Resistance 2 - Brutal Backlog
Brutal Backlog is a semi-regular feature where the JDR team plough through some of the unplayed games on their shelves (both digital and physical), disregarding their age or their technical limitations of their era. Only the very best titles will stand up to scrutiny today.
Never let it be said that I’m unreasonable. After forcing myself through the murky monotony of Resistance: Fall of Man, it would have been very tempting to ditch the series altogether. But Nathan Hale has decided to stick around for at least one more sequel (I have no idea if he’s in the third, I don’t want to spoil the story…) so I feel like the bland meathead/alien hybrid probably deserves a second chance. The imaginatively titled Resistance 2 came out in 2008, two years after the first, so I’m expecting it to be better. If it’s the same or worse, than a strongly worded letter will be winging its way to Insomniac Games.
Five Minutes In
I already know the story is going to bore me senseless. The original’s narrative wasn’t exactly groundbreaking but this feels like a B-list version of Gears of War. The tale of an alien invasion gradually sweeping across Europe and into the US ups the ante as whole cities are wiped off the map and civilians are transformed into Chimera at a far more rapid pace. Hale, who has been infected with the virus — but who also has some resistance to it which grants him both humanity and super strength — is the world’s best hope for salvation. It’s a little by-the-numbers with a supporting cast who haven't really made themselves known, but fortunately almost everything else is better than Fall of Man, right from the start. The graphics are significantly improved, for one thing. The Chimera move more realistically, the environments are prettier and more interesting, and the cutscenes are tighter and better integrated. Sound has also had an upgrade; the squelchy feedback of a headshot Chimera is satisfying even from a distance, while radio conversation and ambient background noise fills in the gaps where dramatic music isn’t playing. So far, so good.
Forty Minutes In
Though enemy AI patterns are generally more naturalistic than the first game, I’ve noticed some serious bugs even this early on. I was able to breeze right past a Ravager simply because he decided to turn and march into a wall, while at other points enemies have ignored me entirely even when I’ve been shooting them. The difficulty is a tad higher so I’m not complaining too much, but it does jar a little when you consider how much more enjoyable the rest of the game is already. New enemies include water-based Furies, a Predator-like Chameleon, and a huge Kraken which, yes, gets released.
Returning weapons such as the Bullseye and Augur both have a lot more heft, and aiming has shifted to the left bumper making gunplay far smoother. My complaint about the lack of a run button has been addressed, but replaced by two others: normal walking speed is simply not fast enough and tapping the run button makes you crouch. This last change has played havoc in the middle of some frenzied shoot-outs where I’ve tried to leg it to cover and ended up waddling along the floor before being picked off. Maybe the third game will be the Goldilocks of the series in this regard?
Two Hours In
The new weapon additions are most welcome. Even though the game’s early setup is basically the same (go to area, shoot everything there, go to slightly different area and repeat), the variety of new toys to play with makes each encounter interesting. The auto-sniper has a secondary function which causes chain lightning to arc between enemies, while the powerful pulse cannon and crunchy action of the circular saw-firing Splicer are a joy to use. Map layouts present a tighter challenge too, dispersing with a lot of the dead time that saw Hale walking between zones in the first game and replacing it with snappy cutscenes which seamlessly merge into the campaign’s objectives. The environmental dangers have been increased two, for both sides. Ruined buildings house Hellfire Turrets which rain blazing death if you step into their crossfire, and hiding behind cars is a hazard for both friend and foe alike as they are extremely liable to explode.
As suspected, the story hasn't improved. Whereas Fall of Man had a female narrator and helped bring a little cohesion to Hale’s movements, here the story focuses on Echo Squad of which Hale is only one part. As they flit from city to spaceship and terrestrial war zone to alien landing zone, much of the narrative is lost amongst the radio chatter which is left unfilled by the intel packets you can collect along the way.
Seven Hours In
My job appears to be fixing the mess unleashed by another bloke higher up the chain of command. A part-converted marine named Daedalus was let loose a couple of years ago for reasons I'm still struggling to fathom, and has since become one of the Chimeran leaders — they must have a great recruitment agency. Consequently, all of the enemies I'm blatting along the way are being controlled by him, and it's all our fault. It seems humans are their own worst enemy.
It's still vaguely enjoyable, but completely mindless. I don't feel invested in any of the characters, although Echo Squad's three other named marines are along for the ride, and I assume they are going to be picked off one at a time to amp up the feels. Hale is succumbing to the effects of the virus, which means I'm likely to turn into a bad guy at some point if I don't get a cure. I'm interested to see how that one plays out.
Eleven Hours In
Well, I was half right about the squad, and in a totally underwhelming end boss fight I had to run around in a circle shooting some electrical orbs until Daedalus died. Compared with the run up to that point — where I was falling through floors due to poor signposting and being blown up when I took the wrong side of a linear path — the last "fight" was anything but. I absorbed Daedalus' psychokinetic ability which let me rip enemies apart using my hands, which would have been cool if I didn't have to be a few metres away from their blazing guns to do so.
Meanwhile, the obligatory countdown to death ticked away in the corner as I picked my way through burning corridors, floors which had unexpected holes in, and obstacles which I struggled to navigate. Thankfully the checkpointing of this last section was pretty generous, as otherwise my controller may not have survived. I don't mind challenges if they're fair, but this gauntlet felt like the studio ran out of ideas during crunch time and just tacked on a poorly designed series of corridors. Even the environments changed to the murky brown and grey that I came to know and hate from the first game, dulling the visual effect of my Sith-like powers. It was also on this final run that I noticed more slowdown than anywhere else in the game.
Even the story petered out. After all of the heroics and earlier urgency, I was left with no real resolution to the situation and a final scene which I would have expected to be final... if I didn't know there was a third game waiting in the wings.
Resistance 2 is better than the first game, that much is clear to me. It's bigger in scope, and thanks to the more epic scale of its battles and location-hopping it feels longer (although when I checked my overall playtime, it was actually shorter). The weapons are better, the combat is better, and the animations are much improved. Having some bigger enemies to fight was also welcome. Yet even with these improvements, Resistance 2 is an average FPS. It doesn't really do anything that stands out and, competent gunplay aside, is likely to vanish from my memory after tomorrow. Still, there's one more to go — maybe Resistance 3 will blow me away.