I knew I was going to be reviewing this game eventually. Truth is I’ve been kind of avoiding it. It’s not that I hated FEAR 2: Project Origin. Far from it. It was overall an enjoyable game, but the end left such a bad taste in my mouth that I have not been sure how to approach reviewing it. In the end, I decided to just kind of try to explain how you can both love and hate a game at the same time.
It all started well
FEAR 2 sort of picks up where its predecessor left off. I say sort of, as you do not even control the main character from the first game. Instead, you find yourself playing Michael Becket, a member of an elite team sent to take Geneveieve Aristide into protective custody right about the time the protagonist in the first game destroys the reactor at the Origin Facility, setting Alma free and ruining the city around it from both a physical and supernatural standpoint.
This of course opens up a whole new set of problems. Now not only are you trying to survive the aftermath of the explosion, you are faced with the task of stopping a teenage phantom with an axe to grind. This leads you through a hospital full of failed experiments to make replica generals, ruined city streets filled with replica soldiers, puppet masters and ghosts of those who once lived there and, most haunting of all, a school where…things are just not quite right.
Sure, the pule rifle is nice, but the laser and even the mech…not so much.
As you make your way through this barren landscape, you begin to understand that you and your team were a part of a project known as “Harbinger,” a top secret project to create teams of super soldiers lead by telepathic generals. You also learn thanks to the help of “Snake Fist” that Aristide has an ulterior motive, and that you may be the only one who has a chance at stopping Alma.
It all seems fine, and everything plays out fairly well to a point…till it all kind of falls apart. You see, you come to this amazing point in the game where you ware making your way to the Origin Facility. As you make you approach, you have to walk into the blast crater, walking on the walls of the buildings as if you they were the ground. It is an amazingly striking visual, and you cannot help but think the ending is going to be great. The problem is that is really the high point of the game, and beyond that it all starts to fall apart.
When a good thing turns bad
One of the fist things you will notice about FEAR 2 is it is not a very tight shooter. This isn’t really too much trouble as you do have the ability to slow down time. Something that that helps you deal with the fact you are constantly outnumbered. You also have a variety of weapons to choose from throughout the game, but with rare exception, they are not really all that impressive. Useful, but they’ve all been done before. The one exception is the weapon given to you by Snake Fist, a pulse weapon that works great against the replica assassins in the game, but runs out of ammo in no time. You never do find any more for it.
Anyway, back to the not-so-tight controls. This becomes really annoying in the final stages of the game, where you are dealing with overwhelming odds and numerous replica assassins, which require precision. The problem is the controls will not give you that kind of precision. One of the most annoying segments in the last levels is the tram ride, where you are being attacked from soldiers on all sides. You really are trying to to conserve ammo while taking down your opponents, but that is easier said than done when you cannot line up your shots accurately and quickly. Now in full disclosure, I was playing the Xbox 360 version of the game, and the controls may be more precise on the PC, but that is no excuse in my book. Other companies, including Valve and Infinity Ward, have found ways to make their games shooting mechanic precise on the 360. There is no excuse for Monolith’s somewhat sloppy handling of this gameplay mechanic.
On top of that, there is the “maze” where Alma keeps trowing crates around telekinetically that somehow land in the exact same place they were already in, the ridiculous final battle and the ending that will have you cringing. I was serious when I said in the podcast that once you get through the crater section I mentioned earlier, you should really stop playing the game. At least then you will not end up with such a bad taste in you mouth.
It’s not all bad news
By this point, you must think I hated Fear 2. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are parts of this game that are truly brilliant. Take for example the sequence in the cells of the hospital. You are stuck in a room with cells that keep opening, releasing the failed attempts to make the replica generals. These people have turned into rather nasty creatures who will stalk you, moving in such a way that makes them rather difficult to hit. The sequence can be nerve racking, making you as a player start looking around every corner, considering the defensibility of every area you must cross.
The atmosphere of FEAR 2 is sufficiently creepy. It’s not a bad game, just not great.
Then there is the school. FEAR 2 goes out of its way to create a creepy and disturbing atmosphere, and nowhere does this atmosphere shine through more than in the school. Imagine walking through an area that should be a place of learning and laughter, only to find grim reminders of the surrounding devastation, strange propaganda being taught in the classrooms, and ghost like apparitions ready to attack you at any turn. It is probably the most impressive section of the game.
The game just tries too hard
In the end, FEAR 2′s biggest problem may be that Monolith tried to hard to make an epic sequel to the first game. Even the mech suit sequences feel like an attempt to upstage the first game. In the attempt to make the game bigger and better than the first, Monolith instead made a game that starts strong but wears out its welcome.
So am I saying you should avoid the game? No, not really. I just think it is more of a rent than a buy, especially when you consider the lackluster multiplayer. While I enjoyed this game, I just cannot give FEAR 2: Project Origin any higher than a 3 out of 5.