Wot I Think: F.E.A.R. 2 Project Origin

EAR 2?

Monolith’s sequel to F.E.A.R., eventually called F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, came out last week. Alma’s back, messing with our heads, disturbing our telekinetic fields. Was it worth the scrabble to recover the name from Vivendi? Here’s wot I think.

She rarely plays on one of those boingy frogs.

I have come to the conclusion that FEAR 2 is about the importance of team communication. When one of your team mates radios to you that they’re off to investigate the sound of the crying woman – the same crying woman who’s tried to kill you in psychic attacks for most of that day – you’d think, maybe, you’d give him a heads-up. Not remain completely mute, waiting for the inevitable cries of pain to be broadcast back to you. In FEAR 2, the guy you play is a bit of a dick.

It is, in so many ways, an incredibly traditional first-person shooter. And as is the way of traditions, it’s safely familiar territory, but an experience you’ve maybe had once too often. It’s Christmas with your comfortably predictable, sometimes dull family. Except with perhaps slightly more viscera.

Rather nicely, Project Origin picks up the story half an hour before the end of FEAR. Playing Delta Force operative Michael Becket, you and your team are tasked with arresting Genevieve Aristide, the president of Armacham – the corporation behind all the evil psychic projects that made up the story of the first game. And indeed the people who had imprisoned Alma, the apparent little girl who haunted you throughout. Aristide soon escapes you, and through a series of events, you’re in a hospital, having received some sort of dodgy treatment that’s improved your psychic powers.

Of course what this all boils down to is shooting at the enemies, then running into the next corridor/room, and shooting at the enemies. Along the way you’ll be psychically disturbed, dragged into hallucinations, and rather peculiarly, occasionally forced to hammer the right mouse button to stop Alma from throttling you to death. And of course you’ve got bullet time. Beyond the completely batshit bonkers inclusion of two giant mech suit sequences, there’s nothing that stands out about the mechanics. In fact, what’s most peculiar about a game inspired by J-Horror spooks, is the astonishing amount of time it’s just yet another soldier shooter.

Focus bullet extreme time mode makes things look slightly prettier.

There’s all sorts of mystery about your team, your abilities, and who is why and where for when, told out through cutscenes and bits of information left lying around the levels, and there’s no need to spoil them here. But of course the larger story is that of Alma, who is released from her imprisonment near the beginning of the game, and messing with your head from the off. Oh, and then there’s the backstory to Armacham. And the story about the training facility. And the mysterious Snake Fist… FEAR 2 is a game that is in no way short of story, telling it in every imaginable way, occasionally effectively.

The primary school that makes up the game’s finest section is packed with little hints on the walls, notes in classrooms and so on, that satisfyingly unfold the farther you delve into the building’s secrets. But none of it feels forced upon you – there’s a sense of discovering it through your own thoroughness. However, this isn’t the case throughout, with great chunks of the information discovered on discarded, apparently “top secret” bits of data, lying around on the floor of vast, industrial complexes. It’s a little incongruous. The story overall, when reflected upon, just doesn’t add up to much. “Oh,” you’ll say. “So that did that, then. Oh, if you like.”

This back and forth, decent ideas and desperately hoary tropes, exemplifies the experience of FEAR 2. Technically, it’s extremely accomplished. The enemy AI lets it not only find cover, but also create it, tipping over objects, flipping tables, and hiding behind them. (You can do the same, but frustratingly only on pre-determined objects. One bookcase tips over, probably discovered after a firefight. Another, right before the next bullet exchange, does not.) The music is cleverly woven into the action, reacting in time to events, spiking the shocks, and generating tension. The visual effects are frenetic and varied, each associated to particular phenomena you encounter. The flashes of Alma appearing in rooms, on monitors, in shadows, and so on are fantastic. The poltergeist effects make you jump, as objects topple over, doors fly open, bodies get dragged rapidly away. All of this is true… for the first couple of hours.

Don't look now.

For the first hour or two I was jumping like a big idiot. At one point I was so engrossed that just the sudden appearance of a couple of soldiers had me firing my gun wildly at the ceiling before I’d gotten a hold of myself. But a few hours of tedious grey corridors and I was immune to it all. The opening sequences seem like a vaccine that prevents you from being effected by much of the game.

You learn how it works, and at that point it stops working. The musical cues eventually are so familiar they warn you of a surprise, rather than aiding one. The flashes of Alma become so predictable that I started saying hello to her. “Oh, hi Alma. How’s it going? Not sticking around?” The enemy AI reliably hides behind the object, so you know you can wait to get your shot. And the screen going black and white means your heart sinks as there’s going to be another tedious section in the dark with ghost pecking at your armour like a slightly cross chaffinch.

The two large sections that succeed are the hospital and the primary school. Both are real-world settings that are twisted by the actions of Alma, the enemy ATC soldiers, and Armacham. Here the game thrives, splashing colour and familiar signs that usually represent safety, and making them dangerous, terrible places. The secret to all good horror. Both, everywhere in the game, are tight, one-way corridors, but the nature of both buildings makes this feel reasonable. It’s a little contrived with piles of furniture blocking passages, and the number of barricaded doors is remarkable, but you can believe that panicked staff and pupils had done this at some point in the past. These bright, airy locations become effectively upsetting when things get messed up. The same cannot be said for the miles and miles of grey, metallic corridors and chambers, or dull, beige passages, that bulk out most of the rest of the game.

Awarded for the Best Decapitation in the District Sports.

There’s little opportunity to play smart. Equipped with a sniper rifle (all the weapons are satisfying to fire, but it’s deeply unsatisfying to see their laboured effectiveness when shot repeatedly into the face of the same soldier), you might crouch before the entrance to a large chamber, knowing it will be filled with guards. Pick off a few before you go in? No. Because their existence won’t be triggered until you’ve crossed that boundary. Eventually you start playing up to this, working out which action will generate the next wave. You reload your weapons and maybe use a medkit before going over to that crate with the ammo, which will certainly trigger their entrance. You can game it further, throwing proximity mines over to where the enemies will inevitably appear.

The firefights against the troops or Armacham’s Replica soldiers are fun enough. (It’s important to note that for most of the game, I wasn’t aware which of the two I was fighting – it never seemed important, unless they were shooting at each other). The slo-mo Reflex Time makes fights a degree more engaging, letting you take out multiple opponents before ducking back behind cover, with bullet tracers everywhere and globules of blood floating about. But you don’t often need to use it. It became something I kept forgetting I had, pulled out only in emergencies. But what’s especially strange about these extended sections is the game apparently forgetting it’s a horror. It’s all gone, for ages and ages, everything so overwhelmingly ordinary.

(Behind the scenes note: I’m editing this paragraph in a few minutes after thinking I’d finished the review.) The melee combat that was a big part of the popularity of FEAR is here too. You can use the butt of any weapon to bash enemies, and if jumping you’ll deliver a kick. And if in Reflex Time, sprinting or jumping toward bads will polish them off in a slick move. Except, well, I forgot to even mention it when discussing the game. There’s rarely a moment you’d ever need to use it, and fewer you’d want to. It’s clumsy, and almost never necessary.

This is what it looked like when I had my appendix out two years ago.

The shooting becomes significantly less fun, however, when fighting the frenetic, spasmodic experimental beasties that appear now and then. They’re effectively dispatched with a shotgun, but they’re a tiresome delay in progress, especially in one particular scene filled with them, that the game forces you to go through three times. By the later stages they’ve become invisible too, and since they don’t drop ammo, they can piss right off. But they’re still more fun than the damned ghosts.

There’s fantastic dollops of gore throughout. Revolting corpses festering in hallways, bodies exploding into bits, ripping in half, or having their heads pop off as you shoot at them. The dart gun lets you pin enemies to walls, resulting in some superbly gruesome poses, and this is never more satisfying than when it’s one of the annoying, wall-running, flitting beasts. “Stay there!” There’s no questioning that FEAR 2 does the job of being a first-person shooter.

But what it doesn’t do is stand out. The spooky effects were innovative and inspired in FEAR. They’ve been copied a lot since, but they’d still grow stale this time out if it were the first time anyone had thought to try them. As alluded to earlier, the only significantly original ingredient are the brief mech sections, in which you stomp through the post-explosion city streets in a giant robot suit, blasting everything to catastrophic bits. And sure, they’re a bunch of fun. But they’ve got absolutely nothing to do with anything, and feel ludicrously out of place.

Nailed it. (dies)

Monolith are still strong game developers, and it seems from the enormous amount of silliness hidden through the game (the resuscitation instructions on the wall of a room in which you’re stupidly trapped, fighting off wave after wave of enemies, almost make up for the laziness of that scene’s design) that the spirit that made No One Lives Forever might like to come out again. It’s trapped in a dull, metallic world of po-faced special forces soldiers and attempts at significance. But you’re still manning a turret here, and taking out the snipers over there. It so often feels like they’re going through the motions, rather than scaring the motions through us.

And we’ll talk about the ending once everyone’s got there.

150 Comments

  1. CrashT says:

    My own views on the game are a little more succinct.

  2. Mil says:

    If being a pedant is wrong I don’t want to be right: musical queues -> musical cues.

    About the game: I won’t be playing it. I’m sick of horror. I’m sick of gore. There’s so much of both in modern gaming. And yet when a relatively mainstream game like The Witcher dares to include some sexy content it’s viewed as hugely controversial and possibly misogynistic by lots of people. It’s enough to make a man angry. On the Internet.

  3. SuperNashwan says:

    So, enough of this shit, time for another NOLF?

  4. derFeef says:

    I enjoyed the game. Its a funride – even if its a dull funride. Not every game has to be some kind of reinventig, superstory or super challenging to be good. Its shooting, its a bit scary, and its looking and sounding good. I liked it and it was worth the buy.

  5. qrter says:

    Sounds like it’s a lot like the first game – there’s the horror bits (which were never scary) and then there were the shooty bits (which were quite shooty). The two never seemed to have any real relation to eachother.

    I’d love to see a third NOLF. Away with the po-facedness.

  6. A-Scale says:

    I’m really getting annoyed with your “wots”.

  7. Pace says:

    So if we played the demo, we can probably just be content with that? I remember thinking after FEAR 1 that the demo had most of the best parts of the game. Sounds like this may be similar? I enjoyed the FEAR 2 demo, though I worry that’s all there is.

    (and I take it that’s a thumbs down on the ending?)
    (oh, and do we pick up the story of the guy from the first one? Alma’s brother it was, right?)
    (oh, and count my vote in favor of “wot”s.)

  8. Sonic Goo says:

    I always thought with both FEAR and Condemned around, they’d be hedging their bets and secretly working on something different, like a NOLF 3. Nothing so far, though. :(

  9. Mman says:

    The thing that worries me about getting it is hearing that the combat is a step-back from the original (especially stuff like that article linked in the comments of the blog entry in the first post here, which explains it in tangible ways, as opposed to just “feel”).

    Hearing the combat is easy doesn’t bother me too much, as I also found the original game very easy even on the hardest mode (namely because of bullet-time), but hearing it’s less fun is another thing.

  10. A-Scale says:

    I just don’t like the spelling of Wot. It’s antiquated and pretentious. I love the articles themselves!

    [Awesome, thanks for explaining – John]

  11. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Scary jailbait doesn’t make up for crappy corridors.

  12. AK says:

    The bottom contextual ad on the right-hand side of this post says, delightfully:

    Men’s Fear Of Intimacy
    Cure His Fear! Bring Him Close & Make Him Want To Stay Forever
    ReconnectYourRelationship.com

  13. AK says:

    Second A-Scale. Excellent article, aggravating title tic.

  14. AK says:

    aggravating enough that I sometimes go ‘nngh!’ and don’t click through. 0.0003% drop in your ad revenue! Try and buy another private jet now, buster.

  15. Kieron Gillen says:

    I’m off to bed, so I’ll explain the title tick: “What I Think” Implies fanaticism – the idea that What I think is worth a title and the capitals. “Wot I Think” in its schoolboy language undermines the importance of an individual opinion, making explicit the idea that this is just what some fucking idiot thinks about a game, and if you fill the coment thread with “It sounds more like a 6″isms, you deserve eye-rolling. Clearly it’s just an opinion. That’s why we called it a Wot I Think. You may as well get uptight over a Beano cartoon.

    In other words, we’re mocking ourselves to make the underpinnings of the pieces clearer for everyone else. It’s a joke, but it’s totally serious. Same as every review, but we admit it.

    Also, funny.

    KG

  16. Leman says:

    Love the ending.

    Love it.

  17. Subject 706 says:

    BUT YOU CANNOT LEAN! DAMN YOU MONOLITH!

  18. SuperNashwan says:

    I like the ‘Wot’, I see it as the thumbing of a nose at slapping a score on things and pretending there’s some kind of absolute objectivism that games critics somehow possess.
    edit: wot KG said

  19. Azradesh says:

    It wasn’t anything special, but I enjoyed it. Wish there had been more story/horror bit in it though, I liked those. Also the ending was a little……..unexpected :/

  20. AK says:

    > just what some fucking idiot thinks about a game

    Sure, hence my irritation. it comes across (possibly to just me and A-Scale out of the whole Internet, in which case tic away) as faux self-deprecation. You are after all Oscar-winning games journalists, not some idiots. Either you think (generally correctly) that your opinion is worth airing, in which case don’t undermine it with a coy title; or you don’t, in which case leave it on your hard drive. Sweet dreams.

  21. A-Scale says:

    I’ve never heard a schoolboy say “wot”. I think your underlying humor has been lost on the audience. I thought you were just trying to British up the title of these articles.

    PS: RPS is my favorite blog around. I evangelize it to every gamer I know. Don’t hate me.

  22. Pags says:

    You may as well get uptight over a beano cartoon.

    I’ve sent them many angry letters, but they never reply!

    We can mathematically ascertain the annoyingness of the title tic: Firstly, it appears twice in the entire text not excluding the title itself; as I don’t have wordcount on this computer, I cannot provide an accurate ratio. Also, the size of the title-text ‘Wot’ must be taken into account, as size is directly related to annoyingness. Someone please do the math for me and we can close the matter.

    As for the game, well… the demo left none-too-sweet an impression on me. The general consensus on RPS seems to be that the demo is not really representative of the game as a whole, but the primary concern – ie. that the game hasn’t really progressed much past the original – is still entirely applicable to the full game. Being that that’s the feeling I left the demo with, I’m inclined to agree with that.

  23. qrter says:

    Personally not a fan of the ‘wot’, a bit too cutesy/twee for my taste, that said, I don’t really care, although that said, I have just pooped this little post (<- me being unnecessarily cutesy/twee).

    Also, I believe Gillen to be drunk, unless he has been lying on Twitter, which would be an almost incomprehensibly vile act.

  24. Gap Gen says:

    There’s an exploding robot kitty in this game though, right? Right?

  25. Scandalon says:

    Or, you know, get over it. :P

  26. DSX says:

    It sounds like we want to like it, want to love it perhaps even, but the predictable, repetitive, unoriginal gameplay ruins it. Reminds me of Dead Space sort of, with the exception of praise for the GUI.

    Concerning “wot” – I too dislike it to a degree, even more when you say “this is just what some fucking idiot thinks about a game” is kind of an insult us as well as yourself, (beyond normal charming Brittish self-effacing behavior). We click in daily.. hourly even, not to read what a fucking idiot thinks, this should be clear.

  27. JKjoker says:

    i barelly liked FEAR, it started ok but it got really BORING at the end (the ending was particulary shitty, specially the part where they take all your weapons and then you kill the “big bad” without a fight), i did like Condemned, a game that completely rips off fear but pulls all the scares just right and end just as its becoming annoying
    its too bad Condemned 2 never got released for pc, i think i would enjoy it better than fear2

    what i dont understand is that they are willing to make a sequel to so so game like fear without even having rights to the name but they refuse to make a sequel to “bestest” FPS ever No one lives forever 2 ? and a bit worse but still very fun Tron 2.0 ?, wth are they smoking ? drop the scare shit that you obviously fail at and go make some more nolf! (and bury Contract JACK where the sun doesnt shine!)

  28. A-Scale says:

    Not just hourly, DSX. It’s the top site on my “daily” folder of bookmarks in firefox, which I open perhaps 10-20 times per day at work and home. I also checked it three times today in class while on my windows mobile phone. I love this site.

  29. Rob says:

    Storm, teacup, meet ‘wot’, I think you’ll get along famously.

  30. AK says:

    argument in the comments on a blog post focuses on extremely minor point of contention. Alert the press!

    I like this blog. It’s 55% better than EG PC and almost as good as Tom Chick. This makes my sorrow all the deeper.

  31. wat says:

    I absolutely loved the game. It’s not revolutionary, innovative, or particularly artful…but why does every game have to be to give it the time of day? It’s solid, well made, sufficiently creepy, very pretty, and damn fun. That’s enough for me.

  32. A-Scale says:

    Moslems, Rumanians, meet ‘wot’, I fancy you rapscallions shall get on merrily.

    LETS ALL USE OLD WORDS!

  33. Arathain says:

    I like Internets people. They’ll discuss *anything*. Just not always what you’d expect them to.

    I like the “Wot.” I got what it meant.

  34. Nick says:

    Personally, I am outraged you don’t spell it thunk. Clearly you are alienating all right thinking people on the internet with this foolishness.

    I also couldn’t help thinking ‘Oh my god, SAY SOMETHING!’ when the guy was like ‘There’s something moving in the woods about 8 miles away, I’ll just go and check’.

  35. Deuteronomy says:

    I don’t think ‘Wot’ is a actually an old world per se. I believe it’s how people afflicted by being from England actually pronounce the word.

  36. Grey_Ghost says:

    So the only thing I’ve been wondering about… Do you find out anymore info about , or more importantly the fate of, the Point Man? (the Players character in their first F.E.A.R.)

  37. Nick says:

    A-scale.. what the [gently now – Ed] are you on about? You may never have ‘heard a schoolboy say it’ but then you are American as we are constantly and painfully reminded. Just stop it.

  38. A-Scale says:

    I still find it pretentious and annoying, and apparently I’m not the only one. I too was a bit offended by Kieron’s explanation. This and the “internet angry man” meme seem to indicate that you fellows have a rather low opinion of people involved with games. Additionally, one could say the same about any critique of a work in any medium.

    “We know none of you REALLY care about what some dummy (durr) has to say about art, so we called it Artz Jurnal to let people know that we aren’t taking ourselves too seriously.”

    Come on.

  39. Helm says:

    From the review it seems this is really similar to the first F.E.A.R. (haha I just remembered that initial commercial. DO YOU KNOW WHAT FEAR IS? FEAR… IS AN EMOTION) and as such not really to my taste. I think I got tired of a first person shooter doing an okay job of being a first person shooter around… Painkiller? Was that before or after Half-Life 2?

    I thought the ‘wot’ was about ‘hi, we’re British’. Not that Keiron has explained it to be “this is what an idiot thinks about a game” I think I don’t like it. Self-effacement doesn’t suit opinionated people. Just use your powers for good, not evil, and whoever gets offended over you having opinions can go sit in the corner and cool down a while.

  40. Will Tomas says:

    I think the ‘wot’ is rather Molesworth, in a very good way. That it’s old fashioned adds to its self-consciously outdated charm.

  41. jalf says:

    How can “wot” possibly be pretentious?
    Here’s what wiktionary says:

    humorous misspelling intended to mimic certain working class accents

    (link to en.wiktionary.org)

    I really have no clue why you keep claiming it’s “an old word”. I only know it in the above sense, a kind of exaggerated British uneducated working class dialect kinda thing. It’s basically just spelling the world like it’s pronounced in some parts of England.

    As far as I know, it’s not an “old word”, and I don’t see how it can be either antiquated or pretentious.
    Am I missing something here? Was it a common way to spell the word in Shakespeare’s time or something?

  42. Premium User Badge

    John Walker says:

    My take on the “Wot” SCANDAL. I think the words “What I Think” as a title are silly and pretentious. Slightly spoofing that seems fun. We went through a whole bunch of suggestions for what to write at the top of reviews on this site, without using the word “review” and all the baggage that comes with that term. We’d already used up “Verdict” for Verdicts. “Wot I Think” seemed to convey the idea that it was our individual opinion of a game, while still being RPS.

    I hope that the words of the reviews speak for themselves, and demonstrate that we’re not just another fucking idiot. But we are other people who enjoy games, who hope to express that enjoyment or dissatisfaction to you in a way that’s helpful and entertaining. That’s how I see it.

    I’m sure that as time passes, it will stop being three separate words and just become the phrase by which you know our reviews. And it abbreviates nicely to WIT.

  43. AK says:

    >Deuteronomy says: I believe it’s how people afflicted by >being from England actually pronounce the word.

    My goodness. The ignorance. We pronounce it ‘hwot’ if we possess breeding and ‘woh’ if we do not.

    >Self-effacement doesn’t suit opinionated people

    Hwot he said.

  44. Flappybat says:

    The best way I can sum it up is that Fear 2 is to Fear what Quake 4 is to Quake 2. The original was groundbreaking, the sequel is solid but much more generic.

    I don’t appreciate most of the enemies being covered in glowing neon either.

  45. AK says:

    I am less aggravated by it now I imagine how it would look if you titled it ‘What I Think’, but you should still have better ideas. This is taxpayers’ money you’re frittering away.

    Actually IMO it should be called A Correct Opinion.

  46. Premium User Badge

    John Walker says:

    Heh AK – I like that best. I will begin to petition the hivemind for it.

  47. A-Scale says:

    I’m sure that as time passes, it will stop being three separate words and just become the phrase by which you know our reviews. And it abbreviates nicely to WIT.

    I like it. The double (or is it single?) entendre adds more charm.

    Or you could always just go with “Opinions”.

  48. AK says:

    Brilliant! I look forward to receiving my Blue Peter badge.

    Anyway thanks for convincing me not to spend my money on this rather ordinary item, and for the effective deployment of the ‘Not sticking around?’ line.

  49. Radiant says:

    Have you ever seen the film ‘signal’ ?
    Wot happens is that a picture and sound is broadcast over the tv that turns people [violently] insane.

    The great conceit of the film is that everybody, affected and non affected [fighting a futile escape] , is aware that something is turning people insane; so the question for everyone becomes “am ‘I’ insane?”.

    Apply that to us making comments on a website [or posting on forums].

  50. Radiant says:

    YOU’RE ALL CRAZY.

    How are you really upset [when presented with a great bit of writing] about the god damn title?