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Demo Impressions: FEAR 2

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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John Walker

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