Resistance 2 is an homage to all the first person shooters preceding it. And by "homage" I mean "cliche." Halo, Half Life, Bioshock, House of the Dead - they've all been cut up into little pieces and shoved into the mouth of the golem that is Resistance 2. It's the type of game an idiot savant might create: The developers understand the details, but there's a fundamental inability to recognize the bigger picture to which these elements belong. Resistance 2 represents the industry's worst conservatism, a paint-by-numbers creation starved for inspiration in all aspects. It's unfortunate, because it had a large budget that, in the hands of a more inspired team, might have added up to something.
I'm not surprised though, as Insomniac's games have lately started to feel like the product of an especially efficient assembly line at GM. Their Ratchet and Clank series in particular typifies this kind of reliable but iterative usage of templates. In Resistance 2 this laziness of vision - and the single player campaign does feel incredibly nearsighted - comes through most strongly in the visuals. There are a few levels that provide a measure of almost tactile verisimilitude, but for the most part you get the sense you're playing against a series of blue screens onto which backgrounds of alien towers and ships are projected at random. In the poorly hidden artifice, often with the biggest set pieces revealing themselves as nothing more than moving wallpaper, the game becomes a series of anticlimactic moments. I emerged from one of the early level's underground bunkers expecting a glorious alien invasion and was instead greeted by a poorly digitized two dimensional backdrop of an invasion with a few polygonal alien ships dangling from their virtual fishing line. The game is full of these sorts of primitive visual tricks that might fool a second grader. But the rest of us, the ones old enough to buy the game, know the difference between a soundstage and a location shot. Other games are guilty of it, but none in recent memory have failed to disguise it so blatantly.
Resistance 2 is set in an alternate 1950's reality. The cars seem like they are from the '50s and radios placed throughout the game play diegetic period music, but that seems to be the extent of the game's efforts to create a sense of time and place. The American cities you travel through are collections of random buildings with no distinguishing landmarks. The eeriest sections of the game are those that are the most generic, as if the Stepford wives got their hands on this game and refashioned it into their boring image. Mash these dead environments together with a series of alien locations jacked wholesale from Halo and the Citadel of Half Life 2, and you've got Resistance 2's art direction. There are some slimy aliens that hatch from - get this - cocoons. The main character also has a shaved head, a taciturn manner about him and no semblance of an inner life. Stop me if this sounds familiar. More solid gameplay could have made the game's dismally unoriginal settings and characters a non-issue, but the game fails spectacularly in that sense as well.