Resistance: The Underdog FPS franchise

In light of the much hyped Killzone 2 releasing on the Playstation 3 in just one week, I decided to take a step back and look at that other FPS series on the PS3, Resistance.

First however, a quick bit of history about the franchise from the house that Spyro the Dragon built.

The original Resistance released on the Playstation 3 in November 2006, and was a launch title for the new platform. The game received a mixed reception amongst the media (but generally leaning more towards the favorable), and a more welcome reception from game starved Playstation 3 owners.

The good, is that Resistance 1 was a quality FPS title, mixing an alternate history WWII setting with an alien invasion and an ecclectic, and creative arsenal of weaponry. The game centered around Lieutenant Nathan Hale, an American dropped into Chimera occupied Europe to assist with the, heh, Resistance.

I personally really loved the setting and the narrative, and thoroughly enjoyed the Resistance 1 single-player campaign. The game’s real draw, however, was it’s large scale, 40 player online matches. They were fast paced, frantic, and do to the excellent selection of weapons, and lot of fun.

Unfortunately, the bad seemed to outweigh the good in the eyes of the media, as well as the gaming community at large. See, Resistance Achille’s Heel was that it was a Playstation 3 launch title, and therefore could not, graphically, stand up to second generation Xbox 360 hit, Gears of War. Despite possessing a much longer (and some will argue better) single player campaign, better weapons, and practically lagless, fun multi-player, Resistance 1, an FPS, mind you, was constantly getting compared graphically to Gears of War. Not just from the fanboys, but from the gaming media also.

It seems that, ultimately, it is graphics over gameplay afterall. Resistance 1 delivered the gameplay, but was constantly marked down and harped upon due to the graphics. Despite this double standard and outright hypocrisy, Resistance 1 earned a fanbase, and went on to sell over 3 million units. The fact that it was bundled with the PS3 for a few months certainly didn’t hurt either.

Fast forward 2 years, and Insomniac Games released Resistance 2 in November 2008, their fourth Playstation 3 release in 2 years (Resistance 1 in 2006, Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction in 2007, PSN title, Ratchet and Clank Future: The Quest for Booty in 2008, and Resistance 2 in 2008). Much more ambitious than it’s predecessor in both visuals, scale, and gameplay, Resistance 2 improved upon many a complaint leveled at the first title in the series.

Gone was the cumbersome weapon wheel, replaced by a more focused two weapon system, in line with other FPS titles on the market. Naturally, reaction to this change was mixed, with some missing the old weapon wheel with every weapon available to you.

Gone was the relatively repetitive brown and gray environments that plagued many shooters, but was somehow just too much for the Resistance series. Over the course of Resistance 2, players travel through a variety of locales, all rich with color and vibrancy. In fact, the graphics engine was completely upgraded, allowing for better textures, lighting, and character models.  Of course, the new complaint was that now the series didn’t feel like the original, and somehow lacked identity.

Gone were the numerous corridor segments that many felt bogged down the pace of the game, and made it a slower shooter, despite it’s intense firefights. Nevermind that many a praised FPS like F.E.A.R. featured repetitive office hallways and numerous sections where you didn’t shoot a single person, instead, wandering the empty corridors as the tension mounted.

Resistance 2’s levels were huge, and grand in scope. Between fighting nearly 50 or more Chimera on screen at once with your allies, to 300 foot Leviathan beasts, to battling your way through a Louisiana swamp and ferry, the scale of Resistance 2 is bigger, better, and more epic than it’s predecessor.

The story was also overhauled a bit, with the focus being more on Nathan Hale’s character and the growing infection of the Chimeran virus in his veins, instead of the tale being told through the eyes of a third party, like Resistance 1’s Rachel Parker. The story was told solely through Nathan Hale’s perspective, and he was more vocal and outspoken than he was in the first title. Still, many complained that he didn’t have enough character, although no such complaints are generally leveled at characters like Gordon Freeman, Master Chief, and Marcus Fenix, despite their overall lack of character growth or development and, in the case of Gordon Freeman, lack of speaking a single line of dialogue.

Even though this would have been enough for any other sequel, Insomniac Games made two major changes to the online component of Resistance 2 that, if it were any other FPS series, would have garnered it countless praise.

First, and a first for console FPS titles as well, was the inclusion of a separate, 8 player co-op mode. This mode featured a storyline that ran concurrently with the journey of Nathan Hale in single player. Instead of simply replaying the single player campaign with a friend, a new tale unfolded, with the 8 player squad being part of some key story points in teh single player campaign.

Moreso, this mode included a class based system, as well as an experience points system that allowed players to level up and learn new abilities. There were three classes available: Medic, Soldier, and Spec Ops. The key to success in co-op was to balance these three classes and support one another to complete your goal.

The Soldier used the gatling gun Wraith weapon, which puts up shields used to protect the party. The Spec Op was able to resupply his teammate with more ammo, grenades, and extras (ie, more shields for the Soldier), and the Medic does exactly what you expect: he can heal the party when wounded, as well as suck the life from enemies to restore his own health.

The objectives in co-op were randomly assembled, and the result was a more dynamic, often organic experience, with no two missions playing out exactly the same. Players could find themselves destroying Grim pods, battling hordes of Chimera, disabling turrets, and battling Titans or Walkers all in the span of a single mission. Even more, was the inclusion of a scaling model, where depending on the number and level of the party, enemies difficulty would be matched accordingly. There were one, two, and three star enemies, some battles against these higher ranked enemies taking upwards of 20-30 minutes.

Added to this is the collection of a material called Grey Tech, which is used to purchase upgrades for your class when the appropriate level is reached. These upgrades could be more ammo, better armor, and different secondary weapon loadouts and Beserks, which is a special that can be activated when a meter is full (for example,  one of the Medic’s Beserks creates a healing aura around him that heals anyone within the field. Another, dubbed Chloroform, paralizes enemies when he shoots them with his energy gun).

For me, co-op is the most addicting part of the Resistance 2 package, but it doesn’t end there.

On top of the single player and co-op mode, Insomniac decided to improve upon their competitive online mode as well. They upped the player count from an already impressive 40 players, to a never before in console gaming 60 players.

They even created a mode to help control this massive number of players, and keep matches from devolving into chaos. Skirmish mode takes the 60 players, and splits them up into 8 man squads. Each of these squads have an objective to complete during the course of the match, and eventually will all converge upon one another for an epic, large scale battle.

The objectives change dynamically during the match as well, so players go from assaulting to defending, to protecting, to assassinating, all on the fly, and without having to boot out into a lobby.

The competitive mode also included an XP system like the co-op (and single player) modes, which went to your overall player score on Resistance.com.

On top of it all, the online modes run rather flawlessly, with little to no lag during the majority of my play sessions.

Despite all of the improvements to graphics, story, and online and offline gameplay, Resistance 2 is still criticised and dismissed by the gaming masses.

It has fast paced, arcadey gameplay that can run with the Halo’s and Call of Duty 4s. It takes the XP system of COD4, and fuses it with the Class based system of Team Fortress to enjoyable, and addictive results.

Once again, the visuals of Resistance 2 failed to “beat” the visuals of Gears of War 2, despite it’s much stabler framerate, sharper textures, and larger scale in every area. Once again, the game was criticized for this, despite delivering on the gameplay promises made by Insomniac Games.

Resistance 2 has enjoyed commercial success in the 4 months since it’s release, racking up over 1 million units worldwide thus far, although that’s nowhere near the 3 million it’s predecessor reached.

The franchise is still dismissed by many in the gaming media and gaming communities, despite it’s incredible polish and addictive gameplay.

Even though Killzone 2 is shaping up to be a phenomenal FPS title, combining the best elements of some of the top FPS titles in the industry, I urge everyone not to forget about the series that proved that the Playstation consoles can play host to some excellent FPS action that rivals anything the competition has on the market. In the end, the more quality FPS titles we have out there pushing the genre forward (like COD, R2, Team Fortress, and soon Killzone 2), the better for the genre as a whole.

There is room for more than one quality FPS title on the market. They can all coexist peacefully on store shelves, and more importantly, in your gaming collection.

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