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Review – Resistance 2

posted on January 5th, 2009 by d. olsen

Resistance 2 from Insomniac Games is the highly anticipated sequel to the fairly enjoyable Resistance: Fall of Man. Insomniac is one of Sony’s prize jewels, an exclusive PS3 developer who makes big hits on a tight time schedule. This time around however, (for the very first time in fact) I wasn’t pleased with their output. This game has its moments and is sure to be enjoyed by many, but I’ve played too many shooters to accept a second-rate product from a first-rate company, especially in the saturated season we fortunately find ourselves in.

Resistance 2 continues the story of Nathan Hale and an alien invasion that takes place on an alternate earth in our World War II era. The all-powerful Chimera have filled America’s skies with massive warships and are exterminating the nation in a maelstrom of nuclear fire. Playing Hale, you will visit various locales throughout the States, gun down the inhuman enemy in droves, and perform the standard suite of special forces-type missions that are always used in games to explain how one man can destroy whole battalions of troops, obliterate massive pieces of architecture, and change the course of a war.

Resistance 2 achieves an impressive scale in terms of both the size of its enemies and the number on screen at a time. To do this, however, they had to sacrifice a large degree of detail. This isn’t so bad when the game has you in large, outdoor spaces but when Hale goes indoors to military bunkers the game looks cheap.

The only time the game’s many indoor segments look pretty are when you are traversing through predictable alien environments with their mirror-like sheen, weird geometry, and utter absence of anything else. Just what are the aliens doing with those acres of empty real estate? Even when the environments of Resistance 2 look okay they don’t ever live or breathe. The atmosphere throughout the game is thin.

It’s apparent that the developers fell in love with Call of Duty 4 between the first and second game. All of the shooter mechanics have been borrowed, from the iron sights aiming, to the ‘red screen’ health regeneration, to the limited weapon inventory. This could have been a good thing if they were able to achieve such precise results as Infinity Ward did with their game, but Insomniac didn’t.

The shooter controls are spongy and inaccurate despite fiddling with settings so instead of achieving the more satisfactory ‘stop and pop’ style of gun play you’re forced to ‘spray and pray’ instead. The HUGE crosshairs are awful, part of that word is made up of ‘hair’ as in: thin strand of, for a damn good reason.

Hale is a super-absorbent bullet sponge on normal difficulty and as a result you don’t need to respect the lines of fire. You quickly learn that it’s okay to be hosed down with the glowing tennis balls that pass for lethal ammo because they have as much effect as actual tennis balls. Perhaps this concession was made because of the number of enemies attacking you on screen but the end result is unrealistic and inconsequential combat. When an enemy has you in its sights and is plunking away at you three, four, five times, you know you still can take a couple more rounds before you need to get behind cover.

This slavish mimicry to another game went to the point where it even worked against Insomniac’s established strengths. This company has always been great at creating a variety of interesting, imaginative, and even wacky weapons with which to dispatch your foes. In the first Resistance game you eventually had access to a huge variety of firepower and thus there was always a different way to approach a battle.

In the second game they went with the ‘two weapons only’ mechanic which is fine for realistic shooters but not so good against far fetched enemies. Every time a giant-sized monster appeared on the screen I knew there would be a rocket launcher or similar heavy weapon lying in wait for me. In Resistance 2 you are told in no uncertain terms how to play their game, too much so for my tastes.

Hand holding: every game needs it to a certain degree, to keep players moving along, but when it happens too much it becomes the unwelcome guest. I don’t know why Insomniac thought that pulling the player out of the game into even the most minuscule of cut scenes was a good idea but it abounds and is wholly unnecessary. Another gripe I have in this regard is a certain type of enemy that cannot be killed in any way. You have the ability to bring down a three hundred foot tall creature but this one type of medium-sized enemy remains impervious to any and all weaponry.

Taking this to its logical conclusion one should surmise that an impenetrable enemy will spell the doom of the human race eventually, but worry not, for there are invulnerable humans to balance out this clear advantage. Hale gains companions in this game, annoying tough guys who cramp Hale’s style and chew up scenery trying to justify their existence. Also, the enemies rush right by them to attack you.

Apparently poor Nathan didn’t get the memo to pick up his invisibility device and so you get to watch wave after wave of Chimera ignore your teammates and come right after you. You can hide behind your buddies but hilariously this does you no good. You are the squad’s resident spank-monkey, so pucker up and yes sir, you may have another. This, my friends, looks and plays as half-assed and unacceptably as it sounds.

What’s at the heart of these design choices is a ‘play our way or the highway’ philosophy that exposes the limitations of what you can do in the game. Once players experience this stuff immersion is lost. These are old school shortcomings and I don’t mean that in the good way. Most designers have dropped these conventions and so I am perplexed about why Insomniac went back to them – to old design compromises that weren’t even present in the first game.

Beyond the single player experience there is what seems to be a beefy cooperative game and multiplayer competition. If you enjoy the game mechanics then these are welcome additions that will add value to the disk. After finishing the game I briefly tried these modes and came to realize that there was no way I was using this particular shooter to grind through a bunch of levels and upgrades. I just didn’t like it enough to spend any more time with it.

Perhaps Resistance 2 to was going to be a higher quality game that got rushed to completion? Few companies have been as prolific this generation as Insomniac has and maybe this game is revealing where their development schedule is starting to tear at the seams. I’m guessing, of course.

The first Resistance game was treated by most, including me, with softer gloves because it was Insomniac’s first attempt at a mature shooter and there was much of their good work ethic in place to mitigate some of the freshman errors. Now with this sophomore effort we see the game they supposedly wanted to make with the experience of the first, and the end result is my own personal final verdict on the franchise: Resistance isn’t a very serious shooter and it doesn’t need to be followed any longer.

I won’t only be trading in Resistance 2 but the first title as well because this series isn’t going anywhere I’m interested in. Oh well, there’s always Ratchet and Clank.

Buy from Amazon: Resistance 2

1 Comments

  1. christian said on January 6, 2009:

    I admit some definite interest in this review, as I did indeed play the original Resistance. My overall take was that I didn’t understand any of the fuss about it. It is competent, and the weapon variety becomes necessary on the tougher difficulties, but it was pretty much a case where if you thought too hard about anything but the individual firefights your head would hurt from the blandness. I guess this one continues to trend.

    Olsen I’m glad to see you decide now to drop the series. I had a similar revelation with the Syphon Filter games, which were close to my heart for years but which I can no longer tolerate.

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