2009 Reviews

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

  • Review Date: 2013-12
  • Release Date: 2009-02
  • Developer: Monolith Productions
  • Rating: 8.0

While I gave the original F.E.A.R. a decent review, my lasting memory of it was that the design and visuals of the levels was horrible. Made up of under-detailed, bland box rooms and corridors. I couldn't replay it. But the gameplay was great.

Fortunately Monolith seem to have upped their game, because the levels are much better in the sequel. Of course four years have passed in engine development and potential and FEAR2 still doesn't come close to being one of the best lookings games of 2009. But this time it's adequate, even slightly above the average 2009 game. The original was not adequate, particularly once given a few years to age.

It does still suffer a bit from it's layouts - the same tight, linear and indoor levels. Usually featuring a couple of paths to go room from room. I was delighted halfway through the game to finally get out of the buildings and onto the streets, but even those were quite limited. This is not an open-world. Then it was back into buildings, spending a long time in an elementary school, a research facility, a subway station, and finally a nuclear power plant.

In fact some of the first levels were perhaps the weakest. I was particularly impressed with the final level - that looked great. So truck on gamers!

Part of what makes the difference is everything is destroyed and ravaged by a nuclear explosion. There's nothing like a good old nuclear bomb to set the atmosphere for a game.

But atmosphere isn't just enhanced by destruction - FEAR2 is a psychological horror game. Monolith, again, have done a much better job of the story telling and creepiness. The very best parts of the game, for me, were not the combat but the periods where you'd be wandering around being haunted by various scripted events. Things like hallucinations into the past or being attacked by Alma the freakish and deformed naked girl (although a few times you get to see her in undead form, still naked and typically enhanced game boobs), objects moving on their own, ghosts coming at you. It was all very well done. Let's be honest, a game will never scare like a movie can, there's just too much interaction and when you're running along with enough firepower for an entire team and a reload button no matter what, you won't really be jumping out of your skin. But it's still well done. I might have jumped the once.

The original game excelled on its gameplay. The combination of machine gun and shotgun with bullet-time was a fun rinse-and-repeat formula. FEAR2 mixes it up slightly more. While bullet-time is still there, I can say I didn't use it a single time in the entire game. There were some tight spots (the tram ride) but I just got used to never using it. This is because for the first 2/3rds of the game, combat isn't that difficult. I played on normal, but even for normal it wasn't a big challenge like some games are. The last third ramped up the difficulty a bit, although the end battle was very easy. Part of this might be because we now get consolised checkpoints and no quicksave, which was an important part of the original. I was also playing slowly, picking off headshots, using cover a lot. When you see an enemy and miss and have to duck behind cover, look on the other side, the enemy will usually switch and flank from the other direction they were going in. When an enemy is dead, wait. More will soon arrive.

Also this time the shotgun was friggin useless most of the time, which is disappoint for a shotty. You just have to be too close to an enemy for it to do anything. More than five metres away and you'll go through several shells as if it's just missing them every time. The problem is you don't want enemies getting close enough to make the shotgun effective, you need to kill them before they get close. So the scoped Assault Rifle and SMG were the way to go. While when times got tricky you also had a couple other weapons slots (nail gun, sniper rifle and laser gun I found quite good). So with a less useful shotgun and bullet-time unnecessary, FEAR2 didn't feel much like the original's gameplay. Not such a bad thing, as the original was a tad repetitive.

So overall I found FEAR2 a much better game, surprisingly. I'd certainly replay this again in future, much more likely than the original. Fun gameplay, better visuals although still not the upper tier of 2009, and a better attempt at story telling.

My only complaint? I purchased the dvd version, installed and it still loaded up Steam to download 4-5gb of crap. At least 1gb was a patch, which I cancelled because it seemed to be full of multiplayer fixes and maps.

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