F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin Review

  • Posted February 17th, 2009 at 12:09 EDT by Eric Blattberg

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F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

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F.E.A.R. 2 is a somewhat scary blend of action and horror, and although it relies too heavily on old ideas, it still offers an enjoyable experience.

We like

  • The combination of horror and action
  • The advanced enemy AI
  • The surprisingly strong online multiplayer

We dislike

  • F.E.A.R. 2’s unyielding linearity
  • The utilization of outdated mechanics
  • The difficulty entering a multiplayer match

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

A great American president once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Now let’s amend FDR’s famous quote for the 21st century. “The only thing we have to fear is F.E.A.R. itself.”

Monolith Productions’ F.E.A.R., or First Encounter Assault Recon, burst onto the gaming scene in 2005 and made waves with its intense gameplay and groundbreaking visuals. After numerous expansions, ports, and spin-offs, the true sequel is finally here. Let’s get right to it: F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin plays better than its predecessor, but standards have changed drastically in the last four years. Since the original F.E.A.R. launched, we’ve played gems like Resistance: Fall of Man and Call of Duty 4. What does F.E.A.R. 2 offer that those games don’t?

Horror. Pure, unadulterated horror. F.E.A.R. 2 picks up 30 minutes before the conclusion of the first game. You’re Michael Becket, a member of a Delta Force team tasked with taking Armacham president Genevieve Aristide into protective custody. As it turns out, the mission doesn’t go according to plan (what a surprise, right?). As you approach Aristide, the psychotic and powerful Alma unleashes her wrath upon the city of Auburn, which culminates in a massive explosion that the Manhattan Project scientists could have never imagined. After waking up in an underground “hospital,” you’re left to pick up the pieces.

Be warned: F.E.A.R. 2’s tale isn’t very accessible to newcomers. Even with various Intel documents scattered liberally throughout each of the game’s 14 levels, you’ll be left in the dark most of the time – and not in the frightening way. That’s not to say you can’t still appreciate the horror aspect of the title. Although only a few of the horror “episodes” are genuinely frightening, they’re all fairly unsettling. When you’re walking along a corridor and the action drops off, you’re either walking into an ambush or it’s time for a supernatural ride. Through clever visual techniques and eerie audio effects, Monolith skillfully displays an Alma-altered reality where chaos and death reign. The issue with these events is that, as expertly crafted as they are, they inevitably become predictable. When events are foreseeable, they are significantly less frightening. And honestly, the name of the game is F.E.A.R. – it doesn’t get any clearer than that. As you saunter down an empty hallway, it becomes routine to expect some sort of paranormal occurrence. Still, if you play with the lights low and the sound high, F.E.A.R. 2 can be quite the thrill.

What’s not thrilling is how ordinary the rest of the game is. Not bad, but merely ordinary. In the end, all that matters is a game’s fun factor. If you can deal with some of F.E.A.R. 2’s outdated design decisions, you’ll undoubtedly have a blast. Here’s why you might not, however.

Some of today’s widely accepted first person shooter mechanics aren’t present in F.E.A.R. 2. Now, we don’t dislike that is it’s different – in fact, we encourage change and new ideas. But that’s just it: F.E.A.R. 2 doesn’t innovate; it falls back on last-generation play styles. Health, for example, is not rechargeable or regenerative. Instead, you can carry up to three Medpacks that you can use to recharge your health at any point. It’s not broken or overly unwieldy, it’s just unnecessary. Also, aiming and shooting are mapped to L2 and R2 respectively (rather than the generally preferred L1 and R1 combination), and controls are not customizable whatsoever. Still, the biggest problem with F.E.A.R. 2 is in the game’s actual environmental layout.

F.E.A.R. 2 is linear. Yes, most first person shooters are linear. F.E.A.R. 2, however, outdoes its competition. This is particularly evident during the game’s earlier chapters, where you’ll be driven along a single, tiny, unyielding path for what seems like eons on end. Monolith designed the environments to look like genuine places, and they are wonderfully detailed and gritty, but attentive gamers will immediately notice how restrictive the various settings really are. The explosion that occurred at the outset of the game apparently knocked debris and objects in front of or behind every potential path, except the one you’re intended to travel on, of course. When that one path is through a knocked-out pane ... (continued on next page)

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