Platform: PlayStation 3
Hands up everyone with a PS3 who is looking for a Gears of War/Halo beater.
Once again, a heavy burden rests on Insomniac's shoulders. Pushed in to battle Gears of War at the PS3's launch, the original Resistance: Fall of Man never had a chance. A kind of hybrid of Halo, Gears and Call of Duty, with a hint of the manic mass destruction of the developer's much-loved Ratchet and Clank, it felt underpowered in comparison to the Xbox 360 flagship title. While Resistance has its fans among the hardcore PS3 flag wavers, I wasn't one of them, and I wasn't really looking forward to the follow up that much. Then Resistance 2 came through the post and - in a spare moment with only the vaguest sort of interest - I put it in my PS3 for a spin. Two levels later I was telling anyone who would listen that this was the year's big dark horse. Around the same time the first reviews started coming through, and before you knew it Resistance 2 had gone from a minor sequel to being Sony's biggest, brightest hope.
It is very good, and at it's best simply great. If you found the original a drab, derivative, worryingly generic affair, then you'll find the sequel virtually unrecognisable. This is the Insomniac who brought us Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction putting all its technical expertise to bear on a big-scale FPS. The story follows on straight from the first game. The alien invasion of 1950s Britain has been dealt with, but now mainland America is under threat. The fate of the resistance rests on the head of Nathan Hales, a US soldier infected by a barely controlled alien virus that will slowly turn him into one of the enemy. On the plus side, this gives him superhuman powers of regeneration (giving the game a handy excuse to use a Call of Duty-style health recharge system).
Comparisons to Gears of War 2 are inevitable, and Resistance 2 can't always match Epic's Unreal 3 showcase for gritty detail or post-processing effects, but in it own way Insomiac's game is a triumph. There's something really solid, lifelike and vibrant about the environments, something richer and warmer about the lighting. There are scenes here of dazzling spectacle to put Independence Day or War of the Worlds to shame, while there's a personality in the modelling and rendering of the human cast that you won't have seen in many FPS games outside of Half-Life 2. The aliens - known as the Chimera - are an altogether more impressive bunch this time around, with the different types and ranks achieving the sort of distinctive character and recognisability that the Covenant have in Halo 1 to 3.