I would not consider myself a “horror junkie” per se. This is mostly due to the fact that the “appeal” of the horror genre usually involves a combination of disturbing imagery and regret at not having purchased a nightlight. However, I have plenty of experience with the first-person shooter category of games, so F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin seemed to be a more approachable take on horror. I’ll admit I haven’t played the original F.E.A.R., but I was familiar with it before entering this particular den of horrors. The game aims for an interesting blend of horror and shooter, with the end result being plenty of the former at the expense of the latter.
As far as the story goes, you’ll (reluctantly) find yourself in the head of Michael Becket, a mime who finds his world going to hell. Alright, he’s actually a soldier who is dispatched to find Genevieve Aristide after an “accident” involving the Armacham Company. Throughout the game, Becket escalates from an unlucky guy to a very unlucky guy who battles monstrosities. However, due to his being a silent protagonist, you’ll only ever relate to him as a pair of arms and a gun. His dialogue basically amounts to screams of the pain and horror variety, and most of the speaking parts belong to his squadmates or things that want to kill him. While it is hard to sympathize with Becket, you will get to know what goes on in his mind to a horrifying degree.
You see, Armacham has a few “issues” regarding morality and not crossing a line man was never meant to cross. The main antagonist of F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is a girl named Alma. She’s that creepy one staring into your soul on the front of the game box. Basically, Armacham’s business plan involved using a scientist’s daughter who is gifted with psychic abilities to produce psychic soldiers. Of course, the plan involved performing tests on and torturing her with a good amount of psychological abuse sprinkled throughout. This strategy turns out as well as you might think, ultimately resulting in Alma becoming a creature of unrelenting horror that takes revenge on everyone involved. Yes, it’s going to be a rich, full day for Becket.
Now, as I’ve said, I don’t have any experience with the original F.E.A.R. All of the above exposition is spelled out in the first few levels at what seems to be a double goal of guiding new players and helping old fans figure out where they are in the timeline. I was able to follow the story for the most part, but I completely missed out on any allusions to past events and characters that were in the first game. The story as a whole isn’t all that deep and mostly involves creative excuses to horribly slaughter anyone who runs into the evil characters.
The No. 1 thing the game does right is set up an atmosphere. First of all, the “relationship” between Becket and Alma is established right from the get go. The main thing to remember is that Alma loves messing with you. She plans her days based around the best ways to mess with you. Whenever she appears, you’ll be on the edge of your seat (and your sanity), wondering what she has planned for you. Bullets do absolutely nothing to her, so you’ll be hoping you’re with creepy Alma and not angry Alma. She also can appear anywhere at anytime. Because of this, you’ll be constantly paranoid, hesitant to walk into that next dark room. Your flashlight will conveniently not work when you passionately wish it would, and the music is a mix of macabre melodies and build up for the spooks. There also is the occasional pop-out scare that is a constant go-to move in the horror genre. However, you’re often given backstory about the ugly thing that will jump out at you, and the inevitable shock is diminished. It’s like giving your friend a PowerPoint presentation about how you purchased a scary mask and then trying to scare them with it later.
The threat felt from Alma can’t be said for the rest of the enemies, however. You’ll fight plenty of humanoid adversaries that have varying degrees of intelligence. They are smart enough to flip over a table to use as cover yet dumb enough to abandon said cover to blindly rush at you. More often than not, you’ve already killed the enemies before they can employ any brilliant tactics. This is especially true in the laughably simple sections where you can pilot a mech suit. These sections basically equate to killing gnats with dynamite. Becket also gains the ability to slow time, which is pretty much the only unique mechanic this shooter has going for it. This skill, combined with enough health packs and armor to build forts out of, makes F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin a rather easy affair. You are an unstoppable killing machine on Easy, and my only death on Normal involved forgetting which button threw grenades.
After strolling through the six- to nine-hour story mode, you can choose to play any completed level again for kicks or try your luck in multiplayer mode. The multiplayer reeks of being tacked on, and only the mech piloting game type stands out. The slow-motion ability that made the single-player campaign somewhat fresh has confusingly been left out. So, there’s not much to say about the multiplayer component if you’re already familiar with Capture the Flag and Free for All.
In my opinion, I don’t think this game would appeal to the traditional shooter fan who is expecting something new. The weapons are the typical assortment of shotguns and machine guns with some bigger weapons appearing later. However, ammo is most easily obtained by killing bad guys, so you’ll most likely spend the majority of the time using whatever weapon they have. The gameplay itself rarely deviates from the expected “kill everything that moves” style of action most FPS games are known for.
When it comes down to it, I would recommend F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin to those who really enjoy getting a good chill but don’t mind the run of the mill shooting to get to it. Eventually, the F.E.A.R. franchise is going to have to end its desire to be both a shooter and a horror game. I see definite potential for it going in either direction, but trying to do both only weakens it. After all, how scared of that crazy mutant can you be after remembering the bazooka you are carrying around? So, if a trek through an unchallenging yet very creepy nightmare sounds right up your alley, give F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin a try. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to buy some new pants.