“Alma”, the psychic child/adult from the first game is back to haunt your dreams and scare you into turning the lights on. F.E.A.R. 2 was branded by many major magazines and publications as the “sleeper hit” of 2009.
Many saw it’s tense gameplay and promising trailer footage as new territory in regards to first person shooters. Does F.E.A.R. 2 succeed in meeting these expectations? Well, yes, and no.
You play the part of Michael Becket, a Delta Force Operator who’s mission is to detain Genevieve Aristide, the person responsible for unleashing Alma and President of Armacham. Michael never talks the entire game because you are assuming his role.
F.E.A.R. 2 is a “psychological shooter”, meaning often times your head will be invaded by Alma, and you will be forced to see a grotesque visage, or haunting spirits. When Alma “gets in your head”, the screen will turn orange, and it will look like your head is pulsing, which makes for a pretty cool effect.
Because the game is a thriller, the violence level in F.E.A.R. 2 is extremely high. If you shoot an enemy point bank with a shotgun you will destroy their body, and I’m talking Rise of the Triad insta-gibbing. Some special forces members will even have hydrogen tanks on their backs, so if you shoot those; bye bye upper body. You’ll also see a lot of “body dragging and eating” ala Half Life.
A big aspect of the gameplay is “SloMo” (slowing down time with the press of a button), which should be old by now, but surprisingly “fits” F.E.A.R. 2 nicely. Slomo recharges fairly quickly, so you can use it in most firefights; or not, if you find the game too easy with it. Most of the weapons you’ll find will be standard (Battle Rifles, Shotguns), but there are a few surprises here and there like a laser gun and a plasma launcher.
Every once in a while, you’ll get to command a robot power suit or a gun turret, and even though these sequences don’t last that long, they’re definately a blast to play. Sadly, in the PS3 and 360 version you can’t change the controls. No matter how much you’re used to “X” game, it won’t make a difference, you’ll have to live with the defaults.
Most of the locales you visit will be some sort of “industrial/underground” setting, meaning a lot of them are going to look the same. It wasn’t until the Elementary School level (Mission that I truly started to get into the game’s setting.
Monolith Productions gave the school and astounding amount of detail that is unprecedented by other areas in the game, shown by the myriad of cautionary “manners posters” and child learning materials . Also, there’s something about seeing a blackboard that says “Fantastic First Graders”, and seeing Alma (long hair in her face and all) right there listed with all of her classmates that gives me the shivers.
Unlike Bioshock and other shooters, F.E.A.R. 2 feels more linear than most. A lot of the game’s areas and doors are “boarded up”, which eliminates any free roaming opportunities. The only real thing to find in the very few alcoves in the game are “yellow injectors” that increase your maximum SloMo time.
In a rather odd design choice, the majority of objectives are solved 30 seconds from receiving them. Literally in one ocassion, I was given the objective “retrieve the key card somewhere before moving on to the next area”, and I found said card across the room. You may freak out at first when you realize F.E.A.R. 2 has no map or radar system, but you’ll quickly cope after realizing it’s almost impossible to get lost.
Also, the dialogue is really only out of the ordinary for one character (your informant, Snake Fist). He spouts lines like “you’re like free pizza at an anime convention; Alma wants to consume you as soon as possible”. It helps keep a sense of freshness if you happen to be running through a particularly drab locale.
While the voicing acting is superb (including Halo’s Cortana as your Lieutenant), their lines leave much to be desired, and, like Killzone 2, most of your unit members are just walking stereotypes. Also, the storytelling mechanic really isn’t there, as most of the progressive-story information you’ll receive is through loading screens between levels.
Despite a non-traditional narrative, the cinematography in the game is done very well, and matches efforts put forth by many horror film directors. Much like Bioshock, F.E.A.R. 2 is a first person experience, meaning you will be in the action most of the time, even if it means sometimes only being able to look around while behind a glass wall. Often times you’ll enter a room, only to have a huge explosion hit it in SloMo. Sound cues will also have you jumping up in your seat. I’d strongly recommend playing F.E.A.R. 2 with headphones on, and in the dark for full effect.
In addition to some of the drab locations, F.E.A.R. 2 also suffers from generic foes. All of the enemies can be categorized into 3 basic types: special forces, creatures, and spirits. While the special forces soldier may be heavily armed with the occasional battle suit every hour or so, most of the enemies you’re going to be looking at for the 15 hour ride are the ones pictured above.
So where are the other enemies? Well, the creatures only really come at the beginning and end of the game, and the spirits are only in a few sections. The creatures look and feel a lot like the ones found in Uncharted, but the spirits are actually entertaining.
A few of them use “Psycho Mantis Wires” to control dead special forces units like marionettes. We’ve seen it before, but it still feels astoundingly creepy in F.E.A.R. 2. Despite the enemies’ doppelganger penchant, they will actually act tactically, and with deadly accuracy. Foes will throw down tables for cover, blind-fire, and work together to eliminate you.
There are 15 missions in the game, and each can take from 30 minutes to an hour. F.E.A.R. 2 clocks in at about 10-15 hours of play length for the single player campaign, which is about average. The only problem is you don’t get anything for beating it, and there are no collectibles, so you most likely are going to jump right into online multiplayer.
F.E.A.R. 2′s online mode is complete with an unranked, and ranked system (so don’t worry you competitive gamers out there). The modes included are deathmatch, team deathmatch, control (king of the hill), armored front (king of the hill variant with a mech suit), failsafe (bomb the base), and blitz (capture the flag). As you can see, despite their cool sounding names, a lot of these modes have been done already. The good news is F.E.A.R. 2 does them right, and the majority of gamers will be lost in team deathmatch clan matches as it is.
Instead of Counterstrike’s “purchase”, or Halo’s “everyone starts the same” systems, F.E.A.R. 2 lets you customize your loadout how you want it. There’s three sets of armor; light, medium, and heavy, and the less armor you pack on, the more weaponry you can bring along.
This system is really versatile, and you’ll never get bored of trying out different loadouts if you tire of a specific weapon-set. While the multiplayer is balanced, it lacks a “defining” quality, like the first F.E.A.R.’s game-breaking Slomo pickup, which means community support may wane in the coming months.
Ultimately, F.E.A.R. 2 doesn’t deviate from the standard shooter fare, so don’t expect much originality. However, I’d definately recommend the game to hardcore shooter fans due to the strong controls and well-done core mechanics.
Editor’s note: While it’s hard to tell the difference graphically between the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, the PC version of F.E.A.R. 2 is much sharper, and with higher resolution. My review is based primarily on the PS3 version.
F.E.A.R. 2′s graphics and physics engine aren’t the best on the market, but are very impressive. The character models and designs, however, are fairly bland.
F.E.A.R. 2 plays very well in respects to both single player and multiplayer. While the weapons you use are nothing new, the Powersuit sections of the game are very fun, and do a good job of diversifying the gameplay.
The voice acting is pretty solid, and the “suspense” cues are done very well. The actual dialogue and music quality do not measure up, however.
The single player in F.E.A.R. 2 can be completed in around 15 hours, and there is nothing really to bring you back. Despite this, online multiplayer is pretty exciting, and there are enough modes to hold you over.
Despite it’s generic presentation, at it’s core, F.E.A.R. 2 is a very solid shooter.