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Mixing hyper-violence and heart-stopping scares has long been the preserve of the FEAR series. In Project Origin the erratic pacing of the original game has been remedied but the shocking and creepy moments have been curtailed. The game still has its tense and suffocating atmosphere but it failed to get under my skin and merely delivered an adequate shooting experience with some occasional jumps.
Creating a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere is essential to making a memorable experience and the developers of the FEAR franchise are masters of this art. The original game on the PC married previously-unseen kinetic visuals with a jumpy and disturbing homage to Japanese horror films. It wasn't a mix that always worked well with some disjointed levels. But FEAR 2: Project Origin shows the series has grown by offering a far more fluid experience than the original game.
I liked the way the game started. Being in control of a different character to the first game gives a fresh perspective to the storyline. Playing the opening level whilst the events of the first game are still unfolding makes for an interesting experience with the narrative. My one complaint about the first game was its utter ambiguity but this new viewpoint allows the game to be far more explicit about what the hell is going on.
The jumping-out-of-your-seat moments have almost gone completely and been replaced by slightly unsettling stuff that fails to provide a memorable experience.
Fixing the storyline is one positive but the pacing of the ‘creepy girl moments' with ultra-violent fights with Armacham and Replica soldiers has also been remedied. In the original FEAR these points were never blended together at all. It would be a case of entering an office room, killing a few guys with a cool slow-mo effect and then moving into a long corridor where the freaky stuff would happen.
In this sequel there's none of that obvious delineation and the mix of combat and Alma-related psychic attacks are spread about to make them slightly less predictable. But what Monolith have fixed in story and pacing they've lost in impact and individuality. The jumping-out-of-your-seat moments have almost gone completely and been replaced by slightly unsettling stuff that fails to provide a memorable experience.
Gone are the corridors of blood and instead we have mischievous ghosts that cause harm but can inexplicably be killed by a bullet. It's certainly a creepy experience and a feeling of claustrophobia is present in many of the levels. But the punch and uncertainty of the first game are gone, replaced by a more nuts and bolts shooter aesthetic. Not something I was hoping for from a game called FEAR.
The only instance of a level getting under my skin was in the setting of a high school. Slide machines flickered into life and gave me the unnerving feeling that I was being watched. The empty classrooms and abandoned sports areas also gave a very mournful impression of a city barely minutes after a nuclear explosion.
The most memorable part of this level came when I had to get through a long corridor lined with lockers. All of a sudden the lights went out and the sound of a thousand locker doors slamming open and shut filled my ears. With poltergeists throwing furniture to block my path this was FEAR 2 at its best. Had it created more of these more memorable moments it would've been a great experience. But the rest of the game merely hits that average shooter mark and before long the combat sections become far too wash ‘n repeat.
She was a malevolent force and although you eventually sympathised with her, there was a vindictive streak of evil still left to her actions.
Alma also loses her ability to scare the further you get in the game. In the first FEAR she was a malevolent force and although you eventually sympathised with her, there was a vindictive streak of evil still left to her actions. This time she's little more than a flickering ghost and the plumes of blood are caused more by your combat shotgun than her deadly psychic powers. In terms of story, this pushes the game into far more interesting territory, but the trade-off is the lack of danger inherent throughout the game. With Alma so neutered I found myself wishing for another damaged psychic presence to bring the frights back.
As shooters go Project Origin does nothing wrong and has the technical side nailed down just as much as the original did. But it's lost that impact that made it such a unique playing experience the first time round. Jump out of your seat frights have gone and although the atmosphere is stifling and claustrophobic, it fails to step up through the gears to give a truly scary experience.
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