Insomniac boss Ted Price has a new favourite word, and that word is "scale". He used it several times during the Resistance 2 demo at Sony's E3 conference, and he's using it again now as he shows off more of the game behind closed doors.
Resistance 2, Price explains, again, is all about scale. There's the scale of the environments - no more poking around parochial old Manchester, now you get to explore the sprawling metropolis of Chicago and go Chimera-hunting in rural Idaho. The scale of enemies has increased, as demonstrated by the giant leviathan shown off in the press conference demo. There are more of them too. But it's not unusal for a sequel to feature larger levels, extra enemies and bigger bosses. The most impressive increase in scale is the multiplayer modes.
The first game featured co-operative play, but offline and for only two players. Resistance 2's co-op mode is online for up to eight players, and comes complete with multiple classes, character progression and persistent rewards. There's also a separate storyline. It's set around the same time as the single-player narrative, Price explains, and unfolds within the same environments. You and your team take on the role of Sentinels, soldiers who are immune to the Chimera virus. "So far it's all working really well," says Price. "We're not showing it here at E3, but we're finishing it up for the real game."
That is when they're not working on Resistance 2's competitive multiplayer mode, which ups the number of players who can fight it out online from 40 to 60. "It's been a real challenge for us," Price admits. "We wanted to put more players in because we saw there would be an opportunity there. But at the same time, we knew that wouldn't necessarily be the smartest thing to do.
"We knew it would be tough, because chaos can arise very quickly," he continues. "So we decided everybody would be broken into squads so you would have more organisation. Then we created a dynamic objective system which gives each squad orders. That keeps them spread out across the field, and they don't get bunched up with each other."
It's all about motivating players to stick together, apparently. "We're trying to promote a dynamic where you want to stay with your squad and accomplish objectives together," explains Price. "You get more points that way. The points allow you to win, and when you win your experience points are multiplied. That gives you better rewards and moves you up in the personal rankings more quickly."
A 60-player multiplayer mode sounds impressive, but not quite as impressive as it did pre-E3. Or more specifically, before Sony unveiled MAG, which will see up to 256 players battling it out. "That's going to be an awesome one to watch. Everyone will learn a lot from how they do it," Price observes. "But there are similiarities with Resistance 2. We have the same goal - which is massive battles with more intimacy."
Insomniac is also focused on offering a strong single-player campaign - one that improves over that in the original game. "We got a lot of feedback from the fans, from people who had plenty to say about Resistance - good and bad," says Price. "We took that to heart and we applied it."
For example, "We had a lot of people talking about how the beginning wasn't what they wanted to see. The game didn't really get going until, say, Manchester. We've taken that to heart, so you're really going to see something different at the beginning of Resistance 2." Oh? "I'm not going to give it away though." Oh. It's not an even bigger cathedral, is it? "It will not be a cathedral. Or a mosque. No."
One of the biggest changes to the single-player game is the switch to a two-weapon system, so Hale no longer carries an entire arsenal of guns around with him. "That enables us to do a couple of things," says Price. "We can now really pump up the amount of damage these weapons can do in certain situations, because we know the player isn't going to be carrying them for the entire game."
Then there's the brand new issue of decision-making. "When you're walking into a difficult situation and you have three weapons, and you only get to choose two - sometimes it's a very difficult choice." In other words, there's more strategy involved. Even in areas where run-and-gun is the best policy, you'll still have to make a decision before you can make a break for it.
According to Price, the move to a two-weapon system has also given Insomniac greater freedom when it comes to designing Hale's new arsenal. "We were able to let loose a little bit with the weapons. We can create uber-weapons at times and just give them to you and let you go crazy, because we know eventually you're going to run out of ammo for that weapon, and you're going to need to pick up another one," he says. "That's fun for us as designers."
New weapons for Resistance 2 include the enhanced Magnum. It fires standard shots into objects and enemies, but when you activate your alternate fire option the shots will explode. Handy for setting traps, as Price demonstrates by firing a shot into a corpse then detonating it when a surviving enemy gets close. Then there's the Sharp Shooter. "It has a primary fire that's kind of a fast, semi-automatic sniper rifle, and an alternate fire, which is more of a fire-and-forget weapon that can electrocute all the enemies around you."
There might be no sign of any chainsaws in the vicinity, but that's unlikely to stop people making comparisons between Resistance 2 and Gears of War 2. After all, both are shooters, both are platform exclusives, and both are sequels to key titles for rival platform holders. But Price reckons that's where the similarities end.
"I played the first Gears of War. It's a great game," he says. "But I think we're in two different spaces, both thematically and gameplay-wise. We wanted to focus on a weapons strategy with lots of different enemies, and not just humanoid enemies but other types. We wanted players to feel like they needed to think a little bit about the weapons they pick up, and which ones to use."
Which all sounds fine, but there's no doubt there will be plenty of comparing and contrasting going on when Resistance 2 and Gears of War 2 are released this autumn. Of course, it's too early to tell which will be the better game. Perhaps, if the Price is right, they're too different anyway. Or perhaps they're both sequels to triple-A platform exclusives which involve shooting mutants with a series of increasingly powerful guns, and comparison is therefore justifiable. In any case, it's going to be an interesting fight.
Resistance 2 is due out exclusively for PS3 in November.