Wednesday, December 16, 2009

F.E.A.R. 2 unfeared.

As I mentioned a few times on 2IGTV, Monolith’s original F.E.A.R. [First Encounter Assault Recon] was a triumph. An injection of freshness into an otherwise tired and overpopulated genre of First Person Shooters. Not only was it heralded as a remarkable achievement in graphics, but it’s gameplay too, was astounding. F.E.A.R.'s themes drew from popular horror and martial artistry, two elements that had not been given their deserved treatment in the FPS before.

The controversial gore was not simply your application of enemies endless blood and bones on the walls like Soldier Of Fortune; although you can add to it with your combat – in many cases it was pre-existing and set the tone for a most unusual horror story, yes, F.E.A.R. had an actually plotted script to set you on your way and a frightfully effective antagonist in the form of Alma, a dark long-haired 7 year old girl in a red dress that would appear out of nowhere and make you shit yourself before squeezing off a burst of lead into nothingness.

While the idea of Bullet Time was not new to the PC gaming world after the excellence that was Max Payne; F.E.A.R. used it to a wonderful extent as your impressive range of weaponry had a disastrous yet artistic effect on the enemies you encountered. In an unusual move for an FPS, you could actually see your own feet – remarkable - and they became lethal weapons during bullet-time as you could kick the crap out of your enemies better than any Norris or Segal.

One problem with F.E.A.R. was levelled at the fact that practically the entire game was set in very “samey” generic office block sort of levels with little or no environmental diversity. This was in stark contrast to Monolith's previous offerings and players could not perceive why the developers couldn't develop a game with a more diverse environmental selection.

With such a revolutionary game as it's original, it was expected that F.E.A.R. 2 would be as good as Half-Life 2 and Far Cry 2 were to their respective franchises, sadly fans were not treated to anything of the sort. The gameplay itself was pretty faultless for a bog-standard linear shooter but most people noways expect something more, and certainly more from Monolith.

F.E.A.R. 2 is first and foremost a very solid shooter. The weapons are varied and feel meaty. While the basic weapons would be at home in the most superior shooters of the past few years - I was delighted to see the return of "The Penetrator" [although they changed the name to "The Hammerhead" sadly], which can be used to impale your enemies against walls. Oh and all the weapons cut down your enemies in a satisfying slow-mo ballet of death which by all accounts I'd still consider as "art".

While there are at times some genuinely scary moments as a result of the excellent atmosphere through amazing sound an visuals; it doesn't hold a candle to - well every single time little girl Alma appears out of nowhere and makes you shit yourself. It's like someone said "well that was just too scary in the original, lets tone it down a notch". Why?

One problem with the original that was addressed was variety of environments, while still a firmly urban setting - it brought you out of the bland samey office buildings and endless corridors. While this was most welcome, I was somewhat unimpressed with most of the actual design of these levels and sadly even the outdoor environments seemed a bit too claustrophobic and much to obviously linear.

There is a distinctive lack of innovation in the story which does take a more "adult" turn as Alma [the grown-up version] now wants to mate with you as opposed to take over your mind. But for the life of me I could really follow what was happening until the very, and I mean very last scene where I was left saying "My God! This is some pretty sick shit!", but no sooner had that thought crossed my mind - the game simply ended. Right just there with a cutscene, with more questions than answers. WTF?

An impressively polished, graphically beautiful game with most enjoyable gameplay and atmosphere despite woeful lacklustre level design, no cohesive plot, flat ending and devoid of the genuine creativity that we know these people are capable of.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ***1/2

2 comments:

Cubaboy said...

Why is there dandruff falling from the top of the screen??? Oh, I see it's supposed to be snow. Very seasonal...unless you live in the majority of the world that doesn't have snow at Christmas..like Ireland. We don't get snow until March or April. will there be a snow effect next spring?? Or will there be a rain effect for the rest of the year??? You could have a beam of light representing sunlight and use it one or twice a year for half an hour.

Would falling dollar (euro, delete as appropriate)signs be more seasonal and remind us what Christmas is really all about??

vaughan said...

What ?No traditional Christmas Message from the Colonel , I'm not sure a video game review which hints at the fact your character is sexually assaulted by a female entity really embodies the spirit of Christmas?!