Name: F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
F.E.A.R. was an amazing game. There wasn’t much new, but it was the first shooter to really push the envelope in terms of artificial intelligence and had the gameplay to back it up. It also had a good blend of horror mixed with action, all without being as in-your-face as Doom 3. In the short time in-between the original and this sequel, two expansion packs were released by different developers, neither living up to the source’s brilliance and, as the original’s developer would later go on to admit, ended up hurting the series. Luckily, back in the able hands of Monolith, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin looks to revitalize the series, and despite some strange naming issues the game has finally been released.
The plot continues the tale of The Ring-inspired Alma, who has grown up in the few hours between the two F.E.A.R. titles, and follows a new character, Sergeant Michael Becket. Instead of the creepy little girl who would occasionally walk past a window, she’s now a full grown disgusting thing of a woman and a force to be reckoned with. Bringing to life psychic beings with her life-force and occasionally stepping into the fray herself, she’s also less limited by her stature, occasionally leaping at Becket.
Along his journey, Becket will travel through a variety of levels, both outdoors and inside, as the game is set in more varied environments than its predecessor. The original F.E.A.R. was criticized for its lack of setting and enemy variety, and Project Origin answers that complaint wholly. Replica Soldiers are now joined by a large mixture of creatures and monsters, all of which remain completely plausible in the F.E.A.R. universe. This diversity helps the gameplay from ever becoming too stale, and there’s a steady influx of new enemies as the game’s chapters progress.
In terms of combat, F.E.A.R. 2 isn’t anything special. It recycles the same mechanics of the first game, namely the use of slow-motion in nearly every encounter, and with a bit more polish. A variety of weapons keep combat entertaining, and while there’s nothing wrong with the gunplay, there’s also absolutely nothing new. Aside from the enemy AI, which is remarkable in its intelligence and tendencies towards self preservation, there isn’t a hint of innovation or progress to be found in Project Origin.
Instead, the developers have created an extremely safe game that does very little to move the genre forward; it’s a really good looking shooter with recycled combat mechanics and a creepy vibe. Sadly, with so many other games on the market, first-person shooters really need to reach above that, and the lack of a cover mechanic (despite the option to flip over tables for cover) mixed with the absence of freshness creates an experience that’s just below fantastic, though quite above average and mediocre.
Attempting to dabble between action based shooter and survival horror, F.E.A.R. 2 still brings the scares of the original, amplified by the game’s fantastic graphics to create stunningly eerie environments. There are still plenty of cheap tricks taken from “Scare 101,” like shadows being cast on walls when there’s no enemy in sight and characters walking past a doorway and disappearing, but the game’s mood is creepy enough to add tension to even the most placid of rooms. The mood is amplified greatly by the graphics and sound, both of which are some of the best this console generation. It’s not up to the Killzone 2 level by any means, but if you were to squint they wouldn’t be too different, and enough can’t be said about how fantastic the game looks.
The game’s multiplayer varieties, though interesting in their own right, are barely worth mentioning. When slowing time is the biggest aspect of a game’s combat and it’s left out entirely from the online play, there’s really not much left but a variety of game modes with an already dwindling population. Monolith should have either turned their attention towards finding a way to bring slow motion to multiplayer in a new, imaginative way, or focused more on the singleplayer in order to create a fuller experience, because there’s very little in Project Origin’s online section to bring someone back.
The main problems are more accurately missed opportunities, and much of the time playing the game will be spent wondering what could have been created if Monolith would have taken more creative risks instead of allowing themselves to craft a game too deeply within their comfort zone. Sure, there are definitely hurdles to jump in order to create a cooperative game with slow motion, or to get the mechanic to work in a multiplayer sense, but that doesn’t excuse them for not trying. Then again, that's all nitpicking, and to be honest, there's really nothing "wrong" with the game at all. Though it doesn’t live up to the benchmark set by the original and does very little in terms of innovation, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is a more than adequate game, featuring extremely polished gameplay and fantastic graphics.