E3 '07: F.E.A.R. 2 (working title) Impressions - First Look

We get our first look at the sequel to Monolith's action-packed horror shooter and find no shortage of blood, violence, and swear words.

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SANTA MONICA, Calif.--The only thing that could possibly be better than fun in the California sun is a media summit for video games, which is why game publishers and media outlets from around the world have converged on Santa Monica for E3 2007 to show off games like the sequel to F.E.A.R. While publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and developer Monolith have yet to finalize an official name for its sequel to the action-packed first-person shooter (a name that is being finalized later this month in a contest that the publisher is holding), it seems pretty clear from what we saw that the game itself will be every bit as bloody, violent, and profane as the original, if not much, much more so.

The Xbox 360 demonstration we watched, which were told represents some portions of the early game (but is not representative of the final game to avoid spoilers), began with a first-person view of the main character being operated on feverishly by surgeons who seem to be losing the patient, but are sternly urged forward by the disembodied voice of an adult woman. According to Monolith lead producer Troy Skinner, the original F.E.A.R. was initially conceived of as a pure, action-packed shooter with horror elements tossed in to "cleanse the palette"--the sequel, however, will focus a bit more on the main character (and his remarkable ability to move so quickly as to effectively slow time around him) and on Alma, the mysterious little girl who terrorized players in the first game.

The surgery is portrayed as a frantic process that cuts in and out of realistic portrayals of the harried surgeons and red-tinged, sped-up footage of monstrous caricatures of the surgeons hacking away at the main character. Finally, the screen goes white and the character seems to awaken, getting up off the slab and reaching for a nearby pair of clear eyeglasses that, when worn, power up like a computer and project a heads-up display on the edges of the screen that indicate the character's weapon, remaining ammunition, the charging meter that lets him temporarily slow time, and what appears to be a new shield meter in place of a health counter. From what we can tell, the sequel to F.E.A.R. seems to use a replenishing shield system similar to Halo 2's, in which your character can gradually recover from damage by ducking out of battle and not taking any more fire.

The character got up off the slab, equipped a standard assault rifle, and went off to find his way out of the hospital. As he quickly discovers, all isn't well in the house of healing--blood spatters the walls and floors, and the place is an absolute mess; shelves and hospital beds have been knocked over and medical equipment litters the floor. He quickly learns that he isn't alone, after hearing crazed, incoherent muttering reminiscent of sounds the Gollum character made in the Lord of the Rings motion pictures. The character walks past an especially large patch of blood on the walls that appears to feature crude writing in blood that asks the question, "He sees?" He then starts exploring the emergency room to find bloodied corpses of orderlies dead where they sat.

Turning a corner, the character sees an orderly running toward him, only to flatten out against the glass wall that separates them as a soldier, possibly a clone soldier like from the original game, guns down the medic in cold blood. The soldier then calls out to his friends that "an escaped Delta [Force member]" is on the loose, turns a corner, and all hell breaks loose.

According to Skinner, Monolith is attempting to build "the best first-person shooter combat ever" into this sequel by taking the over-the-top, kinetic quality of the first game and ratcheting it up several notches so that "destruction [happens] an inch from your face." We saw this in the several firefights we watched, which seemed even more-spectacular than those of the original game, thanks to much more flying debris and choice language from the enemy soldiers once they sighted us. We also saw several extremely gory deaths, including clouds of arterial spray gouting up from shotgun blasts to enemies' throats, and complete dismemberment after tossing grenades at enemies stuck in tight corners. But after brushing past the odd severed leg or the decapitated head bouncing around in a laundy-room dryer, we found ourselves just an instant too late to catch the mysterious, muttering creature, which would seemingly bound through obstacles and leap up through air vents and shattered ceilings the instant before we arrived.

As we proceeded, we found ourselves getting closer and closer to our quarry, and in some cases actually getting beaten to the punch on killing off enemy soldiers as the mysterious critter yanked them out of site and attacked them, causing blood to spout from offscreen as the soldiers screamed for help. We finally confronted the creature, a hideous, humpbacked humanoid creature with a bandaged face that moved too quickly for us to shoot it--it tackled us and ferociously tore at the character's body briefly before we were able to knock it off with a melee attack from the butt of our gun. The creature crumpled into a pile and began to dissipate into a fiery pile of ashes as the whole corridor got sucked into what seemed like a collapsing black hole from which Alma emerged--signalling another "paranormal moment" of the kind that appeared in the original F.E.A.R.

Despite not having a name, the sequel certainly seems to have a ton of intense action and more new features to offer, such as an incendiary laser gun that sets enemies on fire and causes them to either run for water or die dramatically. More details will be available on the game once the title is finalized--we'll be sure to bring them to you.

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