F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin Reader Review
What am I letting myself in for here after the official EG review? I've put on my flame-retardant undercrackers and donned my bile-defending helmet, but what I feel I really need is time-slowing superpowers, regenerating health and body armour that will be able to protect me from guns, knives and whatever else the angry mob are wielding this week. In short - I wish I was the lead character in FEAR2. I might actually live to see the end of the week. Ahh well, it's been a rubbish life anyway...
Actually, that may be a little unfair. I don't think FEAR2 in single player is average, but do not misunderstand - it's not going to be the high score that so many of you want it to have.
My first issue was the demo, which I feel was a little misleading. It sort of coloured my opinion of the game before I even got to it, and that's usually a bad sign. Not to mention the dramatic to-and-fro-er...ing between Vivendi and Monolith over the use of the FEAR name. A game that struggles to resolve its title conflicts until almost the last minute tends to feel a little rushed and incomplete, as if they spent a little TOO much time squabbling.
But getting into the game proper is fairly natural. It's all there and contrary to the criticisms leveled at it, I think it kicks off very well. It does add some fresh meat to the gameplay, but it's hardly original. Which in itself is a slight letdown.
The game dumps you into the body of another FEAR agent, this time not a nameless faceless Point Man but a one Sergeant Michael Becket. He is part of another FEAR team, the Delta Team, and he and you arrive in the game just before the nice big explosion at the end of the first game. At the start, our awesome Delta Team man doesn't have the superpowers but shortly in undergoes a procedure to give him the same awesome reflexes and general unstable state-of-mind as our original point man. So there. You get them soon enough. Unfortunately, our little Samara/Sadako (depending on which version of The Ring you prefer) rip-off Alma seems to like Mr Becket. She seems to like him a lot. So much so that she appears often in her adult form. Which is nice of her, if a little counter-productive to the whole "I'm a creepy little girl" vibe we expect of her...
In all fairness, it's a great introduction and explains things a lot better than the original could have ever hoped to do. It's perhaps a little cliche, a little contrived, but you've come this far and if you think you can play a game these days without a little bit of cliche rearing its ugly head then you're in the wrong hobby.
The problem FEAR2 has - and it's a big and slightly ugly one - is the sense of dejŠ vu that the game gives to those of us who played FEAR and its subsequent expansions. You must remember that FEAR originally was never technically a better FPS than what was already out there. If anything, the corridor-like nature was against the grain, and it was nowhere near as shiny and polished as the king of then corridor shooter, Doom 3. What it did have were its gimmicks - the horror aspect, which wasn't new but was done rather well, and the time slowing. Which as we know, was already being milked dry by numerous companies and the last dying drops are being sucked from the teats of this gimmick still today. FEAR2, for lack of better wording, just doesn't feel anywhere close to being fresh and new and daring. It's safe, it plays to what it knows best and nothing more. It's nothing to be ashamed of, it certainly looks the part and isn't close to as bland as the original. Just considering the drama and fighting getting this to market and over the naming it's a little sad that it hasn't moved on as far as we'd hoped.
It's certainly not as clever as it once felt either. Taking control of the Mech Walkers is fun, but come on. We did this in Aliens VS Predator 2, and that's going back a few years! It's nice to have Alma back doing her freaky stuff again, but it hasn't got the same impact that it used to. Maybe we've just been spoiled in the last few years? I always felt the switch between the game and the psychological buggery in FEAR was a little forced and FEAR2 does nothing sadly to even remotely correct this, often the changes are either spotted before they happen or they happen with the kind of forced nature that makes you feel a little confused. Again, this is not entirely gamebreaking but it is something you wish they'd have sorted out.
That said and the main criticisms now out of the way, the story in FEAR2, just like the original, is as compelling if not moreso for those of us who were there the first time around. It's simply sublime, from the first steps to the final brain-exploding twist (and that is in itself more than worth seeing - really, it's so bizarre and messed up that I worry for the writers!) it has a great and deeply rewarding charm about it that just about drags you along for the ride. Make no mistake that this is the games strongest asset by miles and makes up for most of its otherwise average shortcomings. Okay, it's not as deep as, say, a Final Fantasy game. Nor does it actually try in any way to clear up the smouldering craters of plotholes it leaves in its wake. But it is compelling, it pulls you in and takes you along that you start to forget that this game isn't exactly treading any new ground and is about as technical and sophisticated as a shop-bought trifle. It's still nice and sweet and comforting and you're still going to sit down and scarf the lot before anyone else gets to have a go.
The gunfights too, whilst again never clever or anywhere near advanced as games of late that require a ton of tactical decisions at every oppertunity, have a certain simplistic charm that is hard to dislike. It's all well and good to have amazing AI and have clever enemies that will throw you at every opportunity, but it's not what the game wants and probably not what most of the audience wants either. It wants you to enjoy the slaughter in the numerous lovely locales that it takes you to around the city. It's not sophisticated, no, but still the slow-mo, the cover and the basic nature give you ample opportunities to create your own show-stopping moments and its hard to fault a game for wanting to keep it simple. You just get to enjoy it without anything getting in the way, and that is actually fairly admirable. Why complicate a good thing?
It's also audibly a lot nicer than some examples out there. Now do not misunderstand, the voice acting is hardly worthy of undiluted praise but we knew that. It's functional, it works, it's not half bad. Everything sounds about right and handles about right too. What more could you want?
Which drags us kicking and screaming into the conclusionary paragraphs, where I'm required by EG Law to be witty in some way. FEAR2 is sure as hell not as scary as the mob that descended on the main review, and probably not as scary as the mob that will descend on this reader review (and you people do scare me a lot). That is a pity, because it could have been. But on the other hand, I enjoyed it immensely for the very clever continuation of the story, and the great twists and turns provided throughout. Which is pretty much what most of you will expect and that's fine, you'll easily get your moneys worth here.
Those of you expecting a technical masterclass of the genre will be disappointed - it's pretty much a retread of FEAR. Those of you expecting a second coming will be disappointed - we've definitely seen better in the last few years. If you are bored of old-style FPS, then you'll be disappointed - this is pretty basic when compared to what is already on the market. This is not a game that has moved with the times, and remember we've had some truly stunning FPS since the original that have honed and perfected pretty much every aspect of the genre. If you want an FPS that will last for ages and challenge you cerebrally in single player, then FEAR2 will be a letdown. However, those of you expecting nothing more than a few cheap thrills, slow-mo exploitation and a good bit of plot will be more than happy with FEAR2. Sure, it's not technically a brilliant FPS by todays abnormally high standards, but it sure isn't an average game - it still has a sprinkling of magic that just about saves its hide from a thorough spanking.
Which is depressing. I really did after the main review want to hate it and defend the main EG article. But I can't. Because I like it. It's not going to last a long time, and sure it is hardly pushing boundries, but what is there is fine by me.
And what scares me most? I'm tempted to join the mob... but before I decide, I just need to change my underpants. The flame-retardant ones are tight and very sweaty...
If you want a REAL scare, you can watch me change them if you like...
7 / 10