Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix (2001)
- Developer: Kronos
- Publisher: Eidos
As the PlayStation approached the end of its life as a platform for high-profile new releases, some developers sought to eke a new graphical lease of life from the console through a variety of different tricks. One of the most effective was employed by Fear Effect 2, which eschewed real-time backgrounds in favour of pre-rendered video with 3D characters animated over the top. Although the first game in the series had used the same trick, it was this prequel which really perfected the technique - with the result that it was visually stunning in places, and still looks surprisingly good today.
The gameplay, too, was a solid example of what was happening to survival horror in the early part of this decade - with the lines being blurred between horror, RPG and action titles by the likes of Parasite Eve, and influences from other genres like Metal Gear Solid becoming increasingly apparent. Fear Effect 2 was by no means a perfect game (the annoying inventory system bugs us to this day), but it was slick, atmospheric and extremely well produced - and couldn't be accused of being too short, either.
Sadly, in most gamers' minds, Fear Effect 2 probably isn't remembered for being a really enjoyable game - instead, it's associated with the sexually suggestive advertising campaign, which caused something of a minor stir at the time. This is a shame, because slightly more deft handling could have made Fear Effect 2 stand out as a strong example of progressive game storytelling, thanks to the lesbian relationship at the heart of the plot; as it was, the whole thing just felt a little grubby and exploitative. Stripped of that background by six years of open water, it's possible to consider the game without the silly controversy - and it's all the more enjoyable for it.