Almost two years after Resistance: Fall of Man gave PlayStation 3 owners their first great exclusive shooter, Resistance 2 has arrived bearing more great news. No, humanity hasn't gained an edge in its desperate fight against the alien Chimera (quite the opposite, in fact). The news is that Resistance 2 takes the grand apocalyptic setting and tight, fast-paced action of its predecessor and improves upon it in almost every way. Bigger battles, richer environments, and an outstanding new eight-player cooperative mode elevate Resistance 2 above almost every other shooter on the PS3.
From the first moments of the single-player campaign, Resistance 2 proclaims its dedication to grandeur. As you crawl from the wreckage of your transport helicopter, you look up to see a sinister, towering machine laying waste to your surroundings, its shiny black bulk standing in stark relief to the smoky blue sky and green Nordic scrub. Environments (and enemies) like these, vividly colored and remarkably big, are prevalent throughout the campaign. Your journey will take you across North America, where you'll visit a fantastic variety of rural, suburban, urban, and alien landscapes. You'll see attention to detail in the plants under your feet, in the towering skyscrapers above your head, and everywhere in between. The scars of the Chimeran invasion clash dramatically against the technicolor mid-century American backdrop, setting a superb stage for exciting action.
And make no mistake, the action is the real star here. The protagonist, Nathan Hale, and his fellow soldiers are run-of-the-mill characters, and the functional story is a bit too vague to be interesting. Intel documents scattered about each level provide intriguing background and foreshadowing, but most of them are hidden away and require too much errant exploration to find. The only time you'll feel any emotional connection to the proceedings is when you stop to listen to the radio. The scattered monologues from radioman Henry Stillman provide a wrenching window into the despair of a nation overrun, and they're the lone narrative highlight.
Despite the lackluster story, Resistance 2's excellent single-player campaign is a thrilling roller coaster ride across dozens of varied locales, each infested with Chimera. Your horrible alien foes run the gamut from tiny chittering scorpions to fanged foot soldiers, from shielded two-story titans to lumbering forty-story leviathans. They come at you in waves of increasing size and intensity; they are quick, aggressive, and accurate, and dispatching them will take skill and persistence. Resistance 2 isn't an easy game, but that just makes your hard-fought victories sweeter.
To achieve these victories, you'll need to stay alive. You can fully recover your health by ducking out of the line of fire for a few seconds, a tactic you'll need to use often. While you usually aren't too far from a checkpoint, you're often far enough to make death very unappealing. This is particularly true during the massive boss battles and the large-scale conflicts that pit you against legions of increasingly nasty Chimera. These are the most exciting encounters in the game, and though the former are less challenging than the latter, there's nothing quite like squaring off against a beast the size of the Chrysler Building.
The 12 guns you wield throughout the campaign are also quite satisfying. Some old favorites have returned, like the workhorse M5A2 Carbine, and there are a few great additions, like the .44 Magnum that shoots bullets that double as remote-detonated explosives. Secondary attacks like this one are a feature on every gun, and they effectively double the destructive options at your disposal. Though the weapons don't feel particularly realistic, they are so uniquely deadly and fun to use that you'll hardly notice. You can only carry two guns at a time, but the game does a good job of making sure you have a chance to use them all. There are also a few different types of powerful grenades at your disposal (notably the fiery air-fuel and spiky hedgehog), and they round out your very effective and very gratifying arsenal.
While the campaign is a lengthy (about 10 hours) and satisfying endeavor, the online cooperative mode is what really sets Resistance 2 apart. In this mode, up to eight players fight their way through hordes of Chimera to accomplish a set of objectives. Each player must choose one of three specific classes, each with its own guns and special abilities. The Medic drains enemy health and passes it on to teammates, an essential function because no one can regenerate health. The Special Ops uses a battle rifle of sorts and is the only source of ammunition refills. The Soldier carries a gatling gun that can generate a protective shield, defending his teammates and shredding the Chimera simultaneously. This interdependency binds players together and creates a frantic, engaging team dynamic.
As a further incentive, each player earns experience and currency throughout the mission that can be used to unlock more weapons, special abilities, and stat-enhancing gear. These powerful bonuses aren't easy to attain, which makes earning them all the more satisfying. The action plays out on a variety of sizable multiplayer maps inspired by the campaign levels. These maps each have a bevy of objectives, and every mission takes a few objectives at random and strings them together, so subsequent playthroughs of the same map feel different. This is a good thing, because you'll have to run a number of successful missions on the first map before you unlock the next, and so on. Each map is designed so that enemies can (and will) come at you from a number of directions. Missions are hard and demand teamwork and skill, so each time you vanquish a wave of enemies it feels like a small victory. Add this sense of accomplishment to the addictive and rewarding experience system, and you've got a game mode that's truly excellent.
If you're not feeling cooperative, Resistance 2 boasts a robust competitive mode as well. Maps accommodate as few as two and as many as 60 players, and do so with virtually no lag. The usual Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag ("Core Control") modes are available, but the best of the bunch is Skirmish. In this mode, teams are divided up into squads, and each squad receives on-the-fly objectives to complete. Objectives are updated often and can change the flow of battle drastically, so each match has a unique, frantic feel. Unlike in the cooperative mode, you have all the abilities and weapons in the single-player campaign readily available to you, so everyone is more or less evenly matched. You can also play ranked matches to earn experience and upgrades, and even though it's not quite as engaging as the cooperative mode, the competitive multiplayer is still a blast.
All in all, Resistance 2 is an excellent game. The stirring scale of the single-player levels is impressive and the pervasive details make them truly awesome. Despite the squandered story, blasting your way through the campaign is electrifying, thanks largely to the deadly weapons in your arsenal. The cooperative multiplayer is a resounding success, and the competitive modes are terrific in their own right. Anyone looking for a superb shooter experience need look no further than Resistance 2.