F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin (heretofore in this review to be known as F2) is the follow-up to Sierra’s 2005 creepy-as-hell first person shooter, starring everyone’s favorite telepathic and psychopathic little girl, Samara… I mean… Alma. Though F2 is the official sequel to F.E.A.R., it doesn’t pick up the storyline right where F.E.A.R. left off with little Alma suddenly appearing in your helicopter as you escape the exploding city below.
That’s unfortunate because many of us would like to know what the hell happened after the curtains closed on F.E.A.R., even if the answer is “she melted your skin off like everyone else’s.”
F2 starts just before the ending of F.E.A.R. and is played from the point of view of “Beckett,” an entirely different soldier from the protagonist of F.E.A.R.. Alma is still around to make sure your shorts are the appropriate shade of brown, but this time she’s not a little girl. She’s a grown woman. Also, she’s lost her little red dress… and all the rest of her clothes… and she manages to have her hair cover all the right parts even when she’s sprinting right toward you to rip your face off. That’s right my friends! It’s l-o-v-e she’s after! And she won’t take “no” for an answer. She’ll melt everyone in the city for you just to melt your heart.
Despite this massive continuity issue with the first entry in the F.E.A.R. series, F2 is still a fantastic game and easily worthy of any first person shooter fan’s collection. The graphics are amazing. The storyline is good for a shooter. The gameplay is cinematic and the AI is probably the closest thing you’ll get to a live human opponent without being forced to listen to their Lil Wayne playing too loudly through your internet connection.
You are a member of a crack military team sent in to rescue Genevieve Aristede and bring her into protective custody. During your rescue attempts, ATC forces intervene and hinder your progress. Alma destroys the city and awakens battalions of clone troopers and in the process also turns almost all her deceased victims into ghosts which causes you to crap your pants in fear (that’s where they get the title from!). Players of the first F.E.A.R. will enjoy the story as it answers some of the unanswered questions asked in the first story. Cut scenes are minimal and most of the story is told through data files found along the way. The data files themselves are short and easy to read so you don’t feel like you’re being dragged down with reading a novel on top of playing a video game. If you don’t care about back story and you just want to get to the shooting, you can easily avoid picking up the tapes and reach for the extra clip of assault rifle ammo instead.
Graphically, the game looks amazing. The character renderings are all very beautiful and believably creepy. When you enter slow motion, the game shows off it’s explosion physics with nifty shockwave bubbles. The effect is a little over the top, but it’s still fun to watch. Even more fun is throwing your own grenade in slow motion and then shooting it, causing it to explode mid-air next to your enemy’s head.
As you near the end of the game, you work your way to ground zero of Alma’s explosion. As you stand at the precipice of the crater, be sure to take time and admire the handiwork of the designers who expertly crafted the after-effect of the explosion. Watching the dust and debris swirl upward into the sky is almost hypnotic as you come to full realization of the destructive power of Alma. It’s truly one of the most impressive visuals I’ve ever seen in a video game.
Gameplay and enemy artificial intelligence go hand in hand in F2. Aside from the snipers, who are remarkably stupid, the standard foot soldiers encountered in the game work well as a team against you. They’re also situationally aware. If you haplessly wander into an occupied room with your flashlight left on, you’ll hear “FLASHLIGHT!” called from across the room and you’ll punch yourself for your own stupidity as you seek cover from a barrage of bullets. Main forces try to keep you under heavy fire while a few squad members attempt to flank you. Most of the claustrophobic environments like the abandoned elementary school don’t lend themselves well to military tactics, but it’s nice to see some challenge in your enemies. The enemy will even flip over obstacles to create cover for themselves if no cover is immediately available.
You can topple your own environmental objects like tables, soda machines and more to create make-shift cover for yourself. As you hurdle over small walls, the game animates your hand propping yourself up over the ledge. You can also occasionally put the game into slow motion and lay waste to your enemies Matrix-style. All these elements added together with the spooky events taking place in the game, create a fantastic cinematic experience that is relatively incomparable to other video games except for its own predecessor.
Unfortunately, the ground appears to be littered with health packs, body armor, and grenades so the effort of the tough-as-nails soldiers and disgusting-as-hell science experiments seem to be negated. I suggest experienced players set it to hard difficulty, especially if you’re playing on a PC.
In the end, I’m more than happy that I’ve purchased F.E.A.R. 2 and I can easily recommend it to anyone who is either a fan of horror, shooters, science fiction or all of the above. For console gamers, I definitely recommend renting this title. You can probably find a new copy for less than MSRP by now too. Unfortunately for PC gamers, it seems as though the price is still hovering around $50, which is odd. It’s been my experience that PC games drop in price earlier than console games. Fortunately there’s a demo available so you can try a bit of it before you buy. I wish the game was a little longer, but I wish that of all good games. F.E.A.R. was definitely scarier than F.E.A.R. 2 but there are still moments where you might find yourself jumping at Alma coming at you from the dark.
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Developed by: Monolith Productions
Published by: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC
Release Date: February 10, 2009
Genre: First Person Shooter, Horror
ESRB Rating: M for Mature