FEAR 2 is quite a ride, despite lacking in the scares department
If a very atmospheric first person shooter is what you're looking for, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is your game. Monolith's latest in a series of creepy first person games such as Condemned and FEAR is another success. Exciting set-pieces and some pretty entertaining attempts at immersing the player make this a really fun ride.
Whereas the first FEAR had you take control of Point Man, FEAR 2 features a different, albeit just as silent protagonist. In FEAR 2, you play as Sgt Michael Becket, a member of a FEAR squad that is on a mission near the Auburn district of the first game, to pick up a woman named Genevieve Aristide. The game opens up about 20 minutes before the end of the first FEAR, and if you've played the first game, you may remember that being around that district was not a good idea at the time. After you see FEAR's ending from a different perspective, a delicate series of events results in Becket gaining super-human reflexes and the interest of Alma, whom you may remember as the little girl in the red dress with a knock for appearing right in front of you when you least expect it. Alma's a grown woman this time around, and her naked and not-at-all-arousing appearance will haunt you just as much here. Your mission, throughout the game, revolves around stopping Alma, right until the very end, where the plot takes a ridiculous turn that actually ends up working quite well, and easily sets up a sequel.
The FEAR franchise has quite an intriguing story, and FEAR 2 does a good job telling it. The heaps of backstory get filled in by pieces of intel laying around in the various offices, labs and the deserted elementary school. A lot of questions you might've been asking yourself after finishing the first FEAR get answered here, though it also achieves its purpose in that it poses a burning question about the direction FEAR 3 will go in. If an intriguing and atmospheric game full of tension suits your fancy, you'll find a lot to like in FEAR 2's storyline.
Gameplay-wise, you may remember the original FEAR as a game with fast-paced, tactical action. FEAR 2 retains the fast pace, but somewhat loses the tactical part. More weapons, a more powerful protagonist and above all, more health packs make the second FEAR significantly more focused on running through guns blazin', which is too bad, because the great AI in the original and the quick thinking its battles required were a large factor in my enjoyment of the game. Here, enemies will still flip over tables and other pieces of cover, but tend not to follow through, and proceed to stand in the open right next to that table. They also seem to have forgotten how to flank you and apply pressure, as I've barely seen it happen.
Despite the shooting action being inferior to the first game's, it's still quite fun, albeit in a more arcady fashion. A lack of weapon variety was one of the complaints with the first FEAR, and it's pretty much fixed here. A rocket launcher, a flame thrower, some experimental laser guns, etc. It's all in here. The viscera the use of these weapons results in is also great, and the slow-motion mechanic is still just as fun to use here. Also, the game allows you to take control of a giant mech equipped with rockets and heavy machine guns, which is a nice change of pace and bags of fun.
FEAR 2 tries to mix the horror and shooter genres together, and does so with mixed results. However, Alma's sporadic appearances don't always hit the mark. In fact, the only area in the game that truly managed to give me the creeps was the elementary school, which was excellently designed and executed. Other than that, Alma wasn't capable of making me jump, which is mostly because she's tied to such strict rules. Her ghostly appearances tend not to be capable of hurting you, and when they do, they tend to take the form of a QTE that has you mashing a button to escape her grasp. There's a rather big disconnect between the shooting and the creepy parts. You're always either exploring and seeing Alma appear around you, or you're shooting down soldiers. Perhaps, if Alma manifested herself as an enemy that you had to gun down, or if her appearances coincided with the major set-pieces, the game would be more creepy. The game is being dragged back and forth between the horror and FPS genres, and while it executes both parts individually quite well, it never manages to truly weld them together, which downgrades the game in the end. This is something that Monolith's other effort, Condemned, did succeed at, so it's too bad that they couldn't pull it off as well here.
Complimenting the game's singleplayer is a by-the-books multiplayer mode, with Deathmatch and Capture the PHLAG and whatnot, although one mode does allow you to take control of the giant mechs in the game. It sounds cool in theory, but in practice, you simply play, attempt to take control of the mech and gun down as many on-foot players as you can before you get taken out. Playing as the mech is fun, but playing as the on-foot player is not, which makes 70% of the time spent in the mode kind of... not fun. Which is not good. The singleplayer experience is much more important in FEAR 2, and as you might expect, it shows in the execution of the multiplayer. Don't get this game if an extensive online experience is what you seek.
FEAR 2 looks very good. Great particle effects, fantastic-looking gore and a great attention to detail make FEAR 2 a joy to perceive. The sound is of an equally high quality, with great effects and an enthralling score. The scares, gloomy environments and gratuitous gore do make for a great ride though, a bit like watching a bad horror movie. It never makes you jump, but you'll have a lot of cool moments.
FEAR 2 moves away from the first game's more punishing and tactical gameplay, which is not to its benefit. If you are hoping to find a nerve-wracking game, you may also find disappointment in FEAR 2. However, if more arcady shooting action and some great gore and imaginative depictions of crazy naked women sounds like a game that might be up your alley, I recommend you to pick this game up. An intriguing backstory and some highly entertaining and insane sequences make this FEAR 2 worth a playthrough.