F.E.A.R 2: Project OriginESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: First Person Shooter
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Monolith Productions
System Link: 2-16
Online Multiplayer: 2-16
1 MB to Save Game
In Game Dolby Digital
When F.E.A.R arrived back on the scene in 2006, many praised the action horror shooter calling it an intense thrill ride which spooked the bejeebers out of gamers. It was a highly regarded game and was a 'must own' for fans of the horror genre. That being said, many critics expressed concerns with the control scheme and the linear gameplay. Almost two and half years later the sequel has arrived in the form of F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin. I had the opportunity to review the Xbox 360 version of the game. Being a fan of both horror and shooter games, I was looking forward to Project Origin ever since I had a glimpse of the game back in July 2008 at E3 in Los Angeles. The game showed lots of promise but I have to admit I was skeptical as I was not convinced some of the issues from the original were sufficiently addressed. Also, having recently played and enjoyed Dead Space, the bar had ultimately been raised. I had my doubts that Project Origin would deliver on the same level EA’s original action horror based IP did. Well after some extended playtime many of my doubts have been put to rest as F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin is well worth the money.
Overall, the visuals in Project Origin are good. They may not be on par with other Triple A titles already out in the market, Gears of War 2 and Halo 3 come to mind, but it is definitely comparable to others games in its genre. Above all else however Project Origin looks cleaner and sharper than the original instalment. The name of the game in horror games is to scare the daylights out of you and Project Origin does so with some great success. It won’t leave you with nightmares but if you turn down the lights and crank the volume there is no doubt you will be spooked.
The graphics do a wonderful job at creating a disturbing, gory and psychedelic feeling. You are never at ease when playing and much of that lends to the overall look of the game. Narrow claustrophobic hallways and areas drenched in blood will satisfy any horror fans need for gore. That disturbing and unsettled feeling never went away for me. I can't count how many times the hairs on the back of my neck would stand as I peered down only to see a smeared blood stain from a body which had been dragged down a hallway. You never know what's going to leap out at you from one corner to the next in Project Origin.
The games environments are stunning and they get better as you progress. The first few levels take place indoors and underground. There is nothing really outstanding or jaw dropping during these levels, but when the game’s story comes to the surface Project Origin really shines. There is a good degree of variety in terms of the different types of areas in Project Origin and there is a good deal of exploration should you desire.
The game’s lighting effects are also pretty darn good. When the lights in a room start to flicker and everything starts going haywire, the effect is not only chilling but also looks impressive to boot. Some of the shadow effects and lighting in the dark areas are also a pretty slick. You are equipped with a flashlight which never burns out unlike those in many other horror games, but I for one liked the fact I did not have to worry about my 'frickin' flashlight burning out when playing the game. There are many areas which can be a little too dark; however the game does allow you to adjust your brightness which helps.
The game’s characters are solid although I would have liked to have seen a little more detail and variety when it came to the enemy AI characters. At times it appeared you were 'mowing down' an endless supply of enemy characters who all look the same. The scare factor goes down quite a bit after you have seen the first few creepy crawlies lunge towards you. That being said, blowing away the enemies can be truly satisfying and the effect is awesome. When going into 'slo-mo' mode and you shoot an enemy, there are times the blood and guts literally splash everywhere. Project Origin is definitely not for the faint at heart.
As with the visuals, the sound in Project Origin is solid and I was simply amazed at how great it sounded even at a low volume. For starters, the musical score and soundtrack is just as good if not better than the first instalment. It is perfectly suited for the game and gives Project Origin that chilling action horror sci-fi feeling. As good as the games soundtrack is, the in-game sound effects are just as good and had me jolting in my seat on a regular basis. Nothing like listening to the music lulling you into a false sense of security then "BLAM", a disfigured zombie-like creature is attempting to rip you apart. The dynamic music works very well in the game and will certainly give you the jitters at times. From hearing creatures lurk from a distance to accidentally kicking a bucket in quiet hallway, the sound effects are stellar and should only be experienced in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound.
Other sound effects in the game are as equally impressive. Sounds of creatures moaning, weapons blasting, footsteps stepping, and bodies exploding are just a few great examples of how the developers in the audio department paid close attention to every little facet in the game. The results are fantastic and lends to a terrific atmosphere. The voice-over work is nothing spectacular but it does the job. It is believable but then again I never really found myself paying too much attention to the story. Overall I have no major concerns with the games total sound package and I am left with the opinion not much could have been done to significantly improve it.
In terms of the storyline, Project Origin takes places shortly before the ending of F.E.A.R. So there is some overlap between the first and second game; but you don’t have to go back and play the final 30 minutes of the previous game to understand it. You play the role of Michael Beckett who is part of a special force squad who is on a routine mission when the city of Auburn is rocked by a supernatural explosion. Alma, the creepy little girl from the original game, is back along with all her supernatural powers, except this time Alma is all grown up and she is one mean bitch! Alma has a thirst for revenge and has immense power. As a result, the already destroyed city has turned into chaos as Alma unleashes her wrath. You and the squad must unravel the mystery, combat the enemy forces and anything else that Alma throws your way before it's too late.
On the surface the story sounds riveting and suspenseful. Unfortunately the story did not draw me in as much as I would have liked. In fact, I found myself not really caring for the story at all. Perhaps that is because much of the story is told via intel items you have to pick up and read throughout the game. Reading intel item after intel item is no way to tell a story. Some gamers may enjoy this and hardcore F.E.A.R. fans may find themselves immersed in the storyline learning more about Alma and her wicked ways, but personally I just did not find myself paying too much attention to the games plot and development. Bottomline, I could not help but think I have been down this road before. Far too many games within the same genre seemingly have the same plot; that being a routine mission gone haywire. In any event, as far as the story is concerned it was merely a backdrop to the real enjoyment of the game - blasting baddies with the arsenal of weapons that you are provided with.
At its core, Project Origin is a first person shooter and plays very much like most other shooters already on the market. In fact, the controls are nearly the exact same as the controls seen in Call of Duty: World at War. It won’t take gamers long to get acquainted with the controls as they are easy to pick up. There is not much in the way of tutorial mode in Project Origin; however one is not really needed. I only had a couple of concerns with the control scheme. First, the weapons seem to lack some punch. In other words, they just do not measure up to other shooter games such as Gears and the COD franchise. When I am firing a shotgun or a high powered automatic machine gun I should really feel it; and in Project Origin you just don’t feel it. Ideally, my controller should be rumbling like engine and there should be some significant recoil. Second, the melee attacks are not as effective as they could be. It just did not seem like I was connecting and some of the close quarter combat caused the camera to go wonky. These are not major issues but only something which stood out for me during those initial few levels.
For those who enjoyed the original game, all the core elements are back this time around. The enhanced AI, multitude of weapons, creepy little girl, and ‘slo-mo’ combat are back again. The AI this time around seems a tad quicker and they seem to move around much more than they ever did. That being said, they are still not as smart as they could be. Often I would be looking at an enemy who would be standing behind a barrier but he would be looking in a different direction and his body would be largely exposed making it easy for me to destroy him. For this reason, hardcore shooter fans will likely breeze through the game and be able to complete it in less than 10 hours. More casual gamers will take longer as the enemies become increasingly more difficult as you progress in the game.
My favorite feature in the game is the ‘slo-mo’ feature which is easily activated by pressing the 'Y' button. I know many of you are thinking “big deal we have seen this time and time again”. I recognize this fact; however it is very satisfying and becomes an essential function as you progress in the game. There is nothing like walking up to an enemy in ‘slo-mo’ and blowing him to smithereens. The ‘slo-mo’ feature works very much the same way as it does in so many other games and you don’t get unlimited supply, however your ‘slo-mo’ meter does fill up rather quickly. When things get a little hectic, you can retreat, wait for the meter to fill up and then you are ready for some Max Payne Matrix-like blasting.
Project Origin features the ability to create cover by pushing over objects. I found myself rarely using this feature as the cover system does not work as well as the cover in games such as Rainbow Six Vegas or Gears of War. I found no real advantage for doing this. It is a nice option to have but many will likely find using the ‘slo-mo’ feature is far better than using any cover system Project Origin offers.
New to the game is the ability to use mechs during vehicle segments which is truly satisfying. You can completely overpower and dominate the enemy when using these mech suits. The enemy is no longer much of a challenge when commanding one of these. Many may find this a drawback but I absolutely loved it and it stands as one of the games highlights. I just wished the game had a few more mech segments in the game.
One of the issues I had with the game was the save system. You do not have the ability to manually save in Project Origin. Unfortunately, the game only features a single auto-save slot. Multiple save slots would have been beneficial at times especially in areas where I wished I kept a certain weapon which I disposed of in a previous level. On the plus side, Project Origin allows gamers to replay any level from the main menu after first completing that level.
The multiplayer component to the game is decent but will not have you trading in Gears or War 2 or any of your Call of Duty games anytime soon. Project Origin features all your typical Deathmatch and Team Deathmatches mode along with some new ones added. There are nine maps out of the box and a plethora of weapons to choose from. Additionally, players can jump into mech suits which offer a slick little twist to the online play. The games can be enjoyable at times, however most of the online aspects seemed to be lacking and I did experience a significant amount of lag. Bottomline, I just do not envision Project Origin's online community lasting for any significant amount of time.
Project Origin does have some replay value as it features 49 Xbox Live achievements. The achievements are much improved this time around as more than half of the achievements are taken from the single player campaign while the others you can grab fairly easily in the online multiplayer modes.
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