Having survived and successfully defeated the Chimeran assault on Europe, unlikely hero Nathan Hale probably deserves something of holiday, instead, he's been nabbed by a team of Black Ops soldiers patrolling over London - and is quickly subdued and transported to a secret location in Iceland. Let's just hope Hale bought Dollars at the Bureaux de Change...
At the outset of Insomniac's new opus, America is preparing for the inevitable invasion attempt, the military gathering together an elite force, staffed entirely by combatants with partial resistance to the Chimera virus. Hale is not alone, and is quickly drafted into 'The Sentinels', ready to be thrown into the thick of mankind's struggle for survival.
Sure enough, come 1953, the Chimera attack the US on both coasts with an armada of battleships, prompting an even larger struggle than that witnessed in Europe... and we'd heard San Francisco was nice in the spring... Co-op gameplay pretensions have been dispensed with for Hale's main story campaign, and this lends the solo experience a focus on intense cinematic action, while a full co-operative campaign - designed for up to eight players online (or two in split-screen mode) - provides an over-the-top action focussed narrative, running parallel to Hale's but with the emphasis firmly placed upon team combat.
The opening level of the game sees the player taking on a vast Chimeran war-machine, which is stomping all over a vital human facility. From the outset, Insomniac draw shameless inspiration from sci-fi tales like War of the Worlds, presenting an atmosphere of utter desperation, where defeat always seems but moments away, especially given the obvious and ever-present strength of the entirely malevolent enemy. Vast enemies are in fact a regular theme, the game always opting for Hollywood-style, epic baddies, that send soldiers flying and literally tear-up the ground beneath them; knocking chunks from buildings for fun.
Truly, Resistance 2 has some of the hugest enemies I've witnessed in a game, and what is perhaps most impressive is the manner in which the environments are destroyed during these frenetic life-or-death sequences. Not that everything you come up against will be vast, the developers having ushered in twelve new enemies, including the horrendous water-lurking Fury, as well as other nasties that I'll leave it you to haphazardly stumble upon. Insomniac are getting quite adept at making entertaining weapons that 'feel right', it would seem, and the arsenal in Resistance 2 evolves this status further, offering up an interesting range of realistic human weapons, and fantastical Chimeran devices - most of which have secondary fire options. It was with some glee that I was introduced to the Magnum's second option; exploding bullets remote-detonated by the player.
As you've probably guessed from my opening words on the game, the polishing of the specifics of the action have received most of the development attention (the noticably improved AI pays testament to this), but that isn't to say that other elements, such as exploration, the world and the story don't matter. In fact, the plot can at times be engrossing, and cunningly elements of this fit in with the gameplay, adding urgency to proceedings as The Sentinels look to overcome the Chimera before racing to get much-needed drugs which help keep the virus at bay within their own bodies. There are also BioShock-esque radio broadcasts you can listen into, further adding to the sense of a world-turned-upside-down; the madness of the situation. Later in the game you'll even bump into radio presenter Henry Stillman, hiding in his studio talking about the invasion, whisky in hand...
Some of the singleplayer set-pieces fit wonderfully with the story then, the heavy ambience, and for the most part the visuals doing their job of offering up a landscape suitably war-torn; especially when it comes to some of the terrifying enemies you'll be facing up to. On the flip-side, in presenting some more expansive, open environments, and having them under-fire from Chimeran Leviathans of epic proportions, Insomniac do occasionally shirk on the detail - and you'll find some of the interiors can be just a tad barren as a result. There's nothing appalling on the aesthetic front, but in a genre as competitive as this, it is easy to be more critical than with a less-populated genre.
The polished frenzy of the singleplayer experience discussed, let's now take a look at the co-operative online mode, which sees you forming a task unit, in which each player can assume one of three roles: Soldier, Medic or Special Operative. As you'll have guessed, each class has specific abilities, and a balanced force definitely makes the going easier once you get into the thick of the multiplayer campaign. This side of things really does feel like an online game, and while there is still plot evolution to take in, the presence of human companions seems to detract from the gravitas of the setting; even while the combat intensifies. Cleverly, Insomniac will reveal to you certain things omitted from Hale's solo story, making the co-op campaign essential, if different, viewing.
Beyond this team-work focussed, story-driven romp, there is also some competitve multiplayer to sink your teeth into - and we're offered epic 60 player tussles, with all the usual game modes. The maps aren't perfect, although the team-centred approach, coupled with the ravaged back-drops do make for some entertaining, solid battles. Not that Call of Duty will be hanging up its beret just yet.
As PlayStation 3 exclusives go, Resistance 2 is up there with the best presently on offer, a thoughtfully crafted, highly polished action game that almost reaches the benchmarks set by the very best titles of the genre. Where it fails, it is very difficult to criticise, simply because the premise offers little room for Insomniac to really shake things up. Number two represents a leap over the original Resistance, and although some may bemoan the lack of a main campaign co-op option, some of the multiplayer choices implemented instead are bold and highly enjoyable. More over, a few of the action set-pieces, especially those involving the really big enemies are spectacles you'll take with you once the console is switched-off. Halo survives unflustered then, but the Chimeran march continues to gain ground gradually.