Deeply engrossing in its bottled desperation, Resistance 2 has a tone of heroic resolve you can’t help but imagine your grandfather shared when the Chimera were just Nazi-shaped monsters. You know, if grandpa was infected with a virus that gave him super-strength while simultaneously threatening his life if he missed a dose of inhibitors. The vigor of Resistance: Fall of Man pales in comparison to the heightened action of its sequel, and the only thing holding Resistance 2 back from being wholly remarkable is a fairly linear campaign and Hale’s new, military issue, alpha dog ‘tude.
In Resistance: Fall of Man Nathan Hale’s tale of alternate history began with the decimation of Europe by an invading alien race, the Chimera. Resistance 2 opens with Hale’s retrieval from war-shattered England and transport to the last bastion of humanity: America. The story quickly jumps and just two short years after Hale’s arrival Stateside the Chimera begin a fierce offensive. Now part of an elite group of super soldiers known as the Sentinels, Hale and his fellow Chimeran virus infected begin their seemingly hopeless struggle against the invading nasties.
The Chimeran opposition has grown with bigger baddies to take down, all threatening the increasingly probable extinction of the human race. This time around the story, without Rachel, simply follows Hale. Since he is not exactly one to gush with the emotional reasoning, the player is left without insight into the why of it all. The story, while decidedly well-paced, is only in need of minor patchwork. In the midst of the rich detail and increasing mystery there are some moments of unrealized potential – particularly with your fellow Sentinels – that leave you hanging. Otherwise, your appreciation for the scope of the story will only increase as Project Abraham, the Cloven and the Chimeran virus are explored more deeply. Collecting Intel in the form of letters, documents and telegraphs will add clues to the narrative and enrich the story without being vital enough to ruin the speed-runner’s experience – but don’t skimp on searching those Idaho farmhouses, you never know what radio personalities you may meet!
Insomniac, in admirable Ratchet and Clank style, have again provided more than standard fare for your arsenal. The weapons include reprisals of the Carbine, Bullseye and Augur, and new weapons are brought on board like the Magnum and its exploding bullets and the Spider Grenade which is effective against groups of enemies with its fiery tendrils. My personal favorite has to be the rifle with the remote droid that electrifies the enemy; it is just so Ratchet-like. You can, however, only carry two weapons at a time so it pays to adapt and not get overly attached to certain ones.
Both NPC friendlies and enemies are imbued with proper AI. More than just lending a helping hand, the NPCs find that magical balance between not being dead weight and not being so adept that you feel like you’re playing catch up (they’re invincible, after all, what do they have to worry about). Most often your companion soldiers will wisely battle all the smaller threats freeing you up to focus on the directly approaching beasties. The different enemies will challenge your tactics and while Spinners may try to overcome you by the masses Hybrids will flank you – and in both cases you can count on their being lots of them, Resistance 2 does not skimp on on-screen enemies. Creatures you are pitted against are intimidating to say the least, and the Goliaths of the prologue seem downright tiny after a Kraken battle and adding to the satisfaction and import of a battle well-fought is that the bodies of the defeated remain afterwards. With this very action movie setup, it is really gratifying that the frame rate is smooth as glass despite the scale of the battles, so you won’t ever feel ripped from the engrossing action. Unfortunately, there are some serious “why did I just die” mystery moments.
The multi-player does include cooperative, though this time around you cannot play through the main campaign with friends. This was a disappointment in our house, where co-op play reigns supreme with coveted titles, but I understand why Insomniac didn’t want tracking on a second player any more than they wanted to upset the balance of the single player experience. In the new co-op you play as one the Spectres, a faction on a mission to uncover Gray Tech currently in the possession of Chimera. Gray Tech, once re-possessed, can be used to unlock missions and equipment. This broadens the single player campaign and shows another side to the war, and I think it was awesome that Insomniac imbued what could have simply been a solid co-op mode with greater purpose. On the downside, I encountered network connection problems when trying to join a game, which is never fun.
There are three different multi-player classes for the choosing, with no need to feel locked in as they can be changed in the midst of a match. Spec Ops carries the Marksman and can resupply with ammo but folds like a house of cards when under fire, The Solider is health-heavy and wields a chain gun with a shield while using up ammo like crazy, and Medics use Phoenix weapons to rob enemies of their health and redistribute it to teammates. Experience is then doled out based on how well players operate within their class, so there is incentive to adapt, and the classes make the multi-player pretty accessible. Once earned, experience grants higher ranks, new weapons and Berserck powers, which are class-specific.
The action of the battle in co-op is determined by the number of players and their levels. This answers the obvious question – having half a dozen companions rather than one or two means you will be fighting that many more enemies. The opposition won’t all be standard issue Chimera either as a more difficult mini-boss version of each variant crops up periodically, and with dynamic objectives no scenario will play exactly the same.
In competitive multi-player players can choose from standard fare like Deathmatch and Core Control (a.k.a. capture the flag) as well as more innovative bouts like Skirmish, which is objective-centric and has dynamic goals given to the half dozen squads on the Human and Chimeran sides, respectively. Objectives vary from taking out a target to protecting a location with each successive directive drawing everyone into a narrower, more centric field and intensifying the action. Leaderboards and some nifty real-time net updates all add fuel to the fire that is competitive spirit with a true social networking component in MyResistance.net.
A beautiful and intensely atmospheric game the overall quantity and quality of textures, atmosphere and lighting are top notch with conscious decisions made about what kind of visual experience was going to be delivered. By successfully transforming American cities, both familiar and foreign alike, into scenes of raw devastation and misery the stage is nothing short of epic. That is not to say texture pop-in and screen tearing don’t occur (as do that pesky post-mortem twitch and phantom limbs I hate to see in a fallen enemy), they’re just infrequent and inconsequential. There is a broad supporting cast and with solid voice acting the noise and flurry of the game is enveloping, or in the case of flesh pods, revolting.
Resistance 2 is an excellent game with fantastic art direction, but there is no longer that special hint of something greater. Without that golden touch, Resistance 2 plays like an accomplished shooter in which you progress through a straightforward campaign with fellow grunting tough guys in a battle against an impossible foe. There is no passing it up, this is true, I just can’t help but hold Insomniac to the highest standard and in the end the only thing keeping Resistance from being a perfect 10 is the sense that it has moved too much toward the expected.