Games for 2008: Project Origin

By Kieron Gillen on January 18th, 2008 at 5:38 pm.

What are little girls made of? Polygons.

While we’ve previously talked about how weren’t exactly impressed with the name they settled on – though we do like the list of close-but-no-cigars, including the immortal Little Miss Bloodshine – the actual whole story behind the change itself remains perhaps the most fascinating of recent times. Publisher keeping the name while the Developer keeps the engine has happened before, of course (with the separate directions the name and the game of Championship Manager went when Sports Interactive and Eidos split), but in this case it seems even more startling.

That the whole game is working under a new name doesn’t seem as shocking when it’s such a pure-mechanic thing as in the now-Football Manager. It’s just a bunch of numbers. The name isn’t a character. But Project Origin is just… F.E.A.R. 2, in any real way we can measure. It’s got all the iconic elements of the first game, including the bloody girl they stuck on the bloody box.

It’s just F.E.A.R. 2. Except… it’s not. For a game that’s full of reality bending gubbins, it’s incredibly appropriate that I’m confused before I even start playing the thing.

Sexy not-sexy thing!

Luckily, I suspect we’re going to swiftly going to reorient ourselves. As the first trailer released last year, it immediately appears to be business as usual. We’re in office blocks. There’s lots of concrete. There’s not enough functioning lights. There’s guys getting shot by a hyper-hard ultra-reflexed guy. There’s a girl in a dress acting all ooky and exploding people. It still appears to have that odd FEAR construct of being one of the most kinetic shooters in existence joined at the hip with a survival horror game – and never the twain will meet. You move from hyperviolence macho-man stuff to the scary stuff, but they very, very rarely happen at the same time. This is, of course, due to the fact as a character you’re incredibly hard.

So, if on the surface so little has changed, what is up?

What’s promised seems to be a tighter focus on the essentials of the series – that it’s a second take allows Monolith to amp up those aspects to increase the sense of cinema. Most spectacular is (er) the devotion to spectacle. For example, they’re concentrating on working out some AI which respond to the whole idea of actual death. While people will, Bioshock style, try to remove what’s hurting them (For example, flame and water), if they’re just too far gone… well, they’re going to go in style, throwing themselves to a glorious doom. There’s more to the re-done AI than mere amusements – for example, they respond in a non-pre-scripted fashion to various player threats, becoming scared or brave depending on the player’s actions. This should increase the variety in any given scenario, but until we actually see it in action, we’ll rather dwell on people dying amusingly.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about machine-gunning little girls, you know. And in the game!

Other improvements include more sense of open areas, in addition to the normal corridors. And they’re not the same corridors anyway, apparently having five times as much detail – which will hopefully mean that there’s five times as much things that shatter, as FEAR was all about the things shattering and… oh, I’m sorry. I’m probably not taking FEAR as seriously as many of its fans, but to me it was always about these pure pyrokinetics rather than any of the atmospherica, which never quite worked for me.

(For me, the second add on pack, Perseus Mandate, seemed to pull it off the atmospheric half considerably better than the first, despite the relatively rubbish use of classical geometry. Of course, this was from TimeGate rather than monolith, so neither here nor there).

Which may make one of the other changes Monolith are hinting around play to its strength. Previously Alma, our psychotic Akira-eque people-popping Ringu-off-cut, was really just a plot device. This time it seems that we’re actually going to face her. Which moves her from first-person horror to an actual antagonist, and – with concept art of her floating in space with a skyscraper bending around her out there – possibly an incredibly spectacular one.

We’ll see. Until then, see the trailer.

(And if you want an outside bet for the controversy next year, go for Horror-Shooter-Lets-You-Shoot-At-Young-Girl. If they include, it obviously. That said, whether you include something or not doesn’t really seem to have much influence on whether someone’ll write a story claiming it anyway.)

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33 Comments »

  1. Alex says:

    I thought the first one was very underwhelming. All the horror stuff didn’t do much for me. Basically the game was one large, extended “BOO!” – that’s not scary, just a bit silly.

    To compare, games like the “Thief” series – those actually scared me.

  2. Scotti says:

    The atmosphere never worked for you? To me it had some nice moments but I’ve got to agree with you on that.

  3. Kieron Gillen says:

    Passingly, it worked. I think it worked a little better on the later add-on packs.

    My feeling was “Yeah, that’s interesting” rather than “FUCK!” generally.

    KG

  4. Andrew says:

    Neat comments on the AI – trying to find more details on the development is a bit tough. Lets hope the enemies are worth fighting against :)

    I never even got through the original FEAR due to the simple fear-inducing tricks. It’s silly, but horror as a theme is a real turnoff despite the good gameplay.

  5. Jives says:

    I realy like the effects around alma in the video, and the art style in that hopscotch picture. It looks as though they’d asked a child to draw something evil, which is in itself wonderfully sinister.

  6. Andy Johnson says:

    If this game has some environments that aren’t as mind-bendingly dull as the first game’s, it may have a chance.

  7. Lou says:

    The atmosphere never really worked all that well for me, but the AI is superb, as is the level design (no to confuse with the admittedly bland level settings). It felt like a FPS-puzzler to me, with section after section of smart AI to outwit. Not a game for people who like epic setpieces, but the most honed gunfighting game yet.

    That said, this sequel looks a bit too identical, in every respect, and I had pretty much enough of it after the first addon.

  8. Lou says:

    If this game has some environments that aren’t as mind-bendingly dull as the first game’s, it may have a chance.

    While I know what you mean, I can’t help but think it misses the point a bit. It would have been a cosmetically better game with more interesting environments, but it didn’t really depend on it like, say, Half-Life 2 (in which I found the lack of any decent AI a lot more disturbing, for example) did. It’s a bit like complaining about the dull environments in Tetris. :)

  9. Leeks! says:

    That townhall article is awesome.

  10. Hitchhiker says:

    Enough with them bloody offices already! Where’s that NOLF 2 charm, Monolith?

  11. Messiah Complex says:

    I expect that Project Origin will be far superior to Perseus Mandate. I got the impression from PM that TimeGate was concerned primarily with getting their game out before Monolith. I’d love to tell you everything that I hated about it, but it would be too long for a comment. Suffice it to say that a lot of junk DNA made it through the cloning process.

  12. Chris R says:

    I’d like to see how many people were “born” on January 1, 19__ hehehe. I just go to the year field, click the arrow, and then flick my mouse wheel until I’ve entered 1960 or 1970 territory… like this time I was born on Jan 1, 1963.

    I’d wager that there are more than your average number of people born on Jan 1, eh? ;) Game Trailers should release a stat on that; would be interesting to see.

  13. malkav11 says:

    I honestly think they should have gone with Little Miss Bloodshine or perhaps The Girl With the Blood-Stained Dress (Ketchup replaced by what it really is). Those would be about ten times more interesting as titles than practically anything else ever attached to a videogame.

  14. Nick says:

    My favourite part of Fear was always the gunfights.. the way the plaster and debris filled the air, the enemies screaming at me and each other.. it was great fun. I usually used a sub machine gun simply because it was more cinematic in slo-motion. It made up for the samey environments, at least for me.

    The scary part was nice, but only really creepy a few times around the beginning.

  15. DigitalSignalX says:

    @Chris, agreed… DOB fields on sites are a rather silly means of denying responsibility for the content. I usually choose 1930′s just to bump the geriatric demographic.

    I really enjoy the horror FPS genre, even though unfortunately we PC users usually find them at the front lines of lazy or crappy ports from their console … origins. The nuclear ending in the first F.E.A.R. definitely ranks as one of the best video game sequences I can recall. The genre allows for some superb plots (like Jericho, sans horrific game mechanics), and I look forward to seeing how they develop the Alma and our super hero son story arc.

  16. Nobby says:

    Is Fear Platinum (game + all addons) worth getting?

  17. Nobby says:

    Edit for above:
    RPS guys, next time you interview Monolith, ask them to put NOLF 1/2 on Steam, you cant buy it in stores anymore. :(

  18. Jim Rossignol says:

    Life would be easier if everyone just put everything on Steam. Also good for hard drive manufacturers.

  19. DigitalSignalX says:

    “Life would be easier if everyone just put everything on Steam”

    ewwww. No more crispy or crunchy stuff :( Plus all that lovely package art, not to mention tossing out the window future retail super duper bonus collectors edition authorized numbered photocopy posters of our favorite player characters in a sexy poses.

  20. Nick says:

    I miss cardboard boxes for games. The smell upon opening one was something truely wonderful.

  21. Okami says:

    Nick, I know what you mean. I still have fond memories of openening my box of Ultima 6 to find a map made out of cloth, the beautifull compendium and that little moonstone in it. Nowadays I allways try to buy the SE of a game, just because they’ve got nicer packaging and more goodies in them. Well except for Atari SEs, those usually suck….

  22. Kast says:

    It’s all about the goodies. Months on I may not appreciate Bioshock so much but my little Big Daddy model is still loved and faithful. He sits to one side of my monitor, facing off against a wobbly-headed Alien. Now THAT would be a great fight.

  23. dhex says:

    i must say i was surprised at how good perseus mandate was, considering how shit extraction point was. (it eschewed the atmosphere of the original for OOGA BOOGA type bullshit)

    so yeah project origin. maybe more outdoors locations? they’re nice.

  24. Andy Johnson says:

    Lou – environments aren’t just a cosmetic issue as backgrounds are in Tetris. FEAR’s combat was limited by the fact that most of the rooms were dull in their design and much of the game consisted of corridors. The pacing and rhythm of the game was also hampered by how the whole thing consisted of four near-identical industrial sites that in themselves were tediously clinical and worryingly grey in their designs.

    You were right to bring up HL2 as an example of game that did a vastly better job of it, though.

  25. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    what shits me is games, especially the ‘big’ titles…..that insist on shipping their discs in those crappy paper slips. I’m looking at you, World in Conflict. You too, UT3…..cheapskates.

  26. Sir Qwertalot says:

    ^ Buh? Where do you buy your games?

    Also, I disagree with Andy. The cosmetic design of the maps in FEAR may have been dull but the level design was great. It made the most of the enemy AI so that firefights were always tense and exciting, it certainly didn’t limit the combat!

  27. Lou says:

    Lou – environments aren’t just a cosmetic issue as backgrounds are in Tetris. FEAR’s combat was limited by the fact that most of the rooms were dull in their design and much of the game consisted of corridors. The pacing and rhythm of the game was also hampered by how the whole thing consisted of four near-identical industrial sites that in themselves were tediously clinical and worryingly grey in their designs.

    You were right to bring up HL2 as an example of game that did a vastly better job of it, though.

    But the actual level design in FEAR was great, that was my point. They looked dull, yes, but they were perfect for the gunfights. Always multiple paths, chokepoints, coverspots, etc., and they were evolving and changing all through the game. It was a game that concentrated on the absolute core elements of the genre – AI, and weapons, and pulled this off flawlessly.

    HL2 did indeed make a better job with the environments, and had a vastly superior art design (and told a story, of course), but the core gameplay was, in my opinion, hopelessly inferior to FEAR – in the end, I loved both games. My point just was that saying FEAR had boring environments only tells half the story, because (for me at least) it made up for that with its other strengths, which also highlighted the weaknesses in other games of the genre.

  28. malkav11 says:

    At this point I’m starting to prefer the crappy paper slips to the unnecessary double-sized DVD boxes. If your game is on one DVD (and it damn well ought to be.), you only need that kind of extra space in the case for an enormous manual. And you could have that *outside* the case, and make it possible to store more than a handful of games on a single shelf. *mutters*

  29. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    Qwertalot:

    I’m in Australia. I also realize different regions all get different packaging and stuff. I also partially agree with Malkav’s point, although its thankfully a much rarer issue, and hey, at least they stack neatly with the othergames.

  30. j says:

    I know it’s a cliche and all but my favourite Monolith era is still NOLF 1/2.

  31. Randy says:

    Sweet! I’m definitely a fan of F.E.A.R. original, and Project Origin is sounding pretty good.

    However, what we really need is another proper (i.e. not a Contract JACK diversion) NOLF game from masters at Monolith. Now that — would rock!! :D

  32. Señor Citizen says:

    @WCAYPAHWAT:

    Yes, I was also surprised that World in Conflict came in a cardboard box and paper sleeve. It seemed most of the new titles, at least all the Games for Windows titles, had abandoned that for the plastic cases.

    However, my Unreal Tournament 3 came in a plastic case, not sure how you ended up with the paper sleeve with that game?

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