Resistance 2 - Review
By Rory - December 5, 2008
Viva La Resistance!
Resistance: Fall of Man came out back in 2006 as Insomniac's first shooter since their debut with "Disruptor" back in 1996. A lot had changed since then as they quickly transitioned to a more family-friendly approach with lovable mascots such as Spyro and Ratchet & Clank. With the PlayStation 3 still in its early stages, Resistance: Fall of Man (known as I8 at that time) was announced as their first project on next generation hardware. Although the more mature, first-person shooter was a far cry from the usual humorous, child/teen-oriented platformers that Insomniac was known for, the game did not disappoint. Not only was their first attempt at a shooter in nearly 10 years a success, but because the game was really the only thing worth playing at the time of the PS3's launch, it quickly became the system's premiere first-person shooter. That's not to say that it won strictly by default as the gameplay (including the intense 40-player online mode) was certainly no slouch.
Ever since Resistance: Fall of Man wrapped, gamers have been eagerly awaiting the inevitable sequel. Well, the game is finally here and while it has its slight disappointments, it still manages to improve upon the original in quite a few ways.
Although Resistance never set any visual standards, it still looked good for its time. In a general sense, Resistance 2 looks pretty much the same as the first. That's not a bad thing, although the graphics are definitely beginning to show their age. The character models are pretty outdated and most of the time the textures can be downright bland. However, the scale of things has been greatly increased. The environments are much bigger this time around and are far more occupied than before. The all-new color scheme is also a welcomed change and really breathes new life into the game's art style. Rather than primarily grays and browns, you'll now be seeing a wide variety of rich colors which really come out in the vastly improved environments. The rich greenery and flowing water provide a lot more opportunities to give the surroundings a more dynamic and lifelike feel. The lighting is unfortunately not so great and because of this there are many times when the colors can look somewhat artificial and overdone, but still, it adds a lot to the look of things and makes the entire world feel far less static.
At least I don't have Dakota Fanning screaming in my ear.
The visual performance is once again fantastic. Resistance: Fall of Man held up extremely well during even the most intense sequences and even with the immensely enlarged environments and battles, you'll still be hard pressed to find any significant performance hitches.
Although the scope of things has been greatly increased, like I said, the technical side of the visuals remains pretty much the same. It's not enough to raise any serious complaints but with two years of PS3 experience under their belt and no other system to worry about, it's a shame that they didn't push any boundaries or even bring it more into 2008. Still, it looks good and they've made some great strides that even games like Gears of War could learn from.
The audio is basically the same as before. The music fits the theme and does a good job of pulling you into the action, but it's still nothing special. Some new music has been added for boss battles and again, they work, but aren't amazing by any means. The sound effects are just as great as before. The sound of all the guns (especially the less conventional ones) are great and the explosions and Chimera snarls all around you do a fantastic job of creating a lifelike atmosphere and bringing you into the world.
I can save you! I can save everybody! *wink*
There's a lot more voice acting this time around, but it's unfortunately not so great. Resistance: Fall of Man had pretty minimal dialogue. The narrator, Rachel, is now missing and Nathan Hale has finally decided to speak up. The problem is that the dialogue is just so typical. Nathan went from being a bit more on the mysterious and interesting side to just talking and acting like a regular soldier. Everything is far too straight forward and at times, Nathan can come across as... well... kind of a douchebag. The same can be said about pretty much every other character as well, which is pretty disappointing. Although, Nathan does have a bit more of an excuse as he is more infected than ever, and it's not like he goes without a fair share of prodding from his squad mates.
Although Resistance's story wasn't entirely unique, borrowing themes from several other games and movies, they still managed to tell it in a way that made it seem interesting and new. You played as Nathan Hale, an American soldier dropped into British territory during an alternate history 1951 to fight off an invading alien race, known as the Chimera. Along the way, your squad is ambushed and you emerge as the sole survivor, infected with the Chimeran virus. You must then fight your way through hordes of enemy attackers in order to find the British government's "secret weapon", in order to take out the Chimera for good. The game left off on quite a cliffhanger and Resistance 2 picks up right from there.
This time around, though, the story just doesn't seem to work out quite as well. Like I said, they had a great way of unraveling the story in the first game and in the second they kind of abandon the whole thing and just give it to you straight. Well, as straight as they can, anyway. This time Nathan is picked up by Black Ops soldiers and brought to the Special Research Projects Administration (SPRA) "Igloo" Base in Iceland where upon arrival, their aircraft is attacked by a Chimeran Goliath. Once again, Nathan emerges as a survivor, along with Major Richard Blake. Upon making their way to safety, they encounter and unleash Daedalus, which acts as an overlord for all other Chimera. After this event, two years pass where Nathan is promoted to Lieutenant, becomes part of the Sentinel force and is sent into the U.S. where another Chimeran invasion has begun. He must once again battle his way through their forces to find and destroy the overlord and put a stop to the Chimera.
Chimera or not, you still have to say please.
The story is a bit more in-depth this time, and unfortunately they've taken steps to make it even harder to understand than before. Rachel is missing from Resistance 2 and therefore provides no narration to the game. Although she wasn't the most exciting of characters, hearing the back-story of exactly what took place from mission to mission provided players with quite a bit of insight on the overall story. With that missing, gamers must now rely completely on the characters' dialogue to understand exactly what's going on. The problem is that the story is so much more complicated than before and the characters themselves just don't do a good job of explaining it. Things just aren't tied together as well this time and it's lost a lot of cohesiveness. I found myself asking "why am I here and what am I doing?" on more than one occasion. Don't get me wrong, I do think the story is far grander this time around, and it really isn't bad by any means. I just think that a lot of what made the original story special is now missing and everything just isn't pulled off quite as well as before.
Resistance's gameplay had a pretty unique feel to it, blending straight up first person action with a few cool twists. It handled pretty much like every other shooter although Insomniac did a great job of changing things up by throwing in some pretty imaginative weapons on the Chimeran side; something they've been well known for with the Ratchet and Clank series. These ranged from the Bullseye, which allows you to tag a homing device on an enemy and gun him down from around corners, to the Auger which has the ability to penetrate walls and come out stronger on the other side. The shooting mechanics felt pretty good for the most part, if not a bit hollow at times. Resistance 2 has made tremendous improvements in the way of combat. The guns feel far better than before, adding a much needed level of accuracy and bullet weight. It's still not Call of Duty 4, but now when gunning down enemies, you can really feel it on the other end. Some nice animation improvements have also added some great visual feedback from the enemies. Everything just feels much tighter than before. The zoomed view, for example, is far more useful as it actually adds accuracy now instead of just a slightly closer look at the target. Map it to L2 and you've got precision shooting on the fly.
Duck and cover buddy, this works now.
Most of the weapons return, some have been taken out, and some new ones have been thrown in. You've still got your trusty Carbine and Bullseye most of the time, although some cool new weapons such as a Magnum with exploding rounds, a long-range automatic rifle and a high powered beam cannon have been added. The new weapons do a nice job of filling the void where the removed weapons once were. The weapons they've taken out, such as the Hailstorm and the Sapper, certainly aren't missed. The Auger has seen a nice improvement, however. When in your possession, you can now see the enemies through cover, making its basic functionality much more useful. Little tweaks and improvements like this have really given the weapons an entirely new feel.
Another nice change is the health system. Resistance: Fall of Man relied on the regenerating health bar mechanic. The bar was divided into four sections, and as your health dropped into the next section, it would only regenerate that far. In order to refill it, you'd need to find Chimeran health packs scattered around the levels. Resistance 2 ditches the health bar altogether and now relies on nothing more than a regenerating shield. If you're injured, you need to seek cover and avoid being shot for a certain period of time. Your vision will begin to fade, alerting you that you need to get out of the line of fire, and when it comes back you're back at full health and ready to jump into the action once more. It's a good system and makes your health much easier to manage.
The Chimera, introduced in Resistance: Fall of Man, were probably some of the best video game enemies to date. Combining killer AI with fierce battle tactics and a terrifying presence, they really were a force to be reckoned with. The enemy forces in Resistance 2 are just as good, although a much wider variety of them has been introduced. The standard Chimeran Hybrids were pretty much the focus of Resistance: Fall of Man, with some of the other unique enemies scattered around to keep things fresh. Still, the pacing was great. Besides a blatant overuse of the Titans, Resistance 2 has a pretty even blend of enemies throughout each level. That plus the addition of some new enemies and bosses makes the whole campaign feel far more epic and involved than before. The Menials (the ones that sneak up and grab you) have unfortunately been removed from the game, which is a bit of a disappointment, even if they did do a number on my nerves. Don't fear though, as plenty of new enemies have added to the overall creepiness of the game. The water enemies, in my opinion, are the best Resistance 2 has to offer. These large aquatic monsters swim around and patrol the waters. They don't actually attack you until you jump in; at which point they'll charge and grab you for a one-hit kill. They cannot be killed and there are segments in the game where you'll need to maneuver across obstacles over the open water and even do some minor platforming to reach higher ground as the enemy-filled water climbs below you. These parts offer a more subtle form of helplessness and add some great variety to the gameplay, while not letting up on the action. Another just as creepy addition are the Grims, which are half converted Chimera that will burst from their hives and rush at you in great numbers, ignoring cover and utilizing blind fury to take you down. Throw them into some dark tunnels and hallways and you've got some particularly scary moments, along the lines of "I Am Legend".
We reject our earthly fires. Gone are days of land empires.
The AI is still just as great as before and enemies will utilize whatever they can in order to bring you to your knees. They'll dodge your fire, hide behind cover, toss grenade after grenade and even flank you. The Chimera are probably the most well-programmed enemy horde I've seen, and their ruthless behavior makes them particularly fun and challenging to deal with. Your troops, on the other hand, aren't quite as intelligent. A lot of the time you'll have one or more NPCs to help you out along the way. Most of the time, however, they pretty much just look after themselves. You'll get chased down by enemies and cornered and they'll just kind of stand there and watch until they themselves are threatened. It's not always bad but it would've been nice if the same care was given to them as was given to the enemies.
The boss battles add a nice change of pace although most are nothing spectacular. The majority of them are decent, one is horrible, one is pretty good and one is just downright awesome. The latter of those is obviously the Leviathan. Most have probably seen this massive 300-foot enemy in pre-release footage, but believe me when I say that it's even better when you actually get to play through it yourself. He's not entirely hard to bring down, although when face to face with him, he's probably one of the most intimidating bosses to date. Escaping across the bridge while having him stare you down from mere feet away is probably one of the most genuinely frightening moments I've experienced in a game. This is along the lines of the final scene in "Cloverfield", although playing it rather than watching it makes things even worse (or better, I suppose).
Hey, at least I'm not lugging a video camera around.
The campaign mode is great, there's no doubt about that, but the multiplayer is what really makes this game worth the purchase. The gameplay remains largely the same as it's mostly just run and gun, but they've upped the amount of players to 60, making for some incredibly intense matches. The lobby and party systems still work well and even during some of largest matches, I experienced minimal lag. Next to Grand Theft Auto IV, Resistance 2 is certainly the most technically impressive online game I've played. On a personal level, though, the gameplay just wasn't enough to keep me going with the multiplayer. It's great, don't get me wrong, but the frantic run and gun style that lacks both strategy and realism just isn't something I can enjoy any longer. This is all personal preference, really, but a more modern touch would've been nice. Still, the maps are great and the gameplay is fantastic so unless you have qualms about the way it's handled, there shouldn't be anything here to keep you from enjoying it.
The co-op is also good, although a bit different than before. It now features 8-players, but instead of running through the campaign mode together, some new co-op specific levels have been introduced. There's definitely a lot of fun to be had, going through these with friends, but the option to play through the regular game as well would've been nice. What we have now are basically small levels where you'll need to work together as a team to take on enemy hordes, which is determined by the number of players in your party. It unfortunately feels kind of weak and repetitive though as the stories are minimal and the levels pretty much just consist of 'run here, stop, gun down enemies, heal, repeat'. It's fun but definitely takes a backseat to the regular player vs. player online modes.
240 more guys and we can take on the Spartans.
The campaign mode is unfortunately pretty short. I was able to run through it on standard difficulty in under eight hours. Although the whole thing feels more epic in size, the game is more of a short burst rather than a drawn out affair. It's great fun while it lasts and going back to play in on a harder difficulty for a challenge is something you might look into, but it's not something that will have you coming back again and again. The online mode is fantastic, but personally I found the whole style of it a bit dated. I played for a few hours and enjoyed myself, but it won't take the place of games like Call of Duty or SOCOM. The co-op is decent, although putting a bit more thought into it wouldn't have killed them.
Overall, Resistance 2 is a worthy successor to one of the best shooters available. It might not be worth the $60 purchase for everyone, but there's absolutely no reason to pass up playing it as it still offers one of the best gameplay experiences to date. Now, get out there and fight some Chimera! Just remember to stay out of the water...
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