Games for 2008: Project Origin
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.
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.
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.)