Great premise that is never completely fulfilled
The original Resistance: Fall of Man was a flagship PS3 launch title for Sony. The sequel comes at a time when the market's most expensive system is crying out for another killer-app in the wake of the astounding Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of The Patriots. Does Resistance 2 fit the bill?
Following on immediately after the end of the first game, R2 finds our hero, Nathan Hale, as a squad leader in a team of elite soldiers who have all survived Chimeran infection. You might expect that this means you and your team have incredible super powers, but unfortunately this isn't the case and it seems like a rather a missed opportunity. Instead, you're thrown into a familiar feeling, story-driven, linear campaign, where you'll spend a lot of time shooting aliens in corridors.
While the level design may feel like a "paint-by-numbers" FPS, the weapons are where the real imagination lies in R2. All of the favourites from the original return, so you'll happily be blasting through walls with the Augur and firing homing bullets with the Bullseye in no time at all. Your arsenal is also expanded this time around. You'll find new toys including a minigun, grenade launcher and a couple of new grenade types, such as one which traps enemies in a bubble and rebounds their own bullets back at them. My personal favourite was the Splicer, which launches saw blades at enemies, cutting off their limbs.
Of course, there's no point in having all these cool weapons if there's nothing to shoot them at and R2 does a good job of throwing a ton of enemies at you. Most of them will be recognisable to players of the first game, but there are just as many new ones too. These range from the invisible Chameleon (which results in some very cheap deaths), to the fast and numerous Grims, which are closer to the Left 4 Dead zombies than they are to anything from the previous Resistance game.
One of the most interesting aspects of the campaign is the way that the developer, Insomniac, appears to acknowledge their own lack-lustre level design by choosing to break up the gameplay with huge boss battles. These are usually a variation on you fighting some sort of super Chimera on your own. You can tell that Insomniac rose to fame as a platform game developer, because the bosses are almost painfully patterned, making them little more than exercises in repeating the same movement and attack until they eventually fall. The biggest example of this (in more ways than one) is the towering Leviathan, which has been shown in most of the game's trailers. It's a shame that destroying a skyscraper sized enemy couldn't have been made a bit more entertaining! Almost all of the boss fight is on rails, requiring you to run to an on-screen marker, where you will be picked up by the huge monster, you then fire 3 rockets into its mouth. After this you're thrown to the roof of another building and you repeat the process again. It really spoils the whole idea of it being "epic."
That's not to say that the game doesn't look good while you're doing these things though. The environmental textures are solid enough and have improved dramatically since the first game, though they are by no means the best the system has to offer. The graphics are best described as "functional," in that they do their job well, but rarely will you gasp in excitement. The lighting and particle effects are very good, especially in darker areas. On the other hand, the explosions could have come from a PS2 game. It's a very hit and miss game artistically.
The overall "look" of R2 is a familiar mix of brown and grey, but there are a few levels in greener areas, such as a forest, which provide great relief from the depressing colour of the majority of the game. The real disappointment of the graphics though is that the art is no-longer the interesting mix of sci-fi and World War II that the first game provided. There has been a clear shift towards very generic power-armoured super soldiers. In fact, the character design has become so unimaginative that in cut-scenes it can be hard to tell Nathan Hale apart from Hawthorne, another member of his squad.
As a single-player game, R2 never reaches the quality levels of the Halo or Call of Duty franchises, but it certainly has some interesting twists in multiplayer. In some ways, resistance has borrowed from both those famous franchises by allowing you to rack up experience points (Halo and CoD) and giving you unlockable items and abilities for levelling up (CoD). Most of the competitive modes are as you would expect for a shooter these days with deathmatch and CTF taking up most of the games, but it's the skirmish mode that sets R2 apart. In this mode, up to 60 players (you read that right!) compete in objective based games. To make teamwork easier, each player is assigned to a small squad (as in Battlefield 2) and each squad will have its own objectives, so you really feel like you're contributing to a larger battle.
R2 also excels in its cooperative multiplayer, which continues the trend of big player counts by letting up to 8 players team-up in a campaign which is completely separate to the single-player experience. You choose your class (solider, special-ops or medic) and must rely on each other to get through the levels. The solider has the largest weapon and is the primary enemy killer on the team. Special-ops guys are the only ones who can supply the rest of the team with ammo and the medic does "exactly what it says on the tin."
The only major hitch with the multiplayer in general, is the limitations of voice-chat. Very few PS3 owners have headsets and this can result in online play quickly becoming very chaotic, making both co-op and team-based competitive modes something of an uphill struggle at times. This isn't really a criticism of the game, but it certainly dampens the multiplayer experience.
The campaign in R2 is most definitely held back by its corridors and killrooms structure and the end is spoilt by one of the most dire boss battles in living memory. Overall this is a title that falls short of its premise in single player but should give PS3 users a good time online. It should still be played by any console gamer fond of FPS action, despite its niggling issues.
Is it the next PS3 killer-app? Probably not, but this solid FPS will at least keep you entertained until Killzone 2 comes along soon.