With the sequel to Resistance: Fall Of Man, Insomniac has left behind the sepia tones of second-rate British urbanity, skipped across the Atlantic by way of Iceland, and left the player battling bigger and more numerous foes across the protagonist’s home country. We were able to dip into a brief section set in the back alleys of an American city, while another hands-off demonstration depicted a vast behemoth, not dissimilar to Cloverfield’s sky-scraping beast, laying waste to downtown Chicago.
The playable section, entitled Grims’ Alley, sees the player and a small squad of allies face off against a vast swarm of gangly, speedy mutants – a scene that, minus the elongated fangs and oddly placed eyes of your enemies, could easily be from any film of the ‘fast zombie’ genre. While it’s designed to showcase this new creature, as a representative snapshot of the game as a whole it’s something of a worrying choice. The sequence is a turkey shoot: despite the speed of your foes, they present no threat of over-running or outflanking you, making their attack largely devoid of tension. With annoyingly transparent AI behaviour, the few mutants making it through your wall of bullets ignore CPU-controlled squadmates to zero in on the player.
For something being shown to the public as well as press so shortly before release, it is in a surprisingly unpolished state. Enemy animations fail to segue without notable awkwardness between running, attacking and dying. The streets and buildings of Resistance 2 well evoke a deserted, depression-era America, but the details of this picture – the washing lines, the broken masonry and papery detritus floating in the wind – all too often fade into the overwhelmingly grim palette of browns and greys. Despite the best efforts of the environment artists, the contrivances of level design remain undisguised, and your movement through the city feels constricted. Motion and aiming lacks the deft control of its PS3 shooter sibling, Killzone 2 – which, by contrast, seems to be in supremely sound form.
Though the brief time with a controller in our hands is underwhelming, hands-off demonstrations of the game held elsewhere look much more flattering, showing off new weapons like the sawblade-spitting Splicer, and detailing Insomniac’s plans for multiplayer. With Resistance 2 and Killzone 2, Sony is swinging for the lantern jaw of Xbox Live – and, in this respect, both games seem to be pretty heavy hitters, with their own websites, player advancement and community features. Resistance 2’s 60-player battles have some intriguing ideas about how to tie XP into the second-to-second gameplay and an eight-player co-op campaign, separate to the single-player mode, will presumably look pretty good when number-crunching the features list with that of Gears Of War 2. Such a robust online offering alone confirms that Resistance 2 isn’t without promise and, despite its shaky showing, it’s difficult to make dire pronouncements on the game’s health given the competence of its predecessor. We just hope that taking the gunplay across the pond has expanded Insomniac’s ambition rather than blurred it.