Being a fan of the original F.E.A.R. (and to a lesser extent, the two non-canon expansions) I was fairly excited for this sequel. The original F.E.A.R. accomplished a lot in terms of the tech, combat, and the level of terror, which sets the standards for F.E.A.R. 2 rather high. I am happy to say they pass expectation.
The story starts about thirty minutes before the explosive finale of the original. You are part of a Delta Force squad sent in to retrieve a high ranking scientist in charge of the program that created Alma. While she resists arrest you are put under fire by the ATC Security’s black ops. (If you are unfamiliar with F.E.A.R.’s background story and various organizations involved, it will be a bit confusing.) Shortly before you exit the tutorial level, the destructive climax of the first F.E.A.R occurs and the rest of the game unfolds.
You awake from the blast to find out you have been experimented on and the trademark slow-mo abilities are now yours. Shortly after this Alma starts hunting you, drawn to you by the new found psychic connection and she wants to consume you. The rest of F.E.A.R. 2 is taking a linear path from point A to B in hopes of finally putting Alma down for good.
The final act is definitely something that will make you scratch your head in bewilderment. F.E.A.R. 2 has gotten some flak for the ending not making any sense and it just being very random and off the wall. I’m in the minority and found it to be very fitting. It’s fucked up and downright grotesque. Considering everything you’ve seen so far, it seems to eerily fit the tone while setting up a plausible sequel.
Getting back to Alma, I thoroughly enjoyed how she was portrayed this time around, even more than the first encounter with the devil in a red dress. There are a lot less environmental mind-fucks than the original, but there are more of the in-your-face scares. That being said, these scares are much more than just “Boo!” moments, they are cleverly written and appear at unexpected times (as evidenced by the very first scare in the game); and I think the total fright factor was crafted much more delicate this time around. On a surprising note, F.E.A.R. 2 does not recycle scares from the first, at least none I can remember. The first time I played F.E.A.R. and I climbed a ladder and saw Alma staring at me and it scared me shitless. I awaited that well-placed tactic to be used again and I never saw it; it is obvious they wanted to go for something new. To ramble just a bit more on this, the scares of F.E.A.R. 2 are much more violent than the first, not just because they are up close and personal but there are moments where you have to repeatedly tap the melee button to get Alma off of you or you will sustain damage.
Along with Alma, there is the inclusion of a new enemy that is rare but incredibly creative (and frustrating), the necromancer. They have tendrils that will lash out and bring corpses back to life that will attempt to kill you once again. As unique and interesting as they are my problem with this is, that there aren’t any other new types of enemies besides the necromancer this time around. You have the same ghosts, creepy-crawlies, power armors and sub-machine gun toting Special Forces people you faced in the prior games.
Besides Alma’s scares, your weaponry has been given a serious upgrade as well. While all the regular weapons make their presence, it is the inclusion of getting inside the all mighty power armor and go thundering down the war-torn streets wreaking as much havoc as humanly possible that will no doubt leave an enormous grin across your face.
I’ve always felt that first person shooters should try to immerse the player as much as possible. FMV’s in FPS games take me out of the moment regardless of how jaw-dropping they may be. I believe this is why the Half-Life series is so coveted, the entire game takes place through your characters eyes. There is no sudden shift to third person view to see your character talking to a group of people (or vice versa) and its one reason why I enjoy the F.E.A.R. series so much. The immersion level isn’t as in depth as Half-Life but it helps the experience and the scares.
Gameplay is very similar to the original. It’s a first person shooter, you have slow-mo abilities, and there are a large amount of weapons to choose from. What is different this time around are you now get to have four different weapons instead of two, I love this fact as you aren’t nearly as confined to weapons as you were with the original. On the downside, the number of med kits you store is reduced to three (instead of the original ten); this isn’t nearly the hindrance you may think it would be. Very rarely did I find myself using more than two in any single fight.
One thing that honestly made me uneasy about F.E.A.R. 2 was the fact that this seems more like a console FPS rather than a PC FPS. What I mean is, there is no quicksave feature. The developers said that the quicksave feature takes away a large portion of the difficulty in an FPS and I can get behind that. What hinders matters is that the ever useful lean ability has been removed and it makes F.E.A.R. 2 seems like it was developed with a console-first frame of mind. Considering PC’s are much better for playing FPS games, it’s a let down, but doesn’t take away much from the overall experience.
Much like the original, there are notes scattered throughout the game that give a deeper insight to the game’s confusing back-story. The original did this same thing but with new voicemail messages, this seems to be a step back as it leaves the entire back-story to be all text driven. The voice acting is very good with a few familiar voices lending their talents, but it doesn’t break any molds.
My biggest complaint with the original F.E.A.R. is that the game is entirely too dark. The lighting engine was great, but everything was just too dark Monolith must have received enough hate-mail to fix this issue entirely. There are dark areas in the game, but everything seems to be as illuminated as it should be. It really helps the realism and sets the tone for the rest of the game.
All in all, F.E.A.R. 2 is a great sequel whose biggest failure is that it doesn’t set any standards in terms of scares, technology, combat, or story; but by no means does it fail at anything. It comes very close at becoming a must-own game but it just barley falls short. If you are looking for an intriguing first person shooter that will more than likely scare the hell out of you, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is worth picking up and should not disappoint.