Playing the first F.E.A.R. was a lot like walking away from eating sushi for the first time. You’re pretty sure it was good, but you’re not exactly sure what you ate. At the end of F.E.A.R., I was confused as to what type of game I had played. Had it been shooter, action, or horror? Where did these people come from?
The blending of genres in any entertainment medium is risky because you have to do all of them well AND merge them seamlessly. That was my only issue with F.E.A.R. It performed at both genres exceptionally well, especially with the enemy AI being irritatingly good at their jobs. But when it came to marrying them, the scares seemed slightly removed from the action, and vice versa.
The demo for the sequel, Project Origin, with a release date of February 10th, is now available. From the looks of things, we’re well on our way to a gamers’ nation full of soiled underwear. While I have grown bored with the whole “use a 7-12 year old boy or girl in pajamas with dark eyes and a creepy stance” to scare people, the demo promises that she’s the least of your worries. You’ll start out disoriented in the middle of a city where a bomb has gone off. Images of a swing set and a girl who didn’t get her pony for Christmas assault your vision. Soon thereafter, you’ll retrieve a machine gun and the fun begins.
After not playing F.E.A.R. for some time now, I forgot about the tenacity of the enemy AI and it took me only a few seconds to remember that these are the kinds of enemies that eat your bullets. They return in true form, tipping over or sliding out cover from a myriad of set pieces, including tables and shelves. They call for backup, flank, evade, and don’t stay at a comfortable shooting distance for you to pick off easily. Not to mention they still take everything short of an air strike to kill. This works well for the fear-inspiring ambiance of the game because it forces you to stay put and take everyone out even when your skin is crawling to move forward.
The controls are comfortable and fit well. Left bumper changes weapons, right bumper throws grenades. “X” is your go to button for engaging the environment, “Y” is your rusty trusty slow down time mechanic, and “B” allows you to melee ethereal beings (Are ghosts tangible?) Minor details really. Also, accessing the list of goodies to choose from in your arsenal does not pause the game. This is a dirty, but clever, little trick that will make you take things a little slower than usual. Through the course of the demo, you get to pick up grenades, a machine gun, rifle, sniper rifle, and giant, missile shooting mechanical armor, ensuring that there will be plenty of toys to play with. So, the shooter side of things feels well handled. But there’s no reason to expect anything less given its predecessor. Through the course of the demo, you’ll also get to see an office building, a subway, and the city streets, so there seems to be an improved focus on setting variation as well.
Where my initial impression of F.E.A.R. 2 is off the charts is in the scares. The ambiance from the first installment cranks to an alarming level. Through the course of the demo, furniture moves in a startling, sweeping way. Blood splatters and flickering lights leave you alternating between almost pure darkness and rooms with remnants of a massacre. At one point, you’re walking down a school hallway, and a rush of wind and flickering lights stops you in your tracks and blows through opening and slamming lockers on the way. The environment is incredibly immersive. More than once, I had to steady myself in a corner to orientate myself towards getting the hell out of a room.
Other than that, there isn’t much else available through the demo because it’s painfully short. Towards the end, the feel of the game play shifts drastically to action galore and I wonder if alternating so definitively between spooky, dark corridors to missile launching, mechanical duels will render the game disjointed. But this is just speculation based on snippets. The demo itself is definitely worth a spin. Trust me, it won’t take long and it’ll be the quickest heart attack you give yourself this week.