The original F.E.A.R. brought cinematic terror into the world of first person shooters like no other title had before. You were constantly dreading horrors that could be waiting for you around every corner as you were toyed with by series antagonist Alma, a creepy little girl who forced visions into your character’s mind. Now, Alma is all grown up as Monolith brings us F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, which aims to fix the flaws of the original while maintaining the spooky vibe that the series is known for.
Project Origin puts you into the helmet of a new character, Michael Becket, as he and his task force head off on a mission that is interrupted by the explosive final events of the original F.E.A.R. Throughout the game’s fourteen chapters, Becket journeys through the remains of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a blood-soaked hospital, and even a demented elementary school, all with the goal of discovering the secrets behind Alma and finding a way to stop her from becoming too powerful.
Those who played the first game and were bored by the lack of location variety need not worry here. The design of Project Origin is a lot more ambitious, and the levels themselves have plenty of heart-stopping moments, like when a helicopter careens out of control and crashes into the building you are exploring. The action is also broken up quite a bit by Alma, who will appear in your path or show you a glimpse of her nightmares. These sequences are always welcome, as they keep the uneasy mood and prevent the game from being back-to-back shootouts.
The gunplay in the original F.E.A.R. was easily the highlight of the experience, and Monolith has found ways to make it even more exciting here. You can use an arsenal of smartly-implemented weaponry to slaughter the opposition, including the fireball-shooting Napalm Cannon, the creature-slicing Laser, and the Hammerhead, which is a nailgun that bolts enemies to walls. Suffice it to say, that last one is my favorite. You are also able to slow down time at will, letting you take out multiple soldiers at once and dodge incoming fire. The game uses this feature wisely—overrunning areas with foes and throwing opponents at you that can not be killed otherwise—forcing you to make tactical decisions about which weaponry you should use and when you need to trigger your special power.
You will need all of these abilities to take on the hordes of highly intelligent soldiers that you must face. You will often see the troops knocking over tables during firefights to use as cover and hear them yelling out your location to each other as they plan their attack. Thankfully, you can also turn over certain desks, tables, and cabinets for use as cover yourself, which becomes very handy during larger battles when you are feeling overwhelmed. In addition to the soldiers, you will also face wall-climbing test victims, vanishing paranormal attackers, and even giant Mechs that lumber around with chain guns and missile launchers. Monolith also saw it fit to let the player commandeer these machines a few times during the game, and each segment that lets you control the Mech is incredibly satisfying.
So where does F.E.A.R. 2 falter? Despite offering a lot more environmental variety than the original title or its expansion packs, some of the locations here do feel a bit generic. Several chapters—like ones set in the aforementioned school—are well paced and memorable, but a few of the “underground lab” and “destroyed building” locations could have been taken from any other game. Another problem worth mentioning is enemy variety, as you end up shooting a large number of the same-looking soldiers over and over. The game does break up the combat often—be it with unique fights or spooky cinematic sequences—but you will still end up fighting more of the standard replicated goons eventually.
In addition to the 10-12 hour campaign, Project Origin also contains several multiplayer options that allows up to 16 players to compete online in modes like Deathmatch, Control, and Capture the Flag. The action is fast and intense, the weaponry of F.E.A.R. is a blast to use in multiplayer, and the levels taken from the single-player mode all work well enough for these matches. The only problem here is that it all seems a bit generic, as neither the horror-aspects of the series nor Alma herself are utilized during online play. I did encounter some lag in a few 16 player matches, but the action runs smoothly for the most part, and while it doesn’t stray far from the standard multiplayer FPS formula it is enjoyable enough to spend some time with once you have completed the single player campaign.
As soon as you boot up Project Origin for the first time, you will notice that the game has a very distinct look that it carries throughout all of the modes. The visuals are heavily filtered to look like they are recorded on film, and the result is very effective at creating a cinematic graphical style. The character models and animation are also excellent, and the creepy enemy design results in some interesting looking horrors for you to encounter. Also worth mentioning is the game’s over the top handling of blood, as opponents can erupt into an impressive explosion of gore after a well placed shotgun blast. Large scale firefights often leave rooms looking like macabre canvases of death and destruction, with bodies strewn over nearby surfaces and splatters of blood covering everything.
The sound is equally high quality, with solid voice acting delivering the story through your character’s headset and terrific weapon effects for every gun you grab. The game’s slow motion soundscape is also noteworthy, as everything gets a few octaves lower and you can hear a lot more of the audio detail more clearly. The music is effective at setting the mood, be it for an action sequence or for a chilling vision, and comes in at the perfect moments to prepare you for what is coming.
While F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin may not doing anything entirely new or different, it does offer a huge improvement over the original and a very solid, entertaining shooter experience from start to finish. Those looking for a scary thrill ride would find a lot to love here, and fans of previous F.E.A.R. titles should be pleased with the direction that Monolith has taken the franchise.