doctor_kaz's F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin (PC) review

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A competent but forgettable game. Monolith is in decline.

Monolith released some memorable titles back during the Golden Era of PC Gaming. Games like No One Lives Forever, NOLF 2, Alien vs. Predator, and F.E.A.R. established Monolith is one of the pillars of the FPS genre. Lately though, their products have been underwhelming. "Condemned 2" was a disappointing sequel, and "F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin continues the trend. It is a competent but forgettable effort from a once great developer that lately appears to have slipped into mediocrity.

F.E.A.R. 2 doesn't have a lot to complain about, other than its very short length and abrupt, cliffhanger-ish ending. If you are not into F.E.A.R. 2's multiplayer, then you will probably find the amount of content in the game to be disappointing. The campaign is maybe six or seven hours long. It is quite a bit shorter than the original. The story isn't as good as the original game either. The first game, while not a masterpiece in that department, was still somewhat disturbing and suspenseful. The story in this game though just feels like an excuse to herd you from one level to the next. It also is somewhat poorly written and full of useless, juvenile profanity. Then it ends unexpectedly in a somewhat silly fashion that strongly suggests another sequel.

Almost everything else in the game is at least competent. The shooting action is good and par or above par for the genre. The weapons have a great feel and they sound good. The AI is at least average for this genre, although the enemies don't feel as sharp as they did in the first game. The levels are rather small, linear, and constricted. The graphics are good, but they have been surpassed in recent years by a lot of other PC games. Playing this game has made me appreciate how important cutting edge technology and great AI were to the first game. Back in 2005, F.E.A.R. was a lot more impressive for its time than F.E.A.R. 2 was for 2009. The original game was tougher, and that sense of danger added to the tense atmosphere. The sequel is not as challenging, and the atmosphere suffers accordingly. This series is a classic example of how the little flaws that get overlooked in the first game become more glaring as the later games fail to evolve.

If you are a long time PC gamer, then you will probably notice an annoying trait that hasn't appeared in any of Monolith's previous games – consolization. F.E.A.R. 2 was clearly designed as a console game, and this manifests itself in a lot of minor ways. One way is in the checkpoint save system (the previous game had a quick save). Another little legacy of the game's console origins is the huge text size of the little in-game messages that you find. Thanks to the game being designed for a TV screen and not a monitor, you will not be able to read a couple of sentences without having to scroll the message. Even the HUD and weapons signal a departure by Monolith from their PC roots. For example, the shotgun, for some reason, has been redesigned to look like the Halo shotgun.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to score first person shooters nowadays. Games like Crysis, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., and Modern Warfare have raised the bar for the genre so much that games that might have been great six years ago are just mediocre by today's higher standards. F.E.A.R. 2 is fun in its shooting action, but it is left in the dust by superior FPSs that have better gameplay and technology. Considering what we have come to expect from Monolith over the years, this game is disappointing and not really worth playing.

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