Resistance 2 Hands-on Preview: The Best Shooter of 2008?

By Chris Faylor, Sep 29, 2008 1:16pm PDT To say that developer Insomniac is confident in Resistance 2, its upcoming PlayStation 3 first person shooter sequel, would a bit of an understatement.

At a recent press event in New York, studio president and R2 creative director Ted Price declared that the title's single-player campaign, 8-person online co-op play and 60-person online competitive multiplayer combine to form the "biggest game and the best game that we've ever made."

Multiplayer lead Mike Roloson backed him up, claiming that "Resistance 2's multiplayer is not only going to be the biggest multiplayer experience on the PS3, but also one of the most in-depth," while co-op lead Jake Biegel stated that the developer is "convinced that we are going to be revolutionizing online cooperative gaming."

"It's all about offering more than any shooter in 2008, but at the same time, being the best," Price added. "We really believe that Resistance 2 delivers on both counts."

Going by the game's lackluster showing at E3, I wasn't too sure I bought into that. But now that I've had a chance to play each of the title's three main modes, I'm convinced that, if nothing else, Resistance 2 is shaping up to be a worthy sequel.

While the E3 demonstration of the battle against a skyscraper-tall boss certainly showed off the scope of the sequel's boss battles, it lacked the creative weapons and tension that made the original one of my favorite PlayStation 3 games. It felt less like a boss battle and more like some nifty scripted moments interspersed between mundane stair-climbing sections.

Fortunately, both creative weapons and frantic pacing were on full display in the two campaign levels I played.

Right from the beginning, as a colorful array of lush flora fill the screen, it's obvious that Insomniac has learned from the drab color scheme of the first game. And instead of waiting a few levels to really kick things into gear, Resistance 2 starts out with a bang, with players attempting to fell towering walking tank that unleashes a scripted building-destroying salvo after each successful attack.

Meanwhile, the third level reaffirms that Resistance 2 is not a game that lets you get comfortable. It starts off with an ambush in the middle of the road, trapping players behind a now-useless transport as scorching red bullets rain from the nearby hillside.

As players navigate though the thick haze of the battlefield and rush from cover to cover, that blanket of fire starts to become less of a hindrance and more of an aid, helping you to find and eliminate those foes in the thick grey smoke.

But just when you think it's over, when the haze clears and you progress into the sprawling redwood forest, that's when a new sort of enemy shows up--one that remains invisible until it's about to rip you apart, killing in a single hit.

Suddenly, the serene atmosphere of the tall redwoods and the wide open area isn't so welcoming. Attacks can come from anywhere, at any time, and your only warning is a brief war cry from the oncoming foe.

With a one-hit kill a few seconds away at any time, the tension is damn near palpable. Numerous journalists yelped out in fear during this section, and even Ted Price was caught off-guard during his presentation. Hell, I was terrified even as Blink-182 blared over the venue's sound system.

Once out of the forest and back on a more linear path, you're confident that you can take whatever the game throws at you. And just as you're standing in a narrow corridor, that's when you face off against a heavily shielded hulking behemoth, one that killed me quite a few times.

Not too soon after, I found myself literally pinned up against a wall as an entire squad of Chimeran troopers came my way. Surely, this is not a game that encourages you to kick back, relax, and take it easy.

Single-player Footage

As for the new weapons, my favorite was the Splicer and its saw blades, which bounce around the battlefield. It even has a nifty melee attack, allowing you to get up close and personal with your foes, Gears of War-style.

New to the Resistance 2's multiplayer modes are special abilities known as berserks. Unlike Call of Duty 4's perks, these abilities aren't always active, and instead must be charged through battling before use.

Turn the page for more on the game's competitive and cooperative multiplayer.

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Multiplayer lead Rolson described berserks as "power-up" and "game-breakers," listing examples such as increased damage, a healing ring for team mates, invisibility, the armor-enhancing iron hear, the adrenaline burst, and so forth.

Claiming that "creative weapons breed creative player decisions," Rolson described a scenario in which an invisibility-equipped opponent infiltrates and enemy base and starts chopping them up with the Splicer.

Of course, that is just one of many possible combinations. And the more players battle online and accrue experience, the more berserks they'll unlock, though only one can be equipped at any given time.

Experience also plays a key role in Resistance 2's class-based 8-person online cooperative mode, which co-op lead Biegel claims is "revolutionary."

Set in heavily modified multiplayer maps and allowing upwards of 100 enemies on-screen--"My engine director would kill me for saying this," Biegel said half-jokingly--the co-op campaign fleshes out the overall narrative by providing additional story bits for each map.

Three classes are available, each with weaponry, equipment and berserks that are unlocked as players earn experience.

Much like Team Fortress 2, success requires that a team properly coordinate among those three classes. With their heavy-duty mini-gun and shield, Soldiers are on the front lines. They're backed by Spec Ops, who dole out ammunition and attack with their own machine gun, while Medics heal everyone and, if possible, sap some energy from foes.

Luckily, each class has their own distinctive HUD to help them fulfill these goals. Medics can see the health of their teammates, allowing them to hit those that need it most amidst the constant cries of "Medic!" and "Heal please." Likewise, if you're playing Spec Ops, you'll see a little icon over the heads of those that need ammo.

And I'm not kidding when I say that teamwork is required. At one point, a flood of foes appeared all around us, requiring us to group together as we worked through the horde. Another battle, this time with bigger mini-boss like creatures, had some of us out there distracting the big guys while Soldiers filled them with mini-gun fire and Medics tried to keep us alive.

Co-op Footage

In addition to furthering each game mode, the experience earned in both multiplayer and single-player pools into an overall Resistance 2 rank, which Price reckons is the first time a game has combined campaign and multiplayer experience.

But while the bulk of Resistance 2 is set to improve upon the original Resistance, at least one aspect of the original won't return: vehicles.

"It was a tough call for us," Price explained to me. "Vehicles, like bosses, take a lot of special code, a lot of one-off code, and they end up being one-off design challenges. Instead, we decided to put all that energy into bosses."

We'll have to wait and see what else Insomniac has in store for us. I didn't get to toy around with any of the major boss battles, and the studio is still teasing an update to MyResistance.net community site said to pack "very unique social networking features." That said, so far, so good.

A PlayStation 3 exclusive, Resistance 2 hits November 4.

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