When F.E.A.R. first hit the internet there was a lot of talk about the demo and the terrifying atmosphere it delivered.
When it was finally released players were not disappointed by the level of mystery and sheer terror the designers had been able weave into the overall game structure.
The sequel therefore, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin has a lot to live up to.
F.E.A.R. 2 starts where the original game left off. You play the character of Sgt Becket, a member of an elite force of genetically enhanced soldiers. Your initial missions sees you attempting to rescue a doctor who is tied to your very creation.
It is in her apartment where you witness the destruction of the city around you in a nuclear blast. Awakening in hospital, you struggle to hold on to the threads of your life, while around you the hospital appears to be overtaken by a horde of evil mutants and corporate military enforcers hell-bent on your destruction. Any parallels to the New Zealand health service is entirely coincidental.
Survival is dependent on your ability to take down the opposition and take them down hard. This is achieved by the use of an array of weapons including assault rifles, sub machine guns, shotguns, and our favourite the plasma flame thrower. You will pick these weapons up as you progress through the game along with grenades and helpful data discs that aid in unravelling the underlying game plot.
Weapons and items drop from your enemies, and can be found lying around the game area. You are restricted to four weapons slots, and it is a matter of trying to determine your best load out that will suit the next part of your mission. You are also restricted to only carrying three med kits, and because sometimes it takes two to fully heal yourself they tend to be the most sought-after item (ammunition never seems to be a problem).
As you proceed through the game you are struck first by the high level of graphic detail. Whether its the hospital, or apartment building, each feel they are lived-in environments with a lot of detail evident throughout. You can interact with a lot of the items, and sometimes this is essential; for example you may need to move a cabinet to clear a doorway, or to over turn a table as cover. Your opponents are not afraid to make use of cover as well and they are quick to either hide behind an object or to attempt to out-flank you whilst using the cover afforded by many objects.
The other thing that strikes you about this game is the amount of blood. Now, we're not squeamish, but at times rather than body armour we would have preferred the enemy to drop an occasional pair of rubber waders. There are blood trails, piles of bloody goo, walls dripping blood, mutilated corpses, machines dismembering corpses and the violent and bloody results of your own death-dealing from your array of weapons. It is over the top, and the level of horror it seeks to deliver the player quickly wanes with the sheer depth of blood you are assailed with. This is very much a case of "less would have been more".
Some of the death sequences can be quite gory, with burning soldiers thrashing about the room, or one particular kill where the soldier collapsed to his knees and fired a full clip into the air bleeding out his last.
Other than blood, the graphic flashes of the wandering child in F.E.A.R. return, and a set off more detailed dream-like sequences. Unfortunately, they seem less scary than the original game. Whether it's that we've seen it all before, or that their delivery is more predictable is hard to say, however they certainly did not deliver the punch of the previous game. In contrast, some truly scary moments can be had when the skittering mutants attack; as they climb walls and ceilings and move extremely fast, they can quickly get into hand-to-hand combat with you. As they snap at your throat, you find yourself trying to fend them off by bashing them furiously with your weapon or fists.
There are some interesting animated graphic sequences and objects, even including a plane crash and a nuclear explosion.
We particularly liked how the power lines and their electrical discharge could both hinder and help you advance in the game. What is however evident very early on in the game is how much you are railed in - there is basically only one way to go and often there is no way to go back. Full on med kits? Don't count on being able to go and pick up that spare one you spotted earlier on.
Another irritation is that the game autosaves often with an annoying lag in gameplay. There is no option to manually save between autosave points, and given the frequency of the autosaves this was a big issue.
Strip away the blood (or scrape it off with a shovel would be more appropriate) and underneath this first person shooter there's nothing special. It's good, well polished and does the job but in reality it delivers nothing innovative.
F.E.A.R. 2, although scary in places fails to evoke the fear in the original game and the level of visceral gore just becomes silly in places. If you liked the first game, put on your rubber boots and wade into battle but don't expect see anything new.