Multiplayer bedlam got you down? Endless cross-map sniping bumming you out? Insomniac Games honcho Ted Price feels your pain and he's doing his best to fix some of things that often plague the best of multiplayer shooter matches.
He has to. Resistance 2 online play will support up to 60 players on one map, and without some way of sorting through some of those problems the matches just wouldn't be any fun to play.
If you really don't care about the confusion of such a mighty match, if you revel in the disorder, you can still play the matches you want, but for the rest of us Price and his team has some pretty neat ideas.
As he announced in Europe, Resistance 2 will feature a multiplayer mode that breaks those 60 gamers into smaller squads. While the matches I saw and played through featured ten squads of six, Price said that other size squads will also be used in the game.
While the members of the squad don't have to stick together, they do spawn together and it pays to stick to your group. Once spawned, the game's AI looks at the larger battle taking place on the map and issues automatic orders to your and your squad, marking your new objective on the map with a star in a circle.
Objectives can include taking a control point, defending an area, even coming to the rescue of another squad under heavy fire or taking out one particular member of an opposing squad.
Resistance 2 automatically matches you up with an enemy squad, making sure to give the two opposing forces the same sorts of orders so they're always fighting one another. The AI also does it's best to make sure that when possible your objectives and the objectives of other squads in the larger army aren't near one another, so team mates will be more inclined to stick together and follow orders.
A player can decide to just run around the map attacking other enemy squads, but an in-game point system awards far more points for doing what you're told and for getting kills on that squad matched to you. And not only do those points let you get in-game buffs of sorts like a shield, but they're also used to help permanently rank up your character outside the game.
There are some other really neat tweaks to squad play as well. For instance, the enemy squad your team is taking on will be marked to make them more identifiable. (In the build I played they were tinted red, but Price says that something more subtle will be implemented by launch.) Those enemy players who are doing well will be marked with a large red star over their head. The longer they are on a kill spree, the more successful they are, more points someone will get for killing them. This bounty-like system can award up to four times the normal number of points for taking out these skilled players and will likely go a long way to help balance the game for new players and make it more challenging for skilled gamers.
I'm a long-time fan of first-person shooters, and like many of my ilk, can get a little touchy when someone starts messing with the formula, but playing through a couple of matches on one of Resistance 2's enormous maps populated with 60 gamers made me a believer.
The spawn locations, the use of orders, the tight-knit squad system, all made me feel as if I was playing a much smaller, more manageable match, more importantly it made me feel as if my effort meant something, instead of it being lost in a frenzied 60 person free-for-all.
While I loved the system, I think it's just as important that Price and his team aren't forcing people to use it. Not only can you choose to play traditional matches in the game, with 60 people on board, you can also just ignore what you're asking to do in the squad play and go-it alone. Player choice is an important factor in shooters, guiding players to make smart tactical decisions is a great thing, but not forcing them to do so is even better.
While the version of Resistance 2 was missing a bit of polish and quite a bit of features, I was still impressed with how far Resistance multiplayer has come since the first title hit. Visually, the game seems a bit grittier, and the play more fluid.
Price wasn't showing off the single player campaign at last week's event or the eight-player co-op, but what I did see of the title left me both impressed and eager to see more.