If you thought, upon completing the first F.E.A.R., that the world was in a heap of trouble, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin has undergone changes in names and publishers, but the visceral combat and creepy atmosphere remain from the first.At the end of the first F.E.A.R., it was apparent that The Ring-inspired Alma was far from done. Project Origin starts by allowing you to relive the end of the first game, but this time you play as a grunt in a recon team.
Your team is charged with bringing the head of the Armacham Technology Corporation into protective custody. Of course, nothing in these games ever goes according to plan. Inevitably, all hell breaks loose and you’re catapulted into a story filled with mystery and discovery. All the while you’re pursued by Alma, who looks a little worse for the wear this time around, if that’s possible. It’s not necessary to have played the first game, but if you have, you’ll get a bit more out of the story as there are plenty of references to prior events.
Overall, the story is paced a lot more evenly than in the original. New bits of revelatory information are sprinkled liberally throughout each part of the game, making the whole thing much easier to digest. To say any more than that would ruin all the fun.
Project Origin stays the course with some refinement. The main mechanic here is still your character’s ability to slow time, making you one tough customer even when surrounded by enemies.
Of course, you won’t be able to do much damage without weapons. F.E.A.R. 2 expands on the standard pistols, shotguns and automatic weapons of the first with some heavier armaments. You’ll gain access to missile launchers, nailguns, and even a high-powered laser, but these weapons are clearly geared to help you through specific encounters in the game. You’ll stick with the standard issue weapons most of the time.
There are also some new grenade types. In addition to frags and proximity mines, you can also use incendiary grenades to take out lots of enemies at a time. Shock grenades are perfect for incapacitating the particularly stiff competition. Then again, you’re allowed to carry four guns at a time, so you’re almost always loaded for bear.
There’s a much greater variety of bad guys. You’ll still kill your fair share of replicas, but they now come in many shapes and sizes. You’ll also get to dispatch supernatural foes with unique behaviors and attack styles.
The single-player campaign is of average length, and unlike the first game that took place almost entirely in a series of office buildings, things are more diverse here. The 14 different sections span underground bases, an elementary school, and ruined streets of a nuked city.
Multiplayer options for up to 16 players have also been extended with new modes like armored front, which has teams vying to control a series of linear points on a map. There’s also blitz, a turn-based version of capture the flag, which is certainly unique.
There’s much more to do after the campaign has been defeated, but you’re not going to get the same mileage out of F.E.A.R. 2 that you will from some of its contemporaries.
While the gunplay of F.E.A.R. 2 doesn’t feel all that different from the first game, the additional weapon and enemy variety, and improved pacing help keep the player engaged to the end. This wasn’t really the case with the first game.
There’s always something new to experience in each area. Sometimes you’ll encounter Alma and have to tackle a quick-time event. Other times, you’ll get to pilot a suit of powered armor and become an even more effective one-man killing machine.
The supernatural and telekinetic aspects have been integrated into the actual gameplay, rather than just relegated to the story. This means you’ll have to deal with some pretty unconventional enemies. The AI of the basic soldiers remains very impressive. They hide behind cover and advance with suppressing fire. They’ll attempt to flank you or use grenades to flush you out.
Like the first game, slowing down time eventually becomes a crutch you can always rely on. This, in conjunction with the forgiving checkpoint system, makes it relatively pain-free.
F.E.A.R. 2 is undoubtedly a treat for the senses. Sure, the game is lifting liberally from the whole Ring, Japanese horror thing, but it does a superb job taking that aesthetic into an interactive space. It’s one thing to watch events transpire on a movie screen. It’s quite another to explore those events in real-time.
At first, it appears to reuse a lot of the tricks from the first game. You know the ones--like turning around to find little Alma suddenly standing right behind you. Things eventually get really weird, and there are easily a lot more genuine scares than in the first game.
Visually, F.E.A.R. 2 is on par with Monolith’s other recent effort, the Condemned series. Each lovingly crafted area bears a striking resemblance to their real-world counterparts. The areas are littered with objects. Details are scattered around desks, on shelves, and all over the walls. The very high resolution textures make it almost border on photorealism.
It’s the audio design that should get the most credit for the high creep factor. It’s a sophisticated mix of appropriately moody music, realistic sound effects, and a constant undercurrent of supernatural whispers, crackles, and shrieks. Play it with the lights low and the sound turned up, and you will be frightened.
F.E.A.R. 2 doesn’t depart much from the original formula, retaining what was good about the first game while punching up the weaker areas. The improved variety in weapons, locations, and enemies is great, but standards have increased a great deal since Alma’s debut. What you get is an atmospheric shooter with a lot of tried-and-true concepts that fails to push the envelope. Fans of horror and first-person shooters will find it a nice blend of the two.
Version Tested: PC