Giant Bomb Review

86 Comments

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin Review

4
  • X360

It's less tactical than its forebear, but Monolith delivers a tightly paced and atmospheric ride with F.E.A.R. 2.

Happy birthday!
Happy birthday!
With games like No One Lives Forever and Shogo in its past, Monolith has a long history of developing highly atmospheric games. Lately, though, it's been focusing more specifically on the aesthetics of insanity and brutality, with its Condemned and F.E.A.R. franchises feeling a bit like kissing cousins. Its latest, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, maintains a similar split of high-tech firefights and supernatural freak-outs to the one that defined the original F.E.A.R., though the difficulty has been dialed way down, and the action feels much less tactical. This might be a disappointment for those looking for something cerebral, but the high-impact weaponry, moody visuals, and frenetic pacing make F.E.A.R. 2 a viscerally satisfying ride.

F.E.A.R. 2 puts you in the role of a Sgt. Michael Becket, a member of a separate F.E.A.R. team than the Point Man from the original. Despite playing as a different character, you've got the same slow-motion and jump-kickin' abilities, something that's addressed over the course of the story. The game picks up just before the first game left off, allowing you glimpses of the climax of that game before heading off on your own mission to find and stop Alma, the tragic, psychically charged young woman whose thirst for revenge against the Armacham Corporation has laid waste to much of the city. Much like Monolith's queasily pugilistic Condemned 2: Bloodshot, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin spends a lot of time revealing the truths behind the mysteries and conspiracies established in the original, often through memos and other bits of intel scattered throughout the environments. A fear of the unknown is what drove the first game, but somehow it's even more disturbing to see just how far-reaching and sinister the grand conspiracy is. If this is your first dip into the F.E.A.R. crazy-pool, the game does a decent job of catching you up to speed, and a quick look at our wiki page should sufficiently fill you in on the rest.

This is probably way easier and way more fun than actually piloting a mech.
This is probably way easier and way more fun than actually piloting a mech.
Your mission to stop Alma puts you at odds with the high-tech private army of the Armacham Corporation, psychically controlled clone soldiers that have gone rogue, and of course, Alma herself. She'll randomly pop up to puree other characters or drive them crazy, but mostly she just comes at you with unnerving-but-harmless visions. There are a few jump-scares in F.E.A.R. 2, but most of the creepy stuff is just part of the ride, with minimal impact on the gameplay. Even in this passive capacity, the Alma-induced visions still have a significant influence on the game's unique visual flair. One of the more significant critiques against the first F.E.A.R. was a sense of monotony in the environments, which seemed to consist almost exclusively of office buildings and quasi-military compounds, and the environments in F.E.A.R. 2 are significantly more diverse. It still kicks off in an average-looking office hallway, though it's not long before you're battling your way through apocalyptic city streets, a deserted elementary school, and derelict subway systems. Still, part of the aesthetic of the F.E.A.R. series is the contrast of mundane, recognizable environments with surreal hallucinations and meticulous viscera, something F.E.A.R. 2 delivers in a variety of ghastly ways.

Aside from all the spooky ghost stuff, one of the defining characteristics of F.E.A.R. was the tactical style of the gameplay. AI opponents would intelligently flank you, flush you out with grenades, find cover, or make their own cover by flipping over tables and such. While the enemies in F.E.A.R. 2 are still pretty good about protecting their own hides, the game itself is so generous with your time-slowing reflex ability, ammo for your totally kick-ass weapons, body armor, and health packs, that it feels much more run-and-gun. Compounding this issue is that F.E.A.R. 2 is a phenomenally linear game, with only a few rare moments when it even seems like you have more than one path to take. In a way, I actually prefer the more-focused, more-forgiving style of F.E.A.R. 2, simply because it makes it easier to really appreciate the crazy atmospheric effects and gorgeous gore that are on display. A sequence where you get to pilot a massive mech suit--a moment that echoes Shogo--is a perfect example of what F.E.A.R. 2 is all about. There's little challenge to it, but the way it's presented, with its glitchy video-screen effects, the swirling trails of your cluster missiles, and the hydraulic moans of the suit itself, really puts you in the moment.

Hey, you've, uh, got a little something on your face.
Hey, you've, uh, got a little something on your face.
Aside from the brisk, aggressively cliffhangery single-player experience, F.E.A.R. 2 offers some online multiplayer options as well, though it feels a little by-the-numbers when compared to the bloody, hallucinogenic story mode. It supports up to 16 players and features standard-issue modes like deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, control point, and an objective-based bomb/disarm mode. You can modify your weapon load-out before a match, and change between three preset load-outs in between spawns. There's an online ranking system, but that doesn't earn you much more than bragging rights. The most interesting part of F.E.A.R. 2's multiplayer is probably the presence of those big-ass mech suits from the single-player game in the Armored Front mode, though it's such a murderous piece of gear that it seems like the only reliably effective way to counter it is with another mech suit. It's one of those things that's better in concept than in practice.

I honestly think there are few developers today with both the technical and creative chops to establish such a specific tone as Monolith does so successfully with F.E.A.R. 2.  Even though the ghost-story stuff ends up being about as threatening as a trip through The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, and the tactical gameplay is softened up by an abundance of player-boosting pick-ups, F.E.A.R. 2 still puts on one hell of a show.