F.E.A.R 2 Review - One step forward, three steps back
A squad of Delta Force Operatives are sent in to bring Genevieve Aristide, president of Armacham into protective custody. Among the squad is Sergeant Michael Beckett, who has had hallucinations of the city laying in ruin. The mission does not go according to plan, as it is disrupted by the explosion of the Origin Facility, rendering the squad unconscious. Later Beckett wakes in a hospital, having visions of an operation.
What happened to him? What are the visions that he is having? What is Aristide's goal? Who is this Alma that Aristide mentioned? These questions and more are the basis for F.E.A.R 2 -- an action horror game developed by Monolith Productions and published by WB Games in 2009 as a sequel to the classic 2005 title F.E.A.R.
The game lives up to its name as a solid shooter but fails to deliver on the story, horror elements, intensity, and intelligent enemy A.I that was present in the previous title.
A pointless story that goes nowhere
The story for F.E.A.R 2 focuses on Project Harbinger, which revolves around Beckett and his squad mates. Harbinger was created to bioengineer soldiers into psychic commanders, like that of Paxton Fettle from the original game. As a psychic commander, a soldier would be able to command the replica forces.
The Delta Operatives role in the project is for other purposes than to become telepathic commanders. With their newfound psychic abilities that are unknown to them, they become targets for Alma. Alma is a supernatural being who was released out of her containment at the end of the first game.
With her release, she begins to enact her revenge on the world with her psychic powers that are capable of killing everyone and destroying everything. Aristide plans to use the soldiers to lure Alma into a containment chamber within another facility, in hopes of stopping her.
The issue with this story is that it doesn't advance any further than that and revolves around the player attempting to reach the facility to contain Alma. It also doesn't advance the overall story arc any further than what the first title did, making the series story feel it is at a standstill.
The story from the previous game is retold throughout, telling the player the origin of Alma. This retelling is fine for players who have not played the original but pointless otherwise.
Some of the characters throughout the game are fun, but there is little development to them. It results in the player having no connection to any of the main characters. One of the main issues with the first game was the telling of the story. It gets told through listening to voicemails on phones, and it slows down the pace of the game having to stand by the phones and listen to them.
F.E.A.R 2 takes a slightly different approach while not improving the issue. The game is quite fast paced, like that of the first game. Most of the story behind Project Harbinger gets told through picking up intel scattered throughout each level. Players have to stop playing to read the intel collected, slowing the pace of the game just like in the first one.
The game's ending is easily one of the most disturbing and mind-bobbling in video game history. It does, however, have the issue of lacking closure just like that of the original game. It suddenly ends as things are becoming interesting. Overall the story to F.E.A.R 2 goes on a road to nowhere. It gives the player the details behind Project Harbinger but fails to advance the main plot any further than that of the original.
Brain dead AI decreases combat intensity and challenge.
One of the main features of the original F.E.A.R was the brilliant enemy AI. Enemies work together like squads of soldiers would, communicating with each other in the heat of combat. They flank the player in any way that they can, retreat when in danger, use cover effectively, and flush players from cover with grenades.
In F.E.A.R 2 they do use grenades, but little else other than that. When attacking they usually stand out of cover, sometimes in plain sight, allowing for easy targeting. They don't work together in groups like the first game. They often break from the group making it easy for the player to pick them off one by one. I wouldn't mind so much if enemies were citizens, but they are highly trained Black Ops soldiers.
The AI makes the enemies feel far less than that of Black Ops and completely lowers the intensity of combat.
Due to the behavior of enemies, it reduces the difficulty of the game. It makes them far too easy to spot and kill while players have the benefit of decent cover. It feels like the enemies A.I is not far from that of a game back in 2001. It kills the intense combat and action that was in F.E.A.R, making the combat quite bland in comparison.
Too much action and weak attempts at horror.
F.E.A.R has this wonderful balance between action and horror. There wasn't too much of either one nor the other. F.E.A.R 2, on the other hand, is far more action orientated than that of the first game. Due to this, the horror indeed suffers, becoming nothing more than general jump scares as oppose to paranoia-inducing horror.
There is a lack of slow atmospheric build that was in the first game. The game has little time between the action sequences, leaving no room for the horror build-up. It makes the scares very ineffective, as there is no paranoia building within the player. When the scares do, happen it is nothing more than seeing Alma from a distance. Numerous times throughout the game, Alma will attack the player where they have to push her back through QTE. (Quick Time Events)
The game does have it's hair-raising moments with hallucinations like that in the first game, but they never lead to anything. The hallucinations, at first, may create that old fashion paranoia, but once the player realizes they don't result in anything happening, they lose their fear effect.
In an attempt to intensify the horror, the cardinal sin of decreasing the flashlight lighting is implemented. The light reduction makes it extremely hard to see where the player is going during certain horror sequences throughout the game. It results in more frustration than actually scaring the player.
F.E.A.R 2 adds in turret and mech sections throughout the game, two of each to be exact. During the turret sections, the player must kill wave after wave of replica soldiers as they pour into the area. In the mech parts, the player gets into one of the power armors and must traverse through the city streets killing anything that moves.
Both cases make the game feel more like a pure action FPS like Call of Duty as oppose to an action horror title. F.E.A.R was always about that sense of vulnerability and feeling that death was always just around the corner.
Getting behind a turret or into a giant mechanoid power armor just loses that vulnerability and with it, the essence of F.E.A.R.
Lack of creativity
Aside from the failure of delivering horror, F.E.A.R 2 suffers terribly from a lack of creativity. The level design for F.E.A.R 2 is almost entirely the same as that of the first game. The levels consist of three secret facilities, city streets, a train station, a school and a penthouse. Players spend most of the time in secret facilities that look very alike. The levels have lack freshness throughout the game or from that of the first. Some levels can also be quite confusing at times, resulting in getting lost or accidental backtracking.
The addition of the playable suits of power armors is poorly executed. As previously stated above, it takes away from what is essentially the essence of F.E.A.R, the sense of vulnerability. It also slows down the overall pace of the game and draws out longer than it should. During the power armor sequences, it can take fifteen to twenty seconds of just killing a bunch of replica soldiers before you progress. This slowdown is almost constant throughout, generally making each sequence last approximately ten to fifteen minutes. Players get their fill of the power armor in the first sequence, making the other feel more of a chore than entertainment.
This slowdown is almost constant throughout, generally making each sequence last approximately ten to fifteen minutes. Players get their fill of the power armor in the first sequence, making the other feel more of a chore than entertainment.
The new monsters introduced seem quite out of place within the F.E.A.R universe. The first new monstrosity is the specimens, which is a failed experiment of Project Harbinger. Their movements and attacks are not unlike that of a licker from Resident Evil. They are dangerous but become more of an annoyance to deal with than fun or horrifying.
The second one is a strange creature, which makes little sense into how it is in existence nor is it ever explained, I like to call it the Puppetmaster. It doesn't attack directly, instead controls the bodies of fallen soldiers, causing them to attack the player. They have a defensive attack that consists of a blinding psychic blast, which does little damage but allows them to run while the player recovers. It turns encounters with the Puppetmaster into a dull game of cat and mouse, due to their high health.
The new additions to F.E.A.R 2 don't add anything to the overall experience except frustration and slowing down the pace of the game. It makes F.E.A.R 2 feel nothing more than simply, more F.E.A.R with little to separate the two titles in gameplay.
One Step Forward, Three Steps Back
F.E.A.R 2 takes a step forward by improving the quality of the graphics, particularly the lighting, apart from that of the flashlight. The detail of the models are impressive, and a welcoming improvement but are let down by the immensely gray and arid environments.
Unfortunately, it takes three steps back despite it being a solid shooter like that of the first game. It has lost the intensity of combat due to the brain dead A.I. The horror is lacking any form of Atmospheric, paranoia-inducing build up leading the horror sequences to result in nothing but cheap jump scares. The hallucinations throughout the game also result in nothing happening nor adding to the storyline.
The story doesn't advance the plot of the series in any form except a disappointing and disturbing low note ending. The learning of Project Harbinger lacks the intrigue, excitement, and progression to make it worthy of being a plot to a full game.
F.E.A.R 2 is a decent shooter but lacks in anything other than that especially in horror. For players looking for a shooter with a difference, the game may satisfy. For fans of the first game or those looking for a good story or action horror title, disappointment is almost a definite.
You can find my review of F.E.A.R and its two expansions Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate here on Gameskinny.