Dec. 1, 2008 -- "Resistance 2" is, in a word, awesome. That is, the game is both undeniably fun, tense and challenging, but is also, at times, visually awe-inspiring.
In the sequel to 2006's critically acclaimed "Resistance: Fall of Man," players find themselves in an alternate universe where, in 1953, an alien invasion by the bug-like Chimera has spilled over into the United States. Nathan Hale, the story's flawed protagonist, has been infected by the Chimera virus and must use his remaining time as a sane human to, well, kill a whole lot of aliens.
Short on Story, Long on Fun
The game is visually stunning and seems to take full advantage of the Playstation 3's considerable hardware. Each level is sprawlingly enormous, as are some of the extraterrestrial foes Hale comes up against.
That's just fine, though, because Hale has an equally impressive arsenal of both human and alien weapons with which he can dispatch them.
The weapons are, in fact, one of the game's strongest points. From the solid, straightforward human-made assault rifle to the I-can-see-you-through-a-wall-and-kill-you alien Auger, the player is forced to change strategies dramatically to accommodate the weapon at hand.
"Resistance 2" also avoids repetition -- the death knell of most shooters -- by varying pace and environment greatly. The game's developer, Insomniac Games, makes impressive use of inaction to build tension between sometimes overwhelming action sequences.
One minute Hale is sneaking through darkened corridors with only his flashlight to guide him between sporadic and terrifying zombie-like alien attacks, and the next minute he is just one man in a gigantic battle between humans and aliens pitched over more than two city blocks. Such battles are made even more challenging and rewarding when the aliens' impressive AI is taken into account. Hale cannot hide behind cover for long before he is flanked or forced out by a spikey alien grenade.
One problem with the single-player endeavor, however, is that Hale comes up short of victory all too often in those battles. On its easiest setting, "Resistance 2" may prove devastatingly difficult for even a seasoned gamer -- forcing the action to be bogged down in oft-repeated portions. Invisible, one-hit, one-kill enemies are some of the main offenders in this case.
While undoubtedly enhanced by knowledge of the first game, the "Resistance 2" plot as a stand-alone leaves much to be desired. Despite impressively detailed settings, the player is never quite convinced the action really takes place (or even needs to take place) in 1953, as opposed to, well, any other time in the near future.
The linear nature of the game feels constricting at points, but luckily, most of the levels are big enough that the player won't mind being forced through a certain doorway or running up against an invisible wall every now and then.
Perhaps the game's weakest moments come in the boss fights -- especially the final one. Without giving too much away, a winning strategy is a hopelessly repetitive one and, unlike the many wide-open battles Hale encounters, fails to truly engage the player.
But any of "Resistance 2's" shortcomings are more than overshadowed by brilliant game play and sharp use of pacing. And that's just the single player.
Play With Friends, Lots of Them
"Huge" is an adjective that is applicable to much of "Resistance 2," and the multiplayer is no different.
Online play can support 60 players in a single game, making death match scenarios just short of madness in the best way possible. Like the single-player game, the levels are big enough to handle the crowd and designed to reward creativity and coordination in attacks.
Both the number of players, choice of game type and level selection provide ample variation to keep it entertaining for longer than is probably socially acceptable.
The online ranking system may be a bit more simplistic than other contemporary multiplayers -- offering just five levels -- but in the heat of battle, it is all the information that is really necessary.
The game's cooperative mode offers an interesting take on multiplayer, allowing a team of online players to tackle objectives, fighting computer-generated alien opponents on the way. During this mode, the player can choose between three load-outs: soldier, special forces and medic. The medic class, generally the less popular class in most games, has evolved in "Resistance 2" to a very valuable choice due to its ability to not only heal teammates, but drain energy from the aliens to do so.
Once the single player is through, gamers will find more than enough action online.
"Resistance 2" is not the perfect shooter, but it is close and easily one of 2008's best.
"Resistance 2" is rated "E" for "Everyone" and is available for the PlayStation 3 video game console.