The Chimera are throwing a party, and we’re all invited.
Picture this: you’ve been putting some serious moves on a hot chick/dude for months. Finally, after persistence and suave persuasion, you get him/her to agree to go on a romantic moonlit date at the beach. You pack a gourmet meal and a nice bottle of champagne, put on your best duds, borrow a co-worker’s classy car for the evening, pick up your date, and drive to the beach.
[image1]Once there, you realize your date’s a horrible bore, and you would rather swallow a fresh, soggy hairball than listen to another word he/she says. You desperately look for a way out. Luckily, you spot a nearby bonfire going on with a bunch of crazy people dressed in clown costumes dowsing each other in cheap vodka. You quickly and politely thank your date for a pleasant evening and run off at full speed to join in the freakish fun.
If you’ve followed my analogy this far, you can probably guess that playing Resistance 2 is a lot like the above experience. Unlike other great online multiplayer shooters of the recent past, Resistance 2 doesn’t offer a single-player experience comparable to its impressive online modes. Every time I returned to my single-player game, I kept wishing I was out partying it up in co-operative and competitive multiplayer.
Resistance 2 again follows Nathan Hale as he fights off the Chimera—an army of mutant-alien-zombies in the vein of, well, every other monstrous army in a shooter ever made. The series’ sole unique twist to the staid FPS formula is that Resistance pays homage to the thinly veiled anti-communist allegories of 1950’s B-movies. This explains why the Chimera originated in the Soviet Union and why they want to turn us all into mindless drones dedicated to peace, love, and the equal distribution of wealth. But where the first game focused on the British invasion, this time the Chimera have traded in their tea and crumpets for hot apple pie and have shifted their focus to the United States.
Even more so than its predecessor, the single-player campaign in Resistance 2 is desperately struggling to differentiate itself from the holy shooter trinity of Gears of War, Halo, and Half-Life. The campaign mode is so full of generic enemies, weapons, events, and environments that Resistance 2 passes beyond being simply “influenced” by those other series and moves into wholesale “rip-off” territory. Which isn’t to say campaign mode is bad. It’s just very, very derivative.
[image2]The few highlights in the single-player campaign are tense shootouts in environments straight out of a Rockwell illustration. Seeing some of the geographical icons of the Eisenhower era—the idyllic Idaho suburbs, a small town in northern California, and so on—while you blast aliens to pulpy pieces feels great. I half expected to see Arthur Fonzarelli joining in the Chimera bloodbath. But these wistful moments of 1950’s Americana are few and far between. Instead, most of what you’ll see are the trite underground government facilities and dark hallways familiar to anyone who’s ever played an FPS.
On the whole, environments look convincing, but since most of your time is spent in drab tunnels and corridors, there isn’t much to see. And while the much-hyped massive bosses look impressive, the scale never feels quite as epic as you might hope. Worse still, boss fights are much easier than anything else in the game, often requiring nothing more than simple circle-strafing or firing the right weapon at the right moment.
But when the game does get tough, it gets ridiculously tough. You die a lot, even on normal and easy difficulty. This is because much of the game relies too often on trial-and-error gameplay, ill-conceived platforming, and frequent one-hit kills. Luckily, there are many checkpoints along the way, but dying this often ends up feeling more frustrating than challenging.
Enemy and friendly A.I. is also irksome. Enemies aren’t nearly as intelligent as they were in the first title, and allies let Chimera fly right by them without a second thought. And don’t expect a real-life ally to help you out since there’s no co-op play possible in campaign mode.
[image3]My advice? Don’t bother with the campaign and jump straight into multiplayer. While you will find plenty of the more traditional play types—deathmatch, team deathmatch, and so on—it’s the revolutionary 60-player maps and the co-operative missions that make Resistance 2 truly worth playing.
If you’ve ever spent time with an MMO, the mechanics of these new online play types will be familiar to you. The 60-player maps divide teams into squads. Each squad is tasked with particular tasks like defending or capturing a base, or killing a particular player on the opposite team. As you play, these tasks change dynamically and adapt to the conditions occurring elsewhere as a result of what other squads are doing—or not doing.
While you never see the whole battle all at once, you still get a sense for the enormous scope of what’s happening around you. Your squad might spend some time moving into enemy territory, fighting off one or two enemy squads along the way, when suddenly you’re told that a beacon behind you has been taken by a different squad. As you rush back to recapture it, you meet with yet another enemy squad that’s been tasked with preventing you from reaching the beacon.
There’s no downtime whatsoever since the game automatically modifies you and your enemies’ tasks so that you’re in constant conflict. It’s frantic and frenetic, and you won’t have much time to strategize or plan. On the micro level, these 60-player shootouts are pretty basic: just aim, shoot, and keep moving. But on the macro level, they’re a truly awesome achievement.
[image4]Resistance 2’s other remarkable innovation is the cooperative play mode. In the co-op missions, you and up to seven other players will enter one of a half-dozen different maps and take on the Chimera together. Each player chooses from one of three different classes—soldier, medic, and specialist—each with its own unique set of perks and advantages. Like Team Fortress 2, the most successful group will learn how to use each of the different classes to support one another.
The missions themselves are randomly chosen from a number of possible tasks. Achieve one task, another opens up. Each mission culminates in a boss battle that is also determined randomly. It’s highly reminiscent of dungeon raids like those typically found in MMOs, complete with elite enemies and experience points. Like a light MMO, you level up your characters, and earn new bonus perks and outfits as you progress.
The random generation element and the constant drive to earn more experience make these co-op missions almost infinitely replayable. Judging by the ho-hum single-player campaign, Resistance 2 would have been infinitely better had the entire game had been built around the co-op game. It’s fun, fresh, challenging, and pushes the genre in an entirely new direction.
It’s also great to see that at least one major release this holiday season has been able to handle the heavy online traffic from day one. Finding an open game has been a breeze, and I have yet to run into any undesirable lag, freezes, or any other issue whatsoever.
[image5]Hopefully, Resistance 3 will be focused entirely on cooperative play. In the meantime, however, Resistance 2 shows us all of what’s possible in the genre. While the single-player campaign is highly derivative and dissatisfying, the massive 60-player battles and co-op missions point to the inevitable, awesome future of online FPS gaming.
Resistance 2 tries to be both an intimate date and an enormous, chaotic festival. That it succeeds at the wild party and fails at the more sober date is no great loss. Those of you who are only interested in multiplayer will find much love to be had in this grand orgy of a game.