Resistance 2 Review
When the PlayStation 3 first launched back in late 2006, the one game that caught everyone’s eye was Resistance: Fall of Man. It officially ushered in the new generation for Sony and quickly became a major selling point of the console still in its infancy stages. Ever since that time, we’ve all been anxiously awaiting the sequel, which finally launched two days ago to widespread critical acclaim. We have had sufficient time to dive into Resistance 2, and after immersing ourselves in some finely tuned FPS goodness, we’ve come to a very simple conclusion: it’s a must-play for all PS3 owners. It hits us directly between the eyes from the get-go, like the crack of a bat on a poorly placed fastball, after which we follow the flight of the ball with anticipatory pleasure. When the ball finally lands, it’s not only over the fence; it’s out of the entire damn ballpark, bouncing gleefully down the street. This game isn’t flawless, but it specializes in a singular form of fun that has the distinction of beautiful, uninterrupted longevity. In short- you’ll love it from start to finish.
Perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that R2 doesn’t necessarily overwhelm you with its technical achievements, although there are glimpses of visual brilliance throughout the single-player campaign. Perhaps the best part of this particular presentation is that the gameplay graphics actually outshine the non-interactive cut-scenes. We’ve seen better than the latter (‘cough’ MGS4 ‘cough’), as the textures aren’t exactly spectacular, and the character features and detailing lack the kind of brilliance we’re used to seeing in select elite titles. However, Insomniac most certainly overhauled the gameplay graphics as they’re significantly superior to what we saw in the original title. Everything is sharper and more detailed; the enemies are excellently portrayed and the environments are loaded with both artistic diversity and even several, “oh, wow” moments. We explain one of the more impressive moments below, but for now, let’s just say that the gameplay graphics, from the numerous combat effects to the exquisitely designed backdrops, help to solidify R2’s atmospheric experience.
The sound resonates with crisp weapon fire, shocking and in-your-face explosions, the intimidating roars and grunts of the Chimera, and the frightened screams of the humans. It’s difficult to find a flaw in the effects, although one could argue they tend to drown out the stimulating soundtrack. Perhaps the music isn’t a highlight, but it certainly works in the bigger scheme of things, as the tracks always fit the situation on screen. The voiceover talent falls just shy of top-notch and certain portions of the game were a little too quiet (setting the mood isn’t always necessary), but beyond that, the sound helps to vault this sequel into the elite stratosphere. Those battle effects are so good, from the weapon and projectile effects to any and all appreciated ambient additions, that you can’t help but be absorbed into the action. The music kicks up a notch when battling a boss or faced with a particularly harrowing situation, and we’re rarely so affected when facing the oncoming evil hordes in a game. Inomniac went out of their way to deliver on every possible level in this category, and that effort is duly noted.
We will start the analysis of the gameplay on what may be considered an odd note: after playing through the introductory portion of Resistance 2, I was immediately reminded of God of War. Of course, we’re talking about two completely different games, but bear with me. What made GoW so compelling from the start was its emphasis on nailing the player in the first five minutes; grabbing them with a hectic set of sequences and never letting go. In R2, they cap off the first hectic sequence with a glorious view of San Francisco- the sky obscured by gigantic and terrifying alien ships and illuminated orange from the glow of fires below. Even the legendary Golden Gate bridge seems to be threatened as all we can see is rubble and ruin, and the invading forces clearly have the upper hand. Instantly, we thought of that part at the start of GoW, where Kratos first sees Athens, suffering under the attack of the colossal Ares. All we wanted to do is just stand there and watch, and that’s exactly what we wanted to do when faced with that memorable scene in R2.
That was the first of the aforementioned “oh, wow” visual moments, even though it can be considered to be the most impressive of the entire game. After this, the gameplay opened up and sucked us in, which caused us to play fervently for three hours without even thinking of a break. This is one of the most important aspects of any game in our minds, which is why we mention it first. The control is fluid and responsive, although we’re still not the biggest fans of one aspect: you tap the L2 button to crouch and hold it to run, and without any further explanation, you can figure out the possible difficulties for yourself. Why they insist on doing this again is confusing, but then again, the other buttons all have their jobs: R1 fires, R2 fires the alternate round, L1 toggles the aim/zoom mode, Triangle switches weapons, Circle tosses the equipped grenade, Square reloads, X jumps, right on the d-pad turns the flashlight on and off, up and down on the d-pad changes the selected grenade, and of course, the two analog sticks have their jobs. So, uh, it looks like they didn’t have any buttons left. Everything works extremely well, and there are no complaints from us on this end.
Now, on to the changes. There are two significant alterations to the gameplay foundation that will be unfamiliar to fans of the original Resistance. The first is – evidently – a nod towards realism and an attempt at implementing more strategy into a relatively straightforward FPS. This time, you can only carry two weapons at once, so you can’t keep accumulating guns in an expanding inventory. However, you’re not restricted to weapon classes in this respect; in other words, you don’t have to always carry a sidearm, rifle, or heavy/special firearm. You can carry two of whatever you like, and if you want the full experience, you should switch things up on a frequent basis. If you’re not careful, though, you can get stuck with a rocket-less LAARK and a Fareye with three shots left. We liked this change of pace and found ourselves thinking about the best possible combo for the next area. Chameleons in the area? You’ll want the Rossmore Shotgun. Got some cover and a lot of enemies in the distance? Give the Marksman a try. Nothing wrong with experimentation, right?
The only issue we had with picking up new weapons is that for some strange reason, you have to press the Square button really hard to snag it. …why, we have no idea. But anyway, the second significant change is how we handle our health. In the original, there were four bars of health, each of which can regenerate provided they’re not depleted entirely. If they do disappear, you had to find a yellow canister to get that health back, but this system disappears in the sequel. Now, it’s more like a Call of Duty health mechanic, where the screen blinks red when you’re hit, and the marker pops up telling you where the attack is coming from. Find some cover if the screen gets redder and your heartbeat increases, and you can recover. We like this better, too, because it streamlines the gameplay and places the emphasis firmly on the action. However, we can see how both changes may influence a player one way or another, and there’s a great deal of subjectivity involved. For me, because I thought these changes made the game better, I came away completely satisfied with the new, faster gameplay.
Speaking of “faster gameplay,” that’s the last major change: R2 may not technically be twice as fast as its predecessor, but it feels twice as fast. That’s exactly the kind of feature that will entice new players to play this sequel, just because it adopts a quicker speed; many will say the original moved too slowly. Well, Insomniac did address that complaint to some extent, even though just moving normally still feels fully under control. And in reality, perhaps R2 doesn’t move faster from a character motion standpoint, but more from a pacing standpoint. Due to the excellent pacing in the game, it always feels as if you’re involved in a fast-paced, hectic confrontation, because…well, because you usually are. At no point will you feel as if things are dragging; there’s always a huge battle just lurking around every corner and amazingly enough, each one feels relatively fresh. You’ll move from battling the massive Kraken to hordes of Chimera in the vast out-of-doors, then you’ll be underground waiting for the slightest indication that those Spitters (at least, I think that’s what they’re called) will hatch. Then, you’ll be in the woods, spinning around in circles searching for the next Chameleon.
Other small changes include the flashlight feature, commonly found in survival/horror titles but recently instituted in FPSs like Doom III. It did add another semblance of freakiness to the darker environments, but it’s not a truly significant addition. Now, as for the Chimera, one thing fans of the original will notice is that these enemies are more aggressive than ever before. What they lack in strategy and military tactics they make up for with sheer brutality; they’ll run right at you – and we’re relatively convinced they move faster than they once did – and even the big dudes will rush you at a moment’s notice. Oh, and there are way more types of Chimera that have invaded the North American landscape, which is more good news. This includes everything from the two new creatures just mentioned (Spitters and Chameleons) to underwater nasties called Furies that mean instant death, big, intimidating thugs with special guns and shields, and awesome bosses that are huge, beautifully designed and detailed, and fully capable of making you exclaim, “holy sh**!”
As for how one goes about playing, it’s rarely a good idea to try the run ‘n gun tactic, primarily because aiming before firing is almost always a good idea. By holding down the L1 button, you can more accurately aim with any weapon, and although you can’t move very well, your bullets hit their mark on a far more frequent basis. You will waste a whole lot more ammo if you don’t utilize the L1 aim feature, but if you do, you will be satisfied with your skills as a soldier. The Normal difficulty level feels plenty challenging enough and you will probably die more often in R2 than you did in the original, but again, that’s a testament to the constant speed and immersion factor. Sometimes, you just get so caught up in things, you can’t wait to see what’s around the next corner…and that’s when things can go very, very badly. You need to play with a controlled enthusiasm, and if you can manage this mindset, you will reap the rewards of this stellar FPS. Just don’t get too frustrated when facing particularly tough obstacles; you can usually find a very useful weapon lying somewhere nearby. “Hey, that thing’s huge! …oh, there’s the LAARK.”
Lastly, let’s not forget about the new weapons. The Carbine and Bullseye return as the default weapons for the humans and Chimera respectively, although the Bullseye received a major cosmetic overhaul. The Fareye is basically the same (slow-mo as the alternate fire included), the Auger is actually much better, and the Rossmore (shotgun) also seems better (slightly more accurate and more powerful). New weapons include the Magnum with a special detonating fire, the Wraith, which is a powerful minigun that lets you engage a shield that moves with you, and let’s not forget a personal favorite, the Marksman. It’s the Chimeran sniper rifle that lets you zoom in like the Fareye, but also fires a semi-automatic burst that makes it semi-effective in the field. Oh, and the alternate fire is a electric ball that flies out and damages any enemies in its path. Sometimes, it can be very difficult to choose which two weapons to take with you, but then again, that’s half the fun. We do recommend picking up a gun the developers leave lying around; they probably left it there for a reason…
The online multiplayer, which we’ve already sampled in the beta, features 8-player Cooperative and up to 60-player Competitive, and both are fun as hell. Given the multiple classes available in the Co-Op, you can spend a great deal of time leveling them up and seeing the action from a new perspective. And if you thought the single-player campaign was fast, wait until you play some super intense 60-player Team Deathmatches online. At the end of the day, Resistance 2 is exactly what we were hoping for. We get those gargantuan Chimeran enemies and vehicles we saw in early trailers and gameplay previews, the seamless action and endlessly changing environments always kept us happy and hungry for more, a few of the visual scenes are breathtaking, and we’re big fans of the new enhancements and additions. We suppose the story could’ve been better, though, and we did come across a few technical glitches here and there (for example, our character once got caught in between a pile of debris and a stone column, rendering us helpless), but for the most part, we really couldn’t ask for a better FPS experience. Perhaps it’s not a good idea to say this, but this game is what Halo 3 should’ve been.
Resistance 2 is a sweeping, grand epic of a masterpiece issued in staccato bursts of ceaselessly entertaining action, which ultimately provide the gamer with a wonderfully paced and satisfying adventure. It’s a must for any PS3 owner, and continues the 2008 trend of unbelievably accomplished PS3 exclusives. Get it, and get it now.
P.S. Stay tuned for Arnold's review, coming soon! You get two perspectives on this blockbuster, friends. :)
11/5/2008 Ben Dutka