by Bryan Griffith
In the crowded first-person shooter genre, games often need something special to set them apart. F.E.A.R. (released on PC in 2005, Xbox 360 in 2006, and PS3 in 2007) was able to do that on three different levels. The real-world setting mixed with some truly creepy supernatural happenings provided a distinctive battleground. Players were then forced to take on enemies who were equipped with aggressive and realistic artificial intelligence that provided a challenge unlike that presented in other games. Fortunately, the third element was a slow-motion mechanic that gave gamers the advantage during the bloody fire fights.
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin continues the adventure while seeking to again capitalize on the same things that set the original apart. Although there seems to exist some confusion about the development of the game (due to the fact that the publisher of the original was a “causality” of the Activision-Blizzard merger that took place in late 2007), this game was created by the same team that made the original. Fans of the first F.E.A.R. can rest assured that this sequel is still Monolith Games’ baby… their strange, supernatural, freaky, baby.
The single-player game begins during the final moments of the original, with players assuming the role of Michael Becket, a new character who is a member of the “Delta Force” squad that is tasked with safely extracting Genevieve Aristide, the president of the Armacham Corporation. Throughout experience the story is revealed in two ways: in game cinematics and through the collection of scattered intelligence. Unfortunately, the game does little to distinguish itself during the cinematic moments, with much of the dialog and voice acting presenting itself at the low levels that gamers have learned to tolerate. For better or worse, there is also very little interesting information revealed during the overt story telling moments – players are simply given enough information to justify moving to the next location with guns blazing. However, the back story given through the “intelligence gathering” proves to be much more satisfying, despite the bizarre way it is delivered (you stumble across large PDA devices that contain only a single email or memo). Determined players will uncover a fascinating tale of paranormal experiments, secret projects, and a company’s futile attempt to cover it all up.
Anyone intrigued by the setting and the promise of scary thrills should find their expectations reasonably well met. The designers pull no punches in barraging your senses with disturbing imagery and some impressive sound that will make you grateful for any investment you have made in good audio equipment. The question of whether or not the game is scary will need to be answered by each player. I never found myself jumping in my seat, but I did feel immersed in the game world… a place that I would never want to spend a single moment in outside of the comfort of my couch.
Perhaps a reason that the game didn’t succeed in terrifying me, is because I was too busy enjoying the excellent first-person shooting action. The combination of a great arsenal of weapons and the well-implemented slow-motion mechanic resulted in me feeling very powerful and ready to take on anything that would come my way; it never felt as though I might not succeed. However, and most importantly, I also never felt bored. Playing through the entire campaign was a very entertaining experience, full of plenty of moments that were every bit as much fun as you would expect to get when combining slow-motion, shotguns and explosions. Several sections of the adventure also take place inside of armored walkers and from the gunner’s seat of a powerful turret, which serve to provide an interesting change of pace. F.E.A.R. 2 proved to be a truly enjoyable ride, and was an experience that I can’t imagine any fan of first-person shooters will want to miss.
To extend the experience, F.E.A.R. 2 also has several online play modes, including an enjoyable take on a control point match, where teams compete to take special points on the map, with one important twist: each team has control of one of the massive armored walkers to keep things interesting. Unfortunately, the slow-motion component (arguably the best thing about the single-player game) won’t work in a multiplayer context. Without that unique element, there is little in F.E.A.R. 2 that I can imagine will tear a player away from whatever shooter happens to be their current online addiction.
It is also worth nothing that a demo of the game is available on the Xbox 360, PS3, or PC. If this is a title you are interested in, I would highly recommend downloading it, as it is a very accurate representation of the thrills provided in the full game.
Right on Target:
- The slow motion mechanic works well. Rather than feeling like gimmick, it genuinely feels like part of your arsenal – a tool you will use whenever you need an edge on your opponents.
- Creepy atmosphere, provided by better than average graphics, and phenomenal sound.
- Enemies that are responsive to the player, and always interesting to fight.
- A great story, for anyone willing to go digging for it.
Missing the Mark:
- Because the player’s character feels a bit too powerful, the game may loose much of its ability to scare you.
- Although any innovation is always appreciated, attempts to freshen up the combat through movable cover fall flat and never feel like more than a gimmick.