The Game Reviews recently had the opportunity to chat with Eric Studer, Associate Producer for F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin. Eric was kind enough to answer a few questions for TGR readers about the upcoming horror FPS, scheduled to be released early next year.
The Game Reviews: One of the features that stood out the most for us in the original F.E.A.R. was of course the fear factor. What have you done to ensure that this next iteration continues to keep games on the edge of their seats?
Eric Studer: Alma is a scary figure, whose origins lie in the very best of Japanese horror. However, we knew that if we simply presented her again as a scary little girl, it wouldn’t resonate with our players the way it did in 2005. Audiences are a lot more aware of those kinds of scares, and so we needed to find a way to expand on Alma’s character the same way we have expanded the game. For FEAR 2, Alma’s presentation takes more influences from things like Eastern European and American horror. She is a lot more directly confrontational than she was in the first game and will interact with you a lot more directly. That’s not to say we’ve abandoned what made Alma scary, we have just built on the formula and given her more depth.
TGR: Alma often had a great effect on the events within the previous F.E.A.R. titles. In what new ways will she manifest herself now?
ES: Now that she’s released, there are very few things that Alma can’t do. She will change several times over the course of the game. The forms she takes make her character and her motivations far more unsettling than FEAR. How she appears to the player ties very closely into the story, so I don’t want to say too much.
TGR: During our hands-on time at E3, we noticed the environments seemed much more interactive than those in the previous title, to what extent will this interactivity play a role in the title?
ES: One of the things that made combat in FEAR so satisfying was seeing things go flying as your bullets tore through helpless objects caught between you and your foes. That kind of interactivity is something you’ll see a lot more of that this time out. The EPA is a great example of the interactive nature of the environment. Its chain guns and rocket launchers will pulverize anything it hits. When the wall enemies were using as cover gets destroyed, they have to find a new way to survive and their strategies change. There is also the addition of interactive cover objects which are everyday objects in the combat space which you can flip or slide and turn into cover. Enemies use them, and we encourage the player to use them as well. You’re going to find yourself surrounded without a place to hide, and flipping a table or a bench to create cover where there was none before gets the player to think strategically about the battle field and look for ways to get the advantage.
TGR: While we were playing at E3, we also noticed it seems as if you have switched to a regenerative health system. What was the main reasoning behind that? We also read somewhere that you decided to switch back. Can you clarify that situation for our readers?
ES: We did originally have a regenerative based system, but changed to the traditional Medkit implementation because we found that players tended to use the same strategy when they regenerated health. They would take damage to a point and hide, waiting to get back to full health before attacking again. With Medkits players can control when they resupply their health, encouraging them to experiment with more combat strategies. It’s easier for them to adopt a more aggressive strategy when they control when they heal.
TGR: The AI in the previous F.E.A.R. games was very well developed and showed a good grasp of tactics. What changes or improvements will be made to the AI in Project Origin?
ES: I mentioned briefly before that when you destroy their cover, enemies react to that and change strategies, but that’s just one facet of what they can do. We’ve taken everything that was successful about the AI in FEAR and expanded on it. Enemies are far more aware of their environment, and act even more realistically than before. They yell out commands to each other and respond to them. They call out your location if they find you. They’ll throw grenades to dig you out of any place you’re hiding, or maneuver to flank you if they see you charging into an area blindly. If you catch them on fire, they are going to try to put themselves out either by jumping into a body of water, or patting themselves down. If they drop their primary weapon, they’ll pull out their side arm and fend you off while they try to recover their rifle. AI behavior isn’t scripted. They react to how you play the game. We like to think of how the AI works as "sandbox combat." Even though the places you’re fighting don’t change when you replay stages, your experiences will change because the AI reacts to your actions differently every time.
TGR: What have you done to make sure that Project Origin will be able to stand out from the other shooters on the market?
ES: Players will really respond to the AI. A lot of attention has been put into making it as realistic and intelligent as possible. It’s something that enhances the game experience and makes it all the more fun. The technology behind FEAR 2 in general is just impressive. The tech is an internal engine created by Monolith. Because the tools are internal, it gives the devs an edge in creating a world that looks exactly the way they want it, and it helps give FEAR 2 a stunning and visually unique look. And of course that finely tuned balance of intense combat and horror that made FEAR so successful has been expanded on and refined. Monolith blends these two concepts together seamlessly, and the result is a rollercoaster of emotions that keep players receptive and excited to see what happens next.
TGR: Can we expect to see any new weapons beyond what we saw in the original?
ES: Absolutely, what kind of sequel would it be if we didn’t give players new toys to play with? One that I personally can’t get enough of is the Napalm Cannon which is a close range flame thrower that not only lights enemies on fire, but will light the environment up too. Seeing flames crawl up the walls while a bad guy rolls around on the ground trying to put himself out is an incredibly gratifying moment. Fan favorites like the nail gun are back as well, and it’s gotten as much attention as the new weapons.
TGR: Will we be seeing a demo of this title on PSN and Xbox Live in the near future?
ES: There will be a demo, and the team has outdone themselves with what they’ve put together. We wanted to provide a detailed representation of everything that FEAR 2 has to offer, and to do that I think we’ve put together an incredibly robust experience. It’s a great appetizer and really shows off what we’ve done to make FEAR 2 an amazing game.
TGR: Do you have any additional information you would like to share with our readers?
ES: One of the comments we got after FEAR launched was that while the graphics were incredible, it got tedious to navigate the same spaces repeatedly. Players suffered from office fatigue by the end of the game. When the designers sat down and began thinking about the sequel one of the first things they wanted to address was the variety of environments. When gamers play FEAR 2, they are going to see very quickly how much work went into expanding the game world both in theme and in size. The designers also laid out a color map of each of the game’s chapters, with the intention of using a color palette that evoked the moods they wanted to illicit. If they wanted players to feel uneasy, they would use one palette, aggression, another, feelings of familiarity, yet another. It’s a subtle detail and we hope players notice and enjoy it as much as we do.