Most good first-person shooters thrive off the player’s ability to mow down every last bad guy on screen with a Rambo-like arsenal, feeling like a badass with every shot bullet. Survival horror, however, is antithesis of that ideal FPS because of the tension and vulnerability that is almost par for the course for causing fear. Since both genres have had their difficulties recently (FPS games are crowded, not enough horror games), why not marry these two seemingly opposite tones to create something new? F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is a blend of these two distinct styles of game and comes out with the strengths of each of its parents to make it stand out just enough.
F.E.A.R. 2: Acronym Palooza Electric Boogaloo tries hard to tell a story and for that I give it at least some points. Your muted character, Becket, is trying to extract a certain person from the first game. Of course, events go sideways rather quickly by the psychic bitch Alma, a character that has a vendetta against you and now she must be dealt with as well. There is a sort of super powered device that you must make your way to and that serves as an excuse to travel to the few environments F.E.A.R. 2 has to show. Every character, who is usually a squad mate, aren’t likeable or unlikeable, they are just there. This is a horror game so it isn’t necessarily a spoiler, but I didn’t feel any sort of emotion when some of them were killed off. These guys just served as minor ways to weave the narrative into what I was doing. And, you know, to be brutally murdered in front of me.
Becket feels the most disconnected mainly because he is a complete mime. You won’t hear a grunt, burp, shout, or word from him the whole game which is just stupid to say the least. Since he lacks any sort of input, he just comes off in the story parts as a camera which is odd because, in a gameplay sense, his full body is captured wonderfully. This sounds odd but his full body is rendered so his feet and arms are visible when necessary, showing that he is a person and not a camera on a stick with a gun.
Events don’t pick until the end and the finale is memorable but for the wrong reasons. Something completely out of left field happens at the game’s climax and the parts around it aren’t built up throughout the game at all. Many games fall into this trap of having some revelation at the very end without deserving it and F.E.A.R. 2 is a perfect example of it. The story is crammed so hard into the final five minutes that it is hard to care or be too invested. Still, as of this writing, F.3.A.R. (yes, it’s called that) is out now and this wacky ending has made me want to see what happens in the sequel. It seems as though the story here might have done its job, albeit a messy one.
Playing F.E.A.R. 2 is where the two genres meld together and create a slightly unique experience. On one side, there is the shooting soldiers in the face part. This section is mostly compelling with good, hard-hitting weapons that can cause your enemies to explode in a parade of red jelly. I hope it was red jelly because there was a lot of it raining down throughout my time with the game. I did it countless times, but each and every time I would use the shotgun or sniper rifle on the poor sap right in front of me, their bursting bodies always gave me an immense satisfactory feeling. Button placement can seem odd as it kicks some standard button traditions, which can be frustrating in a panic. If you can used to it, you’ll avoid some frustration, but I would have liked to see the developers swallow their pride and go to what we are used to. I can’t even say how many times I pressed R1 and accidentally threw a grenade.
Even when they are not painting the town red with their insides, regular combat is fun from polished shooting and smart enemy AI. These guys intelligently navigate the environment, kicking over impromptu cover and trying their best to lay waste to you. It’s refreshing to see guys that seem to know how move about causing somewhat of a challenge rather than just standing there, asking to feast on some bullets.
After the shooting parts are done, this game changes up the pace to try to freak you out. Moments like these are paced well and placed right where they need to be. Right when I felt like I had had enough combat to satiate my hunger for blood, the lights would dim and the hallucinations would start (in the game of course). I jumped quite often and was creeped out by most of these sections. Some were cliché and others were a bit predictable but most were done well enough and felt like a serviceable gameplay mix up. More variety in the scares would have been appreciated as it tends to peak early, but this is a solid start. Even though I wasn’t always scared in every instance, I’d be lying if I said the ghost spirits didn’t make me empty clip after clip in fear.
F.E.A.R. 2 is a very urban game, ranging from schools to warehouses, and like many city-based games, it can feel uninspired in the visual department. Not much really stands out as good looking in this title from an art or a technical perspective. Generic objects can be covered in terrible texture work to make this game seem flat-out ugly at times. When it isn’t covered in pixelated textures, objects and environments can look merely okay, with the dream places being a highlight compared to the other more generic real-world locales. Although considering that it’s being compared to less-than-awesome looking places, this isn’t as high as a compliment as it should be.
F.E.A.R. 2 straddles two genres carefully and comes out different enough to warrant a rental or at least a look. The action and horror elements are good enough and mostly succeed in giving this game its own identity, something that is always a plus. It doesn’t reach the heights of my favorite first-person shooters nor my favorite horror games, but it does a good enough job of each. Strangely, “good enough” works here.
+Shooting is rewarding
+Spooky atmosphere with creepy moments
+Good mix of scary isolation and shooting
+AI keeps you on your toes
-Button placement can seem odd
-Graphics look dated and/or uninspired
-Story is all over the place
Final Score: 8/10