Resistance 2: Updated Hands-On With Single-Player, Cooperative, and Competitive Multiplayer

We check out an updated version of Insomniac's alien-filled alternate-history shooter, including a look at the new co-op multiplayer.

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The original Resistance for the PlayStation 3 carried the moniker "Fall of Man" and chronicled humanity's coexistence problem with a hostile alien force known as the Chimera. While it may not have an official subtitle, Insomniac's upcoming Resistance 2 might as well be summed up as "fallen man, kicked in face," as things aren't going well for humankind. We recently got a chance to try out an updated work-in-progress version of R2 at a recent press event and were impressed. Insomniac offered us three helpings from Resistance 2's ambitious trio of modes. The single-player sampling featured two levels, the opening stage in Iceland and the third level set in Orick, California. The cooperative demo was a single mission for up to eight players, and, finally, the competitive multiplayer was a quick-and-dirty skirmish match for up to 60 players.

The single-player game eased us into the array of demos by kicking off with the Iceland level that starts out the game and picks up shortly after the end of the original Resistance. We catch up with antihero Nathan Hale as he's filled in on how things have been going around the world. The good news is that there are apparently other soldiers like Hale who are not only resistant to the Chimera virus currently ravaging the population but also share Hale's enhanced physical attributes. The soldiers have been gathered together into an elite task force called the Sentinels at a military base in Iceland. Handy, right?

Though cooperative multiplayer looks to be the highlight, there are lots of modes in Resistance 2.
Though cooperative multiplayer looks to be the highlight, there are lots of modes in Resistance 2.

The bad news is that not long after you get all this information, all hell breaks loose and the Iceland base comes under heavy attack by the Chimera--it's here that you take control of Hale. Your goal is to get out alive, which is a tall order considering the Chimera are intent on leveling the joint. The level mixes the standard hand-holding you'd expect in a tutorial level (which comes courtesy of a soldier leading you through the base) with a hefty dose of dramatic set pieces that showcase R2's impressive scale. The level reacquaints you with familiar weapons, such as the carbine, Rossmore, and LAARK, and also introduces a sexy new weapon, a .44 Magnum whose alternate firing mode lets you detonate its bullets, which is incredibly handy. You're also introduced to old and new enemies, ranging from standard Chimera soldiers to robotic drones and massive shield-wielding ravagers who enjoy charging and punching you until you're dead. However, those enemies pale in comparison to the massive walker you have to deal with in the early part of the level.

The second demo we tried was set in Orick, California (no, we haven't heard of it either, but we checked the Internet and it does in fact exist), which is the third level in the game. It begins with--wait for it--all hell breaking loose on Hale and a group of Sentinels as they ride along in a convoy. The opening cinematic sets the stage as you see Hale sense a trap and get a face full of weapon fire in the process. The goal of the level is to track down a damaged airship and take it out. The tricky part is that it requires a lengthy run through territory that's filled with Chimera. The new big baddie in the level was the Predator-like chamelon, who can turn invisible and has a penchant for charging and slashing with its blades. While deadly, it thankfully can't handle a shotgun to the face. The run to the downed ship was a scenic trip through the ravaged forests in Orick as well as a logging town that was chock-full of Chimera. We also got a taste of some human ingenuity thanks to a stretch of the level where we were helped out by a remote-controlled drone that ran interference for us. The dramatic conclusion had us finding a way around hellfire turrets, which are just as deadly as they sound.

Welcome to Orick, California, home of beautiful redwood forests and the last stand for Northern California against the invading Chimera.
Welcome to Orick, California, home of beautiful redwood forests and the last stand for Northern California against the invading Chimera.

While the single-player demo made a good impression, it was also pretty much what we were expecting, given what we'd seen previously. On the other hand, Resistance 2's cooperative multiplayer mode was a pleasant and addictive surprise. The mode supports up to eight players and offers up a complementary narrative that provides backstory to supplement the single-player story. The cooperative game challenges squads of eight players with a series of missions set in different locales. The missions can be tackled in any order you like and will unlock as you go. Each mission will feature randomized paths to ensure that repeated play-throughs are different.

The real hook to the co-op multiplayer mode is the class and experience system. You'll be able to play as one of three classes--medic, spec ops, or soldier--and you'll earn experience that will let you level up as you play. Each of the classes will feature unique attributes, which are key in battle. Soldiers are the damage-absorbing tanks of the group and have the ability to deploy shields. Their primary weapon is a powerful rifle that's slow to start firing, but when it does, it tears through enemies. Spec ops serve a dual purpose in the group; they deal a hefty amount of damage--although they can't take much--and they drop ammo for the team. The ammo drops are essential for soldiers and will need to be restocked on a regular basis in battle. Last but not least are the medics, who are the team's healers and, at the moment, our favorite class. The medic's rifle, the Phoenix, lets the class dole out damage and heal the team. The weapon's primary fire shoots out a beam that drains energy from enemies. The energy is stored in the rifle and is used to fire charges that do area-of-effect healing. The rifle can store up to 10 charges at a time.

Besides their unique abilities, each class sees the battlefield in a specific way that's relevant to it. Soldiers see health reflected in character names. Spec ops see an ammo icon that changes color as players run low. Finally, medics see health bars under the team's name to keep track of who needs to be healed. Each class will earn experience from killing enemies as well as by playing their class properly. So, soldiers gain experience from shooting enemies, spec ops earns theirs from restocking the team's ammo, and medics earn it from healing the team and draining enemies. As the classes level up, they'll be able to access supplementary weapons and new abilities, such as the temporary berserk abilities that yield different performance enhancements. To complement the leveling, you'll be able to collect "grey tech" from special enemies that you can use to upgrade your gear. All told, each class will have four armor upgrades to go along with class and weapon grades.

New tech, like the drone shown here, will let you take down the enemies in style.
New tech, like the drone shown here, will let you take down the enemies in style.

The class system works out logically during gameplay, and it's clear that all groups will need some healers, ammo droppers, and damage dealers. The mix of players depends on the size of your group. While the mode supports as few as two and as many as eight players, the fewer people in your group, the less wiggle room you have for class choices. We played the available mission with each class and were impressed by how it played.

While the different character class types may sound like Team Fortress 2, R2's co-op feels more like an instance run in World of Warcraft with no ninja looting. Coordination is key to success, especially as you're directed through the environment to different objectives. The closer a group is to the full eight players, the better the odds that one or two weak links can be compensated for. Smaller groups will need all players to play their classes to perfection. We're pleased to see that Insomniac has left the mode open-ended in the sense that there are no restrictions to group combos in the mode. So, in theory, a team of eight medics could try to clear missions, although we reckon it would go slowly. On the flip side, a team of spec ops or soldiers could also try to get through missions, although the lack of healing will obviously make things interesting but not impossible (all classes can revive dead comrades, though medics revive the fastest). The only lingering question we have is how well teams will coordinate online using voice chat. We played the game in a large room and just yelled out when we needed support, so we're curious to see how much practice coordinating groups will take before players get comfortable.

The final bit of R2 we played was competitive multiplayer, which was available for some skirmish mode play. The mode has changed considerably since the various demos we've played, including the closed beta. The visuals have been polished up, weapons feel better, and the berserks are a better fit in combat now. While it's not expressly related to the competitive multiplayer, we were told that the experience you accumulate in R2's various modes all goes into the same pool of bragging rights for you, increasing your overall ranking, which is a nice touch. Your ranking ties in to the game's online leaderboards as well as the extremely detailed new community site with features that are being prepped for the game's release.

Yeah, this looks about even odds to us.
Yeah, this looks about even odds to us.

Resistance 2's overall presentation is, unsurprisingly, a significant improvement on its predecessor. The graphics have seen a sizable bump in detail and overall scale that really sells the epic-war-movie vibe. The game benefits from a host of technical bells and whistles that Insomniac has been perfecting in its previous PlayStation 3 titles. Lighting in the game is impressive and runs the gamut from flashy to subtle. Little touches, such as the game's new water and enhanced gore (now with more chunks and viscera), are nicely folded into the game. The most impressive thing right now, though, is the massive scale, which comes from the assorted giant enemies like the walker, the open feel to many of the areas, and the sheer number of things happening onscreen. The game's color palette has gotten more varied, which helps shake the bleak look of the original. The audio hasn't gotten as dramatic a bump as the visuals since the original Resistance audio was good and robust. What we heard during our play time was just a refined array of effects, more ambient sound, and effective voice acting that complemented the visuals nicely.

Based on what we played, Resistance 2 is shaping up well. Above and beyond the cosmetic upgrades to the graphics, which are looking good, the cooperative mode adds an impressive new dimension to R2's gameplay. If you're a fan of the original Resistance, you'll want to keep an eye out for Resistance 2, which appears to be improving on its predecessor in every way you'd want it to. Newcomers to the series will want to give the game a look this fall since there's nothing like it on the PlayStation 3. Resistance 2 is slated to ship November 4 on the PlayStation 3. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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