According to a poll â€“ a fairly reputable one, Iâ€™m sure - Insomniac Games is in the top 10 best small companies to work for in the USA. This would be partially due to the reputed flexible hours and a relaxed atmosphere, and more than partially to CEO Ted Price, one of the most visionary yet unassuming Presidents in the biz. Insomniac are here to offer you their latest game, Resistance 2, the follow up to PS3 launch title Resistance: Fall Of Man. And my God, for a company with such a happy-go-lucky reputation, theyâ€™ve sure pushed themselves with this one. Including three different and intensive modes in one game â€“ single player campaign, 8 player online co-op and 60 player online multiplayer - Resistance 2 is gutsier, itâ€™s gorier, and itâ€™s much, much bigger.
For those in doubt, there is absolutely no question that Resistance 2 improves on its predecessor. Insomniac has blatantly learnt from the major quibbles aimed at the last game, and has given us a much more varied experience, having the advantage of working with the beefier third-generation PS3 engine. Thatâ€™s not to say that there are still some minor issues, hangovers if you will, from Fall Of Man â€“ but on the whole, Resistance 2 is a thrilling, cinematic first person shooter, and an entirely new beast.
Letâ€™s start with the single-player campaign, where the narrative picks up where it left off. If youâ€™re new to the series, the world of Resistance is set in an alternate history in the 50â€™s, where an extraterrestrial race known as the Chimera has targeted Earth for destruction. Protagonist Nathan Hale has now been swept up from war-torn Europe and carried to America, where Chimeran attacks have left major cities in devastation. Hale is recruited by government agency SRPA and becomes a Sentinel, one in a team of soldiers who, like himself, are all resistant to the infectious Chimera virus. In practical terms this means regenerative health and enhanced strengthâ€“ not to mention the added bonus of your NPC teammates having actual competence in battle.
Core controls in Resistance 2 remain the same as the in the first game: intuitive to anybody whoâ€™s played a traditional FPS before, a fairly uninspired crouch, run and gun system. However, from the get go, massive adjustments to other elements are obvious. From the very first level, you notice the scale of the game has been upped. Landscapes are bigger, the orchestral soundtrack is an assault on the senses, and one of the first enemies you face is a 200ft Goliath. Indeed, the prologue gives away nothing of the ebb and flow in pace thatâ€™s to come â€“ you hit the ground sprinting to the beat of a military drum.
The overall design scheme has also had an overhaul. The first game was nearly monochromatic, buried under browns and grays. The palette in Resistance 2 is still grimy, but there are brightly lit forest areas, blue skies and the occasional set piece with actual primary colours - dare we ask for more in a game set in the 1950â€™s?
Admittedly, the 50â€™s aesthetic seems a little rushed â€“ almost as if the thought process was throw in a Dodge and an old radio and Bobâ€™s your uncle. Comparisons will inevitably be made with games such as Bioshock and COD, who nail the design scheme of their respective eras so thoroughly you canâ€™t help but feel slightly shortchanged by Resistanceâ€™s token trinkets, particularly jarring against characters who sound like stereotypes of modern-day soldiers. Certain objects up close also seem a bit sketched, and there are some noticeably mundane interiors - tables, chairs and other â€˜boringâ€™ bits hastily drawn.
To combat this gripe, we arrive back at scale. What Resistance 2 lacks in pop-culture detail it makes up for in breathtaking set pieces. There is the occasional moment that is so epic you have to pause in order to take it all in. Notably in the early San Francisco level, thereâ€™s an instant where you get a real sense of the sobering devastation of the Chimeran war. When you reach it (youâ€™ll know), I encourage you to stop and take a good look. Maybe grab a flatmate or friend to take a look, too, just to say â€˜see? This is why I play games!â€™.
This sense of scale is accelerated by battles that will leave you breathless: either due to the sheer number of enemies you face at a time, or the size and aggression of the beasts. Trust me, that aforementioned 200ft Goliath is a mere appetizer to many, many excellent main courses. Grandeur such as this invites cinematic comparisons, and Resistance 2 is as immersive as any good sci-fi flick. Predator, Invasion of The Body Snatchers, Godzillaâ€¦the inspirations are immediately apparent. On a minor note, the health bar has also been removed in the HUD, so the screen is essentially bare expect for ammo information, a small yet effective way to chip away at your suspension of disbelief.
The narrative and general pace of the sequel has also changed for the better. Resistance: Fall Of Man tended to coast along at the same pace, and battles with swarms of the same old bad guys often became repetitive. In Resistance 2 there are distinctive highs and lows, moments when youâ€™re blasting away in the middle of an epic war zone contrasted with the creeping terror you feel as youâ€™re making your way through a swamp, struck with that dreadful thought: â€˜I havenâ€™t seen a bad guy in a whileâ€¦.â€™
Much of this change can be attributed to a greater variety of enemies. Insomniac have embraced the fact that they have more freedom with mutant enemies as opposed to humans, and this time theyâ€™ve really shaken up the bag. Periods of quiet will suddenly be shattered by the scream of an approaching Chameleon â€“ an invisible mutant that will only show itself just as its about to rip your head off, or a group of Spinners, who tend to run at you out of nowhere in alarming packs.
Resistance 2 purposefully plays with your expectations of your foes, as thereâ€™s no real rhyme or reason to the enemies in any given situation. You go into battle facing off against the usual Bullseye wielding grunts when all of a sudden thereâ€™s a big, badass Chimeran bastard pumping grenades at you from out of the corner of your vision. Itâ€™s adrenaline fueling and boy; it keeps you on your toes.
And of course, itâ€™s Resistance, itâ€™s Insomniac, so youâ€™ve got a mean arsenal, each gun equipped with secondary fire. A bunch of new and interesting weapons make their debut here (although many of the old faithful guns from Fall of Man return - can I just say, thank God for the Auger). The old multiple weapon system has been done away with, replaced with a Halo-inspired two-weapon limit. This encourages creativity in your approach to battle, especially once the difficulty amps up in later levels.
Fan favorites amongst the newbies will undoubtedly be the Marksman (magazine rounds, secondary fire: overhead electrical discharge), the Magnum (piercing rounds, secondary fire: explosives that can be detonated inside an enemy) and the Splicer (electromagnetic saw blades, secondary fire: red hot intravenous blades capable of slicing through multiple enemies). Your progress throughout the game rewards you with even more original artillery, an incentive to drive you forward to get that ultimate headshot.
Youâ€™re also aided in your plight by fellow Sentinels, who behave not as pretty showpieces but as equals. They will not only distract enemy fire away from you but also crucially, kill the enemies with you. After facing wave after wave of Chimera in a battle with your squadmates, you want to shake their hands and take them out for a drink. To feel like youâ€™ve experienced something, actually survived something with an NPC counterpart is quite an achievement.
There is a flipside to this involving narrative - gameplay in Resistance 2 is as linear as it comes. There are times when this is frustrating â€“ on occasion I found myself blocked against an invisible wall in an area I wanted to explore, with my teammates yelling â€˜this way, Lieutenant!â€™ on a loop (itâ€™s as irritating as it sounds). However, restricting selfish pursuits keeps you involved in the story: you play the single player campaign mode how itâ€™s meant to be played, which really helps you grasp the true weight of those epic moments.
Unfortunately, as I found in the first game, it was a struggle to invest in the true weight of Nathan Hale himself. As a protagonist, he is completely bland, a beefcake with a side of beige. There is something to be said for an epic story, but it would have been well complimented with an empathetic, three-dimensional character.
Despite these (few) shortcomings, the single player campaign is solid, thrilling to play, and just one part of a multi-faceted game. Co-operative mode can either be played with up to eight players online, or two offline. It is essentially a campaign in its own right, but the story in co-op separates itself from Hale completely, and focuses on the other soldiers battling in the war against the Chimera.
In co-op, you and your team are divided into three character classes â€“ Spec-ops, Soldier and Medic â€“ and all must learn to work together in order to complete the campaign through a series of objectives. This is a fantastic approach to co-operative play, and one that will strike a chord with novices wanting to jump online without being shot in the face in the first five seconds. You are placed in a match according to your experience level, so you never feel out of your league, and you build experience points by completing said match, or simply firing a successful shot.
To stop wannabe renegades ruining everyoneâ€™s fun, enemies in co-op are god-like versions of those in Campaign, so there is no way one person can go gung-ho and take down the entire threat by themselves. I played frequently as a medic, and although I missed the grunt of heavy weaponry there is something satisfying in staying out of the limelight in order to keep your teammates alive. Simply, soldiers provide the muscle, spec-ops provide the ammo, and medics provide the health. You canâ€™t have one without the other. It is accessible; it is rewarding, and with a variety of changing objectives, it has a ton of replayability.
Multiplayer versus mode, for the most part, is slightly more traditional. Divided into four modes: deathmatch, team deathmatch, core control (capture the flag) and skirmish, it is only skirmish that really differentiates Resistance 2â€™s multiplayer from the rest. Every mode caters to up to sixty players, but skirmish really makes you aware of that number. Essentially, skirmish dumps 60 players in one area, splits them into 5 man squads, and gives them â€˜dynamic objectivesâ€™ (for example, defend your big blue â€˜nodeâ€™), each objective drawing your squad closer to the others until glorious sixty player mayhem breaks out in the finale. The popularity of Skirmish in the recently released public beta suggests itâ€™s going to sway the naysayers, although the other multiplayer modes well cater to the more â€“ dare I say it â€“ conservative gamer.
So there we have it. Insomniac â€“ one of the best small companies to work for in the USA, mind you â€“ have pulled off one of the more ambitious games in recent years. Resistance 2 fulfils itâ€™s predecessors potential not only with a solid single player campaign, but also introduces hours of replayability with its accessible and innovative online modes. Check out www.myresistance.net to tie it all together in a Resistance social networking site, and you can expect that Resistance 2 is going to be around for a long time. A long long time. Buy a PS3 for it? I would.