Review: F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

Fear2ProjectOrigin.jpg Through F.E.A.R. 2’s first few chapters, I was preparing to pen a pretty scathing review. After so much promise of increased diversity over the first game, I was disappointed to find myself back roaming the same old office building hallways, crawling through the same old ventilation ducts and broken-down elevator shafts, and seeing the same old little-girl-popping-up-behind-me scare tactics. It all felt so “been there, done that.” But thankfully after the routine first hour or two, the pacing and variety picked up, the thrills and chills began to spark (at certain moments at least), and the remaining six hours or so (in total I’d say it’s around eight hours long) had me on the edge of my seat until the credits began to roll.

F.E.A.R. 2 is basically the original F.E.A.R. all over again with a continued story, a few new features – some cool, some inconsequential – and a fresh coat of next-gen paint, and for the most part that’s everything you could ask for from a sequel to a well established game. Early goings aside, Project Origin fully addresses the limited variety bugaboo that haunted the original. This time there are more environments, more enemy types, more weapons, and a whole lot more fun. The core shooting and slow-mo mechanics are largely the same and still very satisfying, and the storyline, while predictable, is chock full of intrigue and things that go bump in the night. Similar to a game like BioShock, F.E.A.R. 2 is also one of those games that you get out of what you put into it. You can blaze through the experience treating the story as an afterthought or fully immerse yourself into the narrative by hunting down all the intel documents.

While many of the scare tactics are recycled from the first game and Alma isn’t really all that scary as a grown up, F.E.A.R. 2 does still manage to keep you on edge with its unsettling atmosphere and disturbing imagery. The elementary school stage in particular is off-the-charts creepy as you work your way through the dilapidated, bloodstained hallways and classrooms nervously looking over your shoulder as lights flicker overhead, lockers spontaneously close and shut, and ghostly figures pop out to say “boo!”. This is totally one of those games you have to play with the lights turned out and the speakers (preferably surround sound) cranked all the way up.

F.E.A.R. 2 does falter in a few keys areas though. Firstly, I found the game to be incredibly easy. I played through on the hardest difficulty from the jump and only ever died five or six times, and two or three of those deaths were suicides caused by errant grenade tosses on my part. Part of this lacking difficulty is due to lenient balancing of the slow-mo ability, but the more prominent cause is the tame enemy AI. Sure, enemies use cover fairly realistically without falling into predictable movement routines, however they never become all that aggressive in terms of hunting you down. And that’s a huge shock. The original’s AI was brilliant. Enemies were always putting pressure on you, flanking your position if you sat in one spot for too long. But in the sequel I rarely felt that same sense of relentless aggression from the enemies. It became far too easy to run into a room, switch on the slow-mo, pick off a few baddies, and then clear out any stragglers without much resistance.

Much of the new content feels shoveled in as well, almost as if Monolith overcompensated for the original’s lack of variety. Like the mech missions. They play well, but in a suspenseful horror FPS like this they feel out of place. Another element that features prominently is the ability to flip over objects in the environment (tables, potted plants, vending machines, etc.) for adaptable cover. But the F.E.A.R. brand of gameplay isn’t suited to cover-based shooting at all. You can’t attach to cover pieces, nor can you peek-and-lean around corners, so I just don’t understand why so much focus went into this area of the game.

The multiplayer is perhaps the biggest let down, though. It’s serviceable, but feels so 2005 compared to other modern online shooters like Killzone 2 and Call of Duty. The modes and maps are very basic, and the simple ranking system doesn’t provide enough reward to keep you coming back over the long haul.

And that’s the game’s problem right there. It’s a fine sequel and a fun experience for what it is, but doesn’t do enough to keep up with its modern FPS competition. The game plays great, but shows very little substantial evolution over its four-year-old predecessor. It looks great, but fails to stand out with a distinct visual style. And it’s a spooky thriller that’ll sink its hooks into you while it lasts, but won’t really register with any long-term impact once it’s over.

F.E.A.R. 2 is a solid second-tier FPS, but unfortunately doesn’t do enough to earn a spot in the genre’s elite class.

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Pros:
+ Environments and enemies are much more diverse
+ Core shooting mechanics are still a lot of fun
+ Intense, unnerving atmosphere
+ Entertaining story and characters

Cons:
– Dated multiplayer
– Alma isn’t that scary anymore
– A lot of the new content feels out of place
– Enemy AI seems downgraded from original

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3, also available for PC and Xbox 360
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: Monolith Productions
Release Date: 2/10/09
Genre: FPS
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1-16

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!