Welcome to Ghosts of Gaming Past — here we’ll be reviewing older horror games, classics and non-classics we missed when they were originally released. Have a game you’d like reviewed? Send us an email.
Written by Ryan Peters, @Thrashmarshall
F.E.A.R, or First Encounter Assault Recon for the uninitiated, is a series that has become synonymous with horror gaming. From its slow motion roots on PC back in late 2005 F.E.A.R has grown into one of the defining horror experiences of this generation. While many purists may argue that the original game has yet to be beaten, and most fans wrote off much of the generic third entry, it’s F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin that stands up as the pinnacle of the series. Not only is F.E.A.R 2 a fantastically horrifying game, it’s also a solid and rewarding shooter.
Released in 2009, Project Origin tells the story of Sgt Michael Becket a member of Delta Force that is sent in as part of a team to retrieve the head of Armacham — the evil defense company from the first game — from her home shortly before the end of the events in the original F.E.A.R. While the initial premise is a bit boring, the way that developer Monolith has tied the plot of this game with its predecessor means that there is a real sense of momentum. It’s a real kick for those that have played the first game to know that the events of Project Origin are happening alongside their previous adventures.
It’s not long however before the plot of F.E.A.R 2 is spun on its head, dragging players through a tale of government cover ups, genetic experiments and of course physic demon ladies. It’s all hugely entertaining horror fare and the strong, if albeit cliché personalities of Becket’s Delta squad gives a lot of the game a strong Aliens vibe. Just with regrettably less Paxton.
Despite being released four years ago this game still looks amazing. Monolith poured so much attention to detail into the numerous environments that each level oozes atmosphere. Every blood splattered hospital ward and bomb blasted office block feels like it has its own story to tell, the graphics still stand up today and combine with the level design to amazing effect. The high level of polish on display in F.E.A.R 2 not only makes it an impressive visual spectacle, but makes the all-important scares highly effective.
Over the years Monolith has developed a true mastery of scaring players with the F.E.A.R and Condemned series’, a mastery that is clearly on show in Project Origin. There’s plenty of pant filling jump scares throughout the games’ ten hour campaign, most featuring the brilliantly realized antagonist Alma, but there’s also hundreds of subtle, creepy moments that work to keep the player feeling constantly uncomfortable. I was on edge every second, regardless of if I was in the middle of a shootout or exploring an underground lab.
I’ve managed to write half a review so far without discussing how F.E.A.R 2 actually plays, and that’s because it’s simply a solid shooter. Except for a few smaller elements the gameplay will feel instantly familiar to anyone that has played a Call of Duty game. Levels are broken down into slow, tense strolls through a variety of gore soaked locales packed with jump scares, and intense shootouts with what feel like endless legions of generic clone soldiers. The slow motion mechanic made famous in the first game is back, allowing players to slow down time to a bullet filled crawl that would make John Woo proud, but it’s not essential for progress. In fact there were a few occasions where the slow motion ruined what would have been an otherwise effective jump scare. It’s almost like a “make the scary thing instantly hilarious” button, similar to the stasis mechanic in Dead Space.
When I call F.E.A.R 2 solid this is not meant as an insult. The game is immensely enjoyable to play, features some satisfying weapons and is for the most part a memorable experience. The problem with recommending it in 2013 is that there are a dozen other games available now that simply do FPS mechanics to a better standard than Project Origin. This being said there are few games out there even now that can top this for scares, shocks and pure atmosphere. The game really does feel like a master class in how to keep a gamer scared, I played this back when it was released and it had such a strong impact on me back then that when I came to replay it for review, I was hesitant. It’s simply that scary at times.
F.E.A.R 2 also boasts an online multiplayer mode that is at this point non-existent. Anyone picking the game up now hoping to enjoy the games’ usual offering of Deathmatch and Capture the Flag style matches is going to be seriously disappointed with the seemingly empty servers. While I’m sure that multiplayer action isn’t a top priority for someone buying the game, the fact that a large component of the game is so anemic means that some players may feel short changed, especially when a large amount its achievement list is tied to multiplayer.
In my opinion F.E.A.R 2 is an under-appreciated gem of a game. It manages to work admirably as a military first person shooter, and fantastically as a horror game. Going back and playing it recently was still an immensely fun and terrifying experience, and I can honestly say that F.E.A.R 2 is one of my personal favourite horror games. It is however hard to give the game too high of a score when placed beside the glow of some newer titles that manage to deliver better shootouts and arguably better scares. The fact that is someone was to pick this game up now would have no joy with its multiplayer component also means that I can’t rate this as highly as I may have liked.
The Final Word: When taken on its own merit, F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin is a fantastic and fun horror romp that despite being lovingly crafted, is starting to show its age.
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is available on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 (reviewed).