When you look at the top-line bullet points for Resistance 2, the list is impressive: a single-player campaign combined with an eight-player co-op mode and a competitive multiplayer that pits up to 60 players against each other. It's even a mouthful to say, and once the words leave your lips, you have to dabble off that bit of drool left behind. This is a feature set that any gamer will find hard to, well, resist.
I put the disc in my PlayStation 3 ready to experience the true next generation of first-person shooters, from a developer I consider to be one of the best in the business: Insomniac Games (Ratchet & Clank is still one of my favorite series of all time). Unfortunately, my journey with the single-player campaign didn't go exactly as I had hoped. Insomniac has altered a number of the basic mechanics I loved in the first game. The weapon wheel, which let you choose from a number of ingenious weapons, has been removed and replaced with the classic Halo two-weapon loadout that is all but standard in today's first-person shooters. This works wonderfully in multiplayer, but ultimately removes one of the things I admired about the original Resistance. The strategy of figuring out which weapons work best for each encounter is gone. In a game where the weapons are the stars, limiting the player's choice nullifies one of the standout features.
The rest of the single-player experience continues down that same road. I often found upcoming encounters telegraphed by the weapons I found in the area (oh look, a rocket launcher, a big dude must be just around the corner). Other encounters are a process of trial and error; some enemies jump out and zap you for an instant kill, but next time you know where he is coming from, so you simply blast the dude and move on.
The production values are phenomenal; the graphics are among the best you'll see this year, and the soundtrack and sound effects also impress. Enemies like the chameleon emanate an eerie, frog-like gurgle that gives away their presence, and later moan as they lay dying on the floor.
While Insomniac could have done more to make the war for our planet against a Chimera invasion feel far more epic, the story of Nathan Hale's defense of America in the face of enemies attacking from all sides does pay off. I was impressed with the game's dark conclusion, as Insomniac didn't take the easy road and prop up some flimsy plot twist to ensure a pat Hollywood ending.
All told, the single-player experience is definitely better than most, but it was not the knock-down, drag-out experience I had hoped it would be. Luckily, I can't say the same for the game's multiplayer modes, which are easily the best part of Resistance 2.
The cooperative mode in particular is especially addictive. Before going into battle, players choose from three classes: soldier, medic, and spec ops. In classic RPG terms, the solder is the tank class with a shield for taking damage and a giant chain gun for dealing pain. The medic uses a gun to both damage enemies and heal the group, while the spec ops class fills the glass cannon requirement. With 30 levels for each class and unique rewards for each, it's easy to sit with buddies and grind through the six different zones. These zones feature a random element, as set-piece scenarios are assembled like puzzles pieces to create fresh experiences each time you load a mission. With a total of 61 different missions for players to conquer, the gameplay suffers from some repetition as you grind your way to level 30, but there is also enough variety to make the missions stand up to multiple playthroughs.
Competitive play also features a fair amount of innovation. Three of the modes, Core Control, Deathmatch, and Team Deathmatch, will be familiar to any fan of the series, but the new Skirmish mode is delightfully ingenious. Players are aligned into groups of five-man squads, each of which has different objectives throughout the encounter. Your squad is then repeatedly pitted against a rival squad to create grudges between other players, even within the mayhem of 60-player matches. These objectives are determined on the fly by the game's AI, and ultimately lead to giant showdowns where all the squads converge on the same goal.
Resistance 2 is one of this year's standout first-person shooters, but its single-player campaign ultimately isn't as satisfying as this title's stellar multiplayer modes. To be fair, many of the concessions the team made to the single-player campaign also lead to this game's addictive multiplayer experience. For multiplayer fans, Resistance 2 delivers everything you could want from a game, but the single-player experience sadly falls short of expectations.