Video Game Review: ‘F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin’ Both Terrifying, Addictive

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No votes yet Video Game Rating: 4.0/5.0
Video Game Rating: 4.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s “F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin” is not a perfect game but it is the most addictively playable action titles released so far this year. Like a great horror movie, it will suck you in, keep you on the edge of your seat through the majority of its playing time, and spit you out on the other side, exhausted but with a huge smile on your face.

Alma is back - older, scarier and ready to kick your ass. Or scare you to death.

How you respond to “F.E.A.R. 2” is likely to depend on your expectations. Yes, this is yet another first-person shooter, and, no, it doesn’t do much to change the landscape of this overcrowded genre. It doesn’t have the landmark design elements of some of the recent titles in the genre and the multiplayer is a bit disappointing.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
Photo credit: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment

But does every horror movie need to be a game-changer? Does every action movie have to be the best of the year? Can’t you just have fun with a game, even if it’s largely familiar? “F.E.A.R. 2” uses familiar elements but blends them well enough to make for an enjoyable, hard-to-put-down title, once you get over the lackluster start to the game.

The first direct sequel to the very popular “F.E.A.R.,” “F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin” picks up the odd-but-captivating blend of action shooter and stomach-churning horror that made the original such a hit. (If you’re wondering if it lives up to the original, even though it’s not as revolutionary as the first title, I’d rather play the sequel.)

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
Photo credit: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment

The player is Michael Becket, a member of the “First Encounter Assault Recon” (F.E.A.R.) team, a group sent in to fight both a relatable human enemy and something far scarier in the city of Auburn.

“Project Origin” opens with the explosion that ended the first game. Your squad is sent on an extraction mission when the city of Auburn is rocked by what looks like a nuclear explosion. Before you know it, you’re facing a LOT more than just enemy soldiers. Suddenly, you’re having strange visions, your flashlight is flickering, and things are starting to get very reminiscent of “Poltergeist”. Prepare to shoot wildly in moments of hand-shaking fear.

The first few hours of “F.E.A.R. 2” are a bit predictable and disappointing. I adored the horror elements, getting honestly scared by a game for the first time since the great “Dead Space,” but the opening levels of “Project Origin” settle into a too predictable series of corridors, doors, and faceless enemies. Be patient. Don’t play two levels and give up. Trust me. Everything after roughly hour two feels like a different, more accomplished game and it’s worth the wait.

One thing you will notice in those opening chapters is the improvement in A.I. over not only the original but many other shooters. I loved that my enemy would throw a table down to use as cover and that they would communicate with each other to try and flank me (although they apparently never realized I could hear them.) Hearing an enemy soldier call for back-up and waiting for that poor soul to walk into my gunfire always put a smile on my face.

And then there’s the horror. There are moments in “F.E.A.R. 2” that gave me the chills more than any horror movie in recent months, maybe even years. There’s a sequence later in the game at Wade Elementary School that I never want to revisit. Flickering lights, slamming doors, and a flashlight that suddenly goes dead…I’m getting the chills thinking about it and I’m not easily scared. If I hadn’t been playing during the daylight hours I probably would have had to stop. It’s that effective.

After those lackluster opening chapters, “F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin” escapes the endless corridors of the first game and the beginning of this one and unleashes the player into the city of Auburn. Of course, it’s still essentially a game of getting from point A to point B and unloading as many bullets as possible along the way, but going into the city and then to a gorgeously rendered elementary school really expands the experience of “Project Origin” beyond both the set-up for this one and the entirety of the original.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
Photo credit: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment

As for the gameplay, it’s pretty straight-forward with the controverisal “L2 aim, R2 shoot” configuration and it can not be changed. The weapon-switching system is a little disappointing and I encountered an unusual glitch. A quick search reveals that I’m not alone. In case you run into it - if my controller was on when the game started, my L2/R2 buttons wouldn’t work and I’d have to turn off the controller and turn it back on again. No big deal. Just warning you that you might not be able to shoot unless you do the same.

The gunplay varies in “F.E.A.R. 2”. You can run into a room and unleash submachine fury or you can through over a table, duck down under it and play with your sniper rifle. There is also a Matrix-like bullet time function that you can use if things get really heated. Watching your enemy explode in slow motion never gets old.

The cover gameplay is a little weak. A lot of objects can be thrown over and used, but there’s no way to hug the cover like in other FPS games, so by the time you find a bookshelf to throw over, crouch, and get close enough to it to not get shot, you might as well just toss a frag grenade and call it a day.

As for multiplayer, it seems like an afterthought. “Project Origin” includes the basics like deathmatch and capture point mode, but the strengths of the game itself come from the “one man against the forces of evil” set-up and that doesn’t translate well to multiplayer.

Ultimately, “F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin” will probably soon be swept under the rug by gamers addicted to “Killzone 2” and “Resident Evil 5” but the game deserves a better fate. Unlike a lot of titles, this is one that I could easily see myself picking up again in a few months and playing through on a higher difficulty. If I can deal with going back to that damn elementary school one more time.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin’ was released by Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment and developed by Monolith Productions. It is rated M (Mature). The version reviewed was on the PS3, but the title is also available on the XBox 360 and the PC. It was released on February 10th, 2009. content director Brian Tallerico

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