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Review

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

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • X360

This somewhat scary sequel is a solid shooter, but it can't keep pace with its lauded predecessor.

The image of a pasty-skinned, greasy-haired young girl has become an iconic one in horror films like The Ring, and the original F.E.A.R. introduced a similar figure with great success. Of course, that game gave its ghostly visions a chilling context, drawing you into the unnerving story of a paranormal prodigy named Alma and the horrific suffering to which she was subjected. F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin returns to this fertile universe, but rather than scrutinize even darker reaches of the soul, it merely skims the surface, offering up a series of eerie visions without delivering a good mystery to bind them together. The good news for shooter fans is that the bullet-blasting core of the experience is sound, propelling you forward with enough intensity to keep the single-player campaign engaging. Most of what's here has been done better before, but the unspectacular elements have been stitched into an enjoyably moody first-person shooter that relies on rock-solid mechanics rather than true inspiration.

Scenes like these are common in F.E.A.R. 2.

After a short exposition, F.E.A.R. 2 picks up where the original left off--with a bang. The city is in tatters, and as Michael Becket of Delta Force, it is up to you and your squadmates to capture the elusive Genevieve Aristide, president of the nefarious Armacham Technology Corporation. Too much description would risk spoiling the game's few surprises, which are better experienced than narrated, though as it happens, there are few enigmas to unravel. F.E.A.R. 2's story paints itself into a corner, offering very little new to players already familiar with the Project Origin referred to in the title, and nothing compelling enough to wrap newcomers into its fold. With Alma now a known quantity, paranormal secrecy has been replaced by a series of near-cliche bump-in-the-night scares and murky visions that do the unthinkable where a horror-themed game is concerned: They become predictable.

Because the pacing and story layout of the game can be a bit predictable at times, F.E.A.R. 2’s real scares come from its atmosphere--and this actually works, sometimes. Expect to jump out of your seat on occasion, when your flashlight flickers and ghostly visages surround you, or when staccato orchestral chords signal the emergence of abominations as they break free from their confining cells. Other attempts at scares just seem stale, given that the game's pacing and level design foreshadow these encounters, therefore emasculating the necessary sense of surprise. However, the excellent sound design is never to blame. A variety of creaks and groans gives ebb and flow to the sense of tension, and musical swells and increasingly hectic clatters and clangs will get your pulse pounding when needed. Unfortunately, the visuals don't paint a picture dour enough to match. Some areas are shrouded with moody environmental shadows, in which light and dark contrast to excellent effect. In other levels, the lack of ambient lighting and accompanying silhouettes are noticeable, and the surrounding frights just feel flaccid. F.E.A.R. 2 simply doesn't match its FPS peers from a technical perspective, so though it looks good, the simple textures, inconsistent shadows, and occasional clipping and other glitches detract from the atmosphere.

The level design also falls victim to a fair bit of predictability, though to F.E.A.R. 2's credit, you'll break away from the endless office corridors of the original and journey through a greater variety of environments. These areas are usually just as claustrophobic, but they won't often deliver that spine-tingling fear of the specters lurking beyond the reach of your flashlight. Trekking through the rubble of decaying city streets is a good change of pace, but the ultraconvenient manner in which the debris holds you to your narrow path is a familiar design ploy. Similarly, there's no more excitement to be found in F.E.A.R. 2's same-old subway than that of any other game. It's at its best when it leaves these stale tropes behind and builds on its roots as a corridor shooter, such as in a nail-biting sojourn through the halls of an elementary school that hides unspeakable horrors. Entering a dusky music classroom to find a hideous mutant pounding on the keys of a piano with abandon is a singular moment, and the ensuing battles are ripe and exhilarating reminders of the series' explosive origins.

There's no escape from the wrath of the assault rifle in reflex time.

Those same inhuman atrocities will spawn clones while emitting ear-splitting, disorienting roars, and others scurry about at super speeds--though as it happens, you've got a helpful skill at your disposal that helps manage nimble and sluggish foes alike. Like the protagonist of F.E.A.R., you can activate reflex time, which slows the action to a crawl and lets you battle your enemies in a bullet-time ballet. You've seen a similar mechanic a lot by now, but it's skillfully done here. Grenade explosions create impressive visual distortions, bullets leave an airstream in their wake, and spoken dialogue and sound effects grind to a muffled crawl. Landing headshots in reflex time is particularly enjoyable and gives F.E.A.R. 2's gruesome levels of violence a temporary starring role. Foes erupt in red gushers, staining the walls with blood and flailing around in their final moments, an effect made even more effective by robust (and occasionally oversensitive) rag-doll animations.

Your instruments of destruction aren't spectacular, but they're varied enough to make shooting a pleasure, even when the flow of time takes its normal path. The two shotguns are particular delights; they feel weighty and dispatch most enemies with a single bloody blast to the noggin. The hammerhead is another delight, filling your foes with neon barbs and potentially affixing them to the wall behind. However, shooter fans should consider playing at higher difficulty levels, given that F.E.A.R. 2 feels noticeably easier than its predecessor.

The AI can offer occasional challenges, particularly in levels featuring intersecting corridors in which human enemies will flank you, use cover effectively, and tumble to the side should they find themselves gazing down the barrel of your automatic shotgun. They will also tip over furniture or other objects and use them as cover (a trick you can use, though will likely never need). However, enemy behavior is inconsistent; a table-tipping guard may not follow through, running away from his improvised cover rather than ducking behind it. Some enemies will blindly fire from behind low obstacles but may also do so when in plain view. The best adversaries are those not governed by rules of human behavior, such as ethereal foes that take shape as you enter reflex time. And in some cases, your enemies are so visually elusive that you're better off finding a way out of the dark environs that spawn them.

The most notable additions to the formula are a couple of armored-suit sequences in which you climb into a giant metal mech and riddle your attackers with machine-gun spray and rockets. These sequences aren't tough--you're a powerful death machine plowing down your weakling foes--but the mech controls nicely and you'll be treated to some impressive displays of environmental destruction and general chaos. You can move through these areas on foot if you like, so these levels do offer a bit of replay value, though you should take great pains to wreak fun robotic havoc when given the possibility. You'll also take control of the turret atop the squad's armored vehicle, but this weapon isn't all that enjoyable to use, and these bits feel like filler.

For the best bloodshed, zoom in.

F.E.A.R. 2's multiplayer component also feels like filler, and though we've come to expect online play from most of our shooters, there's nothing special about this suite of lackluster options. For fans of the original, the most notable omission is that of the slow-motion modes, which brought reflex time into an online arena and made for some clever and enjoyable showdowns. Without these modes, F.E.A.R. 2 feels a bit hollow online, serving up helpings of Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, a couple of Conquest variants, Capture the Flag, and a mode called Failsafe that owes a large debt to Counter-Strike. The best of these is Armored Front, in which a player on each team can hop into one of those robotic exoskeletons while his or her teammates capture control points. Otherwise, the shooting mechanics don't translate as well to a multiplayer environment, and the by-the-numbers levels are unimpressive. You have the ability to customize your loadout and level up in ranked matches, but this just isn't enough to breathe life into the musty online play.

You'll get the occasional heebie-jeebies from F.E.A.R. 2, but the magic of the first game hasn't been re-created here. It’s true that some of the changes in the new game seem like they were intended to address criticism of the first F.E.A.R.: tedious and claustrophobic environments, lack of enemy variety, and so on. Sadly, though these changes were made, the resulting sequel, while fun and well-crafted, seems to have lost sight of the strengths that made its predecessor so unique. Nevertheless, playing F.E.A.R. 2 is a worthwhile way to pass the time while we wait for the inevitable next installment.

Editor's Note: This review previously contained inaccurate information about the melee combat system. GameSpot regrets the error.

The Good
Slow-motion shootouts are good, gory fun
Mech sequences provide welcome variety
Some cool, spooky imagery
The Bad
Story offers little mystery or suspense
Cliched random scares and level design
Multiplayer is drab and disappointing
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

About the Author

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

Discussion

9 comments
Audiopusher
Audiopusher

I think the critical love for the original FEAR has more to do with the fact that it was a groundbreaking game for it's time (particularly with enemy AI). It attempted to meld survival horror with FPS gameplay, and did a fairly admirable job. I tend to think it's lasting love is held primarily by those who experienced it when it was new, and nothing else could really compare, from certain standpoints.

Taken out of that particular context however, the original FEAR loses quite a bit, especially compared to games that were better, even at the time (*Resident Evil 4" comes to mind). In that light, FEAR's gameplay is generally monotonous, even with the cooler enemy AI. It has no mapping system, so it's easy to get lost. The environments are simply boring. The scary aspects of the game really don't come until the end, which feels like a day late and a dollar short. After awhile, the mystery of Alma and Paxton Fattel no longer seemed to matter (for me anyway). I just wanted to get through the damn thing and on to a better game.

Fear 2 does a much better job of blending the survival horror genre with FPS, in my opinion. The environments are MUCH better and more varied, the sound design and music are far better. It's a much more visceral experience altogether. I don't play games for an overarching story, and being a filmmaker, I"ll watch movies or read books for good plot. Most game stories fit on the head of a pin in terms of plot and character development (which is why most game to film translations suck terribly).

Obviously, my comments are my own personal opinion. I'm enjoying FEAR 2 more than I did FEAR. Anybody else here fell the same way? 


OB-47
OB-47

How the fvck did Fear 3 get a higher score than this I'll never know

NTM23
NTM23

Personally, I think this game did the scary better than the original when it comes to Alma Wade's appearances, while I thought fighting the Replica Soldiers was far less intense than the original. The 360 version is fine, but the PC version is really great. I played the 360 version first, and I was pretty disappointed in the game in general because first off, it had "bucket" as the main character, but over time, by the time I got to the PC version, all of the problems I had with it pretty much went away.

 

I wanted Becket to come back for the third game as main protagonist, but when the third game came out, and I saw all of the stuff about it, I never got it. While it looks 'good', it looks far inferior to what makes F.E.A.R. special. The original F.E.A.R. to me is absolutely one of the greatest shooters ever made, and arguably still has the best enemy A.I. ever in a shooter, and I think (more so on PC than console) F.E.A.R. 2 is a fine follow up, though its strengths lie on the total opposite of what the original did, that's still good though.

 

That's not to say that in Project Origin the shooting's bad, not at all, but it doesn't feel quite as good as the original, it just seems a bit easier, even on its hardest difficulty you could basically run through it. I do truly think (even through the cliche's) the Alma stuff is scarier than what you have in the original. The thing that got me in the original was never any of the Alma stuff, but being quite afraid of fighting the Replica soldiers when I went through it on hard.

 

Warmuro
Warmuro

This game is not scary at all compared to first F.E.A.R. game. I didn't like the story presentation either, however, game is fun to play and i liked the game engine. When you shoot, you feel the "shoot feeling". 7.5/10 from me.

knowledgek
knowledgek

The score Kevin gave for this is ridiculous. Hire better editors gamespot

mr_gibberish
mr_gibberish

@OB-47  I actually prefer the 3rd to tell you the truth. It has much more variety and action, seems faster paced and more arcadey. I also like how it is less trying to be scary but more about a horror theme if that makes sense.

NTM23
NTM23

I take it back, the 360 version is just as good as PC with a few very minor aspects that aren't quite as clean. I wish Monolith made F.E.A.R. 3.

OB-47
OB-47

@mr_gibberish @OB-47I get what you mean but I disagree about variety. FEAR 3 was so goddamn samey throughout it hurt. The game was short and even that couldn't stop it from feeling tedious. Co-op was pretty lame too, there's not much point in being the Point-Man over  Demondude. 

johnwck90
johnwck90

@OB-47 @mr_gibberish F.E.A.R 3 was the worst game I've ever played.  I just bought this one on STEAM to complete the series.  

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    • PS3
    • Xbox 360
    The sequel to F.E.A.R. continues the supernatural suspense story of an escalating paranormal crisis that threatens to destroy a major American city.
    8
    Average User RatingOut of 6283 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
    Developed by:
    Monolith Productions
    Published by:
    Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, CyberFront
    Genres:
    First-Person, Team-Based, Action, Shooter, 3D
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language