F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin PS3, 360, PC
With the release of F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, Monolith remain the absolute kings of setting an excellent tone in their games, and thus giving players some quality malevolent atmosphere to revel in. In the four years since they released the original F.E.A.R. in 2005, they’ve excellently refined their craft, with the Xbox 360 launch title, Condemned, remaining their standout release in my humble opinion for its steady flow of top-notch macabre, poignant moments. (PS: mannequins, I hate you!)
The F.E.A.R. series has always been different though, offering more traditional run and gun appeal in contrast to the brooding nature of Condemned. This however turns out to be a problem for F.E.A.R. 2, as it heavily pushes action elements throughout the game – even more so than the original. This is a shame as it turns out not to be the title’s strongest facet, and as a result of this, just about everything else about the game suffers.
Even when the game does its best to try and scare you it almost never works, as the main protagonist, whose name I honestly can remember – which is never a good sign – is more or less a walking armoury that constantly gets restocked as he traverses around every corner. So, with a wide selection of shotguns, machine-guns, rifles, rail-guns and grenades handed out in the game’s opening levels, action takes such a precedent in the game, with so many near comic-style contrived shoot ‘em up style moments, you’d almost expect someone to pull a carrot out of their jacket pocket at some point.
Because of this, you could quite easily describe the game as something of a rollercoaster ride, due to the way it mercilessly pushes you from one encounter to the next. However, it is an experience lacking in undulations, bereft of any real ebb and flow. This makes the game a constant grandiose march towards its anticlimactic end, forcing you down a multitude of never ending corridors and streets with little time to take in the atmosphere, which is a disappointment as this is what Monolith does best after all. The game can, at times, look beautiful though, with one level set in a school, showcasing bright children’s toys contrasting against the game’s constant macabre look being a particular striking setting.
Other niggles would be that enemy AI seems to have taken a step back from the original, as you never feel like the they are trying to flush you out of cover or flank you anymore. This problem seems to be connected to the action oriented approach the title has adopted; you never feel any fear going toe to toe against some of the smaller armies the game throws at you, for the most part due to the large amount of armaments in your possession. The slow-time mechanics, which I realise is an integral part of the series, exacerbates this overpowered feeling. Because of it, even when played on the hardest mode available from the get go, you won’t suffer too many deaths on your travels.
At its high points, you’ll be startled by a few of the well timed frights in F.E.A.R. 2, and also, at times, be engrossed in the exciting atmosphere of the game. However, almost all of these moments occur when you are forced to set your firearm aside for a few fleeting seconds. Once you get your sights back up again, any unique feel the game has is gone, and you are left to mooch through a decent, but still rather unremarkable FPS. You could argue that the game even falls a bit shy of its own predecessor, although comparing both side by side it is obvious the bar has been raised in terms of presentation. Gameplay stakes have been upped too, but the genre and F.E.A.R. 2’s competitors have just moved on quicker than Monolith could adapt.
Similar to the “Finish the Fight” cliff-hanger that adorns the conclusion of Halo 2, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin ends in quite similar fashion. It was however at this point of the game, although as you have read there were many hints leading up to it, that I fully realized F.E.A.R. 2 was not all that special. I honestly did not really mind that the game closed without fully explaining itself; the problem was that as the credits rolled my mind harked back to earlier points in the game, trying to give those supposedly standout moments a second thought, and realising none of them really stood out firmly in my mind.
In the end, that is the game’s biggest problem. It may be an okay shooter, although there are better out there that nail the core gameplay more competently. It may tell a decent story too, but finer tales have also been told. You will play better, and probably have already in recent months, so playing this will ultimately feel like a step down.