Where the Xbox had Halo to thank for its success, the PlayStation 3 had largely one game to thank for its initial burst: Resistance: Fall of Man. The new franchise featured an alternate universe in which WWII never happened, an alien infestation/scourge threatened humanity, and where 40 PS3 owners could go online and fight for individual supremacy. The 40-person multiplayer was unlike any experience to hit a home console before, but even the single-player experience was compelling, although it did open slowly.
Two years later, Resistance 2 has shipped for PS3 with the goal of expanding the original’s universe, fixing some of its lingering issues and building upon its success. By and large, Insomniac Games has delivered on these goals: The multiplayer modes now support 60 players. A new co-op campaign lets eight people battle the Chimera while upgrading their characters a la Call of Duty 4. The single-player campaign explores a more diverse landscape. But amid all those improvements, there are still a few missteps.
Resistance 2’s campaign starts immediately after the original, with an infected Nathan Hale in U.S. custody while Great Britain falls to the Chimera. Hale is shuttled off to San Francisco, where the Chimera have begun attacking the United States. From there, the story progresses to Idaho and Chicago, among other locales, and provides some intense firefights. It’s just too bad that we don’t care too much about Hale himself, because he’s about as unique a character as the faceless foot soldiers he’s fighting with. Sure, he’s got a dramatic background, but when there are 300-foot tall Leviathans and almost unstoppable Kraken sea creatures to contend with, you really don’t care all that much about Hale as a “person.”
Unfortunately, those creatures are equally lifeless insofar as the gameplay diversity required to take them out. Battle tactics, even against the biggest enemies, are straightforward and lacking creativity, even as their towering presence amps up the intensity. But as intense as the combat is, the combat feels a bit dumbed down. Hale often fights alongside fellow human soldiers, but while they’re always shooting, they never seem to inflict any damage (Full Spectrum Warrior flashbacks are inevitable). Likewise, the Chimera often completely ignore the squad and solely target you, moreso on the higher difficulty settings, which is annoying and unrealistic no matter which way you cut it.
The Chimera’s AI is just as unbalanced, wavering between strategically gifted in pinning you down to outwardly incompetent in being within clear site of you or your troops and not taking a shot. Grunts tasked with lobbying grenades will stand still behind a barrier and continuously do so, never seeming to run out. When flanked, they make no move to protect themselves and continue to lob grenades dead ahead like mindless drones.
Fighting the Chimera is best summed up when encountering the Chameleon Chimera. These cloaked warriors had the potential to be as fearsome and scary to confront as a cloaked Arbiter in Halo. In the Orick, CA level set in the Redwood forest, they make their first appearance amongst the woods’ ambient sounds in a truly frightening entrance. After dieing once, it becomes obvious they always rush from straight ahead from the exact same spots and thus can be easily picked off once this pattern is revealed. The potential for sharp suspense while listening through the woods’ ambient sounds for the Chameleons approaching from random directions in the 5.1 soundstage is lost to predictable and lazy programming.
Dying for “profit” is a theme that plays throughout Resistance 2. Because gameplay is structured in an interesting yet predetermined path, death is often the key to life as it reveals the Chimera’s patterns and locations. Hale becomes a guinea pig; run straight ahead, see what kills you and then make adjustments to better manage the situation the second time through.
What’s coming next is also telegraphed by which weapons are lying around when passing a checkpoint. If you pass a checkpoint and see a shotgun, odds are favorable a Chameleon is up ahead given that weapon takes them out in one shot. Likewise with a rocket launcher; if one appears, a Titan or something equally big lurks nearby. There are few opportunities presented to inject a little creativity in Chimera extermination.
Multiplayer is really where Resistance 2 picks up, both on the co-op campaign and the versus modes. Once you get a squad together that really knows how to communicate and work as a team, the hours slip by before you know what’s hit you. The 60-player matches also seldom feel out of control, as the battlefields are large enough that they support several distinct areas in which smaller groups can go at it without fearing they’ll hit another member of their team.
Combine this great multiplayer with single-player battles that — although they can be predictable and cheap — are relentless and intense, and Resistance 2 is one of the most engrossing first-person shooters of the year. Resistance 2 is about the spectacle and variety of modes, and in that, Insomniac has improved upon Resistance: Fall of Man. Yes, the single-player gameplay issues are frustrating, but once you hop online, they’re mostly forgotten. Chalk it up to further improvements to work on for Resistance 3. And yes, we truly hope Sony green-lights that game.
- Score: 8.8
- The scale of battle both online and off is impressive, but the single-player experience still suffers from some tedious last-gen issues, from cheap deaths to linear levels.