial city in northwest England. After considerable pressure and public condemnation, Sony issued a public apology. In their statement, Sony apologized for offending the church or the residents of Manchester, but not for including the cathedral in the game.
Amazingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, none of the coverage of the cathedral controversy actually discusses the game. Sony didn't say much about it either, save a self-defeating statement from Sony Europe noting that the game is work of fantasy science fiction game and not based on reality.
This statement implies, but does not actually address, the absurdity of critiquing a game about a hypothetical postwar 20th century in which a hybrid alien race called the Chimaera invade and assimilate the human population. But neither Sony nor developer Insomniac Games ever tried to explain the expressive goals the use of the cathedral advanced.
Absent the creators’ own ability, interest, or resolve to defend the artistic merits of their creation, that task is now left to the critic. For my part, I think the cathedral creates one of the only significant experiences in the whole game, one steeped in reverence for the cathedral and the church, rather than desecration.
Resistance is not a game richly imbued with wisdom. It's a first-person shooter, and it is a pretty good one. It's beautifully rendered, taking apparent advantage of the advanced graphical capabilities of the PlayStation 3. The game is very linear, both in its plot and the paths through each level, but that linearity allows it to focus the player on a smaller, more tightly crafted environment. Resistance takes up a common theme in science fiction: an ultimate test of humankind against the Other. This is also one of the classic themes of video games, one we have seen since Space Invaders.
Because of its simplicity, Resistance is also a very predictable game. You shoot aliens and alien-human hybrids. A lot of them, over and over again. Your character, Sgt. Nathan Hale, is a one-note brute of a fellow with a mysterious past and a permanently furrowed brow.
As is the case in most games of this kind, he is alone in his quest to rid the world of its space invaders, a turn justified by a feeble deus ex machina at the game’s outset, when all of Hale's unit is killed in a series of overwhelming ambushes.