When I first played F.E.A.R, it was one of those games that really got to me. I would have said it was one of the finest horror shooters of the genre but that accolade was actually given to the seminal Condemned more than F.E.A.R. So now we're into 2009 and the story of F.E.A.R continues in the de-facto sequel, F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin.Story
The first thing that grabs you about Project Origin is that the story is just as good, if not better than the first title and delivers a tighter script. Without going too deep into spoiler territory, you play as a new central character who rapidly discovers that things aren't all as they seem. He's prone to the same psychic trauma as the original soldier and whilst he doesn't have the edge on that guy's reflexes, our new character: Becket is just as solid when it comes to taking the fight to the enemy. Project Origin is set concurrently with the ending of the first game and follows the events of this new squad as they are sent into the Armacham HQ to find and evac: Genavive Aristide.
It isn't long before Alma makes her presence known and what was a routine mission is interrupted by spooky goings on, kill-teams from the corporation and a whole mess of action. This take on the story completely invalidates the lack-lustre previous expansions since they were not part of the original F.E.A.R canon. The writing is exciting and the pace is perfectly executed as it moves you from action to horror and back again seamlessly with no jarring moments or sequences that feel out of place. Veteran video game and script writers Flint Dille and John Platten have managed to create a solid and gripping narrative that drives the game through its many set-pieces and interweaves nicely with the first F.E.A.R.Gameplay
Monolith hasn't really changed the formula from F.E.A.R and why should they? It worked for the first game and it worked really well. There are some excellent shocks and horror moments as well as some white-knuckle action that will leave you wanting the spooky terror to return so you can take a breather from the relentless AI that'll push you harder than before. The controls are simple FPS fare and there have been some adjustments to the game's GUI and weapon selection. A new arsenal has been implemented along with at least four types of special grenades. Becket can run, duck, jump and with a quick tap of the interaction button he's now able to quickly vault obstacles and kick-over objects in the environment for impromptu cover.
The game is a linear one, so don't go into the game thinking that you can explore every nook and cranny. It does however provide you with some nice little asides if you do go off the beaten track and ignore the game's linear progression to delve into a dark corridor or a disused toilet. You almost start to expect something twisted to happen if you take the time to look for it, Monolith don't often disappoint on that front either. There were many moments in the campaign that came as a surprise even though I was expecting a shock or two. The shocks are equally balanced with the frenetic action against the many game's tangible enemies.Graphics
Project Origin is a good looking game, one that has a solid graphical engine behind it. It has a good, stable framerate and even when the action heats up there's no slowdown as the 360 is pushed by explosions, interactive environmental destruction and hordes of AI enemies all wanting to take a piece of Becket's hide. Add to this the funky slow-motion effects that make a welcome return from F.E.A.R at some point and you have a visual, visceral treat.
The level design to the game is where I feel it might be slightly let down. Some gamers are going to be overjoyed by the same type of environments and horror clichés that perpetuate the sequel; some are going to view it as a lack of originality. Personally I felt that these kinds of environments suited the game and since it's a direct follow on with very little elapsed time between the original mission and this new one, it's not beyond the bounds of realism to see similar environments and some enemies make a return. The good news is that on this dedicated 360 version everything looks a lot nicer, sharper and the lighting effects bring the level designs to life. If you can get past the repeat environments in some of the levels and the sparseness of the first few then you're going to be in for a treat later on.