Alma’s out, and she wants you.
Following on the coattails of the highly successful First Encounter Assault Recon, or F.E.A.R., Monolith Soft and publisher Warner Brothers released the highly anticipated F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin.
Set immediately prior to the finale of Point Man’s adventure in F.E.A.R., Project Origin tasks the player, one Sergeant Becket, and his squad with the retrieval and protection of Armacham’s Genevieve Aristide. Shortly after you battle your way through her apartment complex, a mushroom cloud explosion blasts through the city, successfully incapacitating Becket. While passing in and out of consciousness, Becket sees his journey from Aristide’s apartment to a hospital bed where he hallucinates being torn asunder by demons. Upon awakening, Becket finds himself pitted against a team of special ops soldiers cleaning up Armacham’s involvement from the original F.E.A.R.
Gameplay is vastly improved from the first game. Shooting is tight and feels natural, allowing for the player to precisely target and eliminate foes. Project Origin incorporates a new cover system that F.E.A.R. lacked. Just about any object that Becket can overturn can be used as cover – whether it be a large potted plant, a mobile hospital cot, or a cafeteria table, Becket has no shortage of choices amidst a firefight. But cover isn’t all that Becket has at his disposal. Thanks to Aristide and her doctors, Becket is able to use a special skill known as Reflex (fans of F.E.A.R. will recognize this from the first game). In Reflex, time slows, and Becket is able to dodge bullets and move at incredible speeds for a short period of time (though, as you progress, you can find Reflex enhancements, which increase your Reflex meter). Compared to the first title, the gameplay in Project Origin is far superior.
In fact, Project Origin is far superior to F.E.A.R. in most aspects. Graphically, Project Origin remains pretty (I’ve recently played through the game on my PC), offering superb aesthetics to enhance the tense and horrifying atmosphere. The gunplay, as I’ve noted, has evolved from sloppy shooting to succinct and tight mechanics. Even the cover system, albeit unnecessary, is an interesting and fun addition to the series. The plot is neither superior nor much worse than the original, but the cast certainly atones for any exposition holes. But my favorite facet of F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, much like its predecessor, is the attention to detail that the developer put into designing a realistic world. In particular, the level here Becket and Lieutenant Stokes traverse the abandoned Wade Elementary School is my favorite level in any horror or shooter game – ever. Monolith Soft gets the little things right when designing buildings and offices and schools; they create a living environment that enhances the believability of the game.
If there is one aspect of Project Origin that totally felt out of place, it certainly is the inclusion of mech combat. To many, myself included, the mech combat – whether that be fighting in or against a mech – detracted from the experience of the game. Monolith Soft built a reputation for constructing games steeped in the horrific that, through the inclusion of mech combat, becomes significantly less frightening or intense.
This is no way ruins the experience, however. F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin remains my favorite title in the franchise, and it is perhaps my favorite shooter I’ve ever had the pleasure to play. Ignoring the defunct multiplayer that faltered shortly after launch, Project Origin envelopes players in a shroud of mystery and horror and drives an adequate narrative. The combination almost perfectly submerges the players in the desolate world of F.E.A.R. and Alma. This is a title that I highly recommend.