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REVIEWS -- F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin -- PC

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

EDITOR AVERAGE

86

USER AVG

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Project Origin offers better shooter action than horror

by Eric Silva


Fun factor: Fun

Worth to: Buy/Rent

Not as scary as the first one, but it improves almost all the weaknesses of the first F.E.A.R., namely the length, gameplay and settings

When F.E.A.R. came out in 2005 it brought new meaning to “survival action horror”. The game played with shadows and sound like few titles before it, even rivaling the Resident Evil series in some aspects. Monolith Productions had successfully adapted popular horror movie formulas to scare the living daylights out of players. They took the most mundane of settings and turned them into veritable nightmares. Offices never looked the same.



The first game was poignant but short, which was a downer because the overall product left many wanting more. F.E.A.R. also disappointingly ended in a cliffhanger, guaranteeing a sequel that would finish all the loose ends. F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin unfortunately doesn’t quite finish the story (ya, another one of those episodic series) but in the process it improves on the overall gameplay experience with smarter A.I. and sharper action. Though this sequel might be a notch below its predecessor in terms of horror, it surpasses its forerunner in terms of execution as a solid shooter.

They got me in the aorta!

The game begins rather abruptly with Michael Becket and his squad sent to retrieve Genevieve Aristide, the Armacham Technology Corporation executive so frequently mentioned in the first game. It turns out the events of the first encounter were but a prelude to the real crisis involving the omni-powerful telepath, Alma, and the Replica force running loose. Players are again thrust into a chaotic situation as the point man of First Encounter Assault Recon (F.E.A.R.), a special unit almost as secretive as the evil Armacham Corporation that concocted the whole mess by trying to clone telepathic super-soldiers.

Once the dust settles players end up with more questions than answers but the story finally begins to make sense, maybe because the whole experience no longer feels like a cold shower and because we see reoccurring faces and names. A rundown of previous events would have helped but it’s not essential, though it might take players some time to repaint the first game (it took me a few “intel pieces” to remember who Paxton Fettel was). Regardless, once things start rolling F.E.A.R. 2 presents a better picture than its overly-abstract predecessor.

Alma begins to show signs of humanity, clearly the victim in the ordeal, and players are no longer alone in fixing the mess. Becket’s squad, while not very present, makes a few cameos. Sadly, their company isn’t used to the fullest. Most of the game is played out in solo with nothing more than exchanges over the comm. system to remind us of Becket’s team, but the exchanges are well executed with some funny lines, especially in the beginning and the end. Besides the gratuitous and forced swearing your mates properly react to your actions, but again, this is very rare -- a mere two or three occasions.



Offers less FEAR and more SHOOT

F.E.A.R. 2 shines in the gameplay even though previous melee elements are absent, like kicks and slides. A.I. is smarter and deadlier. Enemy opponents aptly use grenades and various tactics to flush players out. They will often run and gun to move between cover points and you will never see any of them walk through a door only to get blasted one after another. Shooting blindly from behind objects, ducking and jumping over railings is also in their repertoire, which makes the whole experience a welcome change of pace from the various clones out there that have players gunning swarms of stupid targets. In fact, the game prefers to focus on fewer, quality skirmishes.

One negative about the gameplay has to be the lack of side-routes. This aspect of level design takes a toll on action because it’s very scripted. Enemies always come out of the same spots -- in front of you because of the linear paths -- and players can’t take different routes to dispatch them. Objects can be flipped over for cover, like tables and desks, but that feature will be seldom used since levels have a natural abundance of cove points and because, unlike his opponents, Becket can’t shoot around corners. Another bummer is the ridiculously slow sprint mode. Running makes the character increase his speed to a meager trot, which is totally useless during a fight. But overall F.E.A.R. 2 is an excellent shooter.

Enemies react to hit locations and die in the most realistic of ways. Death animations are particularly well done, as one would expect from armor-encumbered characters. Hit detection is precise even amidst the myriad of objects in rooms. Gun fights in office settings usually leave shreds of paper flying and bullets sometimes create realistic burning effects on solid surfaces. All weapons are perfectly balanced, depending on whom you are facing. All in all, great shooter action. The lack of melee options is not missed. In fact, action is so precise, players will seldom need to use time-reflex mode.



But despite the clean action some elements could have been improved, like limited interaction with levels. Most of it comes in the form of flipping objects over or pressing buttons (lifts, elevators, computers). Only two instances actually offers level interaction with any creative bearing on gameplay (on one occasion Becket can power a set of subway tracks to zap three opponents and in another he has to shoot an electrical transformer), but the rest of the game is very straightforward.

Aww, the Mech ride is over already?

Levels, however, have a degree of destructibility. Some walls and pillars can be blasted away. Rooms are loaded with trivial objects that fall and explode when shot and hanging lights rock when hit, creating some eerie effects. Speaking of lights, Monolith seems to have toned down the use of lighting to instill fear. In fact, the entire game has fewer frightening moments than in the first installment. Overall Monolith tries to scare players more frequently than in the previous game and that strategy seems to have an adverse effect. Clearly more emphasis was put on action than horror, though a few spots will have you jump.

Monolith again does a great job designing realistic settings. The game features fewer offices but players are now treated to more urban fighting. Labs, school, cities, subways, offices, hospitals and giant underground facilities create a perfect tapestry for the unfolding devastation. Some parts even have Becket riding a mechanized armored suit. The suit is a great addition to gameplay, which almost acts as a pleasant intermission to the constant tension players feel while pushing onward on foot.

The Mech compliments Monolith’s attention to detail and knack for making the simplest of things look and sound cool. I personally never got tired of the screen going black then seeing the control deck power up every time Becket entered the Mech, or hearing the onboard computer notify me when missiles where ready for launch -- great stuff. Traversing bombed out cities while mowing down Replica soldier is also a blast, especially the sound and effects characters produce when they get nailed with the Mech’s powerful guns. Other instances have Becket manning gun turrets with the same gratifying results.



Levels have enough details to paint a clear picture of the events and their ramifications and make players forget about the linear action. The bombed out city does a great job presenting the effects of a nuclear explosion (come on, all the trailers shows it). The closer players get to the epicenter, the worse the devastation gets. The school where Replica leaders were groomed conveys the sick methodology used to create future telepaths. Details like the three school test groups (Ladybugs, Frogs and Bluebirds) spread out in the classrooms and the propaganda used to mold impressionable children is subtle but very much visible. Sadly, there aren’t enough moments like that. The non-existent intro and virtually non-existent ending also sours an otherwise delicious action-horror-soup.

“Snake Fist – lose your head over it this summer”

The first game used voicemails to tell the story behind the events. Now, voicemails have been entirely replaced with text “intel items” lying around on the ground. Granted, we still get to hear things unfold through our teammates and other supporting characters, like “Snake Fist”, but voice messages have made a very conspicuous retreat in this sequel. Intel items offer a cheap plot-to-game transition.

Voice acting is superb. In fact, sound effects and music are probably the game’s strongest point. Some of the better tunes are repeated from the previous game, which is smart from Monolith’s part (gives the game a sense of continuity), but overall F.E.A.R. 2 has perfectly eerie ambient music. A few instances have hard rock and heavy metal, especially at the end. With the amount of moveable items in each level, Monolith did a great job giving most of them their own sound effects. The game is also alive with various spectral moans and groans, maybe one of the reasons this version isn’t as scary (you’re always on edge).



Your character wears a visor that produces a grainy effect on screen and gets wet on occasion, and players get to see their character’s body as he climbs ladders or hurdles over pieces of furniture or railings, so attention to detail is there. Cars alarms go off when shot at, broken glass cracks under your feet, fire extinguishers and gas tanks on flamethrower units explode when shot, all of it creates a fully immersive experience.

Summary

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is a better shooter than a horror game. Precision and details abound, which make the whole experience highly immersive. Action is a bit linear because of the straightforward level designs, but again, details and solid shooter action make you forget that the game practically plays on rails. Things aren’t as scary as in the first title, mainly because levels are oversaturated with scary sounds and ghostly effects. Players eventually get used to the constant tension and become impervious to all the horror parts. Despite being a bit repetitive, action doesn’t get old because of its fine polish and the occasional Mech and turret scenes, which are a guilty pleasure. Recommended for anyone who likes solid shooters.

ESRB M Rating

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive

Developer: Monolith Productions

Genre: Shooter

Release Date: February 10, 2009

Review Date: 10-03-2009

Numbers of Players: 1-16

Players Online: 2-16

Co-op: Yes

Notes: Min Req: Win XP/Vista, 2.8 GHz Processor, 1 GB RAM, 256 MB Video Card, DirectX 9.0c

All F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin reviews

87

GRAPHICS

Great amount of details in settings and effects. Nice character animation. Lighting isn’t as prominent as in the first game.

85

GAMEPLAY

Precise shooter action. A few features could be improved. Lack of team interaction and linear levels. Enemies have more moves than Becket.

83

PRODUCTION

Lack of intro and another cliffhanger ending. Intel items cheaply tie all the loose ends. Unscrupulousness of Armacham Corp. conveyed well in most levels.

95

SOUND

Great ambient music and sound effects. Sound holds its ground to level details. Excellent voice acting. Too many scary sounds dilute horror experience.

78

LASTING APPEAL

For some the 10-15 hours of polished shooter action might warrant a second playthrough in solo mode. Average multiplayer. Useless extras.

86

OVERALL SCORE

GALLERY PREVIEW -- F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin -- PC

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