Boss battles like this one look impressive, but taking them down isn't as satisfying as it should be.
Resistance 2's campaign doesn't really get going properly until you reach Chicago, with a big chunk of the game prior to that being fairly tame and disappointing. It's almost as if different teams made a few levels each, as the quality varies so much. Had every level matched Chicago in terms of thrilling, tense gameplay and visually impressive set pieces, we'd have had a real contender on our hands. Chicago mixes adrenaline pumping sections against wave after wave of stampeding Chimera, impressive level design and the best visuals the game has to offer. It's a level that shows what Resistance could become and highlights just how weak other parts of the game are - and don't get us started on the final, incredibly underwhelming boss battle.
As we've already touched on, visually Resistance 2 is an incredibly mixed experience. At its best it stands up with the best on the PS3, with highly detailed characters and enemies, spectacular set pieces and a unique style. At other times levels look bare, textures are rough and clash with one another, the lighting appears flat and the environment seems to have been put together rather hastily. Some of the worst offenders are the large boss enemies you'll fight, with a few in particular not nearly detailed enough for what is thought to be the most powerful console on the market. Certain stages also suffer from pretty terrible aliasing, with jagged edges appearing all over the place. One level seemed to suffer from this in a rather extreme way, and also saw smoke popping into view and lighting switching so quickly it was as if a light switch had been flicked.
Thankfully the single-player campaign is just part of the package, with Resistance 2 also including a separate co-op campaign for up to eight players (two on a single system), complete with unique class-based gameplay, and competitive multiplayer for up to 60 players. The sixty player competitive play is well done, with players competing in squads at different locations on the map. This might seem like cheating slightly (at times it feels like you're playing in much smaller games), but Insomniac should still be applauded for offering something that rival first-person shooters don't even come close to. This objective-based Skirmish mode is joined by the usual suspects, online performance is good and leaderboards are there to keep track of how you compare with the rest of the world. MyResistance.net is also available as a resource for all the stats you'd ever want, serving a similar purpose to Bungie.net for Halo 2 and 3.
Perhaps the most exciting and unique part of the game is the eight-player co-op, in which you choose from three classes (medic, solider and special ops) and level up your character as you progress. Encounters scale to who you're playing with (things won't be so tough if you're playing split-screen two-player co-op compared to a full eight-player co-op session) and objectives change from game to game, making this something you'll be able to come back to over and over again. All co-op games rely on teamwork, but here it's perhaps even more essential than usual. To succeed you'll need to make the most of each character class' abilities (thankfully you can change class at any point and not lose any progress you've made with your character).
In what is a similar set up to an RPG or MMO, you earn XP for kills, but you'll also earn it for doing what your character is designed for. Spec ops, for example, can re-supply soldiers with ammo, so doing this will earn XP, while medics will obviously earn XP for reviving fallen comrades. The more XP you earn, the better your ranking, and the more new weapons and Berserk powers you'll unlock. These Berserk powers play a vital role in the trickiest sections of the co-op campaign, in particular the medic's ring of health, that heals everyone that stands within the circular zone. Overall, co-op is a very different experience and, while not for everyone (especially those that wanted a more traditional co-op experience), is a brave move on Insomniac's part.
If you own a PS3 then there's no doubt that you should pick up Resistance 2. It's a solid FPS, with moments of brilliance and some top notch multiplayer modes. It isn't the system seller it could have been though. The campaign is the biggest offender, switching between mediocre and spectacular far too regularly, as does the presentation. The storyline and characters once again fall flat, with Insomniac failing to build anything to really care about into a sci-fi premise that has an awful lot of potential. There's plenty here to work with; we just hope Insomniac finally puts all the pieces together for the inevitable third game.