Closer Look: Resistance 2
Resistance 2 is the follow up to PS3 blockbuster Resistance: Fall of Man, the title that sort of shared co-flagship FPS status with Killzone 2.
Developed by Insomniac Studios, Resistance 1 was a very good game, a more fast paced FPS with a great selection of weapons, solid enemy AI and a rather interesting 1940’s world war 2 era, only with high-tech weapons and aliens setting.
This is another one of those major PS3 franchises that just never got a foothold in my gaming life. Even though I’ve owned a PS3 since 2007, these big FPS games were never must-buys for me. I did play Resistance 1 back in 2007, but it didn’t really make that much of an impression on me, and when Resistance 2 released, I was in no rush to get my hands on it. So here I am, getting in on the action years too late.
As the story goes, Europe is attacked by creatures called the Chimera, that not only wreak havoc across the continent, but infect people with a disease that turns people into one of them as well. You play as Nathan Hale, a part of a US force that is sent to Europe to support the allied forces fighting against the Chimera.
Resistance 2 picks up immediately after the end of Resistance 1. Things didn’t go so well in Europe, the allies have fallen, and out of the thousands of US troops sent into Europe, Nathan Hale is one of the only survivors. As Resistance 2 opens, Hale is battered and bruised, walking through the UK winter alone. He’s picked up by a US back ops helicopter, and they make their escape.
The story then jumps forward a few years, and Hale is now the leader of the Sentinels, a squad of soldiers who are infected by the Chimera virus, but much like Hale himself, they are resistant to the Chimera infection, and with the help of treatment and a serum they have to take every few hours, they keep the infection at bay. This helps them get the advantages of infection, a healing factor, enhanced physical abilities, and a connection with the Chimera, without succumbing to the infection.
After the Chimera engulfed all of Europe, they are now towards American shores. Hale spends most of the story escaping from safehouse to safehouse as the Chimera tracks them down and destroys the human bases. The Chimera are digging up ancient towers across the globe for sinister purposes. To add to the Mayhem, Deadelus, a man turned Chimera, escapes from containment and leads the Chimera on a campaign to destroy humanity once and for all. Nathan Hale is slowly succumbing to the infection in his body, and as the story progresses, he’s slowly turning into a Chimera himself.
The story itself is pretty good. While you experience a lot of the narrative through cutscenes inbetween levels, a lot of narrative and exposition is delivered in-game through dialogue from the AI controlled team mates that fight alongside you. This is a method of elaborating on the story I enjoy immensely. You can also find documents around levels that provide some background information on the characters around you and the events that took place in the time between the first and second game.
The one failing the narrative in Resistance 2 has is the lack of characterisation. Nathan Hale himself isn’t really fleshed out, beyond being a man of steel with ice in his veins who lives for the sole purpose of killing Chimera. Not exactly an engaging character. In addition to doctor Malikov, and Major Blake, you also have several Sentinel team mates, Capelli, Warner and Hawthorne. Unfortunately, they are not explored much as characters at all beyond Capelli being shown uncomfortable and aggressive against Hale for slowly turning into a Chimera. This is a bit of a missed opportunity as more fleshed out characters would have created a more engaging narrative. At least the ending is a bold step for a franchise and surely provocative for fans of the series, guaranteeing that things will be shaken up a bit in any potential sequel. I enjoyed that very much.
Graphically, Resistance 2 is pretty solid. Character models are nicely detailed, and the environment design is superior to the first game. They’ve broken away from the drab greys and browns in the first game, and gives you a varied level design that takes you from snowy mountains to metallic alien ships to lush jungle environments. The colour palette is more saturated and much more visually interesting than the previous game.
Insomniac also successfully presents a haunting vision of destroyed American towns, deserted and void of life, containing only the husks of those who once lived there. Through their environments, they successfully sell the notion that you are on the losing end of the fight against the Chimera
The gameplay in Resistance 2 remains fairly fast paced for current era FPS. Some changes have takes place, you now have a regenerating health system, so no more health pickups. In many ways the flow of the game is reminiscent of Halo. Resistance 2 has some really good gameplay elements going for it, the gunplay just feels good, which is the most important thing for an FPS after all. It also has one of the best collection of weapons in the FPS genre. Sure, you have your standard assault rifle and shotgun, however you also have amazing weapons like the Auger, that shoots through walls, or the bullseye that lets you tag an enemy and have your bullets track them. But my favourite of all is the very first weapon you get in the game, the Magnum, which not only packs a punch, it allows you to trigger explosives in the bullet at will. All the weapons have alternate fire features that add another layer to the gunplay. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other game with as many weapons that just makes me smile.
While the gameplay is very solid and a lot of fun, there are some serious issues with Resistance 2 that holds the game back from greatness, and in certain sections make it take a sharp U-turn towards craptown.
There are way too many instant death situations in Resistance 2, where you’re just walking down the street, minding your own business while blasting fools in the face, only to just go splat instantly. Sometimes it’s because you triggered a blatantly stupid enemy appearance, and sometimes you just get no indication of why you’re dead, what killed you, or what you did wrong.
And they have stealth enemies, that you get no warning about until approximately 1 second before they are on you, who 1-shot kill you. Sometimes they appear to work as intended, as in you’re making your way through the level, and then you see tracks on the ground and hear the noise of their footsteps, warning you of their approach. But way too many times, I appeared to be looking in a different direction than where the designers had wanted me to look, and was attacked by these stealth Chimera from the side or the back, or they would catch me while reloading. In both of these cases, there is nothing you can do, and you die.
Other times you’ll be in a firefight, a long one with several stages, and just towards the the end, you hit a trigger and get bumrushed but the Chimera when your health and ammo is low and you’re out of position. My favourite (/sarcasm) is the big Chimera with the energy shield who runs at you with 2-3 others behind him also hiding behind the shield. Insomniac just loves having those guy appear from around the corner just when you approach and think the fight is over. The result of this is, you die. Sure you can deal with it the second time around, when you know it’s coming, but the first time you see it, you’re dead. Every time, and there is nothing you can do about it. Resistance 2 makes you go through these kinds of cheap deaths repeatedly.
I can not stress enough that this is not good game design. The player needs to understand what happened, why he died, and know that he had a fighting chance. If not, it’s not going to feel challenging, it’s just going to be frustrating. Dying because of bullshit is never fun, ever.
This leads in to the second big issue with Resistance 2. Checkpoints. Really brutal ones. When you’re in a big fight, going from room to room, all those placed you think there should have been a checkpoint, don’t get your hopes up, because there wasn’t one. Tough checkpoints alone isn’t so bad, in fact it can make a game feel really challenging and change the way you play it, making you more cautious in your approach. However, when you mix tough checkpoints with cheap deaths and just sadistic enemy triggers, you have the makings of an immensely frustrating game.
And this is the major reason I don’t really like Resistance 2. Because it’s a good game, real good, the gunplay feels just right and the weapons are totally awesometastic. But with a few key game design decisions, they made the game not fun to play. I was sitting there playing a game I knew was good, and I wasn’t having fun, I wasn’t enjoying it all. I was just frustrated and wanted to get it over with.
Being mostly a single player guy, Resistance 2’s excellent multiplayer offering doesn’t make much of a difference to me, and the fairly short single player campaign doesn’t provide nearly enough value for me. The length of the campaign is extended purely through how many cheap deaths you suffer, forcing you to replay sections, and ensuring that I would never even dream of playing the campaign a second time around on a harder difficulty.
In the end, I’m kind of torn in my feelings about Resistance 2. It’s basically a really good game that I never want to play again. In fact, I’m not too excited about picking up Resistance 3 either. I feel like Resistance 2 is a rare case of a game that is good, but not a good experience. Way too much frustration and cheap deaths mar the experience and leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth.
In any case, if you really liked Resistance: Fall of Man, Resistance 2 is a must buy. For everyone else, I think it should probably get in line behind Killzone.