The original F.E.A.R. was a pretty amazing title. It not only fully put Monolith Studios on the map, it also showcased just how good melee combat could be presented in the first-person, if handled correctly. They also managed to scare the shit out of most players with the introduction of the creepy Alma – a little girl with supernatural powers created in likely homage to so many other creepy little girls from countless horror movies.
After the first title, there were a number of expansions and the like, but nothing really
of the calibre of the original. Then, of course, came the great dumping of studios and IPs by Vivendi and Sierra after the Activision Blizzard merger, leaving Monolith up for grabs. Fortunately Warner Bros Interactive snapped them up and work began on a sequel sans name (Monolith owned all rights to the F.E.A.R. universe except the actual
More recently, the name was actually procured by Warner Interactive redelivering the whole F.E.A.R. package in full to Monolith, allowing them to completely realise their dream of properly expanding upon their horror/action gameverse.
Of course all the ambition in the world doesn't always count for delivering the goods, and in the case of F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, we're left with a game divided between great story-telling ideas and clear writer's block, technical ambition and total underachievement and finally, pride and fall.
F.E.A.R. 2 is definitely a fun game with more than enough memorable moments to make it something worth investing your time in, it just unfortunately consistently falls short of clear err, consistency
On the one hand you have this great Alma character and her incredible powers of conjuring horror and performing pure devastation, alongside a tried and tested gameplay formula, but on the other hand you have an overly tested game-engine (in that it doesn't feel that visually improved over the original, giving the whole thing a fairly dated look) with no real gameplay innovations in sight. There just seems to be a real missed opportunity here, and while the game is definitely enjoyable, it just constantly under-delivers.
Problems arise when you realise you're pretty much playing the first game over again, only with a new character. The narrative does a reasonable job of setting up the reason you're playing as Michael Becket, a different character who has pretty much landed the same luck as the first game's protagonist, and despite the familiar setting, throughout the game you will uncover some new truths, even more deception and all the creepy you can muster.
What's not so cool about this is to get the most
out of said narrative, you really do need to be familiar with the first game, despite the familiar plot. Things kick off just after Alma has devastated the city, and you begin the game walking through the bloom-lit aftermath before falling into a pool that throws some more creepiness at you just prior to waking up in the APC of the Delta Force team you're a part of. This will become something of a pre-mission hub for you for the first portion of the game as you and your team are transported about with instructions, mission objectives and all the 'Hollywood' action movie style dialogue you can stomach (which for some, really isn't much).
It's from this point much of the game seems a little too samey. Eventually you'll even have the same powers as Point Man from the first game in that you can slow time, dodge bullets and more.
Still, that said there are some major leaps over the first game present here. For one, enemy AI is much improved thanks to a unique cover system that sees both you, teammates and enemies able to flip everyday objects and use them as cover. Tables, lounges, chairs and more can all be turned into makeshift hiding spots from flailing bullets, and enemy AI reacts accordingly to your usage of this. I did find it slightly easy to just run and gun though, making me think the AI is intended to react dynamically to cover/fire tactics as opposed to crazy Han Solo bravado.
Also, in keeping with the intense action of the first game (and expanding upon the 'Hollywood' action movie ethos I mentioned earlier), there's a lot more going on in terms of destruction, particles and lighting here. It's still not necessarily as polished as a lot of other games, but the “smash-a-brac” (like that? I just coined it) lends itself to so many John Woo slow-motion action sequences while the dynamic lighting, bullet-time and impressive particle effects go a long way to keeping things both artful, intense and mind-numbing. It's not the most cerebral of experiences, but for the most part it doesn't need to be.
Which leads us to the other main draw for the game - horror.
There's plenty here in the way of thriller scares, but prepare to deal with nothing but scripting. Most of the horror element relies on audio stingers and the odd cheap expectation (usually the scariest moment, the one you're expecting), but failing any of these sections means you're going to face it in pretty much the same way, mildly cheapening (and desensitising) the experience. Still, there's some seriously imaginative darkness in F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, and the corridor sections will definitely rip your soul out on a few memorable occasions (none of which I'm spoiling for you here). So horror junkies are definitely in for a treat.
So with all that said, Monolith still weren't happy only delivering an action/horror fps with all the expected trimmings, and so one of the most welcome updates to the game comes in the form of the mech suits (more Japanese inspiration). In these monstrosities, you can cause some serious devastation, and it's a point of the game they really nailed. Donning one of these babies and laying waste to everything in sight is more akin to ploughing through a bonus level in a videogame. It's difficult to be hurt in these, and your over-the-top power just makes it seem utterly ridiculous, but as a break from the intense close-quarters shoot-outs or corridor horror segments, you couldn't really ask for much more.
I'll go out on a limb here and say this is far from Game of the Year material, but anyone who enjoyed the first game is going to get something out of Project Origin. Not a great deal has changed, but there's enough story development the hardcore Alma fans will sink their teeth in, while horror and action fans alike can definitely enjoy this. It just isn't breaking any new ground, looks mildly dated and suffers from being a little too self-indulgent in areas.
If you're unsure, we have a PC demo client hosted locally on AusGamers you can grab here
, otherwise Xbox 360 and PS3 players can just grab demos from the PSN and Marketplace respectively.