Before we say anything else, let us say this: we expect both Gears of War 2 and Resistance 2 to be superb games - graphical showcases that will push the Xbox 360 and PS3 respectively to their limits. We will, fingers crossed, love them both to bits. With that out of the way, let us say this: both games are going head to head this November as the next-gen consoles' exclusive flagship titles for the Christmas period. This fact is indisputable. While one is a third-person shooter and the other is a first-person shooter, comparisons are inevitable. And thus, this special edition of VideoGamer.com's Versus series is inevitable. Read on for our head to head comparison of the console war's two biggest weapons in 2008.
Resistance 2 - It would be fair to say that the original Resistance: Fall of Man, a PS3 launch title, didn't blow us away visually. It looked good, but just not mind blowing. Because of that, there's a ton of interest in how R2's looks are shaping up. Up until Sony's recent PlayStation Day in London, all we had to go on Insomniac's shooter was this teaser trailer and a whole bunch of glorious looking screenshots. But, at the event, we managed to get our eyeballs on the game's multiplayer to see for ourselves how the graphics are shaping up. The answer? Lovely indeed.
While not as immediately impressive as the PlayStation Day single-player Killzone 2 hands-on demo being shown only about 20 feet away, it was clear that Resistance 2, at least from a multiplayer point of view, will present an impressive aesthetic. We saw a map set in the Californian Redwoods, a forest area filled with lush greens and brown trees. The level of environmental detail, from huge saw mills to metal control points with beams of light shooting skywards was encouraging, and the weapons look extremely detailed. The best thing? It all looked super smooth.
It's not all multiplayer though. Insomniac has released screenshots which provide a glimpse of one of the game's single-player levels, Chicago. While not representative of a view from the HUD, we can see one of the game's new enemies, the Grim, a kind of Gollum-esque slithering monster, and some impressive lighting. We can also get a sense of the devastation that has befallen Insomniac's alternative 50s Chicago. Barbed-wire, splintered wooden fences and torn down street signs give us a sense of the impact the invasion has had on US soil. The screens have had somewhat of a mixed reaction online - some fans have complained at the soldier models - but one thing's for sure, we're looking at a considerable step up from the first game.
Right now, if we exclude screenshots and teaser trailers, all we have to go on in the R2 graphics front is a multiplayer battle set in Californian forest. While the graphics looked impressive, we weren't blown away. But then we weren't expecting the earth from a 60-player multiplayer battle half a year before release. There's plenty of time for improvements, for sure, so no need to run for the hills just yet.
Gears of War 2 - The first Gears of War blew us away. Its graphics were unlike anything we had ever seen. Played in high definition on a big TV, Gears of War was, in our minds, the first game to truly show off what the so-called next-generation of gaming could really do.
With the sequel, however, we're not expecting to be blown away in quite the same way. And the recently released gameplay trailer, showing a short two-minute snippet of the game's second level, confirms that while we will see considerable graphical improvements, GoW2 on the graphical front is a refinement of what's gone before.
We know that the game will use a heavily upgraded version of the Unreal Engine 3. At the 2008 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, Epic showed off the various improvements to the engine that we can expect in the sequel. In-game lighting is improved, there are dynamic shadows and the character and environment models are considerably more detailed.
We've also seen some nice water effects, including ripples when Marcus dips his toes in and splashes from his assault rifle fire. But what we're most enthused by is the prospect of destructible environments, something we haven't seen in the gameplay video but have seen in the tech demo. With any luck, the sequel to the best cover-based game ever seen will usurp its predecessor.
SINGLE-PLAYER CAMPAIGN AND CO-OP
Resistance 2 - We know less about R2's single-player than its multiplayer. Plot wise, the game picks up where R:FoM left off. Indeed, the cinematic from after the credits in the first game is recreated here as the opening cinematic. You once again assume the role of Sgt. Nathan Hale, who's on his way via Black Ops aircraft to the base of the Special Projects Research Administration (SPRA) in Iceland. He finds others who are resistant to the Chimera virus, and a task force called 'The Sentinels' is formed. The Chimera attack the base, forcing Hale and 'The Sentinels' to flee to the US. Jump forward two years and the Chimera invade both US coasts. It's Hale's job to drive them back. This is war. This is mankind's last stand.
We're promised a storyline that follows the personal plight of Hale much more closely this time around and some juicy info on where the Chimera are from. We know the game is now set across the States rather than across the UK. More interestingly though, R2 will feature two separate campaigns - a fully fleshed out, story driven single-player campaign and a, wait for it, eight-player online or two-player split screen co-op campaign with a storyline that runs parallel to Hale's campaign. In this mode, players will be able to choose their class and thus their role in the fight. We know there's going to be a medic class, which uses an energy-draining gun to leech life from enemies to squad mates, a long distance scoped rifle-equipped special ops class, and a heavy weapons class, complete with chaingun and a ton of health, to choose from. Could R2 be an FPS MMO in disguise?
We also know that in R2's co-op mode you won't be able to pick a difficulty. Instead, the game will adjust depending on how you and you're team mates are doing. Your rank, which also affects the game's difficulty, will also increase as you play. Insomniac is working on an online co-op matching system which will hopefully pair players with those of the same skill level and at similar points in the campaign. All this info points to a positive, fun and accessible R2 main story campaign.
Gears of War 2 - Conversely, we know more about how GoW2's single-player than we do about its multiplayer. As you've probably read, Cliffy "B" Bleszinski says it's going to be "bigger, better and more badass" than the first game. We've also heard it's going to be five times bigger in scale, too.
Plot wise we know little. GoW2 takes place in winter time, six months after the first game and the detonation of the Lightmass Bomb. Things should be rosy, right? Wrong. The explosion has caused a disease called 'Rust Lung' to spread like wildfire throughout humanity's dwindling population as Imulsion vaporises underground. The Locust have begun building massive sink holes under the last human settlements, and one in particular, Jacinto Plateau, which was considered impregnable, is under threat. It's up to Marcus, Dom (who has a lead on his wife) and some new faces to lead the fightback. The first game was criticised for being too linear. Roughly 30% of the game will be underground, and its environments will feature a larger sense of "distance".
Press have only been shown 'Assault', chapter three of act one, but it has revealed plenty of new gameplay details. Chainsaw duelling will be a B button mashing affair, rather than a quick time event. You'll be able to use downed enemies as human shields, too, as well as crawl yourself when injured, another button mashing exercise. We've also seen some new finishing moves, like pummelling the head of a Locust with Marcus' bare hands. In the second mission Delta squad, along with a new character called Dizzy, a redneck conscripted into the army with the promise of rations for his family, are on what's called a 'grind lift', or express elevators to hell. They dig into the ground and sort the Locust out. At least that's the plan. Being so huge, they're a pain to get to the right spot, hence the giant crane transport and the Delta Squad escort. Inevitably the Locust attack. In an open valley Locust Reavers start causing trouble. The rig is damaged, forcing Marcus and Dom off while Dizzy makes repairs. On the ground a swarm of locust attack from emergence holes. With the repairs made the pair rejoin the derrick. A side by side shoot out with an overrun derrick ensues, where Marcus has to keep the locust from boarding his crane. After clearing a cliff face, Marcus comes up against Brumaks (finally!). It looks like tremendous, intense fun.
In co-op play you'll be able to pick your own difficulty, which can be different to your team mates, which sounds interesting indeed. Combating a bug-bear of the first game, you will be able to keep a number of save files on the go with drop in and out co-op features enabled.
Cog-tag collection returns, but this time there will be personal letters and medical records, all collated by a war journal, to hunt down too. Those put-your controller down cut scenes from the first game have been improved with the addition of interactive conversation trees. Jack, the little door-opening robot from the first game, also returns, this time providing a video link for Marcus to communicate with other characters.
But we still don't know the big question, the one every Gears fan wants answered and wants answered now! Will GoW2 have four-player campaign co-op? Fingers crossed.
Resistance 2 - 60 player online competitive multiplayer. That's right. 60 players. This sounds absolutely mental, of course. Mental to the point of chaos. But Insomniac has come up with an ingenious solution which should ensure things don't descend into madness.
At Sony's PlayStation Day in London we caught a first hand glimpse of this ourselves. A Skirmish battle in the Californian Redwoods map showed that the massive 60 player battle will be focused into a number of smaller, squad-based battles. Here, your squad will have constantly evolving objectives, including helping out other squads that need reinforcing, taking and holding control points, defending control points and taking out rival squads that have the exact opposite goal as you.
Players will be automatically placed into a squad at the start of a match and immediately given an objective. From what we saw at PlayStation Day it results in a fast, frantic FPS experience that changes quicker than a chameleon walking along a rainbow.
And of course, as is the in thing for online shooters these days, you'll be able to accumulate battle points for everything positive you do. These will boost your stats temporarily, perhaps granting quicker movement, a health boost or increased accuracy, but they'll also grant a multiplier to those who kill you, making you more desirable for a kill. Once you die, bang!, they're gone.
Of most interest, however, is the mobile shield you can earn, making you invulnerable to enemy fire for about half a minute. Expect even more cool bonuses when the game's finally released.
Gears of War 2 - We hardly know anything about Gears of War 2's online competitive multiplayer component. Epic is keeping its cards very close to its chest. While the four versus four multiplayer from the first game proved, and still proves extremely popular on Xbox LIVE, some fans have complained that it gets repetitive after a while. Expect some radical knew game types, hopefully some larger, more expansive maps and, if we're lucky, an increase on the number of players and squads a match can hold.
We do know that Epic is planning on re-jigging the way the achievement system works so players don't "rock the system" as Cliffy B says. Take, for example, players playing online multiplayer with the express desire to get headshots and headshots only in order to gain the headshot achievement. In GoW2 only the first headshot will count when in multiplayer mode. You'll be able to get all achievements across the single-player, multiplayer and co-op modes.
It would be unfair of us to say which game is shaping up better six months before release. Both games will be at various stages of development across their various features, so just because we know less about one part of the game doesn't mean it's any worse or any better. Suffice it to say we're incredibly excited by the improvements we've seen in both sequels. With Resistance 2 we're most hyped about the competitive 60-player multiplayer. From what we've seen at Sony's PlayStation Day it could turn the heads of PS3-owning Call of Duty 4 enthusiasts this November.
Equally, we're pumped for how Gears of War 2's campaign is shaping up. With the promise of bigger levels, something that addresses one of our major gripes about the superb original, and a better story, the game should at the very least improve on something we've already given a 10 out of 10 review score too. All we need to seal the deal now is a confirmation on four player co-op. Come on Cliffy B. Make our dreams come true.