|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Monolith Productions||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Warner Bros.||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 10, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Monolith Productions' first F.E.A.R. title did an excellent job of marrying a compelling first-person shooter with a chilling tale involving a disturbed little girl, a host of clone soldiers, and an AWOL leader. The impressive enemy A.I., smooth controls, and interesting scary elements made F.E.A.R. an unmitigated success and a fan favorite.
Flash forward four years and F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin takes everything players loved about the original and improves upon it. The enhanced visuals, more interesting enemies, and smarter story have gone a long way to improving an already solid franchise. That said, F.E.A.R. 2 is a lot better shooter than it is a horror title. In fact, despite the excellent visual and aural effects used to convey fright, it felt like almost any other high quality FPS. If you're looking for something as intense as Dead Space, you won't find it in F.E.A.R. 2. Still, I had loads of fun with the action elements in this game and appreciated the creepy atmosphere and unsettling yarn the devs were spinning.
Starting just before the massive explosion that rocked the city of Auburn, F.E.A.R. 2 has players take on the role of a new protagonist, a soldier from Delta squad named Michael Beckett. Beckett, along with his squad mates, is tasked with securing Genevieve Aristide, an Armacham Technologies (ATC) executive, before the rogue Colonel Richard Vanek and the ATC security forces can get their hands on her and eliminate all evidence and individuals linking the corporation to Project Origin. Of course, all hell breaks loose, and the psychic abilities of Alma Wade (an evil little girl turned woman) begins to wreak havoc, culminating in a nuclear explosion of her hatred that lays waste to Auburn. This sets the stage for the strange yet intriguing events of F.E.A.R. 2.
This may sound like a lot to take in, but if you haven't played the original game, you'll be happy to know the first half hour of the sequel does a great job of getting you up to speed with what went on previously. Likewise, veterans of F.E.A.R. will likely enjoy this new story even more and will have many of the unexplained threads nicely wrapped up. That's because the storytelling in F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is very well presented via scattered intel clips and quality cinematics.
Gameplay in F.E.A.R. 2 is centered on standard FPS mechanics. Thankfully, the controls, enemy A.I., and environments are about as good as they get for the genre. For starters, whether using a console controller or a mouse and keyboard, F.E.A.R. 2 really feels good. It was effortless to pass from room to room and level to level, because the controls are so tight. Additionally, I really enjoyed the ability to set up cover by toppling tables and to initiate the limited Matrix-like slow-mo ability.
Even though the controls make things easy, the enemy A.I. does its best to make things difficult. Enemies tend to come in logical waves, work together, find cover, move when their position is compromised, and try to flush you out of a fortified spot. I loved how the A.I. weaved and dodged my barrage of fire and timed their movements to flank me. This made me use the entirety of my vast arsenal, including small arms, grenades, and heavy weaponry to stop their advance, as well as strategic use of my bullet-time slow-mo power to dispatch them efficiently.
Moreover, there are a ton of distinct enemies you'll be fighting over the course of the game. This is a vast improvement over the game's predecessor, which sent wave after wave of ho-hum clones at you. This time around, players will have to deal with more than mundane soldiers. Members of the security forces have unique roles and abilities, which they use in coordinated attacks to challenge the player. Also, automaton Replica Soldiers, lithe, cloaked Assassins, beefy, flesh-hungry Abominations, necromancer-like, corpse-puppeteer Remnants, and ghostly Specters do a great job of varying the kinds of threats you'll face. Additionally, players will once again have to take on Elite Powered Armor (EPA) - anime-like mech suits. Fortunately, they won't be too much of a problem considering you're able to hop in an EPA of your own and lay waste to foes and the ruins of Auburn alike. This mech suit portion of the game may seem like a gimmick, but I found it to be an absolute joy for the short time I took control of the rig.