Demo Impressions: FEAR 2

By John Walker on January 22nd, 2009 at 2:30 pm.

She needs an ASBO.

FEAR 2 seems like it’s been in development for over a hundred years, but at last you can play it, for at least a short while. The demo has been released today, and gives you a good 20 to 30 minutes (so long as you don’t rush like an idiot) of the spooksome world. You can get the demo here. Impressions below.

The most striking thing about the portion of the game on display here is quite how traditional a shooter FEAR 2 is looking to be. Tight corridors, health packs, armour packs, and some bullet time. There’s not even a left/right choice throughout the demo, so constricted are you in its funnel. But you know what? It’s a pretty fine funnel to be in.

The school is really nicely detailed, too.

The horror tropes are also extremely traditional, but what’s known to be effective is damned effective. The familiar split-second flashing of alternate worlds, spooky figures, and horrific displays are in full force. It almost strobes with the effects at points. The appearances of the little girl, Alma, are all well timed, and often surprising. There’s also some extremely effective use of music, with the score ripping and changing to match your actions, even offering orchestral stabs at the conclusion of your firing.

The sound is used in an exemplary fashion throughout. At one point a shadow appears on the wall in front of you, encouraging you to turn around and see some awful figure for just a fragment of a second, which is a great moment. But at another it’s simply a sound effect that has you check behind you, to disturbing effect. It’s smart, and it’s obviously the reason for the funnel.

Suddenly it's Mech Warrior.

Lots more fun comes from swinging doors, slamming furniture, and all-out frenzy in some of the corridors of the elementary school that makes up the first half of the level. Then things focus more on the run-and-gunplay, finishing with a ludicrous sequence in a giant, stomping robo-suit. I think I like the idea of a shameless corridor shooter, with everything from dropped data messages, in-HUD messages from unseen compatriots, and daft old health packs. Especially if it can maintain the momentum and spookiness on show here.

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111 Comments »

  1. AlexW says:

    So they occasionally use sound effects to simulate a character driven to paranoia? Nifty.

  2. Timofee says:

    Shall definitely be checking this one out as I really enjoyed the original FEAR, however I always felt they could have made more of the squad you were supposed to be with, for both some more interesting set pieces and also for horror purposes with squad mates being dragged off or meeting their doom in gruesome ways. From what I’ve read about FEAR2 it sounds like its sticking to a strictly solo affair with intermittent voice comms from your buddies which seems a shame.

  3. Pags says:

    S.H.O.G.O section! Pew pew!

  4. Nick says:

    That was used to good effect (imo..) in Call of Cthulhu as well. I have no problems with coridoor shooters, as long as they are done well.. it’s ok for a game to just be a game every once in a while and not strive to be a gimic ridden life simulation or something to make you think.

    Or maybe I’m just babbling.

  5. Nick says:

    And by “That” I mean sound as a paranoia device.

  6. Heliocentric says:

    The second image is full of spoilers, all of those things later show up as enemies in fear.

    Except the panda who represents your love interest… Who is a panda.

  7. SuperMatt says:

    You know what I liked about the demo? How smoothly it ran at maximum settings.

  8. spirit7 says:

    SuperMatt – I fully agree. Ran flawlessly.

  9. qrter says:

    1.76Gb.. I wish companies would officially put their demos out on torrentsites, but then the ad-funded download sites would probably get their knickers in a twist etc.

  10. Sonicgoo says:

    Shooters seem to be in a bit of a midlife crisis at the moment. We’re seeing a lot of games trying to move forward, some succeeding more than failing, some vice versa. Monolith’s answer seems to be making a traditional type game, but simply really well done. Which is fine in itself, but with the other game on offer being Condemned, it does make you yearn for something more cool and colourful, like NOLF or TRON 2.0.

    Also, it saddened me to hear they’ve removed the kung fu parts that were so much fun in the first FEAR. Seems a needless step backwards.

  11. MeestaNob! says:

    @qrter
    Not really, they only benefit from the ads once when you go to download the demo. Same thing would apply when you visit them to grab the .torrent file.

  12. skillian says:

    I still remember the original FEAR demo – it was one of those demos which, like Crysis, entertained me for a ridiculously long time. I hope this is as much fun.

    Regarding demos as torrents – why does it matter if it’s “officially” on those sites? All good demos will end up as torrents anyway, so what does it matter whether it’s an “official” release or just some guy who releases it?

  13. karthik says:

    Ah, corridor shooter!

    Been a while since I’ve played one of these. If it’s half as good as the Fear demo, hours of fun lie ahead.

  14. Cooper42 says:

    You know, corridor shooters get too much of a bad rep.

    There’s nothing wrong with a good on the rails shooter if it’s done well. Mind you, it has to be done exceptionally well to get away with the rails. Valve have shown it’s possible, as have others. The original fear did too.

    On a wider subject of shooters, I say bring back Serious Sam. That arcadey-doom style shooter seems to have gone out of fashion. Which is not good.

  15. Cauton says:

    I loved the bit where it said that they didn’t recommend the mech to be piloted by children. Good to see that Monolith still haven’t forgotten about their anime-inspired roots!

  16. Nick says:

    “Also, it saddened me to hear they’ve removed the kung fu parts that were so much fun in the first FEAR”

    WHAT? But.. but.. that was my favourite thing to do in FEAR when I got bored of shooting.. run up in slow mo and jump kick people in the face =(

    Or ponder at the sillyness of slide kicking instantly killing people.

    It was great fun =(

  17. El_MUERkO says:

    I have to say I’m impressed!

    ..

    .

    With the quality of the children’s art work, fine ‘Tiger’ and superb ‘Dinosaur burning car with nose flame’

  18. solipsistnation says:

    Oh shoot, I totally forgot it was coming out! I fail at games today I guess.

  19. Lewis says:

    Was enormously pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this. Seems to improve on pretty much every aspect of FEAR – except for that, perhaps, the gunplay doesn’t feel as visceral and frenetic as before.

    Generally, though, more of the same, but executed with more panache and variation than the original. That’ll do.

  20. Anonononomous says:

    Health packs? I thought Monolith said that they were using a recharging health system. Is it a hybrid like Riddick and Condemned 2 or is it like the original FEAR?

  21. Nelson says:

    FEAR is sooooo boring. It’s the Oblivion/Fallout 3 of FPS. Everyone says they love it because they feel like they HAVE to.

  22. qrter says:

    Not really, they only benefit from the ads once when you go to download the demo. Same thing would apply when you visit them to grab the .torrent file.

    That’s true. It’s probably more the whole torrent = pirates = evil thing.

  23. Duncan says:

    “But you know what? It’s a pretty fine funnel to be in.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pippa_Funnell ?

    I’ll get me coat…

  24. Nick says:

    Oh Nelson you rogue, doing your own thing, paving the way.. shine on you crazy diamond.

  25. Lewis says:

    “FEAR is sooooo boring. It’s the Oblivion/Fallout 3 of FPS. Everyone says they love it because they feel like they HAVE to.”

    What a silly thing to say.

  26. UncleLou says:

    FEAR is sooooo boring. It’s the Oblivion/Fallout 3 of FPS. Everyone says they love it because they feel like they HAVE to.

    No, they say it because it has the best AI and weapons of the genre. If all you want are pretty environments, there’s lots of games that do this, but aren’t a patch on FEAR’s perfection when it comes to the core gameplay mechanics of an FPS.

  27. Lewis says:

    John, did you find the pacing interesting in this demo? The original tended to go for the ‘build tension, startle, release’ model, whereas FEAR 2 seems much more cluttered. The first fifteen minutes is relentless with its atmosphere of jumps and scares. And then in the second half, there’s literally nothing except shooting grunts, and the suspense is removed completely. It’ll be interesting to see how this materialises in the full game.

  28. Jeremy says:

    Well, I was a little skeptical at first, but I may just have to pick this thing up, that whole anime robottery was a little off-putting to me, but would you guys say it is well done? I am glad they went with health packs, and not everyone is jumping on the auto-recharge bandwagon. It works well in some games, I think Call of Duty uses it well as a kind of lesser of 2 evils. Either way it isn’t realistic, but having Nazi or Russian soldiers dropping health packs is less realistic in my opinion.

  29. wviperw says:

    Wait, what’s wrong with “daft old health packs” again? I thought the denizens of the intarweb were clamoring for a return to health packs as opposed to the “un-challenging” new kid on the block–full health regen a la COD.

  30. ascagnel says:

    I played a version over the weekend that had a bit more to it than the current demo (this one), and it really is a just a flawless corridor shooter. That demo had everything, and I have a sneaking suspicion may be the full game.

    SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

    What I don’t like is the extensive use of redshirts. If you want to have a story with characters, that’s fine, but don’t have them just be cannon fodder. Gets annoying when they all get scriptedly and unceremoniously killed off.

    SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

  31. Ragnar says:

    FEAR 2 might be a good shooter, but I always get annoyed at horror elements in games and movies. So unless Monolith promises that their next game will be NOLF 3 I’m not going to buy this. :D

  32. John Walker says:

    The health is a combination. It will reload the first half of it, but you’re still in a bad way and need packs.

    Lewis – I’m withholding judgement on that, as I’m not sure if this is a real level from the game, or a cobbled collection for the demo. It does seem a rather violent shift in emphasis in such a short space of time.

  33. Anonononomous says:

    Based on past demos Monolith has put out, I would assume it is cobbled together from parts of the game and some demo-only stuff.

  34. Paul Moloney says:

    I do like a good corridor shooter myself, but I just got Call of Duty 4 and so far (2 levels in) it’s even more corridor-ish than normal; some parts of it feel like I’m playing a lightgun game. It’s actually the first time I’ve started playing the multiplayer part of a game (COD4′s is a blast, so I’m still glad I bought it) before finishing the singleplayer part.

    P.

  35. ZenArcade says:

    Really wasn’t impressed at all with the demo. Why don’t they stop it with this FEAR rubbish and make more NOLF/TRON-esque games? I’m so sick of painfully serious “HORRAR” shooters that aren’t acctually scary OR fun to play.

    /rant

    :edit: I mentioned NOLF and TRON because I believe the FEAR series is by the same company… correct me if i’m wrong. Still, they were fantastic, as was AvP2 although that kind of ruins my point in a way ¬_¬

  36. Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

    Do the gamershell servers usually get filled up? they’re almost all at 100%. I just want to know if this is normal before i draw massively far reaching conclusions from it.

  37. Pags says:

    Goddamn Fileplanet! Waited an hour in queue, then 2 minutes before I would be first in line and my computer froze! I cried salty tears of nothingness, because while I am a man it was still remarkably frustrating.

  38. IdleHands says:

    @Heliocentric:
    Oh yeah, I remember that badly drawn tiger was a tough SOB, took me ages to get past it until I realised you had to use the eraser missile. That crude godzilla boss though was disappointingly easy, all that build up for such an easy thing. FEAR really pushed the envelope with putting in a panda, not enough companies have the balls to include pandas and much the shame.

  39. Heliocentric says:

    Did you play on extreme mode and get the soft focus love scene with the panda? That was classy.

  40. Lewis says:

    John and Anonononomous: if that is the case, and I suspect it probably is, then I’m a little worried about the final product. It could well be a collection of Fear 2′s ‘best bits’ and, while I enjoyed the demo, I’d like the full version to have a bit more to it.

    Also: widescreen only. Big error, one I can only assume they’ll fix for the final PC release. Could alienate a lot of users otherwise, with its horrible letterboxing on 4:3 and even 16:10 monitors.

  41. unclelou says:

    “John and Anonononomous: if that is the case, and I suspect it probably is, then I’m a little worried about the final product. It could well be a collection of Fear 2’s ‘best bits’ ”

    It’s just to show you different bits, I guess – although they’re sacrificing level coherence for it – at least that was the case with the FEAR 1 demo, which showed not much of the level design brilliance of Monolith.

  42. Skurmedel says:

    No Nelson, we say we love it because we do. Oblivion on the other hand, seems pretty boring.

  43. Lewis says:

    “that was the case with the FEAR 1 demo, which showed not much of the level design brilliance of Monolith.”

    To be fair, the same could be said of the full game.

  44. unclelou says:

    “To be fair, the same could be said of the full game.”

    That sounds as if you’re confusing pretty environments with good level design. The levels in FEAR look bland, and lacked variation. The level design, on the other hand, was second to none.

  45. Requiem says:

    For some reason I can’t muster any excitement about Fear 2, I wonder why? Ah that’s right I loathed Fear! I thought it was a totally mediocre game. The ai was good, but that was the only decent thing about it and certainly not enough to make up for the rest of the game. The weapons were horrible (probably the worst in any fps I’ve ever played), the environments boring, the story predictable. The scary bits might of made you jump but only in a sudden bang type of way, there was none of the cold clammy hands, heartbeat racing and goosebumps that the underground areas or even night time in Stalker brought out in you. Fear 2 demo, no thanks.

  46. Tom says:

    An elementary school and guns, blood and gore…
    That does sound interesting ;) weeeeaaahh!!!

  47. John Walker says:

    “Also: widescreen only. Big error, one I can only assume they’ll fix for the final PC release. Could alienate a lot of users otherwise, with its horrible letterboxing on 4:3 and even 16:10 monitors.”

    I declare disagreement. I think people should embrace widescreen in games. I’ve decided I consider complaining about letterboxing in games to be as wrong as complaining about it in film. Director’s vision, etc.

  48. Pags says:

    That’s a bit of a pain in the ass as I’m currently downloading it on a PC with a 4:3 monitor. This after searching for a mirror which doesn’t require me to wait in line (looking at you Fileplanet) or have sluggish download speeds for a 1.6gig file (looking at you everyone else). This game’s becoming a bit of a pain in the ass and I haven’t even downloaded it yet.

  49. Premium User Badge dhex says:

    i can see how the forced widescreen can be a pain in the ass; as a funny ha ha, iirc the original fear and first two or three patches didn’t have widescreen options, so you had to edit .ini files and never, ever touch the graphical options if you wanted widescreen action.

  50. Lewis says:

    John, I absolutely take your point. For me, well, I only have a diddy little 4:3 monitor at home, so the end result was a picture so small I practically had to stick my eyes to the screen to see it properly.

    I wonder if it *is* director’s vision, or whether it’s just optimised more for the consoles, where it’s likely to be played on a massive telly.