It must be a daunting prospect to follow up a critically acclaimed game that became a Greatest Hit. The same could be said of following up a story that featured the infection and obliteration of Europe and most of the UK by alien creatures. Fortunately, Insomniac loves a challenge, and they've been hard at work trying to best the adventure of Nathan Hale from Resistance: Fall of Man. In case you were wondering, they've managed to succeed handily. Not only is Resistance 2 an improvement in all facets of the game, it dwarfs the considerable action of the first title in the series.
The original game was a bleak alternate history tale of the devastation of Europe, not by the fires of war from a Nazi regime but by the invading Chimera, a strange alien race bent on the extermination of the human race. The sequel picks up immediately where the original game left off, bringing Nathan Hale from the decimated territory of England to the safety of the United States, which was essentially the only remaining area in the world without Chimeran infestation. At least, it was. Two years after Hale's arrival in America, the Chimera launch massive coordinated attacks against cities in the USA, obliterating entire cities, killing thousands of civilians and converting others into shock troops to be used against the rest of the population. As bad as things once appeared in Europe, they suddenly seem to be much worse in America.
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Fortunately, Hale joins the SRPA, a secret governmental agency that deploys super soldiers known as Sentinels into battle. Sentinels are much more than their name implies; these warriors have blood infused with strains of the Chimeran virus, giving them heightened abilities like super strength and health regeneration. America will need all of their abilities, because new monsters have been roaming its cities, forests and waterways. But can a squad of Sentinels uncover a way to repel the Chimeran hordes? Will this be the last days of humanity, and just what will Hale's role be in the impending battle? Questions like these run rampant throughout the single-player campaign, which is a bit shorter than that of the original game (about 10 hours spread across a prologue and seven chapters), but no less complex or lacking in its depth due to the information revealed to Hale throughout the game. In fact, it feels a bit tighter and faster paced than Fall of Man thanks to the action of the game and how information is revealed. Elements such as the Cloven from the original game, the Chimeran infection, and even the connection of the ARG Project Abraham and its connection to Resistance 2 are explained over time, and you do wind up gaining a large sense of what's going on within this grim universe.
However, for as many secrets that are discovered by the player, it seems as though just as many, if not more, are left unanswered. This brings up one of my primary issues with the story, which is that I feel like it needed a narrator with some kind of perspective on the events of the mission like the first one did. While Rachel wasn't omniscient, she did manage to tie together a lot of elements that weren't fully covered or highlighted in your missions. By contrast, Resistance 2 is very Hale-centric, and focuses much more on his actions and what he wants to do. That's fine, but his motivations behind what his decisions are or why he chooses to act a certain way or go to a specific location aren't fully explored. As a result, some elements of the story aren't fully cohesive, and a large number of questions are left unanswered, which could potentially confuse players until the hypothetical Resistance 3 eventually is released.
For example, players are introduced to a number of supporting characters that comprise Hale's squad of Sentinels. During one mission, you're introduced to some personal details about a particular soldier, which seems rather pertinent to the mission and plot at that moment, but it's quickly dropped and not addressed again. Even though collectable intel fills in a few pieces of info that's left out, you really wonder just what the effect of exploring that side story would have been, or how that might have affected Hale or his squad or changed the action in the mission in any way. Instead, the moment is lost, there's no reflection on it, and you feel somewhat slighted.
However, the story issues (which are arguably a minor or subjective problem) are overshadowed by the considerable elements that are marshaled together for Resistance 2. The first game was well known for its atmosphere, tight corridors and its surreal environments. All of that has been maintained, and even augmented. For instance, it's extremely strange to walk into the town of Twin Falls, Idaho, and see the entire place covered with flesh pods, which obviously contain the unfortunate remains of the townsfolk. When one of your squad mates remarks that seeing the entire thing makes him miss conversion centers, you can't help but agree with him. But eclipsing this is the sheer scale and scope of the game, which is nothing short of epic. In every single level, there is at least one moment that will make your jaw drop, such as the absolute devastation of Chicago and its total infestation of Chimeran creatures. The same can be said of the various "monsters" that you'll face off against, many of whom tower over the battlefield thanks to their size. The giant Goliath walkers in the prologue are one thing, but when you first witness the dimensions of creatures like the Kraken or the Leviathan, it's definitely one of those things that gives you pause (as well as a sense of accomplishment when you defeat them).
The huge battles that erupt across the various levels will give you an adrenaline rush. While the scale of the battles in the first game was large, the numbers present on screen at one point in time is simply incredible. You'll find yourself and a dozen or more soldiers squaring off against twenty or more drones, a number of Chimera, and a couple of turrets, all firing bullets at you. Facing down these incoming attacks can be daunting, but when you throw in the fact that the frame rate is rock solid without a hiccup, it's a pretty impressive feat that brings you into the action of the firefight. What also stands out is the fact that there are sections where you'll feel as though you've been through a massive battle -- after you and your squad have blasted hordes and hordes of monsters that descend on your position, you'll wade through the bodies of the fallen enemies that litter your path. Details like this help to convey the situation that this is a larger cataclysmic battle in humanity's last days. Fall of Man was eye-catching in its battle sequences, but Resistance 2 blows it out of the water.
Part of this is due to the AI, which is solid for both enemy and NPC soldiers alike. In Resistance 2, the kinds of Chimera that you'll face off against will force you to approach a fight with different tactics, because they will attack you in different ways. Once again, Hybrids will team up with other soldiers, toss grenades or attempt to flank your position. Spinners, on the other hand, will charge forward and try to overwhelm you with large numbers and powerful melee attacks. Additionally, the game will frequently throw thirty or more of these beasts at you at one time, forcing you to quickly react and adjust to incoming strikes. Luckily, you're not forced to find a corner and face this threat alone. The NPCs in Resistance 2 are just as smart, returning fire at enemies and frequently eliminating some enemies for you, including some creatures that you hadn't seen coming until almost too late. Your Sentinel squad in particular is extremely skilled in this manner, targeting some creatures and blasting many of them that try to surround your position as you focus on the beasts charging directly at you.
Of course, helping you eliminate the Chimera that foolishly stand in your way is the considerable weaponry at your disposal. Insomniac has always provided creative weaponry in their games, and Resistance 2 is no different. While you'll find a number of old favorites, such as the Carbine, Bullseye and Augur, there are a number of new weapons that are just as effective at eliminating Chimera. For instance, the Magnum is a great weapon that packs a significant punch with each round fired, but its true strength lies in the alternate fire, which explodes the bullet and injures nearby enemies. The Marksman is a rifle that can be used as an effective sniper rifle, although it fires off three rounds in quick succession. However, it's also sends out an electrified orb that shocks nearby Chimera, allowing you to fire a few rounds into them. There are even new grenades, like the Spider Grenade, which emits tendrils along a surface that explode into flame, allowing you to destroy large groups of enemies. Needless to say, you'll probably find a new favorite weapon or two in this arsenal, and you'll wind up unlocking more as you beat the game.
While the single-player experience is a great tale with an epic scope, it is equaled, and perhaps surpassed, by the multiplayer modes, which are perhaps some of the best I've ever played, and I'm particularly picky about my multiplayer. The first mode that's included is a cooperative mode, which allows up to 8 players to leap into a game and explore the world of Resistance 2. However, you're not playing as Nathan Hale or as one of his Sentinels. Instead, you're part of the Spectres, a separate military faction tasked with tracking down and finding Gray Tech, items held by the Chimera around the world. The co-op mode missions run parallel to the action of the single-player campaign, and help to point out that Nathan isn't the only one that's fighting this war against the Chimera; other humans are risking their lives trying to defeat the invaders as well. (Incidentally, Gray Tech is also vital because you'll be able to use these items to unlock additional missions as well as gear that can be used to outfit your characters.)
Players are given a choice between three different classes, each with their own abilities and traits. However, players aren't restricted to a particular class, and can switch at any time they wish, including during a match. The Soldier is the tank of the squad, equipped with a chain gun that projects an energy shield and packs more health than any other class. Spec Ops are the damage dealers of the group, and while they have less health than others, their Marksman is particularly effective in wiping enemies out. They are also the only class that can resupply soldiers by throwing out ammo packs. Medics are the final class, using their Phoenix weapons to drain the health from enemies and convert it to healing blasts from their weapon. They can also resuscitate party members faster than any other squad. Based on the class chosen, players receive experience points depending on how well they perform the functions of their class. This means that while everyone can receive XP for damaging enemies, soldiers will gain more for protecting troops, spec ops will gain more for resupplying troops and medics will gain more for reviving fallen troops. These points are important, because points will eventually translate to higher rankings as well as unlocking new weapons and Berserk powers.
Berserks are specialized abilities that are tied to a particular class, and can be triggered when a player has gained enough experience points to fill a meter, which will slowly drain when the power is active. For instance, Soldiers can trigger Ironheart, which will reduce the amount of damage taken as long as the Berserk is active. The Ring of Life, by contrast, allows Medics to set down an area that will constantly regenerate health of any allies in its proximity. If a player frequently performs their job, they'll continually refill this meter, allowing them to try to swing the tide of the battle in their favor. That is an extremely important factor when it comes to the co-op mode, because the game takes a dynamic approach to play. Initially, you'll be given an objective and based on how you're doing, the levels of each class in your party and the number of players in a match, the game will scale the action accordingly.
For example, if you find yourself playing a split-screen co-op game with one friend, fights will be easier than if you move in with seven other players and are surrounded by sixty enemies or more at the same point. But on top of this, you'll also discover that the objectives will dynamically change as well, making each situation play out in a different manner every time. What's more, as you blast through each checkpoint, you'll inevitably go up against some elite versions of these creatures, each of which hold more health than a standard Chimera and can inflict more damage as well. But even outside of the scaling action of the cooperative play, the mode truly embeds a sense of working together with the other players in your squad, because it's not possible to survive this mode by going commando. Each player is forced to rely on the other skills of their party mates to survive, but the one thing that I've found in playing a number of multiplayer matches is that anyone, from a newcomer to a seasoned veteran of the mode easily falls into a specific role and gets a hang of the gameplay, making it one of the most accessible multiplayer modes around.
The competitive mode is also just as solid. Sure, Resistance 2 features many of the classic game modes that you've come to know and love in multiplayer matches, such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag (known as Core Control in the game). However, it's Skirmish mode where the mode sets itself apart, because the game will feature up to sixty players on scalable maps without any noticeable lag or technical hitches. Skirmish mode is objective based just like the co-op mode, with dynamic goals assigned to the six squads of five players each for the Human and Chimeran sides. These will cover a number of objectives such as controlling a particular node, protecting a specific location or eliminating a priority target on the other side. Rival squads on the other side will be tasked with stopping you, so you'll always have some kind of opponent attacking you and your allies. As time starts to run out in a round, you'll find that the objectives will start to funnel everyone towards a central point for overall domination of the map. This is where the largest battles break out, and also where the action gets most intense, which only serves to boost the level of fun to huge levels. Toss in leaderboards and lots of other multiplayer features, including the MyResistance.net functionality that will track stats in real time while also giving a number of social networking features, and you have a title that will expand both replayability and community.
While the game is phenomenal in a technical and visual sense in the terms of its scale and number of enemies on screen at once, there are some weird technical issues that crop up here and there. For one thing, some of the textures are noticeably lower resolution than others, and there's a lot of texture pop-in and screen tearing that will crop up here and there as you move through each environment. What's more, you'll find some strange instances where monsters may twitch after they've been killed, or limbs of some creatures that have been blown off will still remain standing as if connected to some invisible body. It's a strange thing to see what would appear to be a mannequin limb. There are also some clipping issues that will crop up. Given the scale of the game, many of these issues are understandable, particularly given the fact that there is a solid frame rate throughout, but they do still stand out as a problem to be found within the game.
Sound within Resistance 2 is much stronger, with solid voice acting throughout the entire game to immerse you into the game action. But much more than the voice acting of Hale and the other Sentinels, the ambient sounds within the game draw you into the experience of Resistance 2. Perhaps the best example of this is nearing a flesh pod in one of the cities or towers in the game. Initially, you'll hear some growling or rustling inside the pod, as if an animal was trapped inside. The gestational sounds of the creature are truly unnatural and even unnerving to the ear. However, what you'll find is that the loud noise associated to the explosion of these beasts in a slimy shower of blood and gore is disturbing, but quite satisfying.
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