Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Resistance 2

Following the success of the PS3 launch title Resistance: Fall of Man, Insomniac developed a follow-up released in 2008 titled Resistance 2. Within the Resistance trilogy, this was one I actually got when it came out, for reasons I will disclose later, though at the time I was a little too young to actually play it. At the time the version I got was the Collector’s Edition, which includes extra digital content alongside an art book, a behind-the-scenes bonus disc and a Chimera action figure, though I would eventually end up with a Standard Edition copy of the game as well. Having finally gotten the chance to play it, I found the experience overall mixed, with many of its shortcomings stemming from some odd gameplay decisions.

Following a brief recap of the events of Fall of Man, the story picks up after the preceding game’s post-credits scene, where Sergeant Nathan Hale is picked up by a small group of soldiers working for SRPA, led by Major Richard Blake. Due to Nathan being perceived as a potential threat on account of the Chimeran virus infection, he is knocked out while they take him back for treatment. Nathan comes to, however, when the helicopter on which he is a passenger is attacked by a swarm of Chimera, leading him to have to help take them out.

Even in the midst of its gameplay shortcomings, the story helps keep the game compelling, as it shows Nathan gradually losing his grip on his humanity as he tries to power through the infection despite warnings otherwise. Without going into too much detail, this leads to a powerful, though abrupt, finale, the ramifications of which seem to lay the groundwork for Resistance 3. The story is further expanded upon through hidden intel documents in each level, which you can now track your progress on in each Chapter through the Pause menu, as well as how many Chapters there are. One intel document in particular has a hidden message in the form of random capital letters, and going through the effort of decoding it myself rather than simply looking it up felt satisfying and added a little to the immersion.

The gameplay is somewhat similar to Fall of Man, though it takes some cues from other contemporary shooters such as Call of Duty, perhaps a little too much. Aside from some differences in the controls, the most noticeable change is the dropping of the Weapon Wheel in favor of only allowing you to carry up to two weapons at a time. This feels somewhat limiting compared to the previous game, as it forces you to play a bit of a guessing game as to what you need to get past the next segment of a level based on what’s available to you, and hope you have enough ammo or can even find more to get through, especially since some checkpoints block you off from accessing the previous area. You can, however, still hold as many different types of grenades as you want (max. five each) and can still cycle through them with the D-Pad.

There is no Weapon Wheel this time around.

Among the other gameplay differences, you now have the ability to sprint using L2 and every weapon now has the ability to zoom with L1 for more accurate shots, though at the cost of movement speed. Another Call of Duty influence is the health indicator, which is based on how red the screen gets and how fast Hale breaths, though you can easily recover if you manage to get to cover in time. Pressing R3 enables a melee attack, though this same action can also be performed with the SIXAXIS function by shaking the controller. Using the SIXAXIS feature additionally protects you from effects such as neurotoxin, though the game doesn’t tell you until the first time you die from it, not helping that this feature is underused.

As for the weapons themselves, each one has a primary and secondary function, activated by pressing R1 and R2 respectively. The primary function is usually just normal fire, though secondary functions can give some extra depth to their usage, such as the Auger projecting a shield and the new HE .44 Magnum allowing you to manually explode the bullets it fires. Despite limitations on what you can carry, there is still a good variety of crazier weapons amongst the more time period-accurate ones, and one of the newer weapons, the V7 Splicer, is very reminiscent of the Buzz Blades from the Ratchet & Clank series.

The setting of the series leads to potential for horror, which the game is effective in bringing out at times, at least the first time you encounter these moments. One of the new enemies in the game is the relentless Grim enemies that often attack in large swarms and hatch from large eggs, and seeing large numbers of these eggs at once creates the inherent fear that they might hatch at any moment. It’s also possible to find radio transmissions throughout a level, which I usually stayed to listen to when I found one. These transmissions contribute to the world-building in their own way, usually relaying horrifying and/or sad situations as they happen from the perspective of the radio announcer.

Another new enemy type is the Chameleon, which take obvious inspiration from Predator in that they’re invisible until they’re almost next to you (you even first encounter them in a forest), and the most effective weapon against them is the Rossmore 238 Combat Shotgun. Facing a large number of them at once can, however, can get a little annoying due to the reflexes required to get past them. Another frustrating enemy is the Swarm, which only appears in one level and requires some more specific tactics to defeat them, which aren’t always easy to pull off.

Chameleons are effectively a Predator stand-in.

One thing that improves in the years between games, however, is the visual quality, which saw a massive upgrade by comparison to the original. In addition to an improved level of environmental detail, the level designs tend to lean more into the inherent horror of the setting, though they are noticeably more linear at times, with earlier levels especially almost feeling like they’re on rails. Cutscenes are, however, a lot more cinematic, capturing the scope and weight of the story in times when gameplay cannot. As a nice feature, the game will automatically adjust graphical quality on startup depending on your connection cables of choice. Not only is the game transparent about this, it also highly recommends HDMI for the best experience; this is very likely due to the HD capabilities of the PS3, though of course the game runs just fine otherwise and this is not a requirement.

Another area the game excels in is the sound design, with every enemy and weapon having distinct sounds that make them feel unique from each other. Thankfully, one of these enemies is the Chameleon, which has a distinct warning noise that sounds like a bird call when nearby, leaving it only up to a matter of time as to when you will encounter them. While the voice acting is generally good, Nathan Hale has a lot more speaking lines due to the lack of a narrator, giving voice actor David Kaye a lot more room to explore Nathan’s emotions and make him feel more three-dimensional as a result.

One other notable feature is connectivity with the PSP game Resistance: Retribution, developed by Bend Studio. Though I don’t have a copy of the game to test this with, I did some additional research on this feature for completeness, which works differently depending on your connection type. Connecting through AV Output, for instance, allows you to play the game using the DualShock 3 controller, while connecting through a USB cable activates the Infect Your PSP! feature, which unlocks a secret Infected Mode campaign and explores an alternate history of events.

My initial reason for owning and later wanting to play this game, as well as the rest of the Resistance trilogy, is a bit more personal. The manual included with physical copies of the game includes actual old photos on the back for mood reasons. These particular photos happen to be of my maternal grandparents on a camping trip, which were included due to a family member who used to work in PlayStation’s marketing department. I never knew my maternal grandfather and I barely knew my maternal grandmother before she passed away when I was younger, so this game carries some sentimental value for me for this reason.

Resistance 2 is a follow-up to Fall of Man that explores more of the potential in the setting, though the execution is a little flawed. The influence from other contemporary shooters at the time holds back the gameplay at times, though the interesting story can make up for this. Despite this, I would still recommend this to fans of the original game, if they can get it at a good price.

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