F.E.A.R. 2 caters to old fans

Imagine yourself, if you dare, engulfed in smoke and darkness, surrounded by the apocalyptic debris of a ruined city and the aftermath of the detonation. The blood, the flesh and the horror pave the very road beneath your feet. The sky itself is painted red by death and conflagration.

The weak, gentle sound of a little girl and her musical box suddenly invades your mind (and your mind only), becoming the only audible sound. You are completely alone, hurt, afraid—trapped inside a maze crafted by the little angel of death. Perhaps it is the calling for blood and gore. Perhaps it is the hunger of revenge. Perhaps it is the anthem of death and fear.

When F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) was first introduced by Monolith Production all the way back in 2005, it set itself apart from the numerous other first-person shooter games by introducing a horror element so well incorporated into the game’s environment.

The psychological effect this had on the players changed the playing style of F.E.A.R. from the usual “Rambo” strategy of FPS games (running in and letting bullets fly) to a more careful and strategized execution of commands.

The interactive environment, the devious AI (winner of Gamespot’s 2005 “Best AI award”) and the intriguing plot all left the players craving more even after the story had ended. And now, as of Feb. 10, 2009, there is officially more F.E.A.R. to fill the fans’ needs.

Monolith Production’s latest release, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, picks up the story exactly where the original left off, when the psychically gifted child/monster Alma escapes from the Project Origin facilities that imprisoned her, angry and seeking revenge.

Instead of controlling the Point Man like in the first game, players in the sequel control the actions of Michael Beckett, a Delta Force operator seeking to destroy Alma before further destruction is done. The change in the main character is barely noticeable as the new protagonist also seems to possess the very same psychic ability to slow down time just like Point Man, making slow-motion mode (one of the most defining features of the original) again an integral part of the franchise.

The most important feature of any FPS game is, of course, the weapons. F.E.A.R. 2 offers all the basics arms of defense such as pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, flame-throwers, sniper rifles and rocket launchers. The fictional and more powerful methods of destruction such as particle and laser weapons are also available for use.

The power of all the weapons go through a degree of upscaling, giving the atmosphere of the game more gory and bloody effects. The defining weapon for the series, however, would have to be the Armacham HV Hammerhead (a.k.a. the Nail Gun). With it, a player can nail another to the wall while watching the projectiles rip the victim’s guts out.

The game’s visual display of the environments is, without a question, superb. While its stunning graphics show off the Xbox 360’s display capability quite nicely, a high-end computer with the PC version of the game will outperform the console. This contributes greatly to the horror aspect of the game, indulging the audience in the beautifully gory levels while keeping the players in the grip of suspense through the lighting techniques.

The perfect combination of the music, and sometimes the lack thereof, coupled with the visuals helps drench the players in the game’s atmosphere. Furthermore, a new feature in the sequel allows the players to take cover with objects in the character’s surroundings (e.g. push down a hospital bed to take cover), fully taking advantage of the already impressive environment.

On the down side, the single-player mode of F.E.A.R. 2 is very short. The game is beatable within eight hours on hard mode. Another problem is that the single-player game only offers three difficulty levels: easy, medium and hard. There are absolutely no bonus materials or unlockables to be earned after completing the game on each level.

When the game is finished, it is done. Considering F.E.A.R. 2 puts up a heavy price tag of $60, one would expect more out of it than what the game actually offers.

On the plus side, there is the multiplayer mode, which is quite enjoyable although very standard compared to other FPS multiplayer games. There is a Blitz mode which is a twist on the must-have Capture the Flag.

The Failsafe mode will be familiar to those who play the PC classic Counter Strike, as it requires one team to plant a bomb in one of two territories while the other team stops them.

The Conquest mode, called Armoured Front, allows each team to have one mech unit to aid the team in each battle. And of course, there’s the standard Deathmatch mode necessary in all FPS multiplayer games.

More multiplayer modes will be released later through updates by Monolith, though the current ones will be more than enough to keep the players busy. F.E.A.R. 2’s multiplayer, however, is not without flaws.

It lacks the attractions of the game’s single-player campaign. The fast pace of multiplayer battles has no sense of horror or suspense and also lacks the ability for players to make cover from the surroundings.

The leveling and ranking system is purely for bragging rights and makes no contribution to the combat itself. However, multiplayer does allow for customization, as each character is given a certain number of points to be spent on armor and weapons.

In the end, whether F.E.A.R. 2 is worth its price tag is purely up to the players themselves. While both old and new F.E.A.R. players might want to pick this one up for sure, the sequel offers very little to audiences who didn’t love the original.