Alma is genuinely creepy; wall-crawling enemies frighten.
Freddy Prinze Jr.
There's nothing new to keep the shooting action interesting; multiplayer is very forgettable.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a proper FEAR game. After Monolith’s 2005 original, there were a couple of very mediocre expansions made by a different studio. When Monolith got the franchise back, we expected great things from its second outing; sadly, FEAR 2: Project Origin never really comes into its own.
As a shooter, it brings nothing new to the table—it tries to excite us with the exact same slow-motion combat system that made the first game captivating four years ago, but is simply not enough this time. Even though the enemies are a little more lifelike than most shooter foes, in that they can realistically vault over obstacles and blind-fire at you from behind cover, fighting legions of mercenaries and clone troopers gets old after a few hours. A few sections with agile wall-crawling enemies are the only engaging moments, but everything else is typical shooter fare—that includes sections where you drive a giant mech and mow down enemy soldiers like cutting grass. It’s been done before, and even though it looks pretty here, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
What is unique to the FEAR franchise is its main antagonist, Alma, the understandably upset ghost of a little girl exploited by an evil corporation that used her DNA to create psychically controlled clone soldiers. Alma’s paranormal tantrum manifests as flashes of gruesome scenes, unsettling sound effects, eerie visions, and occasional physical confrontations that you have to melee-attack your way free of. Combined with some elaborate (though strictly linear) level design, FEAR 2’s haunted house atmosphere is its strongest trait.
It gets creepier still if you delve into the deep and twisted backstory, which exposes more of evil corporation Armacham’s experiments, revealed in files you find scattered around the levels. However, the actual characters you interact with are mostly two-dimensional, so you have to pay close attention and do a bit of hunting to get much out of the story.
Any respectable hardware will run FEAR 2 maxed out at a great frame rate, and it looks pretty good aside from the noticeably wooden facial animation. You might hit a few crashes to desktop (we had three), but you won’t lose much progress thanks to the frequent auto-save. However, it’s really annoying when games like this use a checkpoint save system without even giving us the courtesy of a quick-save.
When you’re done with the single-player campaign, you’ll be pretty much done with FEAR 2. There are several multiplayer modes, including deathmatches, Counter-Strike-style bombing missions, capture the flag, and control point capture games, but they’re all played as the cookie-cutter soldiers from the single-player game, with no interesting paranormal twists or even slow-motion combat. This won’t entice anybody away from their favorite online shooters.
FEAR 2 will be bought, played, mostly enjoyed, and thrown onto the shelf to be forgotten with the countless other pretty-good-but-not-great shooters. Like most horror film sequels, it’s good for a few scares on a dark night with the surround sound turned up, but not a whole lot more.