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F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
Score: 86%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Monolith
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1; 2 - 16 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action

Graphics & Sound:
Has any game seen as much drama surrounding it as F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin? After the original's release, the developer Monolith and publisher Vivendi parted ways, but each also planned a sequel. One got the name; the other got the content - resulting in two very different, and somewhat confusing, sequels. Eventually the stars aligned, and Monolith was able to regain the title, leading us to the release of F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin.

Project Origin is as dark as games get, but considering the setting, it is understandable. The crumbling city looks great and the ability to leave your own stamp of destruction on some environments makes them even better. Similar to the first game, some of the areas feel a little too common, but there's a noticeable attempt to differentiate areas. The natural environments are cut-up with a few acid-trip like moments when Alma decides to mess with your head. Although not as scary as they could be, they add just enough panic to keep you on your toes.

Music is kept low-key, which is right in-line with most horror games (or movies for that matter). Most of the soundtrack is made up of the sound of gunfire and intermittent radio chatter from your team and enemies, with music kicking in to build suspense.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin picks up right before the last game ended; you begin your mission in the office building seen during the last game's final moments. The mission serves as a nice way to get players back into the F.E.A.R. mindset and serves as a nice jumping point for the rest of the story, most of which deals with Alma's background. The story is interesting, but not overly complicated. However, the real triumph is in how it is told.

Everything is viewed through the eyes of your character, which helps to keep everything consistent. FPS sequences blend into the story sequences without a hitch. This also helps to make Alma's numerous level appearances that much better. If the game jumped between views, Alma's fleeting and somewhat trippy appearances wouldn't be as effective. The mood is consistently creepy; I wasn't that keen on everything being as dark as it is, but it works for what the game is attempting to do with its story. Though creepy, I wouldn't call Project Origin scary. There are a few predictable jump scares and some of the Alma appearances come off as comical. If anything, the horror element is more about survival and getting out of a situation, not because of some dark menace.

The single-player game offers at least 10 - 12 hours worth of gameplay. The first hour or so is a little slow to start, but once you break out of the prelude, the pacing and gameplay really pick up. Single-player is supplemented by a solid multiplayer experience. There aren't any big surprises when it comes to the offered modes, but each offers some nice twists, so there's a good balance of familiar and not so familiar.

With such a focus on horror aspects, it would be easy for the shooter elements to fall by the wayside. This isn't the case with F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin. The game is a FPS first, and a horror game second. Shootouts are consistently intense and never lose their pacing or tempo. You're always outgunned, which isn't that different from other shooters, but in Project Origin, enemies are also pretty smart. You're not running into rooms and blasting a bunch of slow-to-react enemies, but ones that will actively seek cover and the best spot to attack from. This forces you to take the entire area into account rather than directing your focus to what your gun is pointing at.

As you progress through the game, you'll earn enhancements, such as the ability to slow down time, that give you a slight edge over the enemies' numbers. Items like ammo and health are also placed in logical areas, so when you die, it is usually a result of a dumb move on your part rather than the level design screwing you over.

Game Mechanics:
Again, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is a shooter first and a horror game second. The control setup makes sense once you make it through your first series of challenges, though I had a few personal issues with the trigger layout. Your primary fire button is assigned to the (R2) button. On the 360, this is ideal, but on the PS3 it doesn't feel as right. I'll readily admit it probably has more to do with the way I hold the controller or that I personally prefer the 360 controller, but it bothered me enough that it bears mention. As much as it annoyed me, it never got in the way of the gameplay or my enjoyment. At worst, I had a slight crick in my hand after a long session.

While most of the game takes place on-foot, every once in a while you get a chance to hop into a Powered Armored Unit. This was one element of the game that I wasn't completely sure of until I had a chance to play the game. Based on earlier coverage of the game, I wasn't sure how power armor would fit into the game's world, but now I get it. Besides, the units are incredibly fun to play around in. The unit is nearly unstoppable (which makes for an interesting challenge when you have to face off against one) and comes packed with enough firepower to level a small town, but at the same time, there are enough downsides that you're not omnipotent in one. The units control like slow-moving tanks and your view is restricted through a grainy HUD, but high-powered chain guns are a nice trade-off.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is a little slow to take off and some of the horror elements don't completely work, but as shooters go, it is as good as they get.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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