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Old 02-17-2009, 02:07 PM   #1
lost
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[360/PS3/PC] - F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin Review

Title: F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
Platform: PS3/360/PC
Platform Reviewed: PS3
Developer: Monolith
Publisher: WB Games
MSRP: $59.99, £39.99, €59.99
Writer: Martin 'lost' Perry

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

Once the true spiritual successor and now the fully fledged sequel F.E.A.R. 2 has something to prove. Have Monolith risen to the challenge or fallen back on their own conventions?

The original F.E.A.R. had its fair share of detractors in amongst the fans of the bloody slo-motion shooter. In my personal opinion the original was a brilliant mix of macabre horror and military aggression. The locations were wonderfully drab, managing to intensify the pressure of armored soldiers bearing down upon you. The lighting system was revolutionary and with the physics mixed in provided a real sensory overload. Ports to both the 360 and PS3 struggled to match up and expansions were, however, entirely disappointing.

So it hasn't been an entirely easy run for the franchise that Alma built. Heck, even this title has required Activision Blizzard to strip Sierra of the project that was originally intended to bear it's particular acronym in order for it to retain the name. It's with some trepidation then that I downloaded the demo and it failed to alleviate any of my, no pun intended, fears. In the end the game is a surprisingly exciting and full-on shooting experience. Something of a shame then when it fails to meet the expectations of a fan.

Project Origin follows on directly from the events of the first game. In fact you'll see the climactic explosion that was supposed to kill Alma. You join a group of soldiers who are tasked with the rescue of a corporate executive. This is, of course, before the corrupt world of dastardly experiments, clone soldiers and mind control craziness flops out before you. The tale itself feels pretty ham-fisted. Monolith are usually quite capable of telling an interesting story with a degree of subtlety. Not here however, the game's few cutscenes don't add any real justification for your trek and the various documents you can pick up around the levels are more cryptic than revealing.

The game's biggest crime is to drag out canned scares from the Monolith back catalog and fail to put them together in any sort of cohesive fashion. The levels, a mix of civilian locations and underground lairs, feel like confused attempts to create a scary atmosphere. They don't and, whilst they fail to do so, they also make your journey feel like a disconnected jaunt through random spots. They lack any distinct storytelling purpose and the developers haven't put a whole lot of effort into having things make much sense. One would be happy to put this down to them having to avoid any sort of copyright violation. Deviating from the franchise's truly spooky routes will grate but the Project Origin does plenty right to satisfy gamers.

The slo-motion mechanic rolls over from the original through the magic of convenient plot twists. It remains the games strongest point but that inclusion, coupled with the new locations, brings about a quantum shift in the way firefights play out. F.E.A.R. 2 is now much less about crouching behind cover and popping out to pick off a few enemies. You are now far more empowered to nip between enemies, blasting them away at close range. With the right approach entire rooms can be cleared out in seconds as you fling grenades around and use a shotgun to vaporize soldiers. This is incredibly fun and amongst a world of shooters concentrated on ducking and weaving the run-and-gun gameplay feels startlingly fresh.

Project Origin does a good job of mixing up the situations to avoid the brutal firefights feeling repetitive. Entire sections play out without a bullet in sight as you chase apparitions or clamber down crumbling structures. None of this is scary but by virtue of being so different they ensure you savor each enemy encounter. Again, they lack any real justification. Enemies pop up in all sorts of places and then all of a sudden you'll be in a rather conspicuously empty area. It doesn't matter though, they provide spots for the various Alma hallucinations. Again, they aren't scary but they are well put together. These bits are actually the most interesting idea the game has, flicking between horrific locations means that that spooky little girl is the best explained aspect of a jumbled story.

The somewhat divisive mecha sections are given no significant context to make them any less obvious or more necessary. The spaces they inhabit are entirely contrived but their only occasional appearance ensures a welcome change of pace. The fact that me, myself and I could annihilate the opponents spread out before my robot can be disregarded but creates a conflict of interests. Would I rather stumble around in a robot or shoot knee-caps in slo-mo? Your enjoyment of these bits will depend entirely on your preference.

The games presentation is disappointing. Condemned 2 pushed Monolith's engine in an positive direction and managed to avoid blank walls and low-res textures. F.E.A.R. 2 falls into these pits with some gusto. The engine struggles to render the outdoor areas with anything but the minimum of flair. Without the complex dynamic lighting and shadows the simplicity of the models and low texture detail becomes brutally apparent. It just doesn't feel like the same care has been taken to make the game as visually interesting as we are used to. Indeed, there are a few too many blank walls even when you are inside. It's either time for a significant engine update or, at very least, a break from the conventions Monolith have fallen into.

In the end F.E.A.R. 2 walks a difficult tightrope of new direction and fan service. Unfortunately it slips a little too often. The game is at its best as you zoom between clone soldiers and blow them into lovely slo-motion bloody bits. The shift from meek cop to overpowered soldier allows the game a sense of freedom lacking from many a competitor. The game is infinitely traditional and shooter fans will find plenty to love amongst the genre conventions. Train sections (in tunnels I might add), quick time events and a typical range of weapons are all here. It's a hugely enjoyable disappointment with an a-typical second game ending leaving the experience more of a must-rent than a must-buy.
Score: 3 out of 5



The Good
  • You feel like a power-house as you nip between enemies in slo-mo.
  • The range of weapons is pleasing and you'll be given ample opportunity to use them all.
  • Alma's hallucinations are little technical marvels. Fun and creepy all at once.

The Bad
  • The level locations are fairly dull and lack the same sense of claustrophobia of the originals office blocks.
  • Visuals feel somewhat dated, especially the outdoor areas where the lighting system can't substitute.
  • The story isn't told very well, parts feel cliché and the frights seem like an afterthought.

The Ugly
  • You never feel overwhelmed, slo-mo is no longer an advantage in tricky situations but instead a “make me invincible” button.
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Old 02-17-2009, 02:21 PM   #2
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The story isn't told very well, parts feel cliché and the frights seem like an afterthought.
beautifully put! i agree with the review whole heartedly. I really wished the game gave us more story to give a break in the monotony of the levels and game play. :\
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Old 02-17-2009, 02:35 PM   #3
Zetsuei
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I just beat Fear 2 last night, and I have to say that I'd mostly agree with your score. I'd maybe even give it less, for several reasons that I don't think were mentioned. My largest gripe is the weapon selection. It's the original fear's selection of weapons, only not as robust. Most of the guns are the old ones with a new coat of paint (nail gun has glowing nails now, wow....), and some of the high powered weapons in the first game neither make an appearance, nor have a substitute. They give you one gun that literally has 10 shots, for the entire game. And it sucks. It's hard to aim, because using the zoom actually makes it harder, and the projectile is slow as shit so enemies will dodge it easily. It has a splash damage effect, but meh, two shotgun blasts to most enemies will do the trick.

My other gripe, which is related, is enemy variation. There are basically 5 enemies in the game, and that's generous. There are the grunts, the heavy guys, the jump around mutant things, the mechs, and the invisible dudes (which have impressive visual effects). There might be a different skin on them, but that's literally the variation of enemies you'll fight. There is no need to strategize with them either. You kick it into slow mo, run right up to them, shoot twice, repeat.

Other things worth mentioning - Story, eh. Climax, abrupt. Graphics, ok but not great. Forced 16:9 perspective, retarded. Voice acting, eh. Mech combat, eh. Scariness, non existent. Hallucinations, well done. Difficulty on Normal, easy as shit. I would probably rate this as a "rent if you've never played the first, but otherwise, don't worry about it". The more I think about it, the less I like it.

edit: I haven't played the multi-player but the first one was mediocre at best, so I don't intend to spend time on this one. And if you'd like to play through single player again with cheats, you might as well go to add-remove programs/FEAR2/Uninstall.
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Old 02-17-2009, 02:39 PM   #4
Vorphalack
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The level locations are fairly dull and lack the same sense of claustrophobia of the originals office blocks.
HAHAHA...everyone complains about the endless office levels in the first game, and here you are saying essentially "Needs more office levels".

Not slagging your review...I agree with it for the most part, just thought that was funny.
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Old 02-17-2009, 02:53 PM   #5
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Totally mediocre start to finish, exactly like the first one.
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Old 02-17-2009, 03:19 PM   #6
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Totally mediocre start to finish, exactly like the first one.
The first one was considered ground breaking due to the quality of the AI. Unfortunately, I didnt see the same quality in this game. Its like the AI took a step back.
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Old 02-17-2009, 03:24 PM   #7
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Good review, lost. I can easily see how someone would feel the way you do about the game (except for you basically saying that it needed more office levels). I would argue against your point that the levels were disconnected. I found that they very easily connected to each other through the story.

And, unlike some people, I feel that their was enough story presented. I like the fact that it didn't explain everything, the fact that there are mysteries left unsolved, and the fact that the entire thing feels like one big WTF. Frankly, in that situation, you're not going to have time to find all the clues, learn all the secrets, and figure out exactly what happened, why it happened, and what's going on. You're just going to do what you can to survive, and that's really how the story progressed.

I've mentioned here my hatred of point systems, so I won't give a score for it. I would rate the game with a simple Good.
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Old 02-17-2009, 03:44 PM   #8
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The first one was considered ground breaking due to the quality of the AI. Unfortunately, I didnt see the same quality in this game. Its like the AI took a step back.
I breezed through FEAR1 for the first time last month. I guess the AI was alright, but the problem was, the game didn't put it to good use because it was too busy trying and failing at being a horror FPS.
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Old 02-17-2009, 03:50 PM   #9
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I breezed through FEAR1 for the first time last month. I guess the AI was alright, but the problem was, the game didn't put it to good use because it was too busy trying and failing at being a horror FPS.
You played it a few months ago. FEAR was originally released in 2005, and at the time its AI was ground breaking. A lot of companies saw what FEAR did and have been improving on it over the past 3 years. So, playing it now, of course the AI isn't as impressive as it was back then.
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Old 02-17-2009, 03:53 PM   #10
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I enjoyed it way more than the first one. Its a good FPS for one play-through, but nothing that makes me want to go back and try different stuff, since there's not much you could do differently. Didn't like the ending, as I already guessed what would happen with Alma half way through the game. Pretty much like any horror movie I guess.
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Old 02-17-2009, 04:02 PM   #11
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Thanks for the comments folks. I was a little hesitant about the 3, up until yesterday I was tacking on a .5 for no good reason.

The enemy variation bugged me too. I remember their being an almost class based system for enemies in the first game. The A.I. was pretty clever in that first title, it's basically either "hide" or "run towards you" in this game.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vorphalack View Post
HAHAHA...everyone complains about the endless office levels in the first game, and here you are saying essentially "Needs more office levels".

Not slagging your review...I agree with it for the most part, just thought that was funny.
Hah. I actually played the first one in maybe 2006 so it was a while after the fuss had died down. I loved the office blocks, I thought they worked in terms of story and gameplay. They are creepy places when empty so stick some spooky shit in there and you've got a winner in my book.
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Old 02-17-2009, 04:58 PM   #12
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this game was a major disappointment. It really lost a lot of what made it great, and I suspect that consolification is to blame.

Here's an example of something missing that was in the first FEAR: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbzFf...eature=channel
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Old 02-17-2009, 05:06 PM   #13
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That video is pretty shocking. Both console versions? Oh, I think they might be both from PC versions - that is even worse.

Condemned 2 was such an amazing looking game on consoles that there seems to be very little reason for this. I know it had less physicsy stuff going on but you'd hope the tech would keep improving.

Somebody at work today said they thought the graphics were amazing. After I talked to him about it for a while he realised that was something of an assumption.
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Old 02-17-2009, 05:40 PM   #14
Zetsuei
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Wow, that video is nuts. I haven't played the first FEAR since it came out, so I had completely forgotten what it was like. I never noticed the absence of shadows, but I always knew something was a bit off. On another note, you could f'ing jump kick people in FEAR 1, and have dual pistols. That just makes me dislike FEAR 2 even more. Also, the proxy mines that shot up into the air and blew up were much cooler than the proxy mines in 2. I used those a total of 5 times. I shouldn't think about this stuff any more because the more I think about it the lower my personal score goes. Right now it's at a 2.
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Old 02-17-2009, 07:08 PM   #15
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I agree that they probably took that out to get it to run on a console reasonably well.

IIRC Fear 1 had full per-pixel lighting globally (as the video points out). Going down that path is the path to poor performance and generic looks and reuse of textures which caused a lot of problems with the first one, particularly in the reviews; probably more than was actually gained by using full dynamic shadows. I think they probably made the right business choice here.

Also: the AI guy from Fear 1 left the company I believe to go (teach? Get his doctorate?) at MIT in the robotics lab or something. Smart fella! I guess his loss is telling from what I've heard everywhere about the AI in F2.
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Old 02-17-2009, 09:28 PM   #16
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you can still jump kick people in fear 2. you can pistol whip them too but it's not worth it
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Old 02-17-2009, 09:36 PM   #17
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My problem with any FPS I play now is whenever an enemy is really close I hit right click.
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Old 02-18-2009, 02:23 AM   #18
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Also: the AI guy from Fear 1 left the company I believe to go (teach? Get his doctorate?) at MIT in the robotics lab or something. Smart fella! I guess his loss is telling from what I've heard everywhere about the AI in F2.
I would have given the guy a blank check.

For those of you who have never tried A.I. path finding and behavior modeling it isn't necessarily that hard to get it done. Getting it done in a way that doesn't cripple the system when more than 2 guys are on screen is another matter.
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:04 AM   #19
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I'm studying AI right now.
The calculations are almost always exponential - both in CPU cycles and memory space.
This is to find the optimal path.

In games you have to cheat to reduce the complexity.
Once you have that you need to parse this AI into a game to make it fun!

I think the AI in FEAR2 is ok.
The problem is, that the game is far too easy compared to the first one.
I played 1 hour on normal and hardly lost any armor.
I have to try it on the hardest difficulty.

I wass suprised with the presentation/polish of the release game after playing the demo.
It seems to start out fairly normal, and I like that alot.

All shader effects are done with such style that I have never seen matched.
It is VERY cinematic and IMHO groundbreaking in this regard.
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Old 02-18-2009, 05:21 AM   #20
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Maybe the textures and the lack of shadows is a console thing. I'm running this at 1920x1080 and I'm just not seeing the lack of texture detail and I know for a fact I can see my own shadow on the walls and floor.

As far as AI goes, it seems close to the original. They flip cover, pop out from behind stuff and squeeze a few shots off. The flame thrower guys chuck incendiary grenades. If there are multiple paths, they will come at me from different directions. They react if my flashlight is on. I guess I'm easy to please. The crazy mutant guys running on the walls and stuff are good. I'll be focused on one and I'll get a couple come up behind me and I won't realize that my health is dropping because I'm trying to pin that one down in front of me.

On the PC, you get the grainy film filter look similar to Mass Effect. I guess that makes it cinematic. I can't remember if I saw that when I played the PS3 demo.

Anyway, I've been appropriately entertained while playing it with headphones on in the dark. At least until my wife snuck up behind me and put a hand on my shoulder. At which point I jumped out of my chair and almost pissed myself.
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