Resistance 2 Review

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Resistance: Fall of Man is a first-person shooter and launch title for the PlayStation 3. It’s one of the best launch titles I’ve ever played and, in my opinion, one of the best shooters for the system. It starts out by throwing you right into the fray and the action never lets up. It’s fun, it’s challenging, it’s intense, sometimes frustrating, and action-packed. While not perfect, it’s a great game and it was followed up by Resistance 2. Developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Resistance 2 was released for PlayStation 3 in November, 2008. Resistance 2 comes across as bigger and more grand and it comes with several changes to the formula which left some fans of the first game unhappy.

Set after the events of the first game, the protagonist is Nathan Hale. Still infected with the Chimera Virus, Hale becomes part of an elite group of infected super soldiers known as the Sentinels, dedicated to fighting off Chimeran forces. Set in the 1950’s, the story primarily focuses on the Chimeran invasion of the United States. Nathan is much more vocal this time around but the writing fails to develop his personality. He talks and behaves like a typical soldier and even though the infection is slowly consuming him, you never really know what he’s thinking or feeling. Despite the more cinematic approach to the storytelling, the plot suffers from the same issues the plot in the first game did. Characters and certain story beats aren’t really fleshed out enough. I found it hard to stay engaged.

Now lets get into the gameplay. I’m going to start things off by saying I like Resistance 2 but I don’t like the direction the developers took. And I realized this less than two minutes in. In my opinion, the first game had an excellent opening. The first mission in that game is a great example of how to properly do a first mission in a first-person shooter and I think other game developers should take notes on how Insomniac did it. It taught you the basic mechanics as you went along but it didn’t slow down progression to shove tutorials in your face or force you to play a certain way. At the same time, being a first-person shooter centered on an alien invasion, you were thrown right into the middle of a war zone. It’s exciting. The mission also clearly establishes the challenge. You quickly learn the enemies are actually dangerous.

I started Resistance 2 right after finishing the first game and I immediately noticed the shift in style of gameplay and tone. I think it’s an interesting title to analyze considering what it’s a sequel to. I felt the first game was a more modern take on the classic shooter formula. It reminded me of games like Doom and Quake. You’re like a super soldier hero type that wields a varied arsenal of awesome firepower to blow away any threats in your way. But the levels are linear and there’s no key hunting. Resistance 2 feels much more like a modern shooter.

You might be thinking “so what’s wrong with that?”. My answer is nothing. There’s nothing wrong with that. I like many modern shooters. I think the real question we should be asking is why. Why the change? In my opinion the first game did a lot of things right and a lot of the changes in Resistance 2 feel unnecessary. It appears as if the developers were trying to mimic elements of other popular shooters out at the time. The first mission is a good example and it doesn’t take long to see that things are going to be different. And not necessarily in a good way. During this first mission, you’re forced to follow a guy around who basically tells you what to do and it’s the game’s way of showing you the ropes. It’s slow paced and you do as you’re told in order to progress. The combat that is present during this mission is clearly designed to show you how weapons and mechanics work and there’s little to no challenge to overcome.

The seventh generation consoles is when physical game manuals started to disappear. But even before that, games were already teaching you the mechanics as you play. Usually in the beginning. In many modern shooters, the very first mission is often designed to be educational and it’s usually obvious with minimal danger. You’re not going to die a thousand times in the very beginning of a game unless you really suck. Usually. As a result, these missions often feel like a waste on subsequent playthroughs because there’s little to no challenge which is often compounded by forced tutorials and/or interactions or scripted events that slow things down. And if it’s your second time playing through it, you know how everything works already. This is exactly the case in Resistance 2. It’s the one mission in the game I have no desire to revisit from a gameplay standpoint. The first game doesn’t have this problem because of the way its first mission is designed. It contains little to no handholding and simply throws you into the fray with plenty of dangerous enemies to shoot. Text will occasionally appear on the screen to tell you how something works but it never fucks with the pacing.

At this point, you’re probably thinking “why is this idiot going on and on about first missions?”. Well I’ll tell you. It’s because the first mission sets things up for the rest of the game. At least within the context of modern shooters. While Resistance feels more classic, Resistance 2 feels more modern and that’s evident in the very first mission. While I was following the guy around, doing as I was told, waiting for it to be over so I can get to the more exciting action, I learned two things. One; Hale can only carry two firearms now and two; his health slowly regenerates and there’s no more health bars. It was after this first mission that I learned the combat is rather challenging. Much like its predecessor, Resistance 2 will kick your ass if you’re not prepared.

Only being able to wield two firearms really changes things. It changes how you approach encounters and in this case, limits what tools you can use during encounters. It really does seem unnecessary. Being able to carry and switch between all the weapons in the first game gave you a lot of options when it comes to how you want to engage foes, assuming you had ammo for whatever weapons you wanted to use. Resistance 2 almost forces you to use certain weapons at certain times. For example, when you come up against a Titan or multiple, there’s often a rocket launcher or Bellock grenade launcher lying around somewhere nearby. Most of the time, I would reach an area and knew exactly what types of threats I was about to face simply because of the weapons that were lying around. Many encounters do feel staged.

Much like the first mission, I felt like the game was guiding me through the experience but it was more subtle than simply following an NPC and doing what I was told. You may use a different weapon to take down a Titan and then bring the rocket launcher you found in the area with you to the next encounter, but you’ll run out of ammo pretty quickly, forcing you to swap it out with something else. Each encounter felt like the game was telling me “these are the enemies you’re up against and these are the weapons we want you to use. Have at it”. On the plus side, the gunplay is very satisfying and there’s several cool new weapons added to the arsenal. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try all of them because I didn’t get to try the cooperative mode which has additional weapons like Proximity Mines and the Phoenix.

My favorite new weapons are the Wraith and Marksman. The Wraith is like a minigun that can also unleash a Force Barrier to protect you from incoming attacks. I found the Marksman to be one of the best weapons in the game because in inflicts a good amount of damage and is great at almost any range. It fires ion rounds and can launch an Electro Static Orb that will zap enemies. The first new weapon you’re introduced to is the Magnum and what makes it fun is that you can detonate the rounds. Then there’s the Pulse Cannon and Splicer which only appear for certain encounters and as a result, they feel underutilized. The Pulse Cannon is always found in areas just before a boss and the Splicer fires saw blades. It’s actually a pretty cool weapon but you typically only find it in areas where the most annoying enemy type in the game appears. Grim.

Several foes from the previous game do make a return. Hybrids and their variants are the most common foes you’ll face. They are still accurate with their shots making them very dangerous. New types include flying Patrol and Attack Drones and Ravagers which are large and are equipped with either a minigun or plasma gun and some carry shields. Then there’s Grim and Chameleon, the two worst enemies in the game in my opinion. Grims can be taken down easily but they always appear in numbers and simply rush the player. Chameleons can also be killed easily but they’re partially invisible and can kill you in one strike which can be frustrating. I just don’t find these enemies enjoyable to fight. They’re annoying. I would be killed by an overwhelming number of Grims, usually while I was reloading, and a Chameleon would kill me because I didn’t notice where it was coming from or that there was another one right behind the one I just killed. Grims and Chameleons are not really challenging foes, they’re more like cheap gimmicks.

The environments are very linear and the only reason to explore is to acquire weapons and ammo and find Intel which acts as a form of collectible. One thing I really like about Resistance 2 is the diversity of locations and most are set in the US. My favorite missions have you fighting enemies in areas based on realistic locations like on the streets, in rural areas, and various buildings. For example, there’s a mission set in Twin Falls, Idaho that has you engaging enemies at a gas station and diner and there’s another mission that has you infiltrating a Chimera-infested house in Louisiana. The detailed environments and backgrounds help create atmosphere. You can often see ships flying around in the skies and large Chimeran structures in the distance and by taking you all over the US, the campaign conveys a good sense of scale and that the country is actually at war with an alien force. Everywhere is dangerous. Even bodies of water are unsafe. They’re infested with Furies which are invincible and will kill you instantly if they catch you.

There’s a cool series of battles set on the streets of Chicago. Friendly soldiers and Chimera are running around and battling it out, projectiles are zipping around everywhere, vehicles are blowing up, and you’re running through the streets and buildings blasting away foes and trying not to die. Scenarios like these are when the campaign is at its best. Any encounters that feel like war zones are usually hectic, intense, and fun. Resistance 2 does feature more traditional boss battles compared to its predecessor which would often throw boss-type enemies into specific encounters. Boss battles in Resistance 2 feel very scripted and underwhelming. The final boss in particular felt like a joke.

As fun as most of the firefights are in Resistance 2, some can feel a bit cheap and/or tedious. There’s a couple that have you engaging shielded Attack Drones and battles with them can drag on. Sometimes you get ambushed by a horde of foes and it can really suck if you’re low on ammo or don’t grab the correct weapons. Most enemies are accurate and their shots can drain your health very quickly so getting behind cover is often crucial. In fact, if you’re ever in view during a firefight, you can bet projectiles will be heading your way. I do think Nathan is a little too fragile and because of how accurate enemies are, death can come in what feels like an instant. I would constantly have to run to cover and wait for my health to regenerate.

Despite being accompanied by friendly soldiers during many missions, you’ll always be the primary target of enemy attacks and because of how linear the environments are, it’s not like you have many options when it comes to approaches. This combined with the two weapon limit made me feel restricted which can result in some encounters feeling very frustrating. In the first game, you could run around the battlefields and maneuver during firefights. In fact, it was often wise to keep moving in the heat of battle. In Resistance 2, you’re usually better off running to cover and sticking to the areas where the weapons are located. Certain encounters almost force you to remain or move to specific areas until the enemies are defeated and because of how fragile Hale is, deviating at the wrong time can result in a swift death.

The online servers were shut down some time ago so I didn’t get to try the multiplayer. However, the campaign is rather long and there are things to unlock which helps add replay value. You can unlock additional difficulty modes and the Arcade Mode which adds a life system to the campaign. From what I understand, the cooperative mode is different than the campaign and supports up to eight players. But if playing offline, you can attempt it solo or play with another person in split-screen. You select a character class and can change your gear and earn experience, level up, and unlock new equipment. It’s just a shame you can’t play through the story with a buddy.

Resistance 2 was a looker for its time. Compared to the first game, it’s more colorful and more detailed. From the breathtaking backgrounds to the visual effects, everything looks great. One of the reasons the gunplay is so satisfying is because of the presentation and gore effects. Each weapon has good visual feedback, weapons-fire sounds powerful, enemies bleed when shot and can explode into bits and many of them let out a growl as they die. In my opinion, the only thing the presentation fails at is representing a 1950’s world. Most of the time, I forgot the story was set in the 1950’s and there was only a few times the game reminded me of it. It was usually subtle things in the environments like the style of the cars littered around the streets for example. Overall, the audiovisual presentation is solid but I can’t say the soundtrack is all that memorable. In fact, there’s a lot of sequences where music isn’t playing at all. The only technical oddity I encountered was the game freezing for several seconds before resuming. It only occurred a few times.

I did have fun with Resistance 2 but I enjoyed the first game more. Resistance 2 feels like it’s trying to fit in with the popular kids but it never really does. It only emulates what they do which makes it feel less unique. Some of the changes feel like they were taken directly from Halo and Call of Duty and whatever other shooters were popular at the time. It’s odd because the first game, while not flawless, was excellent. The better visuals, diverse locations, and cool new weapons are all appealing but the regenerating health, two weapon limit, and the aggressively linear environments all feel unnecessary. I won’t say Resistance 2 is a bad game because it’s not. Despite the changes, the gameplay is often a lot of fun. I just don’t think it’s as good as its predecessor. It tries to be bigger and more more grand and from a story perspective, it is, but from a gameplay perspective, it doesn’t even reach the same highs.

I would recommend Resistance 2 to fans of shooters. It may be a disappointing sequel but it’s still a good shooter. Even though the online stuff is no longer supported, it comes with a healthy dose of offline content. You get a meaty campaign, a cooperative mode, and the unlockable stuff adds a decent amount of replay value. Definitely check it out.

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