FEAR 2: Project Origin

By: Fs_Metal
Game title: FEAR 2: Project Origin
Genre: Horror First Person Shooter
Platform: Playstation 3 & X-Box 360
ESRB Rating: Mature
Developer: Monolith Productions
Release date: February 10, 2009
Overall rating: 8.5/10

FEAR 2: Project Origin had an interesting development cycle. During the development of the first game. Monolith Studios was purchased by WB Interactive Entertainment. When they were working on the sequel to the game, they switched publishers. Vivendi had the rights to the FEAR name, so Monolith couldn't use the franchises official name. The development team held a contest for the fans to choose a name for the game. They called it "Name Your Fear." The name that stuck out most to both the fans and the development team was Project Origin, and that became the official name of the game while it was still under development. Vivendi was also working on a sequel to the game at the time. After that sequel was dropped. Monolith got back the right to use the FEAR franchise name. Project Origin became FEAR 2: Project Origin. Is the game any good, though?

Gameplay - 8.5

FEAR 2: Project Origin is a horror first person shooter. You will wander down streets and corridors picking up a large variety of weapons and using them to fill your opponents full of hot lead as you progress through streets and building corridors.You all know how first person shooters work. They are not the most complex games in the world, and they have to do something special to actually stand out of a video game market that is, currently, overflowing with first person shooters. The first FEAR brought nothing new to the first person shooter table. It offered no innovations for the genre in terms of gameplay. It still managed to be an extremely good and memorable game that was more than worth the money that you slapped down on the table. FEAR 2: Project Origin is pretty much in the same boat, though it made a few changes to the formula. Were they good or did the changes drag the game down?

The first FEAR was a slower paced first person shooter. It was not balls to the wall action throughout. You spent a whole lot of the game kneeling down behind cover, popping up from it, taking a few shots at the enemy and kneeling down again. The enemy AI in the game was so good that this was, quite often, the only way to move through the game. You had to move from one cover to another. Enemies flanked you. They tried to flush you out. They were alerted to your presence through subtle hints such as foot steps and your flash light. If you stood out in the open for too long, you became a target and would not last very long. The enemy AI in FEAR 2 was toned down a bit, sadly. Enemies have new moves, such as shooting behind them for cover fire while they dart backwards into cover, but they don't seem as alert or as smart in this game. Where running and gunning would get you killed in the first game, it will work for some parts of this game. Enemies just seem to spend more time running around in the open, making them easier to pick off than they were in the first game. The enemy AI is still good, and the new tactics that they throw at you are a nice touch, but it is disappointing that the AI is a little watered down from the first game. Some of the intensity of the first game is no longer there, and that is disappointing.

The gameplay feature that stuck out the most in the first game was the main characters lightning quick reflexes that manifested itself in game via the ability to slow down time for brief periods of time. Enemies slow down and you can pick them off with ease for a few seconds before having to duck back into cover and wait for it to recharge. This is still in tact in the sequel. You can slow down time for brief periods of time, and it takes a bit to recharge. The recharge time seems faster in this game than it did in the first one, however. You can rely on this to get through a lot of the tougher parts of the game. When you combine the dumbed down enemy AI with the ability to use the reflexes more often, you wind up with a game that is quite a bit easier than the first game was, unfortunately. The first FEAR presented quite a challenge. This game eases up on it quite a lot. that isn't to say that there are no challenging parts in this game. Every time you see a powered suit or one of the enemy mechs, it will make you start panicking almost immediately. They take a lot of punishment before they fall. It is still a little disappointing that the game is easier, though it is fun.

Not all of the changes are bad, however. The first game was notorious for having repetitive environments. You spent a very long time traveling around in office buildings, and, given the nature of office buildings, it all looked very similar. You saw the same basic environments throughout a number of sections of the game. This was the biggest complaint lodged against the game. This was, most definitely, righted with the second game. In FEAR 2, you will travel through office buildings, a school, an underground facility, the streets and a few other environment types, which allowed for more variation in the games locations. On top of this, the environments were partially destructible. It is pretty cool to see your bullets slowly eat away at massive stone pillars, eventually revealing the framework underneath it. This also cuts down on places to hide from fire, both for you and the enemy. It adds a new level of strategy to how you play the game.

The other major change that this game adds is that it gives you a few vehicle sections during which you are given control of a massive mech that destroys everything with relative ease. IT is a nice relief from the games tension throughout. When you go through a particularly difficult section of the game, it is nice to hop into a giant armored vehicle and rip everything that moves apart with a constant barrage of high velocity bullets and missiles for a while. It eases on your nerves and breaks the tension. This can be seen as a good or bad thing since it is a horror game. Some would argue that it has no place in a game such as this. Others would say that it is a nice bit of stress relief after your nerves have been wrecked for so long by the games top notch atmosphere. No matter which camp you are on, it cannot be denied that the vehicle sections do add variety to the gameplay.

Graphics - 8.0

The first FEAR was a great looking game for it's time, but that was late 2005. There was a 3 and a half year gap in between it's release and the release of it's sequel. Two next gen consoles launched after it's release as well. As such, it would be accurate to describe FEAR as a little dated. That being said, it's graphics have held up fairly well. It isn't a bad looking game by today's standards. It is no longer top of the line either. Why is this important? Well, instead of developing a new engine for the games sequel, Monolith decided to update the engine from the first game and reuse it. This is not necessarily a bad thing and FEAR 2 does look better than the first game did. That being said, the engine is also showing it's age. Don't expect another Uncharted or Metal Gear Solid 4 with this game. You won't get something that beautiful.

Just like any horror game worth a damn and most that aren't, FEAR 2 is a dark game. You will spend a lot of it with your flash light turned on as you search every corner of it's environments for the next piece of intel hidden throughout the game. There are brighter spots, such as the levels where you fight through the street, but when FEAR 2 is at it's best, it is having you go through dimly lit and ransacked corridors. The graphics in this game do a good job of pushing this forward. Terrible things have been happening within it's world, and it is never more obvious than when you travel through the elementary school where the desks in the class rooms are overturned, papers are scattered everywhere and there are plenty of blood stains. It really does an excellent job of pushing forth the feeling of claustrophobic and veyr uncomfortable feeling that helps to make a good horror game great.

FEAR 2 looks decent from a technical standpoint. There are no frame rate hick ups, and there is no screen tearing, but it does not look stellar, as was mentioned earlier. It merely looks good. IT does not look stellar, but where this game really stands out is it's psychological horror moments. These moments, usually involving Alma Wade, use a lot of strange lighting effects to really get your attention as well as a lot of blur to keep you wondering just what you are seeing on screen. Things around you have a tendency to speed up during these segments, forcing you to be quick with your reactions if you want to live through them. The way that the psychological horror segments of this game are done is brilliant and brings serious visual flare to the table. They stand out as the most memorable and all around best parts of this game.

Sound - 9.5

In order to make a game or movie scary, it needs to have a good atmosphere. The single most important aspect to having a good atmosphere is sound. If a game as great visuals and terrible sound, it will destroy the atmosphere. Visuals age. Quite often, they do not age well. Sound design will keep a game creepy long after it's visuals are no longer good. Some primary examples of this would be System Shock 2, Silent Hill and Alien vs. Predator for the Atari Jaguar. All 3 of these games did something truly special with their sound design, and their atmosphere still holds up today. Fortunately, Monolith hit the nail squarely on the head with the sound esign for both of the FEAR games. The sound in this game is top notch and genuinely creepy. This is the stuff nightmares are made of, and you are going to love it.

FEAR 2's environments are, quite often, rather quiet. You will be standing in an empty class room with overturned desks. papers thrown all over the place and blood splattered on the walls. None of the light and electronics will be working, and you won't be able to help but feel that it is just a little too quiet. When there is environmental noise, it is quiet eerie. You will hear lockers opening and shutting when you know there is no one there. A projection machine will be turned on it's side and will be muttering words "Teacher. Helper." as it projects images onto the wall as your only source of light, aside from your flash light. It will leave you with a very unsettling feeling. Gas will spray out of broken pipes and firefights with the enemy will start large blazes from them. The environmental effects are as spot on in this game as they are unsettling. When you hear noises that break the silence, you will sit on the edge of your seat and wait for whatever is coming your way.

Much like with the visual side of things, where this game truly stands out with it's sound design is during the psychological horror moments of the game. The sound design during these segments take the game at it's absolute best graphically and make it truly stand out and be memorable. The sound is what makes these moments excessively creepy. During these moments, you will hear a wide array of barely audible whispers that, for the most part, you cannot make out what they are saying. Then again, given the nature of what is going on on screen, do you really want to know what is being said? Anyway, the game also throws a number of unnatural sound effects at you that only help to enhance the atmosphere when the game needs it most. It all combines for an excellent and truly creepy aural experience that will leave your spine tingling and will leave a lasting impression on you as the best moments of this game. It will make you panic.

Story - 7.5

One of the more surprising aspects of the first FEAR was it's story. It was, actually, quite good. It had a few major plot twists that really grabbed your attention. It was not well told however. It was told mostly through phone messages with minimal actual character interaction. There were a few characters here and there that you ran across as you play through the game, but it did not rely on this for most of it's length. It had you getting phone messages and checking laptops to gather information so you could find out just what is going on within Armachan. That being said, a poorly told story that is good is still a good story. IT will just leave you feeling a little more detached than it probably should. The second game tries to fix this by ditching the phone message system all together and adding in quite a bit more character interaction in hopes of making you feel less detached than you did with the first game.

FEAR 2: Project Origin begins about 30 minutes before the events at the end of FEAR 1 unfold. Instead of playing as the FEAR Pointman from the first game, you play as a Delta Force operator named Michael Becket. He is part of a squad that is sent to Armachan to retrieve Genevieve Aristide, the current president of Armachan, and take her into protective custody. You make your way through the Armachan building and eventually find her pent house, but she is not there. You chase after her and, shortly after finding her, the final events of the first game play out. Without spoiling the ending of the first game for anyone that has not played it, I will just say that you wake up later on in the hospital on the operating table and Genevieve is overseeing an operation being performed on you. When you come to after the surgery in the hospitol, you find that it has been ransacked and it's staff has been killed. ATC clean up crews showed up under the command of Colonel Vanek. He quickly comes into contact with an Armachan employee who calls himself simply Snakefist. Over the course of the game, you will run into Vanek, Snakefist, Genevieve and Alma several times as you get uncover more and more of the truth behind just what Armachan is doing.

FEAR 2's story expands on what the first game set up quite a bit. It gives you a lot more information on what Armachan is doing, what they hope to accomplish and how they are going about it. You will see more of Alma's past. You deal with the various characters in the game a lot more than you did in the first game. Quite often, you will interact directly with them, and, at other times, you will will hear from the characters over your radio. You usually, at least, have control over where your character looks during cut scenes, and this helps with the immersion in the game. IT makes it feel like you are never truly taken out of the story. All in all, the story telling methods are much better in this game than they were in the first place. It is a shame that the story is more straight forward than the first game was. There is one major plot twist, really. The rest of what is here is a lot of background on what Armachan has been doing and how. This is appreciated, but a few more major twists would have been appreciated. You will still stare in wonder at some of the stuff that you will see happen when you reach Still Island and will probably be shocked by a moment or two. The ending of this game is better than the first one, as well. There is enough here to get one excited about any future sequels to this game. That is certain. IT just isn't quite as good as the first game, though it is better told.

Replay Value - 8.5

FEAR 2 is no slouch when it comes to replay value. The campaign is a decent length for a shooter. It will take 10 to 15 hours for most players to complete. As you travel throughout the game, you will pick up and collect intelligence documents that will give you bits of information on the various projects that Armachan is heading as well as back story for the game. If you wish to get every little piece of story out of this game, you will need to collect all of these documents. Missing one of them is incentive to go back and play through it or sections of it again. This game also offers multiple difficulty levels for those that like a challenge after they get through it. As is standard with first person shooters, this game has multiplayer as well that is sure to keep your disc spinning after the credits roll. The game also has trophies/achievements to unlock for the completionist. The game gives you plenty of reason to put it back in your system after you have beaten it.

Final Thoughts -

FEAR 2: Project Origin is a great sequel to an exceptional game. It is true that it is not as good as the first game was. IT is less difficult because enemy AI was scaled back on a bit and the story isn't as good, but it does solve a number of problems that the first game had. The story telling is much better in this game, and the environments are a lot more varied. It is a worthy addition to the FEAR franchise and a game that should not be missed if you enjoy first person shooters or horror games. FEAR 2 is a very good one. If they take what was better about the first game and combine it with what is better about the second game when they go to make a third entry in this franchise, they should come out with the best entry in the series yet. FEAR 2 gives hope that FEAR will become a stellar and worthy shooter franchise that will have us all eagerly awaiting the next entry. Do not miss this one.

Gameplay - 8.5
The enemy AI is still good, though not as good. Reflex boosting is just as fun as it was in the first game. Driving the EPA is fun.

Graphics - 8.0
It uses an enhanced version of the engine from the first game. It is showing it's age, though the psychological horror moments look stellar.

Sound - 9.5 No good horror game lacks good sound design, and FEAR 2's is top notch. This game creates a creepy atmosphere with it's sound that will have you on the edge of your seat

Story - 7.5
The story is more straight forward than the first game, but it adds a lot to the FEAR universe and is told much better

Replay value - 8.5
Intelligence documents to collect, multiple difficulties, multiplayer and trophies will keep this game spinning.