The first Resistance title was the first purchase I made the day I got my PS3. At the time, Resistance was everything I wanted from a console shooter and the multiplayer options had me playing it for some time after I finished the single player campaign. It felt urgent and now, an essential part of the shooter landscape. By contrast, Resistance 2 feels like a game that was rushed to completion and paradoxically feels as though it was released years ago.
The problems begin with R2's single player campaign. The first game had a unique setting that set it apart from other shooters, and its solitary campaign had an intense atmosphere that kept it enthralling and enjoyable. R2 essentially throws out the setting and any semblance of story, choosing instead to relegate any and all storytelling (what little there is) to the collectibles scattered throughout the campaign - I found myself frequently confused as to what was happening in the story (What operation? Why am I in an underwater base? What is a kraken in this context and why am I fighting it?), and even reading every collectible didn't necessarily help. On top of this, the number of collectibles has been greatly decreased from the first game. A healthy five or six documents are scattered through the first mission, but most subsequent levels have at most one document each, and they are not always able to satisfactorily explain the plot. Disappointingly, R2 uses the tired plot twist where some barely-mentioned side character is murdered and we are somehow supposed to care. It also results in a final level that consists of a timed escape with (yawn) an instant kill superpower that had never been seen previously in the campaign. The campaign is essentially a long (~10 hours) string of disappointments, cliches, and confusion.
There is nothing about the art, the weapon design, the dialogue or really anything at all that anchors the game in any particular time period. Resistance 2 may as well be set in the present day, or 50 years in the future for all the good the art direction does in indicating the time period; literally the only hint is the occasional radio broadcast where you might overhear period music and a side story with a DJ, though these are entirely optional and easily missed. You are also joined by constantly chattering teammates for most of the campaign this time around, which stops the game from ever building suspense or atmosphere.
The AI is also disappointingly stupid and is made overly powerful and in overwhelming numbers to compensate and provide a challenge. Mowing down wave after wave of impossibly accurate and powerful enemies before finally hitting a checkpoint can frequently become frustrating, especially on the upper two difficulty levels.
There were also flaws in the presentation that dogged me throughout my time with R2. The most obvious problem is that the game is very obviously being rendered at a painfully low resolution and then being upscaled to 1080. This results in blocky, ugly graphics that are especially unbearable when smoke or other particle effects are on screen. Surfaces are frequently bland and can be downright ugly, with what look like solid colors rather than real textures. Overall, the game looks entirely too graphically simple and ugly for something advertised as a marquee title for the console with the most horsepower. The upside is that the game can handily display an unnerving number of enemies and effects on screen and maintain a snappy framerate, though I noticed frequent, jarring sound hiccups in many situations.
Resistance 2 has level design as boring as it is unintuitive (and it is very unintuitive). Levels are frequently as complex and with as many nooks and crannies as a labyrinth. This would be fine in many circumstances, but there is only ever one correct route through each level, and all other routes lead nowhere. One or two may occasionally lead to a hidden weapon cache but most of them are a complete waste of time and there is not always any way to tell which way is the right way through a stage. The result is plain and linear level design that is simultaneously frustrating to navigate.
The competitive multiplay in R2 is better than the single player.. sort of. The core gameplay here is tightly controlled and moves at a good clip that's not so fast as to feel overwhelming. The problem is that there are many other shooters that also have solid cores and also manage intuivitve level design (which R2 lacks), better implementations of a level-up system (R2's is omnipresent but never feels like it has great bearing on gameplay), classes (R2 has none) and more diverse rulesets. There's nothing wrong with R2's offering, but it's so plain vanilla compared to its competition that it hardly seems worth the time investment. Both of the most recent Call of Duty games are so much better (and by now cheaper), for example, that I see no incentive to play R2 over those. The one notable aspect of R2's cometitive play is the number of players (60 at a time at its largest), but to those of us who own PCs this is simply not novel or special. Even the mediocre Quake Wars (which saw release on the PS3 and 360) had similar player numbers and squad features.
The one place where R2 does shine is in its co-op mode. Here we see the experience start to become relevent, there are classes that all must be in balanced proportions in a party and that play off each other nicely, and the levels are nicely tuned for the gameplay. It's here that most of your time should be invested, but it's disappointing that this is the only mode that held my attention for very long.
Resistance 2 is not a bad game, and its core action is actually nicely polished. But it's a shooter that is absolutely average in almost every way, and feels dated in several areas. For what was supposed to be a AAA title for the PS3, it feels a lot like a C+.