Preview

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin Preview (PS3)

In what is undoubtedly an over-saturated market, the original FEAR proved to be an interesting combination of Japanese horror influences and psychological scares that put a fresh spin on the traditional run-and-gun FPS. With its labyrinthine plot involving shady corporations and bizarre events involving ghostly hallucinations, FEAR played upon certain horror conventions and in turn introduced the game’s most formidable enemy – a small girl named Alma. In FEAR 2, Alma remains at the heart of the narrative and in our extended hands-on playthrough of the first three levels of the game, we’re treated to a very up close and personal encounter with the anaemic, fully grown version of the malevolent apparition. Almost immediately we can tell that Monolith are staying true to their story and Alma’s evolution should make for an intriguing focus as we finally get to learn more about her origins.

During a presentation from Dave Matthews, FEAR 2’s Primary Art Lead, we’re shown a huge chunk of the action from the beginning, middle and latter parts of the game before being let loose on the 360 version. From the moment FEAR 2 opens, the new protagonist is subjected to hallucinations and the first jump scare as a grotesque vision fills the screen. It then turns out that you’re in the back of a truck awaiting deployment with the rest of your team and the discomforting image is replaced with your team mate, Jankowski lifting you back onto your feet. Casting the player as Delta Operative Michael Becket, FEAR 2 continues its story from a completely fresh perspective and as such the prologue takes place during the tail end of the first game’s narrative. This means that you end up bearing witness to the devastating finale of the previous game before embarking upon your own twisted adventure.


Inside the EPA (Elite Powered Armour) mech, you get a full HUD. This is also a sneaky glimpse at one of the multiplayer modes
Your enemies in FEAR 2 become pretty tough as the game progresses. Just look at this big armoured bastard

Switching to a brand new central character also commences a fresh relationship with Alma, who we see manifest herself in a new form; that of a young woman who is completely nude, save for her lank, black hair covering her chest. This version of Alma is more than happy to launch herself into your face and grapple with you up close, making for a far more unpredictable experience whenever you happen to encounter her. The nature of Becket’s relationship with Alma should reveal itself through the course of FEAR 2 and flashbacks to the idyllic Elysium fields of Alma’s youth promise to expose some of her past and possibly even shed light on why she behaves in such threatening ways towards the player.

Visually the game is incredibly crisp and solid, though perhaps not up to par with many recent PC titles. Still the subtle film grain effect adds a little refinement to the graphics with the air of tension and menace suitably rendered in various hues of brown and grey. Criticised for its restrictive corridors, the previous FEAR dispensed with open environments to ramp up the claustrophobia. FEAR 2 initially seems no different until you come upon the game’s sections of open areas. The first one of note is a ruined tenement building inhabited by deadly snipers whose AI makes for a fair challenge. It’s here that you’re encouraged to use cover to effectively dispatch the enemy without taking damage. So far, so predictable perhaps, but FEAR 2 somehow feels sufficiently different and with your powers to slow time from FEAR intact, there’s still an extra strategic edge to the gunplay.


"Um. I think I'll be leaving now."
Look out for the green laser death from above

The next stage of our playtest takes us down the corridors of a seemingly abandoned school, where events grow increasingly strange as we progress. Eventually we’re lead into a messy music classroom where a solitary figure stands at the front of the class repeating the same action over and over. As we tentatively edge closer towards the tormented soul we soon realise that we’re in trouble as he turns and screams. Reacting by pulling the trigger, we fill his sorry hide full of bullets before he runs off and unleashes a horde of reanimated corpses suspended by spectral strings. As these are the bodies of fallen enemy soldiers they spew sporadic gunfire our way, so we strafe around cover trying to find the source of the deathly puppet show. Despite the power of our machine gun fire, the tension is palpable, as the enemy proves highly resilient to round after round of lead salad. Disappearing into obscurity briefly before popping out for a frontal assault, the battle is long and drawn out, but after a while the figure finally falls. We realise that we’ve just completed one of several special boss encounters and it hasn’t disappointed.


"OK, sir! I promise I won't be late for class ever again!"
Look, see, it really isn't all enclosed spaces any more. There's even trees on the horizon!

For the majority of the rest of our hands-on, we find ourselves back in familiar territory, walking down corridors, dismembering cannon fodder at the less accomplished end of the AI spectrum with blasts of fatal gunfire. Also new to FEAR 2 is the mechanical EPA that you can jump into and wreak havoc upon the unfortunate enemy soldiers that you can reduce to quivering mounds of offal at the touch of a button. It may be in stark contrast to the claustrophobic, edgy survival horror of the rest of the game, but this brief moment of total empowerment offers a neat change of pace from wrestling with grisly ghouls. Even other opposing mechs provide little in the way of an obstacle, as you’re able to shred them into scrap metal with ease.


From what we’ve played of FEAR 2 so far, we can happily report that Monolith have made every effort to expand upon the original without watering down any of the horror components. Sure the tension may disperse somewhat when you start blowing things to pieces, but there’ll always be the threat of the intangible, seeping into your mind and driving you to the very brink of insanity. It’s nice to see that the developer is attempting something different with Alma and that they’ve also taken on board the feedback from the community. With a few months to go until FEAR 2 reaches completion, we hope that Monolith put some time into ramping up the scares too as there were really only brief flashes of genuine terror on show in what we saw. Perhaps moments where you’re rendered temporarily powerless could add some much needed uncertainty to the proceedings. For now though, consider our fears allayed as FEAR 2: Project Origin has all the potential to be something quite special indeed.

The finished game is currently on course for a February 2009 release.

For more on FEAR 2 check out our interview with Primary Art Lead, Dave Matthews.


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Comments

By Praetorian (SI Core) on Jan 05, 2009
Praetorian
I just cant wait for this :)
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jan 05, 2009
herodotus
Agreed. This is going to be a great ride. Sure it'll be another corridor shooter, but I have no problem with that. I promise, Alma...
By nobuargaoda (SI Core Veteran) on Jan 06, 2009
nobuargaoda
The horror.... the guns.... the ugly enemies..... I don't know if i still have a patience for this game!
By Praetorian (SI Core) on Jan 07, 2009
Praetorian
Dont forget hero, it's a great corridor shooter :) I jus't know im gona enjoy i't to much love that dam thing ALMA im coming to get you lol hehe
By aerrow (I just got here) on Jan 07, 2009
aerrow
Looks Fun....let me know how it is if any of you get it before i do.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Jan 08, 2009
Wowerine
It is going to smashing! :D
By Praetorian (SI Core) on Jan 08, 2009
Praetorian
Im gona try and be first to get the copy when it come out lol ...I wish
By AceofSpades (SI Member) on Jan 08, 2009
AceofSpades
This looks great cant wait for it
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 03, 2009
Wowerine
Alma grew up. :P
I wonder how she's gonna look when she reaches 60. She is gonna be more spookier! No teeth, white hair, long nails, red eyes (she already has those), but in her 20ties she might be, hmm, well, uhm... You know. But don't think about it, she can read minds... 8-)
By Duffy29 (SI Newbie) on Mar 12, 2009
Duffy29
Getting this game this week cant hit me up on xbox live please tell me if its good =D gamertags Duffy29
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 12, 2009
Wowerine
Wow, wait there pal! You are asking as if the game is good!?!? Bwahahahaha! Look at the score dammit, and don't get Praetorian upset, cause he'll eat you alive! :P
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 12, 2009
Wowerine
Don't get me started! :D