I'm a bit of a sucker for scary games. I've played through most of the titles I could find that were labelled 'scary', 'spooky', or 'don't go to sleep or you'll see it in your nightmares' by others, and generally have a good time. Don't get me wrong, though. I am a pansy and given a dark enough room I will jump at the slightest hint of movement on the monitor. So of course I was drawn like a moth to the flame of F.E.A.R.
F.E.A.R. was a game that combined explosive gunfights with spooky Japanese-esque horror sequences involving a little harmless girl. Literally: she was harmless. But that didn't stop it from getting me jumping in my seat every time I turned around and saw a shadow move across the wall, automatic shotgun in my hand or not. The game was pretty well received, especially for some interesting AI enemies that utilized the environment in tactical ways. Then a bunch of sequels/expansions were released that generally people didn't like, for whatever reason.
Monolith Studios, noticing that people didn't like these expansions, decided to pretend that they never existed, and released F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, the 'true' sequel to the original. It begins about half an hour before the original ends, leading up to the explosive finale of the original. You are Beckett aka Bucket, a soldier on the F.E.A.R. team whose squad has been sent to pick up the president of Armacham, the antagonistic company from the first title. Things do not go well, to say the least.
Not a lot has changed from the original to the sequel. You run around, you shoot guys in the face, you watch some guys get turned into red mists, and some seriously supernatural stuff goes on. The game takes a stronger approach to the spookier elements of the original, as Alma is no longer a girl, she can hurt you, and so can other apparitions. This approach leads to some more adrenaline-filled moments, but overall reduces the fear factor of the game. Since she can hurt you, you can take her and the apparitions out (temporarily), so fear always ends at the end of a quick-time event or a blast from a gun.
The scares are generally relegated to moments of surprise like something bursting out at you as you turn a corner, or the classic horror movie cliche of flickering lights. Still, I am a pansy, and I jumped more than once. Others might not feel the same, especially when you are armed with a gun that can melt the flesh off of your foes, literally. The other important gameplay element that returns is the slow-motion, and in this game you can get exploratory efforts rewarded by extending the amount of time you can spend in this heightened state of kick-assery.
This is all fun, emptying clips into enemies as you run circles around them, but eventually the game starts to repeat itself a little too much. Every battle devolves into a routine of slo-mo + gun + cover + slo-mo, and so forth. Things get repetitive really quickly. The game does try to change that, putting you in control of an APU, which stands for something that I've forgotten, simply because I refer to it as the Automatic Pulverizing Unit (actually the 'A' stands for something else). It's a mech with big Gatling guns and rocket launchers. For brief sequences you're let loose in one of these things, covering the area with a fine red mist as you pass through. And it's pretty fun, but only for so much, especially since you feel so restricted while in one of them.
Besides this, the game doesn't really offer up anything to change that, though to their credit the environments are much more varied than the previous title. The ending isn't that good either, and is more likely to leave you scratching your head than give you a feeling of satisfaction.
It's good that the game gives you the sense of power from the APU, because nothing else in the game seems to. Weapons seem weak, and don't pack the punch that they should. Since you're only able to carry four weapons at once, it's likely you'll just be picking up and using whatever the enemy is dropping, which generally amounts to a machine gun, a shotgun, and a couple other miscellaneous guns. Even a gun that fires large metal spikes at enemies can take multiple shots to take someone down (though sticking someone to the ceiling with it is immensely enjoyable).
If you'd rather shoot your friends rather than the computer, F.E.A.R. 2 also comes with multiplayer. Unfortunately, there's the question of 'Why?', since you don't actually get any slow motion powers this time around. This leaves it feeling more like a generic shooter than anything else, and if that's the case, there's no reason not to just play something else, since the modes given are either not varied enough or are never played.
The visual and audible experience is pretty good, but there are times when the frame rate decreases heavily, at least for a mid-high-end computer. The various effects added to the game contribute to this, but they sure make everything pretty, and in a horror game that's pretty important. The audio also helps to bring this about, making you feel like something could be just behind you...
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is average. It's got some high points and some low points, but overall just isn't that memorable. If you're into scary games...well, there's better out there, but sometimes it's fun to just shoot your way through squads of enemies. And though the horror does get a little cliche at times, it does deliver the frights every now and then; it's just not as often as it could be. Like I said, its average, so if you've got a hankerin' for some shooterin', then it may be worth a go. Other than that, however, there's nothing here that hasn't been done before.