Version tested: Xbox 360
Some people hate corridors. They've been through so many of them that they've all blended into one endless route from A to B. They've been to more exotic places, places like fields or car parks, where their wanderings are undisturbed. They've become used to the high life. Should they ever be boxed up in a poxy old corridor they have a right old moan - just as Kieron Gillen did back in Eurogamer's 5/10 review of F.E.A.R. 2.
He's right in what he says, of course - I'm not going to deny it. F.E.A.R. 2 was a rudimentary and linear journey of violent slo-mo decapitation that brought diddly-squat to the table of gaming. If you're from the school of thought that demands originality and the obliteration of all gun emplacement sections in your gaming, then that spot of the old Alma ultra-violence certainly wasn't for you.
Some people don't mind corridors though, as long as they've been tarted up a bit. Personally, I'm a sucker for skirting boards. Trap me in an enclosed oblong for eight hours or so and I'll be happy as Larry, just as long as it feels good to shoot men's legs off in slow motion. If they're shouting 'F********k!' while this process is ongoing then the game's OK by me.
So how about the Reborn DLC? Well it is, of course, more of the same: two hours of new, yet familiar, set-pieces. It's a condensed and distilled F.E.A.R. Experience, a series of gulps of whiskey as opposed to the original game's lengthy pint.
The set-up is that you play as a soldier in one of the game's several (entirely interchangeable) armies of cloned and snarling black leather, at some point after the destruction of the city of Auburn. You're Foxtrot 813, and you've been sent down in a Mech from an orbital drop to land on the top of an unfinished skyscraper and run amok on a destructive tour of roof-tops, lift shafts and building sites. In fact, such is Monolith's ongoing fascination with interrupted construction work you'd almost think that the F.E.A.R. games started life as a coded warning about the imminent global financial meltdown.
Having left many and varied foes in bloody puddles in a sequence closer and more personal than the stompy Mech outings of F.E.A.R. 2, you meet up with your clone allies when everything starts to go wrong. You're psychically contacted by an unknown force (instantly recognisable if you've played the first game, permanently baffling and never really explained if you haven't) who bends you to his will. And his will is for you to go rogue and shoot every bugger in sight. Your mission objectives become mystical murmurs like "Obey" and "Open your eyes" and your own kind (even if every kind in F.E.A.R. is pretty much the same) start hunting you down as you concede to your new master's demands and make your way to the crater that's causing a nuisance downtown.
As such, Reborn is essentially a checklist of recognisable F.E.A.R. 2 tropes played out in interestingly designed, if thematically familiar, locations. Half-wrecked buildings, dank sewers, sniper-pocked streets… all that malarkey. The stand-out highlight of Reborn is a building that's fallen on its side; there's no combat in it, but as you leap from office cube to office cube it brilliantly messes with your sense of direction in the classic 'Which way is up?' fashion of Descent.
Yes, we're still trekking though many non-descript underground areas. Yes, we're still in corridor country. But Reborn genuinely sees Monolith knuckling down and squeezing some goodness out of the systems it has created, with various multi-avenue rooms really showing off the AI, and natty moments such as when you're nervously waving proximity mines in a plywood maze alongside a group of nailgun-toting and board-splintering heavies.
As for the villains you'll blast, apart from a few changes in character model, the whole gang is here. Flippy-jumpy Abominations, those weird puppeteer chaps, the invisi-leaping men, the machine who can't walk down stairs in Robocop… all present and correct. Alma has come along for the ride as well, despite the fact that she's presumably more occupied vying for the affections of your alter-ego in the concurrent original game. She's not there in a frightening capacity; Monolith has clearly decided to give the scare factor the heave-ho, but she still has more than enough time to hurl furniture at 813's head. The two-timing Jezebel.
Even without Reborn, there's little doubt that F.E.A.R. 2 has a second wind to wave in your direction, if you're willing to breathe it in. There's the recent free update that provided the slo-mo deathmatch that was so lacking in the original release, for example. Plus there's the fascinatingly designed Toy Soldiers map pack that saw Monolith picking up the 'tiny players in a big room' baton that was dropped by Ritual after the demise of the SiN franchise (essentially Micro Machines deathmatch). I would also add that the full campaign is well worth a replay on the perfectly-pitched hard difficulty setting if you're spoiling for a challenge.
But is Reborn itself worth 800 Microsoft points? Yes - but only just. F.E.A.R. 2 can't stop being a simple, meaty and visceral pleasure to play, and the levels on offer in Reborn are certainly of a high standard. The problem is that you'll complete it in two hours, the story never goes beyond adding bloody exclamation marks to the phrase 'He's back!', and the content is entirely recycled gameplay concepts in faintly familiar environments. You're honestly not missing out on anything if you don't play it, but it you'll have two hours of enjoyable and uninterrupted bloody shenanigans if you do.
As corridors go, this is a short one that takes you to somewhere you didn't really need to go. It's the gaming equivalent of walking from your bedroom to the kitchen, opening a cupboard and eating a sneaky between-meals biscuit. It's totally unnecessary and not entirely satisfying. But it does taste quite nice.
6 / 10