PC F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

Scott Tortorice

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Four years have passed since Monolith released the original F.E.A.R for the PC, a game that received glorious praise for its excellent gameplay, great storytelling, fun multiplayer and stellar graphics. Now Alma is back in the much anticipated sequel, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin. Although Project Origin does lack any real innovation, has an ending that is a bit odd and the multiplayer is not as compelling as the first game, it is a worthy successor and does surpass the original in many aspects. Project Origin will have you fearing Alma again, guaranteed.

Install/DRM

Installation of F.E.A.R 2 is very straight forward and easy enough to do, but it must be noted that Monolith has chosen to use Steam for the DRM on Project Origin. So in order to install and play the game, you will need to install the Steam client and setup a Steam account. Using Steam for the DRM does have a couple of advantages - your game will always be up to date, and you will no longer need the DVD in your disc tray in order to play the game. I believe Monolith made a great decision to go with Steam for DRM rather than some of the other less popular methods and the hassles associated with them.

Story

In order to understand the events that unfold in Project Origin, a brief explanation must be made of the events that transpired in the original game. In F.E.A.R., you play a soldier referred to only as “The Point Man” who has recently been assigned to the First Encounter Assault Recon team and has been given the task of capturing Paxton Fattel, a product of Armacham Technology Corporation’s secretive Origin Project, who has telepathically taken control of a battalion of cloned super-soldiers.

As the game progresses, it is discovered that Fattel is the child of a powerful telepathetic named Alma, who uses him to carry out her revenge on those whom she believes are responsible for locking her away and taking her children. Throughout the game, Alma will manifest herself in the now iconic image of a little girl in a red dress, as well as a naked adult with long hair. F.E.A.R. ends [Spoiler Alert!] with the Point Man sabotaging the Origin facilities reactor, causing a massive explosion that destroys the city of Auburn.

F.E.A.R. 2 begins roughly a half hour before the climax of the first game. You play as Sgt. Michael Becket, whose Special Forces squad is given a mission to capture a high ranking Armacham executive by the name of Genevieve Aristide. When the squad arrives at Aristide’s suite, they find it under assault by a Colonel Richard Vanek, whose job it is to eliminate everyone and everything linking the corporation to the Origin Project. Becket’s squad eventually rescues Aristide just as the city is destroyed from the explosion that Point Man caused at the end of the first game, which sets the tone for the story in F.E.A.R. 2.

Most of the story is revealed through intel data found throughout the game. This intel not only helps move F.E.A.R. 2 plot forward, but also helps flesh out the story told in the first game as well. But Project Origin does suffer from being the middle story in a trilogy; it’s a branch between the first and a potential third installment. The ending itself leaves something to be desired. You spend a lot of time playing a fast-paced shooter, dodging bullets, fighting off replica soldiers and fending off Alma, only to have a rather odd and abrupt ending thrown in your lap…literally.

Gameplay

Project Origin doesn’t stray very far from the standard FPS controls from the first game, but the gameplay is very solid, well paced and is the true strength of this game. Monolith has done a great job at creating an atmosphere that is not as scary as the first game but is very suspenseful and keeps the pressure on with some well scripted firefights in a nice variety of environments.

One criticism of the original F.E.A.R. was the claustrophobic confines and general lack of variety in the environments. Monolith heard these complaints and has done a wonderful job with the level design in Project Origin. You will find yourself fighting enemies in various locales, including the all too familiar office building, an elementary school, destroyed streets of the city of Auburn, a penthouse suite and the underground Armacham facility.

Not only are the environments different, but so are the enemy npc’s that you will battle throughout the game. You do spend a great deal of time facing off against replica super-soldiers, but you will see some new enemies, like the ghostly Specter apparitions, the Remnants - civilians affected and mutated by Alma’s psychic influence - and the failed Project Harbinger experiments called Abominations.

F.E.A.R. was praised for having some of the best enemy AI at the time, and that trend continues in Project Origin as well. Enemies will use cover when advancing on your location, toss grenades to flush you out of cover and still attempt to flank your position. Interactive environments, such as hacking computers or opening doors, are nothing new to F.E.A.R., but the ability to create cover from various items, such as tables or vending machines, is and the enemy will use it to their advantage constantly.

Something else new to the F.E.A.R. series is the ability to pilot Elite Powered Armor. EPA’s are powered mech suits with machineguns and missiles, essentially a walking tank that allows you to lay waste to enemies and the environment alike. The mech portion of the game only happens on a few occasions, and even thought they feel pointless, they break up the monotony of running through buildings and gives the player a chance to see the damage that the city sustained first hand. Plus they are just plain fun.

Part of what makes the combat so enjoyable is the weapons. They all act and look different, with some good at short range and some at long range, but all have oomph that makes combat a bloody and brutally fun time.

A few more aspects of the gameplay that are worth mentioning include the ability to cook grenades: when holding down the grenade toss key, you will get an on screen indicator that will tell you how long you have before the grenade will explode. Quick time events have also found their way into Project Origin as well. These events require the input of a certain key or combination of keys in order to gain a certain outcome. For example, there are times where Alma will physically attack and in order to fight her off, you will have to hit the melee button multiple times before she overtakes you. The slow-motion system returns, and even though it can make the game a bit easy if used right, it never seems to get old.

Audio/Visual

Project Origin is no Crysis, but the game still looks great. Each level has a unique look and feel, the lighting is top notch, and Monolith has paid a lot of attention to detail in order to create the tense atmosphere found in the game. The original F.E.A.R. was graphically innovative, but the trade off was that the game required a fairly beefy system in order to run properly. Project Origin, though not nearly as innovative, does perform much better than the first game and should run well even on mid-range systems. Monolith accomplished this by resorting to a few tricks, such as using motion blur and a grain filter to help cover some of the limitations of the engine. What is more, many of the environments in the game are blanketed in shadow and darkness, something that serves to create wonderful atmosphere as well as cleverly hiding some blurry textures.

The audio portion of Project Origin is, in a word, phenomenal. The sound of your footsteps will echo in your ears as you run through abandoned buildings; shells will rattle as they hit the ground; enemies will scream in agony during firefights; and grenades make an ominous thud before they explode with such force that you’ll swear you can feel it. Music is put to good use building tension and adding to the overall feel of the game.

Multiplayer

If there is one area that Project Origin fails, it’s the multiplayer. In fact, it can be described as disappointing or even non-existent. The multiplayer mimics the ranked system that has become famous in Call of Duty 4, and there are plenty of game types to play, but finding an online game is harder than finding a needle in a haystack. Furthermore, Monolith has decided to use GameSpy’s match-making service, one that limits the gamer to only hosting a match or joining one. It’s unfortunate that such a great game is hampered with such a poor multiplayer design decisions.

Closing Comments:
F.E.A.R. 2 may not be as innovative as the original, but Monolith has created a very solid shooter. Monolith has improved on the monotonous level design of the first, while continuing to build upon the creepy and suspenseful atmosphere. If you can look past the odd ending and the unsatisfying multiplayer, then Project Origin will not disappoint. F.E.A.R. 2 comes highly recommended and is one of the best shooters to come along in a long while.

9 out of 10
 
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