F.E.A.R. 2 – Project Origin (360) – Review

cover The first F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) game was a decent game for its time, combining elements of a first person shooter with aspects of horror and suspense films to create an dark and scary experience.  While FEAR 2: Project Origin attempts to continue both the gameplay and the story in the same fashion, still having you chase down the nearly omnipotent Alma before she brings destruction to the world, there are several places where it faults mostly for doing more the same and not really attempting to distinguish its gameplay from other first-person shooter games, as well as for having too much broadcasting of soon-to-take-place surprise events, thus diminishing it as a horror title.  There are still faults from the first game’s overall design that also linger.  It’s still does a good job when it gets to the horror-aspect setpieces, but the points in between are mundane.

Story: C+

The story slightly overlaps in its timeline with the original FEAR; as Michael Becket, a member of Delta Squad, you are sent to arrest Genevieve Aristide, the president of Armacham that was responsible for the creation of Alma, a girl infused with incredible psychokinetic powers.  Just as you arrest Aristide, the explosion seen at the end of FEAR occurs, and wracks the city, killing most of the population. You and the rest of Delta Squad then find yourselves becoming tools of Armacham, warned that Alma is seeking to merge with Becket and to do what they can to prevent that from happening and bringing about the apocalypse.  Through these events, your character sees and is attacked by Alma and experiences numerous other phenomena brought about by her.

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While the drawing point of the game is the horror and shock factor of the game, I found it to be, well, less than predictable but enough that I could when events were about to occur, desensitizing the fear factor the game was trying to get across. Furthermore, much of the story is really buried in the various pieces of intelligence that you pick up; if you simply go by what the characters state, it’s a rather bland story and really has almost no depth or unique aspects to it.  It is helpful that, otherwise, all story development is given in game, even if it is one of you various hallucinations, but otherwise it is still pretty thin.  And even if they are predictable, some of the setpieces of the “horror” scenes are well done (for example, a scene in a school where all the locker doors down a hall swing open as “something” approaches).

Gameplay: C

FEAR 2 doesn’t change its core play from the original game.  Primarily a first person shooter with typical weapon archetypes, the fundamentals are pretty straight forward; you can only carry 4 weapons at a time, you have non-regenerating health that can be restored with health packs along with armor pickups to offset damage, and there are opportunities to use cover.  There are a few “unique” weapons, in the sense they aren’t your usual guns, but in terms of what’s been done before in FPS games, they are nothing new.  As you explore the levels, you’ll also keeping your eye out for collectables to help fill in the back story.  There are also two deviations from main gameplay: twice you get to pilot a mecha as it goes through the streets, while two other times you use a turret gun to slow down advancing foes.  Nothing too out of line for the game, but again, nothing drastically new or innovative.

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Where FEAR 2 (and its predecessor) try to split from the mainstream is the use of reflex time, where you can slow down time for all – you aren’t necessarily faster but you have more time to aim your shots and pick out your targets for a brief period of time.  Early on this isn’t as necessary to survive but as the foes become more numerous and deadly, as well as experiencing enemies that move at super-fast speeds, its use becomes critical to survival.  Special boosters that are trickier to find can help extend the amount of reflex time you have.

Unfortunately, to me, much of this gameplay seems wasted on a game with subpar enemy intelligence and which uses ambushing and “sudden” enemy appearances to make up for that difficulty.  I died maybe 4 times at most throughout the game playing it; after that, judicious use of the reflex power to size up the enemy locations and where to take cover to get my bearings helped me to breeze through the rest of the game.  Enemies would use cover, yes, but also seemed to run out at random points, exposing themselves to my bullets, and at other times, take the worst form of cover (open metal shelving, for example).  If the game pushed more on the use of cover, not so much as Gears of War but enough to actually make it a strategic advantage to use it, I think I would have been more pleased with the game.  But once you strip away the horror elements, this is basically Doom with little else going for it.  Heck, there’s even keycard hunts to open certain doors.

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One thing that annoyed the heck out of me of the first FEAR was the level design – everything was claustrophobic with few open areas, a lot of cookie-cutter rooms, and maze-like layouts of “real” buildings that made no sense.  FEAR 2 tries to get away from that but unfortunately still suffers here as well.  There are outside areas, and many of the areas feel less pressing, but there’s still cookie-cutter issues (generally contained within the same levels, at least, but they couldn’t get a few more textures for some of their decorations?) and worst is the level design.  This is pretty much a linear game with only a few sections that give you some options for how to proceed but always still to the next funnel point into a linear section.  The layouts are very confusing and give no clear indication which way is forward – if you put the game down and come back in the middle of some levels forgetting your objectives, you may be backtracking a bit until you find some of the few blockades that you had to previously climb over as to prevent too much backtracking.  It’s not necessarily as bad as the first game, but still a definite issue with design.  If a game like Left 4 Dead can make going through 3 floors of an office or an apartment building with nearly the same layout exciting, there’s no reason it couldn’t have been done here.  That said, some of the more visionary sets are pretty nicely done (towards the endgame).

There is a multiplayer component, but it is rather standard for any weapons-based FPS, with deathmatch, capture the flag, and other similar modes; nothing to really get that excited about.

Value/Replayability: C+

I estimate I got about 10 hours out of the game – not great, but better than average for some of these newer titles.  There are multiple difficulty levels to keep you coming back, and the multiplayer aspect is nice, but really, if you are interested, this can be done with a weekend rental.

Graphics: A

Audio: A

Two area the game does not fail is the use of the engine to get across the horror theme.  Light or lack thereof is used effectively along with sound effects to set the mood quite well.  A lot of special visual filters are used, such as the flickering of your HUD or washing out of colors to set the stage for a frightening event (which, as noted, unfortunately is your precaution that a scary event is about to occur, thus somewhat ruining the surprise element).  There are some points during “cut scenes” that events happen too quickly on a single playthrough to make out what’s happening, but to some extent, that’s also good, because that does add to it.  Certainly this good looks and sounds good, regardless of how mediocre the rest is.

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Overall: C+

FEAR 2, for the most part, doesn’t change from the first game’s formula, but at the same time, the lack of change shows how poorly the gameplay is compared to other games over the last few years.  It is still a decent game to experience (presuming you’re ok with horror and suspenseful elements) but if you’re looking for something otherwise innovative or challenging to play, this is not it.  It’s still worth a rental to check it out; it’s a decent effort but that’s pretty much it.

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2 Responses

  1. I would rather sayFear 2 is a redesigned and improved model of Original Fearand I am kind of confused about the rating system we have got here and the fact that fear 2 got low rating…. but u can say i am being biased as the long term fear fan that might explain the reason why i cant find flaws in the game that can’t be overlooked

  2. Nice review, Thanks for the in-depth descriptions.

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