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Resistance 2 Review

By Matt Cabral, 11/10/2008

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Early PlaySation 3 adopters will recall Resistance: Fall of Man as the only title to seriously justify their hefty hardware purchase back in the fall of 2006. While not quite the system-selling juggernaut the PS3 needed, Insomniac’s ambitious sci-fi FPS offered a solid entry that begged for a larger, improved sequel. And with Resistance 2, that’s exactly what we get. It still may not be the PS3’s answer to Halo or even Gears of War (Sony’s hoping to reserve that spot for Killzone 2), but it’s certainly one of the system’s best offerings to date, and a must-play for fans of the genre.

The bigger-is-better theme breaks out immediately in the game’s action-packed, quick-paced solo campaign, where the frantic play is punctuated by some amazing boss battles. Anyone who’s seen the trailers, screens or marketing involving that Godzilla-size beast having its way with Chicago’s skyline, already knows Insomniac is serious about unleashing some “oh snap!” boss battles. Although, it’s not entirely accurate to pin the “boss” moniker on all these chunky enemies, as many, despite their size and strength, are mere appetizers to the true monstrosities that come later. As series’ Chimera-infected hero Nathan Hale, you’ll take on all sorts of new and old enemies that range from huge to hulking to 52”-plasma-display dominating. Without spoiling the specifics of these epic encounters, I’ll just say they’re the highlight of the single-player campaign, and the names of many of these monsters—Goliath, Leviathan, Titan—pretty much speak for their screen-filling selves.

When you’re not unloading everything you’ve got into these oversize beasts, R2 still throws tons of inventive enemies your way; the Chameleons, a new breed of Chimera possessing a unique cloaking ability, will chill your spine—right before breaking it—and the zombie-like Grim make those speedy 28 Days Later infected folks look like slow pokes. Thankfully, R2 arms Hale, who can carry two guns at a time, with a beefy array of Chimera-killers; a pistol that packs explosive bullets—with delayed detonation function—and the saw blade-spitting Splicer are among my favorites. Pumping a few rounds into a pile of Grim corpses, then detonating them just as another charging horde approaches is endlessly satisfying. In fact, much like with Insomniac’s inventive-weapons franchise Ratchet and Clank, many of R2’s cooler moments come from experimenting with the creativity-fueled firepower.

While bigger enemies, more weapons, and a longer campaign highlight R2’s ambitions over its predecessor, its most welcome addition is its new visual direction. Fall of Man offered a mostly drab, war-torn-Europe graphical presentation, but by moving the action onto U.S. soil, R2 ups the artistic ante with more diverse locales and stylish aliens-invade-America set pieces. Midwest suburban streets, downtown Chicago, and San Francisco are just a few of the realistically represented areas that you'll need to protect from the Chimeran threat. All levels look amazing, and immerse American gamers in a much more relatable way than Fall of Man’s less engaging backdrops ever did. Bringing the fight to the States while also upping the visual appeal was definitely a smart move, and one that’ll keep you killing Chimera just to see what unfolds next.

Given this new design direction, it would’ve been nice if the game did a bit more with its story; it’s not bad, but it’s not nearly as exciting as it could’ve been considering the game’s creatively-rich concept. I also miss the story-driving narration from Fall of Man, which has been replaced by unquestionably polished, but action-halting cut-scenes. Still, as with most FPS titles, you likely won’t find yourself pondering its tale to great lengths, as you’ll be too busy splashing enemy innards all over the environment while fighting to keep your own ass out of harm’s way. Plus, there are a few twisty plot moments, specifically one you'll learn of early on involving Hale’s fate (you'll remember from the first game that he’s infected by the Chimera virus, but appears immune to it.) But more often than not, once the bullets and limbs start flying, R2 devolves into an action-over-narrative affair.

The game packs a decent-length solo campaign at about 8-10 hours, but going it alone barely scratches the surface of this brimming package. Enemies aren’t the only things that got bigger; multiplayer boasts 60-player skirmishes (up from Fall of Man’s 40) and 8-player co-op make its debut. The multiplayer is loads of fun, despite providing primarily standard stuff in terms of modes and maps. One area that does stick out, though, is an objective-changing mode that’ll see you switching between different types of challenges, like completing assassinations and capturing specific points on the map during the same round. The co-op, however, is the real multiplayer prize, offering an entirely separate campaign that truly makes you rely on your brothers in arms. Spec-Ops, Medic, and Soldier classes are available, and all possess very different but equally important roles. Barreling through this enemy-packed campaign with friends is a blast, and a fantastic replay-extending value to the overall package. What’s even sweeter about these modes is their ability to retain the high visual fidelity and slowdown-free gameplay as the campaign. Many titles lose a bit of polish and production value when jumping online, but R2’s multiplayer modes retain the title’s excellent production values.

The various play options provide more than enough diverse content to keep you well invested in Nathan Hale’s alternate history adventure. The single-player, alone, is worth a couple of full play-throughs on different difficulty settings. But be warned, it does pack a more brutal challenge than its predecessor, so even on the "normal" setting you can plan on treading several laps on the trial-and-error treadmill. Those camouflage savvy Chameleons, in particular, are good for at least a few frustrating instant-deaths, and some of the more difficult bosses will try your patience as well. A bit more balancing may have made for a more even experience. However, if you enjoyed Fall of Man or are just a fan of sci-fi action games, you’ll want to add this one to your collection. Not many gamers will actually get the advertised 400+ hours of life out of it, but the solo, co-op, and competitive multiplayer options should keep R2 spinning in your PS3 well past the holiday season, and probably until Killzone 2 arrives.

Overall: 92%



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