A single player to die for
Horror has always been a factor many games get wrong and so very few get right. You can name a few titles that do horror very well, but how many of them have truly made you jump in your seat? With Silent Hill Homecoming not even making me twitch and Resident Evil 5 working harder towards becoming an action game and slowly leaving its survival horror roots behind, few titles are really keeping horror fresh and frightening. Bring in F.E.A.R 2 Project Origin, an FPS with a psychic thriller twist that turns generic run and gun gameplay into a grotesque and constant tense fest.
While there was worry about the sequel after a rather disappointing set of expansion packs for the original, F.E.A.R 2 has taken two great directions; making a sequel that doesn’t confuse new gamers to the series and also keep returnees entertained throughout. Having briefly played the original, it didn’t take me long to learn about the F.E.A.R universe with collectible Intel that outlines different aspect of the story. You are going to have to put a bit of effort into finding them if you really want to know what’s going on 100%.
Project Origin begins 30 minutes before the end of the original F.E.A.R. You play as Michael Becket, a Delta Force operator whose squad has been sent in to take the president of Armacham into protective custody. Of course, we all know nothing works out that simple, and with Alma’s constant hunt on the squad, you can only hope she just doesn’t catch up to you.
I won’t go too much into the story as it effortlessly unfolds in front of you and mentioning certain aspects of the plot could be a real spoiler. However, you’re going to be running around a few buildings, delving more into the dodgy background of Armacham and Alma, travelling from A to B and getting a bit freaked out in the process. Kind of like most FPS's, but better.
I’ll go straight into the atmosphere of the game because that is Project Origin’s real selling point. This game has some very genuine scary parts that are done so subtly it’s quite outstanding. Hollywood suffers from a build up to horror and while there are a few ‘Hollywood’ horror cut scenes, these don’t even touch the simple 'it's behind you' and 'in the mirror' spooks that got me turning the lights back on. It seems very silly to get scared over something like that, but when you have been walking around for seven minutes with not much happening and then turn around to see emaciated naked woman running towards you, you can’t stop yourself yelping out just a little. Even just a brief search of the bathrooms had me quickly squealing an expletive as Alma, the main antagonist of F.E.A.R, glares at me in the mirror. Only those fully exploring the buildings will fall host to these subtle attacks, which rewards the curious gamer out to grab all the goodies. It’s a real shame for those who just want to get through the game quickly though, they are going to miss some great moments.
I can't forget about the overdone gore that has left quite a lasting impression on me. From getting a sweet shotgun round into an unsuspecting enemy as their body explodes into a variety of pieces, all of which can be examined after, to that sickeningly large pile of intestines you drop into - Monolith sure knows how to create a grotesque atmosphere. There is so much detail gone into the gore as well, which makes the game so haunting. You'll be walking past a lot of dead and decapitated bodies around the buildings you explore; however, if you take some time to examine the scene you will notice messages left from Alma in their blood. Not only is this creepy in itself, it also gives off a few early plot hints in the story, so they are worth looking into.
Weapons are pretty standard, you have your hammer burst, laser gun and shotgun, as well as some sub machine guns and assault rifles. I felt with the type of horror titles they were showing off we could of gotten a larger array of revolting weapons to use, but they have kept it safe and familiar. Gun play itself though is a very rewarding aspect of Project Origin, and it can show that even in a sea of shooters you can always improve. Using the weapons themselves can be tricky for some gamers as there is quite a bit of sway which knocks off a great deal of precision compared to Halo or Call of Duty. This is something you just have to get used to and master but quickly overcome when you enter slow motion.
The slow motion combat option is probably the best thing about F.E.A.R 2. Okay, so it's not really an original concept, but it looks fantastic. You can set this off at any time and the time it lasts can be lengthened by collecting reflex injectors in the game. As soon as you enter slow motion, ripples are created in the air from the bullets, explosions display in a huge bubble and the blood just floats like your in zero gravity. It's sometimes a little hard to concentrate on the enemies at hand because you are marvelling at the delicious effects going off in front of you. Slow motion also helps tremendously against some more sinister enemies you encounter later in the game.
Enemy AI has been beefed up a notch in F.E.A.R 2, which can make your way around the place rather difficult. While hard mode seems more on par to Bioshock rather than the frustrating veteran from Call of Duty, you'll be thinking before running a whole lot. The major reason for this is because the AI not only use cover just like yourself but they can also manipulate the surroundings for cover. Say you're in a corridor and there are a few benches to the side, they will pull them out and use them as cover. Of course this is not a massive advantage because you can do exactly the same, it's just the AI tends to take advantage of it more than I ever thought useful, and I often found myself making stupid mistakes because they made the smart decision to create cover rather than risk it. They also know when to run away and when to work together against you, something I found rather refreshing. Being very responsive, larger battles can turn a quick run across a courtyard into a ten minute bullet feast. If it was not for the large amount of armour and health drops prior to being attacked, this would all become extremely challenging. It just makes no sense why they do not reduce the amount of health and armour you receive in hard mode.
Just to give you a break from corridors the game occasionally pops you into an armoured Mech. Certainly not revolutionary, but a great way to break up a game that could become very repetitive. They are thankfully quite short as you travel very slow in the armoured suit, but watching men explode into a pool of blood is very satisfying to say the least, as well as shooting a horde of rockets into anything that gets in your way.
It's just a shame the whole package is ruined by a substandard multiplayer. I know a lot of games get flack for not having a multiplayer, but I'd rather have no multiplayer than having one for the sake of it. Okay, so it's not horrendous, it's just not great either. There are six modes in total from normal team deathmatch to capturing points. The majority of the maps are large and work great with most game types. The lobby is slow and most users insist on filling a room instead of starting it when the teams are balanced, which makes for long waiting times. Slow motion is removed, as you'd expect, and you can set up your gear prior to the match starting, but leveling up is a laborious process that feels less rewarding compared to Halo or Call of Duty. An unfair comparison, maybe, but if you are going to include multiplayer you better make sure it's good.
Project Origin is a fantastic FPS experience in it's own right. While there is no amazing innovation, the game works at a satisfying pace keeping you engaged throughout. Eeery atmosphere, fantastically grotesque surroundings and great enemy AI to boot, F.E.A.R 2 is a title well worth your attention.