Oh, Resistance 2! You are so confused about what you want out of me. Do you want me to play through your horrible single-player campaign, with its erratic and nonsensical storytelling? Would you rather I just concentrate on your deep and engaging multiplayer modes? How about if we just start from the top and answer these questions together?
So that's the setup. You're still infected but now you need regular doses of antigen or things will apparently go very badly. Also, some of your comrades don't much appreciate the busy and heroic lifestyle that will inherently keep you away from said meds. That's about all you need to know about the story. You're obviously trying to save the world again, and this time around it's not the lonely, silent trek it was in the first installment. You'll be treated to a stable of recurring supporting characters, but they are never clearly defined and by the time the game hits its conclusion, you really won't care. Neither will Nathan apparently, as he seems totally indifferent to the fields of death being sowed around him. That's not to say these brave souls are worthless, as the game is actually at its best when it throws you into the midst of larger, epic battles with your allies. This also works to give you the impression that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes, but none of that information is ever presented to you in a reasonable or coherent manner.
While the game is supposed to be taking place in an alternate version of the '50s, you'll never really get that vibe aside from the old cars and some antique radios. The weapons you'll be using will mostly be alien, or at least modified beyond anything recognizable for the time period, and any allies you have with you will do little to keep you in the spirit of the era. The only thing that maintains some semblance of time and place is a distraught radio announcer that you'll occasionally be able to overhear as you checkpoint your way across America. The poor guy is actually one of the better story elements in the game, and it's probably worth your time to sit and listen to his morbid antics.
Those are my biggest gripes with the game, though there were a few more minor annoyances. I really enjoyed much of the actual combat and gameplay, aside from a few enemy behaviors with which I took issue. You'll trade fire with your standard Chimeran grunts, but you'll also encounter some special units, like the invisible Chameleons. Now, in addition to being able to cloak themselves, they'll also charge you, and they'll kill you in one hit. Apparently they make some noise when they are around, but as far as I could tell it all just sounded like pigeons cooing. To counter this, the game automatically saves checkpoints pretty frequently, so you'll never be too far away from your last sudden and surprising place of death. This leads to a lot of try-and-die gameplay, and you'll find things are not so tough when you have some fair warning. There are also some new zombie-like Chimera which will swarm at you as you try to mow them down. These are definitely of the “fast zombie” variety and I found myself backed into a corner more than once, screaming “Oh God, Oh God, Oh...I'm dead.” These baddies are hatched from cocoons and you'll mostly encounter them in the overrun towns you'll be traipsing through. While the “body snatchers” idea definitely adds to the creepier direction this game has adopted, it doesn't seem to make much sense as these young turks don't need the special cooling systems that the rest of the Chimera use to prevent them from overheating. The first game went so far as to have entire conversion centers for the processing of humans into Chimera. It's minor, but it bugged me.
You'll be treated to some new weapons but you'll also see some slightly modified versions from the original Resistance armament. The Auger, which originally only allowed you to blindly shoot through walls, now lets you keep track of your target as he hides behind cover, which is very, very handy. Each weapon, again, has two modes of fire and this time around I found myself using them often. The magnum, for example, not only packs quite a punch with its primary fire but, using the alternate fire, you can subsequently detonate any spent rounds. This is a quick way to improvise an explosive surprise for the oncoming hordes of Chimera. The only time I found myself getting frustrated with the weapons is when one of my less-than-effective teammates was wielding one of the rarer heavy weapons, with seemingly unlimited ammunition. In my hands that weapon could turn the entire tide of the war! Sadly, the opportunity to sacrifice that young man for the good of mankind never presented itself.
The locations have also been well expanded beyond the seemingly endless grey, industrial maps of the original. You'll be greeted by some really spectacular set pieces as you as span a good chunk of North America in your quest to do something...or other. Not all of the locales are great, but when they work, they work with flourish, and you won't be disappointed in the eye candy.
Once you've finished the campaign you can go back and select any level to replay. This is helpful if you want to collect any missing pieces of intel you may have missed your first time through. These sparse collectibles are really your only window into the overarching fiction. As someone who really appreciates some narrative context surrounding my mass murder, I found myself desperate to latch onto anything that might give me some more insight. While the intel you find won't do much to make the entire world make sense, it is a must for anyone hoping to extract even the slightest bit of coherence from the plot.
Really, though, all this single-player nonsense is just an introduction and setup for the much more engaging multiplayer. It's in the cooperative and competitive multiplayer that Resistance 2 really begins to deliver on being one of the best shooters for the PlayStation 3. While the head scratching single-player campaign will take you all of 8-10 hours, the multiplayer modes are where players are going to sink the majority of their time. Both modes offer a leveling system that allows you to gain experience and unlock new items and abilities. It's easy to get engrossed in the constant need to reach the next level with any given class, and that's further aided by the ease with which you can actually get into games. Both modes include a button labeled “play” which instantly takes you into the action and on the road to gaining experience. While you still have the option to manually setup or pick a map, being able to get into a game in one button press really takes the anxiety out of having to find a group, especially for the co-op.
Calling the co-op a campaign is actually a bit of a misnomer. It really has nothing to do with the single-player campaign, other than taking place in the same universe and making liberal use of that special forces team you just met. Upon starting a map, you, and up to seven other players, will pick a class from three different archetypes: soldier, special ops, and medic. The most outstanding element is how much all these classes need to rely on each other, probably more than in any other class-based shooter I've played before. The medic will obviously heal your team while the special ops member is your only source of ammunition. The soldier class gets the heavy weapon and he'll be at the vanguard of your attacks. Luckily, the secondary fire on his weapon will throw up a shield and protect him from incoming fire, but it's still in everyone's best interest to constantly feed him health and ammunition. It demands a balanced and diverse team, and grouping with a party that understands these particular roles is a rewarding and unique experience.
Speaking of experience, you'll be racking it up almost constantly while you blast your way through each map. New levels will unlock new weapons and abilities, making you all the more eager to hit that play button again and again. Your team will also have the opportunity unlock a certain amount of something called “grey tech” per map, depending on how far you can make it without everyone dying. This grey tech can then be spent on even more upgrades for each class, and unlike earned experience, the amount of grey tech you have acquired isn't locked to the particular class with which you may have earned it.
On the competitive side of the multiplayer you'll find Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Core Control (essentially capture the flag) and Skirmish. Skirmish is probably the most exceptional, and for my money, the most entertaining of the bunch. This mode allows a total of 60 players--yeah, 60--to compete in a variety of objectives. The players are broken up into two teams, each of which is further broken up into smaller squads and then assigned their own unique objectives. It's a really fun mode, which will have your squad racing around the map to different flash points as new objectives appear. It's also a mode which makes good use of the extremely high player counts, whereas some of the others felt a little too chaotic for my aging reflexes. Luckily, when I got bored or embarrassed in the competitive arenas I would drag my sorry ass back to the excellent eight player co-op, which is where I spent the majority of my time.
So there you have it. Resistance 2 has a rubbish single-player campaign, which left me angry and confused. The lack of coherent storytelling is my biggest issue, but there's really nothing wrong with the overall gameplay. I am still of the opinion that the rest of the package makes it one of the best multiplayer shooters currently out for the PlayStation 3. Though my experience with the co-op definitely varied depending on the group I was with, it never ceased being entertaining. On top of that, the leveling seems to come slowly, but just quickly enough to keep you coming back for more. This game does not stand out for its single-player content, but those interested in sinking hours and hours into a unique and rewarding multiplayer shooter experience will find Resistance 2 well worth their money.