It's been almost two years since we left Sgt. Nathan Hale in the ruined wastes of Europe, the lone survivor of the Chimera scourge. It's also been about two years since the PlayStation 3 launched with Fall of Man as its premiere piece of software and brand new franchise packed with impressive graphics and huge multiplayer capabilities. Has the sequel cemented a legacy, or will this resistance be crushed?
Things pick up immediately after the first game, with Hale being taken in by the black-ops Special Research Projects Agency, or SRPA. Hale, infected but resistant to the Chimeran virus, joins up with others like him, called Sentinel, as the Chimera decide to invade the United States.
The game unfolds across the US and a few other choice locales as Hale and his compatriots fend off the onslaught. Hale's humanity is slowly stripped away, leaving him as a walking dead for Chimera indoctrination. The tale is told through various cutscenes, in-game cinemas, and background-spilling documents strewn throughout the levels.
The futuristic 1950's setting never really becomes fleshed-out, since most of the time is spent just trying to survive. Yet the story makes for some pretty good action movie material, with constant doom on the horizon and every victory met with another catastrophe. A more tangible, sinister villain also helps focus the ire of the campaign.
This time around the boys at Insomniac have decided to fall more in line with modern shooter perceptions. The traditional health bar is gone-replaced by a regenerating one. You're limited to two weapons at a time, thankfully all with an alternate fire, with some new pieces entering the arsenal, like the limb-tearing ripper.
Vehicle segments are AWOL this time around, but levels are much more diverse and keep a good pace going, as you take on new Chimera like the brainless Grims and the cloaked Chameleons--often with the help of fellow Sentinels or the regular army. There are some exquisite locations with a wider spectrum of colors, but our old friend the invisible wall returns, striking down many tactical plays.
Weapon experimentation isn't exactly encouraged. The most appropriate armament always seems to be conveniently available at each scenario, and death sometimes has you restart at a checkpoint with a different gun than you had, and it's usually more apt to do the job. Sometimes the vastness of an area will make you think that surviving it is open to interpretation, but the game's fairly linear overall.
Multiplayer comes in two flavors. There's the traditional competitive option where up to 60 players can duke it out in a variety of game modes, and a new cooperative campaign that's unlike anything seen in first-person shooters.
Competitive is fun and the big battles can get chaotic and bloody. Mixing a VIP element into a control point game works really well, while traditional deathmatches are easy to jump in and enjoy.
The eight-player cooperative is a whole new beast. Let it be said: you can't play the single-player campaign with a friend, and cooperative doesn't offer the same style of play. It's more World of Warcraft than Call of Duty. There are three classes, one can take damage, one can dish it out, and another can heal it. You'll be sticking to your role, as enemies soak up the damage and expel XP with every bullet-their hit points scaling based upon the player's level. The pace is very different from what you'd expect, and takes some getting used to, but it offers an experience like no other.
All three modes are finally cinched together with the XP. You level up, acquire new items, and unlock skins and the like to customize your character. No matter what you're doing, you're always making progress, which gives Resistance 2 a deep well of rewards. It may be a little inflated, but Call of Duty 4's prestige mode can testify that if you make it attainable, someone will unlock it.
While there's some conflict in design choices, Resistance 2 is all about diversity in the weapons, enemies, setttings, and multiplayer options. A campaign that stretches over 10 hours doesn't hurt, either.
Resistance 2 gets all the tenets of combat right. The controls feel smooth, with no more SixAxis shake to remove facehuggers, and headshots are appropriately rewarded. The Chimera horde put up plenty of challenge, more with sheer numbers and firepower than proper intelligence.
The Grims are brainless and just swarm, and enemies in general seem to ignore your fellow soldiers and hone in on you. Bosses feel bigger than life until you discover the simple pattern or puzzle to defeat them. Yet, there are multiple levels of difficulty and trophies to unlock and repeated plays of the campaign continue to net you XP. It can become incredibly addictive. Chimeran shock troops do know how to take cover and exploit yours, and it's one of the few games these days that gets better as you go.
Playing with all the weapons and their modes is satisfying, but Insomniac's penchant for creating inventive ways to destroy is a little muted here. Though we realize that some consistencies are essential in creating a universe, a few too many armaments return from Fall of Man.
The competitive multiplayer is fine on all fronts with objective-based gameplay, and breaking 30-man teams into more manageable chunks keeps things motivating. Lag really isn't an issue-even with 60 players in a game at once.
Resistance 2 plays like a typical first-person shooter. There's no real hook to the gameplay, but what's here is executed extremely well.
The first Resistance blew open the doors on the cell processor, but the follow-up doesn't elicit as much awe. The fact sheets say the Chimeran poly count is doubled and things like that, but we can't really see it. Some water effects and animations straddle the line from impressive to just weird. As you'd expect, multiplayer scales down its looks, but anytime anything or anyone explodes, well, its aces.
The musical score is impressive and dynamic, but like any good background music, it never pushes too far into the narrative. The cinemas look great, using a new motion capture camera to recreate extremely detailed movements. While Nathan Hale's latest jaunt is undoubtedly one of the better looking and sounding games on the block, it doesn't shatter perception.
Resistance 2 offers more than the first game on all fronts. A better-designed single-player experience, more online mayhem with almost unthinkable amounts of player support, and a unique co-op mode make it easy to recommend. It's a little derivative, but it's an incredible value and a top quality production. Hopefully the next Resistance will be a revolution.