If FEAR 2 were just a series of corridors that lead to wincing set pieces then it wouldn’t be a great game… Resistance 2 did just that and never managed to get the blood pumping. Behind the set pieces, weird visions and the twisting story arc is an incredibly deft FPS setup. The developer has over eight hit first-person shooters under its belt and understands how to make its guns go off with a bang. The general feel of FEAR 2 is weightier than the likes of Call of Duty and Resistance, feeling more like Rainbow Six Vegas. The AI is more tactically acute and there aren’t any random respawns, so each room becomes a tactical, trigger-spamming challenge. Each weapon can be tailored to suit the situation too, with rapid and burst fire for spraying rooms or targeted shots for more focused close encounters.
These guns are heavy. The bullets crackle from the barrel and affect every part of the environment. Loose a few rounds into an empty room and tiles will shatter from the walls, glass will smash, and bodies will dance as you riddle them with shots. Bigger guns have bigger effects, pillars will fall apart and bodies will be ripped in half. This is a gory game.
The old Penetrator gun has been replaced by the Hammerhead; both are nail guns that will pin an enemy to the wall, leaving him writhing in pain and firing his gun randomly, the floor sparking and walls cracking in dust as he does so. Add in genuinely intelligent enemies who will turn over tables for makeshift cover, flank you and even run in fear, and every gunfight in FEAR 2 feels like a tightly formed miniature set piece all of your own making. If there’s one thing that FEAR 2 isn’t short on, it’s epic moments.
The only real downside to FEAR 2 is that it doesn’t do anything drastically new. The SlowMo effect returns – you can slow time as a by-product of the operation forced on your character at the start of the game (the part we described where your character is on the operation table surrounded with demon surgeons). It’s a neat tactical ally that enhances the gameplay, especially on higher difficulty settings. Slowing time briefly to escape danger or snipe fast targets adds a genuine tactical advantage to many gunfights. But it’s nothing new; this feature was in the original game.
As were many of the enemies you’ll face – there’s a new wall-crawling mutant, but by and large the Armacham forces from the original return, all once again controlled telepathically by Alma from some hidden lair for reasons unknown. It’s the same problem that all sequels face. The gameplay can’t change too drastically as that’s what we want more of, so FEAR 2 delivers everything we loved in the first game, but implemented better and on a bigger scale.
Visually, this is a more dynamic game. Each mission is a subtly constructed segment of story with a look and feel all of its own. The early stages are caked in blooming and blurring - it’s slick and comfortable. But as we dug deeper into the game, the fuzz would lift and show the world in stark, crisp detail. The mech suit stages, in which you control an Elite Power Armor are fun, almost stress free segments of violence. All that tension built from stalking eerily lit corridors is vanquished in a brief moment of unrelenting, smile-inducing carnage. Rather than distract from the atmosphere, the EPA sections vary the pace, offering an outlet for your trigger fantasies.
For horror and action fans, there are lots of reasons to play FEAR 2. The game also answers many questions raised by the original shooter and does so with Monolith’s familiar flair for storytelling and detail. But it is a slow burner and you do need to buy into Monolith’s world of fictitious evil corporations holed up beneath schools and offices everywhere tinkering with telepathic child devils that will sooner pull the skin from your bones like you’re a KFC chicken wing than skip rope. But what’s not to buy into with a scare around every corner, graphic set pieces to battle through, and a tight, subtly-paced script. We can wholeheartedly say that FEAR 2 is gruesomely good fun.
Feb 10, 2009