it to be 'average'? Do we really mean "in the
middle of the scoring spectrum," or is it something
else? F.E.A.R. 2 certainly couldn't
be accused of being mediocre in terms of its combat
mechanics or stratospheric production values. But
its content is about as middle-of-the-road as you can
get. This is FPS-by-numbers, and your views on
that will shape your enjoyment of this highly polished
yet unimaginative sequel.
Once again, it's a game primarily about blistering,
high-octane combat, interrupted by short sequences of
psychological horror. The balance has been shifted
even more in the direction of the former for this second
outing, with the scares talking a back seat for the vast
majority of the game. There are regular stretches
of an hour or more where literally nothing scary
happens. In fact, despite its name, F.E.A.R.
2 struggles to be particularly frightening at
all. Every time the screen began to flicker, I
readied myself for a jump as brilliant as the 'ghosts on
the ladder' moment in the first game. Nothing like
it ever materialised. Project Origin is tense,
but it's not going to send shivers down your spine for
the rest of the night.
Mainly, this is a symptom of Alma, the creepy girl at
the centre of the franchise's story, just not being
inherently scary any more. Now that we know who
she is, what happened to her, and how she's exacting
revenge on the world, the heavy air of sinister mystery
has been completely removed. Her purpose now seems
to be merely to pop up at you from time to time, and be
the subject of an admittedly unnerving and warped
climax. But we know that, in the game, she can do
nothing to harm us (outside of a couple of Oh No Not
Those Again quick-time events). She's a tortured spirit
wandering around our world, but it's the Replica forces
that are to be feared.
albeit refined, action territory..."
The enemy AI
is again delectably good, with foes utilising cover and
working together to flank you. On harder
difficulty levels, there's a real necessity for careful
strategic planning upon entering each battle, and
failure to take advantage of your environment and
slow-motion 'reflex' abilities often leads to a messy
death. Ranged combat is predictably superb, with a
collection of meaty, satisfying weapons to juggle and a
perfect difficulty balance that rarely becomes too straightforward
or too frustrating.
And yet, elsewhere, the combat manages to be thoroughly
disappointing. Fans of the original F.E.A.R. will
remember the hectic close-quarters fighting, complete
with slide-tackles and flying kicks to the face.
In the sequel, it's rarely possible to pull this off
with the same panache. Monolith's admittedly
excellent decision to "increase the size of the
corridor" means enemies almost always approach from
a distance, so melée is hardly ever the most sensible
option. You can still thwack people upside
the head with your gun, or land a sweet kick to the
goolies (though the latter move seems more difficult to
trigger this time), but when you have to soak up a load
of damage just to get close enough to do so, why bother?
This shift towards straightforward shooting leaves
something to be desired. The innovative and
enormously fun gameplay mechanics of the original have
been sidelined in favour of more bog-standard, albeit
refined, action territory. While diving between
cover and lining up slow-mo headshots is undeniably
exciting, it's difficult to get excited about
it. And that conflict lies at the heart of the F.E.A.R.
It's an excellent first-person shooter. Few are
going to argue with that. The pacing is brilliant,
and there's a real sense of exhilaration to be found in
the firefights. It's astoundingly polished,
clearly optimised to suit the expectations of
current-generation gamers. But there's no evidence
of Monolith's long-renowned creativity. F.E.A.R.
2 might be mechanically the best game we've seen
from this developer, but it's also the least inspired.
lack of logic to some tasks is awful..."
disappointed to play through a game and constantly be
thinking, "this bit reminds me of this, and that
bit reminds me of that." I certainly didn't
expect this to be the case with F.E.A.R. 2, but,
sadly, here we are. Most obviously, the improved
visual design of the levels has left them feeling
plagiaristically similar to Left 4 Dead,
particularly in the early hospital section and, later,
out in the streets. Then there's the Doom 3-esque
research facility, and some huge, cavernous areas ripped
straight out of Red Faction. All this is
compounded by the now-predictable delivery of the
narrative: radio messages from friendly voices,
supported by a collection of readable data-logs,
conveniently scattered around the world. If you've
played the first game, even the story itself will feel
achingly familiar, to the point where a couple of F.E.A.R.
2's twists are practically identical to those of its
And, as if to scrape the icing off the cake, F.E.A.R.
2 makes things worse for itself with some really
naff design decisions. The levels are generally
well-thought out, but the linearity is often
ludicrous. Attempts to disguise this are hideously
contrived, and generally amount to doors blocked with
junk (because god forbid you just lock them) and an
inability to climb over obstacles that are clearly half
your height. There was also one boss fight (yes,
we're still doing those, apparently) about two-thirds of
the way through that really got my goat. The
overriding aim of the level was to ride a huge freight
elevator up and out of a facility. But, despite my
having activated it, it obviously refused to budge until
I'd destroyed the huge robot-suited enemy that trudged
around the room. This lack of logic to some of the
tasks is awful. I've no idea why no one picked up
on it during the development process.
The robot suit makes for the only significant new
addition in F.E.A.R. 2, but even that only really
amounts to a generic vehicular-combat element.
Plodding around inside a practically indestructible
machine is rather good fun, but it does feel a little
out of place, particularly as there are only a couple of
opportunities to do so.
It's all a bit underwhelming. If you've played the
demo, you've seen all that F.E.A.R. 2 is going to
throw at you, pieced together into a half-hour trailer
that manages to far outshine anything the full game has
to offer. I appreciate the purpose of a demo is to
advertise the product but, surely, this advert shouldn't
be more enjoyable than the game it's trying to shift.
All that said, I enjoyed Project Origin.
Forget about innovation and focus on the delightful
shooting, and you'll have a lot of fun with it.
It's got all the elements of a solid modern action
title, and if that's all you're after, there are far
worse places to look than F.E.A.R. 2. With
so many of these games around, however, do we really
need another one?
Probably not. But it'll still while away the hours
shooting, but we've seen it all before.