Despite being an established developer, Insomniac is still a rookie when it comes to first-person shooters. With Resistance behind them, they wisely noted for the sequel that some of the genreís biggest franchises Ė Doom, Halo Ė followed up a sudden fight with an invasion. Technically the first engagements are a result of an invasion of sorts, more of an outbreak really, but the sequel features a more pointed invasion, be it towards Earth or Fortress America Ė the galaxy and the worldís largest videogame markets, respectively.
Nathan Hale isnít doing too well these days. Not only have the Chimera been winning the war, but the Chimera virus running through his veins requires regular injections to keep in check. Iím still not sure why the Chimera change into weird organic machines, but I can see why Hale isnít overly fond of turning into one; however, being a hybrid does come with some advantages, such as the ability to regenerate. Despite being a veteran this go-around, Hale has to face the Chimera in the United States, as they have overrun Europe and take out a remaining outpost in Iceland in the opening sequence. As a Sentinel, a soldier medically resistant to the virus, he is going to travel throughout the US, from San Francisco to Chicago, to combat the gray menace.
The locations serve the game well, offering dilapidated downtowns and humbled vistas to show just how devastating the invasion is. That is, when you can see the devastation. Iím not sure why, but Resistance 2 is incredibly dark. I donít mean kind of dark; Iím talking Doom 3 levels of darkness. The supplied flashlight isnít up to the job most of the time, but itís better than nothing. Reviewed on two Sony HDTVs, a 2006 and a 2008 Bravia, the lack of any in-game contrast or brightness option definitely hurt. When you can see, the results are a mixture of awe-inspiring grandeur and strange sterility. In an effort to keep the scale of everything 1:300 between Hale and his surroundings, detail was scarified. It seems as though the sharpness was increased to pick up some of the slack, with giant capital ships floating overhead in large armadas that are detailed and something truly wondrous to see. Then, however, you enter into rooms that look as if someone walked in and neatly placed items around as to seem authentic. Itís a strange dichotomy of the visuals, between grand and plain; but seeing a massive monster destroy downtown Chicago certainly helps to make those plain Jane settings more bearable.
Speaking of plain Jane, Sergeant Nathan Hale has to be the one of the most blankest of slates. Despite having far more lines than the laconic Gordon Freeman or Master Chief, he is far more forgettable than either, being absolutely indistinguishable from anyone else put together out of a mix-and-match hero set. Heís the gaming equivalent to one of those guys in Foxís Prison Break, the two brothers that are so generic you forget which guy is which during the same episode, sharing the honor with his gaming brother Jet Brody from Fracture. I donít need for my character to be spilling over with personality, and Iím certainly not adverse to proper machismo, but Hale doesnít offer anything to work with.
The arsenal helps to pick up the slack in what the cast lacks in pizzazz. Youíre limited to two weapons at a time now, keeping with current trends, and will no doubt have your minds abuzz about which to choose from. The M5A2 carbine is back, it being the workhorse of the humans; similarly, the bullseye makes a return for the Chimera. Most of the other weapons can be a bit tricky to get a handle on at first, especially for those who never tried the original game. Out of the additions, the augerís ability to raise a shield and shoot at highlighted targets through walls is only matched in awesomeness by the magnum and its secondary ability to detonate its rounds. I cannot stress how fun it is to use the magnum, timing the explosions so that the burst happens in the middle of or right in front of the enemy. The shotgun is a little disappointing, but the unwieldy grenades that spin in the air and shoot out missiles while another lays out webs of flaming material that ignite, burning anything within the radius of its lines, make up for it. There are just some really great weapons, and unleashing them on the Chimera, be they a horde of zombie-like creatures of massive juggernauts, is satisfying.
Some of the weapons are pretty rare, though. With around 10 hours of game on normal difficulty, you would hope to get all of the weapons in such an amount that youíll be well versed in them, but they are limited to the same five the majority of the time. Their placement is also strange, which also lends to the overall off pacing of the game: you will enter a room with six carbines on the floor for ammo, but no enemies, and then go through another hall and room with no enemies, then a room with more ammo before encountering any enemies; considering that the bigger weapons are given before a fight, the game conditions you to expect action whenever there are weapons lying about, so to not do anything, much less go through significant portions with no enemies whatsoever, is both strange and disconcerting.
The pacing goes hand-in-hand with the overall level design leading to the single-player campaign having a pedestrian feel. There are so many decisions made that frustrate and are terribly reminiscent of games a decade ago. Having to jump on a makeshift bridge of about 20 cars to go from one side of a flooded block to another because a one-hit-kills monster is swimming about is just ridiculous. The Predator Chimera that appears and kills with a single blow is also cheap. In fact, there are significant portions of each chapter that are just unfair: you donít die because you lack skill; you die because you canít see or know exactly where youíre supposed to go at what time. Or worse, you die because the enemies only attack you. Itís weird to be fighting with a squad and have the enemies zoom in on you - no one else around matters, only you. One fight in particular had me running in circles because two large creatures, capable of withstanding massive amounts of damage, focused solely on me, and any attempted confrontation ended in my death.
Beyond feeling like a giant bullseye, some questions arise: why am I fighting in so many corridors? Why can I only break a handful of doors open throughout the entire game? Why donít the other guys matter? Itís like Insomniac came up with these amazing moments that they couldnít quite figure out how to link together. The solution to being unable to keep up the momentum throughout seems to have been to just insert rudimentary, narrow paths that lead you from Awesome Point A to Awesome Point B. The grind certainly makes the epic moments stand out, but thereís also a lot of floundering that couldíve added much more to the experience.
The story manages to stay pretty interesting, though. There are moments where it gets a bit repetitive, but all of the intel documents lying about and the bits gathered here and there lead to an overall story arch that could lead to a really great climax. Without spoiling anything, the end scene hints at something that could allow Insomniac to deliver something that capable of marking them as one of the key developers in the genre. I hope any follow-ups focus on the more off-kilter narrative methods and portions of the story.
After seeing the fight through, the game isnít quite done. Victory unlocks a handful of options, including motion blur and line of sight distance; and there is also arcade mode, a supplemental mode that locks a three-life limit to subsequent playthroughs. There are also medals and goodies, including art and ribbons. Stats are also displayed, with the best part being that they carry over into the multiplayer portion. Multiplayer is now more of a continuation of the Resistance 2 experience rather than a completely separate portion: experience gained throughout the story is tallied towards multiplayer, and subsequent stats and experience racked up online are listed with those from the campaign. The experience then goes towards upgrades for the one of the three classes that you choose Ė medic, soldier, or special ops Ė to unlock new weapons and gear. I canít explain why, but seeing the amount of experience pop up with each shot landed is incredibly addictive, and itís as satisfying as the upgraded classes and items that they lead to. You will have plenty of chances to earn experience, too.
Those wanting to aid others will find just as much to like as those wanting a little kill others. There are sections for your profile, your clanís profile, the community, but also for competition and cooperation. Fighting against others is what you would expect, only with some massive firefights Ė up to 60 players Ė that, in combination with the weaponry, make from some hectically good times. Itís not all blasting off faces and capturing opponentsí flags, though.
Cooperation is also enjoyable. The difficulty level scales, matching the amount of players Ė up to eight Ė with a handful of objectives which switch around to help keep things interesting; an effective technique, given only three tasks to work with. Whatís really unique about cooperation is just how essential each class is. Now, every class-based shooter has jobs for the classes, but whatís different in Resistance 2 is the amount of enemies it throws at you: it approaches Painkiller levels. So those who play without a special ops unit will run out of ammo, resulting in either trying to melee whatever can be pummeled to death or just dying to respawn with more ammunition. Medics and soldiers are needed to keep the lives from running out and as a tank, respectively. I would have loved for the campaign to be co-op, so itís a bit of a letdown that it isnít, but somewhat confusing levels aside, the included multiplayer component is engaging enough to last for a few months.
Overall: 7.5/10After spending a few hours online I actually found myself going back to the story. Despite its oddities and frustrations, replaying the campaign with limited lives and on a harder difficulty was strangely compelling Ė or maybe itís for the ribbons. The handful of moments that go above and beyond really are something else, well worth experiencing, with each one resulting in me gawking at the sheer scale of the events. Itís a shame that the rest of the game isnít as grand, but those moments are complimented well enough by the multiplayer to make Resistance 2 a solid package.