Review: You're not afraid of a little girl and a cornball acronym, are you?
If you missed Monolith Production's original title, F.E.A.R. - AKA the awfully backronymed First Encounter Assault Recon - then you failed to play one of the best games that 2005 had to offer. No matter, Vivendi Games re-released the title a few times after its initial release. PC gamers received two separate collections, as did consoles gamers. However, after the original run on the PC, Monolith Studios moved on, promising to create a sequel.
In the interim, Vivendi Games, who now owned the name of the franchise (Side note: Monolith was purchased by Warner Brother Interactive Entertainment during the development of the title. The company retained ownership of most of the IP, but lost the name which was forced upon them by the original publisher.), allowed Timegate Studios to create a pair of expansions, Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate. The two expansions were later compiled into a single offering for the Xbox 360, known as F.E.A.R. Files.
Little Girls Are Scary
I absolutely loved the original F.E.A.R. and couldn't wait to get the crap scared out of me by Alma again. The not-so-young girl did not let me down, and neither did Monolith. F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin picks up after the blast that ends the first title, placing gamers in the body of a new squad member, Michael Becket, sent to extract an Armacham doctor. From the get go, players are attacked mentally by Alma and physically by various factions attempting to complete their own objectives. The selection of an actual character, rather than the previous Point Man, allowed Monolith the luxury of creating more in depth character development. The focus of the story was no longer the antagonist, but the gamer's avatar, his squad members, and supporting characters as well. The pacing of the title's action and story are near flawless, a perfect mix of shooting, easy puzzles, scares and background information.
The biggest knock on the original title was its consistent use of claustrophobic spaces - namely the stereotypical office building - to invoke fear. The developer attacked this flaw with reckless abandon, opening up the setting to rooftop condos, destroyed buildings, rubble strewn streets and subway lines. Players will still encounter their fair share of office settings, but they are far more detailed than the previous FPS's incarnations, featuring some basic interactivity to boot. As if to prove to gamers that the company can make a more open game, Monolith hands Beckett a mechanized suit during his fight for survival. The suits seem to have been placed in the title in a random fashion, but it allows even the worst shooter to drop waves of enemies as you stave off Alma's attacks on your psyche.
Not Perfection, But A Damn Fine Attempt
Without a doubt, the title's largest failing is the multiplayer experience. It is not bad by any means, rather it is entirely run of the mill. The Reflex mechanic - think bullet time - isn't implemented in any of the MP modes, in any fashion. For technical and balance issues, it makes sense not to incorporate the ability in its single player incarnation, but it could have easily been modified for multiplayer purposes. For example, rather than slowing down time, why not have the ability increase aim for a short duration. With your super reflex ability in flow, you would be able to aim far more accurately, automatically adjusting for recoil and the randomness of certain guns. Nope, one of the coolest aspects of the title got thrown out the window in Multiplayer.
Finally, what's the deal with the slip cover? It has nothing to do with the game itself, but whatever factory put my title (and all the copies my friends own) made it damn near impossible to get the DVD case out of the cover without destroying it. To achieve this, I put the game in the freezer for about an hour to let everything contract a bit. My first use of high school chemistry in nearly a decade worked, but the process remained troublesome. A random thing to complain about, yet, it does matter to the collector out there.