Not a review (but getting closer): FEAR 2: Project Origin
February 13, 2009

Fear (punctuation-destruction, ahoy!) has always been a funny name for this franchise. What truly scares us? The horror stalwart is a vulnerable central character, hopeless against his or her worst nightmares. Fear doesn't buy into this. Instead, it gives you some really big guns and inexplicable special powers, then shouts "BOO!" in your ear every ten minutes.

The format is identical to its predecessor. Fear 2 is a series of corridors, broken up by big rooms where people shoot at you with their big guns, and you shoot back with your own big guns. Sometimes, you might decide to make everything happen in slow-motion. Other times, you might decide to flip a table and peek your gun's barrel over the top of that. And occasionally Alma will shout "BOO!" in your ear.

There's nothing necessarily wrong with this formula; it's just a little uninspired. The main impression I get from Fear 2 is that Monolith certainly know what they're doing, but 'what they're doing' is pretty unimaginitive and, at times, ineffective. Most notably, Alma just isn't scary any more. Now that we know her story, she's lost her horiffic appeal, and serves only to make us jump, rather than to truly unnerve us. Elsewhere, everything just feels a little... out of date. Glowing health-packs. Conveniently-blocked doors. Keycards, fuck's sake. I feel like I've gone back in time at least five years.

Monolith have even made a bit of a mess of the melée combat, which is completely bizarre since the first instalment absolutely nailed it. On the 360 at least, all melée action is bound to the 'B' button, and the game seems to decide arbitrarily what it is you're trying to do. Most of the time, it reckons you want to punch the air. Sometimes, when you actually do want to use your fist, line yourself up for the perfect thwack, and hit the button... you go flying across the room in some sort of karate kick motion. Bugger.

All that said, it's clearly very well-made, dripping with Hollywood polish (no Japanese influence here, it would seem; we're very much in Western horror/action territory) and a ranged combat system that feels satisfying and meaty beyond almost any other game I've played. Some of the set-pieces and hallucination sequences are mindblowing, and put even Valve's work to shame at times. And, y'know, more than anything... it really is quite good fun.

But, considering how far Fear moved the horror/action goalposts back in 2005, this feels awkward: a step backwards if anything. I'm only a few hours in, so my opinions may change, but so far? It seems stuck between being very good and completely vacuous.

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Suskie Suskie - February 13, 2009 (06:46 AM)
I've never played F.E.A.R. but I always thought the girl on the cover looked exactly like the one from Ringu / The Ring.

Also, that's not the first time I've seen you use the word "vacuous" to describe a game. It's becoming easier and easier to figure out where your preferences lie.
Lewis Lewis - February 13, 2009 (07:26 AM)
Maybe I'm just bored. Or maybe I've been spoiled by playing a few genuinely interesting indie games lately. I'm enjoying Fear 2 a lot, and I'm not going to hold anything against it just because IT'S NOT ART or anything like that, 'cause clearly it's not trying to be.
honestgamer honestgamer - February 13, 2009 (12:02 PM)
That's good, Lewis, but there's a certain point where your preference is something that you can't reasonably overcome. Nor should you. When I read a review from you, I know that you're demanding things from a game that will never matter to me, and I know that the absence of such things will affect your experience but won't matter even a little bit for me. That's good, because it means you're making your preferences very clear. As long as you do give good information about the things I personally care about, I'm satisfied as a reader.

You're not the only one on the site doing that, either. It's good to have that perspective, people who appreciate games with artistic depth and the like. It makes things interesting. Meanwhile, I continue to play games and consider them mostly on the basis of how much "fun" they were for me and how polished, something that annoys the piss out of some of the snobs I've seen posting on forums (apparently, it's not reasonable to factor in something so juvenile as fun when discussing video games).

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