When the PS3 launched its hands-down killer app, it was the absolutely sublime Resistance: Fall of Man. The title, which was created by the clever minds behind the Ratchet & Clank series, created an alternate history where World War II never happened, and instead humanity found itself in a fight for survival against an alien race that was mutating and converting infected humans to do their bidding. The first game in the series earned accolades far and wide, and now the sequel has arrived, managing to do almost everything better than the original. Fans should buckle up, as it's time to once again blast through the Chimera hordes, and the experience is truly memorable.
Resistance 2 picks up immediately after the original, with protagonist Nathan Hale being scooped up by the human special forces group SRPA and whisked off to Iceland for his new assignment. Of course, things don't go as planned, and by the time Hale arrives, the base is under attack by Chimera forces. In the ensuing chaos, Daedalus, an enemy leader, escapes and all hell generally breaks loose. The title then fast-forwards two years with Hale joining the Sentinels, a squadron of humans who share a similar fate as he, men who have been infected with the Chimera virus but, through gene therapy and viral inhibitor treatments, have not turned into the very monsters they fight. It is up to this group to prevent whatever cataclysm Daedalus is planning and repel the Chimera invasion of the United States, the last stronghold against the mutants.
Unfortunately, that's about where the coherence of the story ends, as the rest descends into a mess of half-baked plot contrivances to fill out the hole-riddled story. The original Resistance featured a deep and thoughtful plot, using narration and a healthy dose of cut scenes to keep you in the loop about what was going on. All that is gone this time, and players are restricted to only knowing what Nathan knows. Sure, you can collect scattered intel pieces to fill out the some of the backstory and current plot, but doing so requires substantial exploration, and most gamers will only find a fraction of the documents. While many of the other aspects of Resistance 2 take major strides past the original, the storytelling aspect suffers a substantial blow.
Getting past the plot and into the gameplay, however, the title strikes pure gold. Everything about this game is bigger and better than the original, and it appears as though Insomniac may have created the quintessential shooter experience. First up, Resistance 2 features a wide variety of environments, breaking out of the concrete-induced rut that plagued the original. Now you'll be sniping Chimera in California Redwood forests and cutting down hordes of zombified Grims in the streets of Chicago, not to mention infiltrating the ships of the Chimera invasion fleet.
This diversity extends beyond locales into the game's arsenal of weapons as well. While you'll still find familiar human and Chimera favorites like the Carbine and Bullseye, not only have these guns been upgraded, but several new ones have been added to the mix as well. For example, the Auger, the Chimera rifle capable of blasting through walls, now comes complete with thermal imaging capabilities so you can see where your enemies are taking shelter. There's truly nowhere to hide now, as the weapon is even more dangerous than ever before. Joining the lineup is a handful of new armaments, among them the Marksman rifle and Spider grenade. The Marksman operates in a very similar manner to Halo's battle rifle, allowing for limited sniping capabilities and firing off a devastating three-round burst every time you pull the trigger. The spider grenade allows you to release an expandable web of napalm which, once ignited, spells trouble for any enemy caught within it. These are but a couple of the game's weapons of mass destruction, and you'll be utilizing every one of them throughout the experience.
Sadly, the joy of the guns comes at a price, as Insomniac has abandoned the Ratchet & Clank-esque radial menu and now only allows you to carry two guns at a time. While this is more in line with other games in the genre, it is a heavy burden to choose when to leave behind one weapon in favor of another, and I wish the game had kept the original weapon formula intact. Thankfully, you're always given access to the tools you need in order to do your job, so the new system isn't inferior to the old, just different.
Finally, what would all of these new environments and weapons be without some new baddies to use them on? One area where the original Resistance suffered a bit was in its enemy designs, featuring what was essentially the same few enemy types with slightly different outfits over the entire course of the game. That isn't the case at all here, as the troop of foes you face has easily doubled since the last go-round. New to this edition are Grims, speedy zombie-like Chimera that swarm and slash; Ravagers, hulking beasts with portable cover and a nasty disposition; Chameleons, invisible foes who suddenly appear and then rip you to shreds; and Furies, water-bound Chimera who will attack and kill you if they find you wading in their pools. That doesn't even cover the new bosses, each of which is impressive in their own right. Prepare to have your mind blown when you meet the Leviathan at the end of the Chicago level; he's easily one of the best baddies ever to appear in any game.
The new enemies clearly illustrate the series' shift into darker, more horror-themed gameplay instead of the mostly sci-fi air that pervaded the original. For example, the opening moments of the Chicago level, in which Hale and his Sentinel team are beset by a seemingly endless horde of zombie Grims, feels like it would easily fit into Left 4 Dead or the Ravenholm section of Half Life 2 (you even get a gun that shoots saw blades for ultimate nostalgia). The whole experience is chock-full of "gotcha" scares meant to make you jump, though thankfully the game carefully treads the line and never becomes schlocky. Every time you enter a room full of flesh pods, you'll wait for the Grims inside to explode out and attack. Sometimes they'll come at you in force, but other times, nothing at all will happen, and instead of feeling relieved, you'll only be made more nervous, wondering if they're going to leap out and grab you once your back is turned. The entire experience is much more tense and edgy than last time around, but it works for a series that probably should have played the horror card a little more liberally anyway.
Heightening the sense of dread is the game's excellent sound design, which goes a long way toward setting the mood. The growls and shrieks emanating from inside a flesh pod are enough to make your skin crawl, and the sudden heavy-pounding footsteps of a Chameleon lets you know that unless you can quickly locate and down the target, your death is imminent. The voice acting also deserves a special nod for being able to convey the direness of the situation without descending into melodrama. Like so much else in the game, the audio is handled nearly perfectly, lending to this particularly memorable experience.
For as great as the single-player experience is, it's the multiplayer that really puts Resistance 2 over the top. The game features both cooperative and competitive modes, both of which have an incredible amount to offer. For those who want to get together with friends (or strangers) and take it to the Chimera, the game's online co-op is an absolute blast. Players choose one of three classes ? the medic (the class that can sap health from enemies and then transfer it to members of the group), the soldier (the group's main tank and damage dealer) and special ops (a heavy damage dealer who can also distribute ammo) ? to go through a parallel story and take the fight to the Chimera worldwide. Each class has distinct strengths and weaknesses, and you'll need a team utilizing all three roles to near perfection in order to succeed. As players perform their roles, you'll receive a steady trickle of experience points, which will then transfer into new weapons and Berserk skills along the way. Also, each session is dynamic, with objectives and enemy spawns being randomized each time you play. This means that just because you're going through a certain level for the fifth time doesn't mean you'll be doing things the same way as you have each of the four times before. Rather, the game is different every time you play, keeping the action fresh.
For those with a more homicidal bent, the title also features competitive multiplayer with up to 60 gamers all gathering together for a firefight. While the game features your typical Deathmatch (both standard and team) modes, as well as capture the flag (Control the Core), it's Skirmish that steals the show. This mode divides each of the teams into squads and gives each squad a series of objectives. This provides some order for the chaos, ensuring that each match doesn't end with a massive hail of bullets and the inability to stay alive for more than .02 seconds. Of course, this isn't glorified five-on-five, as sometimes getting to one objective will require you to press through other squads waging their own battles, and particularly close matches can be decided by all 60 players descending on one final objective in an ultimate large-scale conflict. There's truly something for everyone in Resistance 2's multiplayer, and you'll likely come back again and again long after you've finished the series' second act and are prepping for Insomniac's inevitable third entry into the franchise.
Thankfully, the multiplayer is also lag-free, though there are a few other graphical issues that do pop up from time to time in both the single- and multiplayer experiences. First, while a lot of attention has clearly gone into making the game visually impressive, there are a few weird glitches. For instance, sometimes when you are beset by a horde of enemies, body parts will continue to float in the air after the baddie has been taken down. I saw an arm or a leg suspended in the air on more than one occasion for seemingly no good reason other than what can only be described as a hiccup in the processor. These moments are rare, but when they do occur, it really yanks you out of the game and kills any illusion that had been built up. The other major issue is that of enemies sometimes "gliding" when the screen gets too busy. Often, when you manage to bottleneck foes, you may witness a few of them sliding across the floor past their compatriots in order to attack you. This is mainly an issue in the areas where you are beset by a large number of Grims, but it is still an annoying glitch nonetheless. However, aside from these minor issues, the game is definitely up to current-gen snuff.
When taken as a whole, Resistance2 comes exceptionally close to attaining gaming perfection. Only minor graphical shortcomings and a weak story hold back this title from an even higher score. As it stands, though, this is a title that every PS3 owner should play, as its strengths utterly dwarf its weaknesses, and we ultimately emerge with the very definition of what makes a great game. The world needs you to step up and save us from the Chimera scourge; this is a call to arms that you should happily accept.
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