26
Jan
09

FEAR 2 Demo (Idle)Hands On

February is quickly approaching and with it the release of Monolith’s favourite linear spooky slo-mo on-the-rails shooter, F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin. Yes it’s time to encounter some more ghostly apparitions with a shotgun to the face. Since I could recall fond memories of the original, I decided to get my, lately very, idle hands on the newly released demo on Steam.

The demo is split into three parts, making it easier for me to review; ooh spooky, gun fights, and inexplicably a mech fight. I’m guessing this is a simple cut and paste of many sections of the full game to give players a taste of what to expect, although it comes across quite jarringly, leaping from one section to another. But to be honest I always found the original FEAR to be simplistically cut into sections, a gun fight here, a spooky corridor there, followed by some more gun fights. Monolith never really got the hang of seamlessly combining all their elements smoothly, and the new demo doesn’t help with it jumping from one section to another suddenly.

Ooh Spooky

In the original you knew a spooky moment was coming up as the film grain filter would turn on, the screen desaturated a bit and the soundtrack switches to horror. The new demo still suffers from knowing when things would turn creepy but it seems a bit more seamless this time around. The horror section takes part in an abandoned school at night, and still takes it’s cue from Japanese horror, relying more on creating an atmosphere than shock horror. That said it still has some very visceral horror, coating everything in blood and sticking still writhing bodies to the ceilings. The only problem I had with the creepy moments is that I could easily miss them. There I’d be looking at the details in the game when I’ll hear a screech, turn around and find I’ve missed Alma being scary again. I mean the only way Alma could get my attention in the demo was to literally grab me by the throat and shake me, probably wanting to shout, “Pay attention you moron! I’m doing something creepy! Stop marvelling at the children’s drawings and fear me!”. Although after I found myself going the wrong way, again, that the ghostly apparitions I’d seen glimpses of reappeared to make sure I’d actually seen them, so top marks on catering to my short attention span and general stupidity.

Gun Fights

The AI in the original is one of the things that made it shine out more than a generic shooter, with the enemies constantly changing tactics and trying to out flank you, making each fight a unique experience. So I was ready to have a heavy fight on my hands this time around, but was sadly disappointed by the demo not showing off it’s AI capabilities to it’s full. Sure they still dived around for cover, tried to flank me, and now are able to create cover by tipping tables over, but even pushing the difficulty up to the max they still didn’t challenge me like they did in the original. I’m sure the AI is still as ruthless and cunning, if not more-so, but the level design of the demo didn’t demonstrate it, one can only hope that the full game does it better. The melee attack has been toned down, and in fact I didn’t even bother setting a button for it. The default key configuration is odd now I mention it, ctrl is slo-mo not crouch, and to aim you have to hit shift not the right mouse button, not a big deal but even after a bit of a tinker it still felt a bit clunky (and I still didn’t have a button for kung-fu).

Mech suit

This is the oddest and potentially the worst part about FEAR 2. In the demo it just suddenly appears around a corner with no notice, and your then blasting little men and mechs. Now I had some fun with it, but it still doesn’t feel right in the FEAR world of ghosts and ghouls. It’s potentially a signal that this game is going to lose it especially if you compare it to Monolith’s other sequel game; Condemned 2. Where all the psychological horror and mystery was dropped for a shouty power. Original FEAR didn’t have the best story plot or characters in a game, but because of it’s suspenseful atmosphere and creepy shenanigans it made an enjoyable horror with some first class shoot-outs. But if they follow the same route as Condemned 2 they could throw away everything that made the original good halfway through the game and replace it with pure dredge, where the only horror comes from the script. One can only hope that the mech suit is used later in the game to show even with it you can’t compare to the power of Alma.

So . . what do you think?

The demo shows off some great horror sections in bland and slightly confusing level design, doesn’t fully utilise the AI, the controls feel a bit clunky, and has a completely arbitrary mech section. It doesn’t sound good does it, but by the end of the demo I still felt like playing more, which is the point of the demo and is the mystery of FEAR. No matter it’s faults it blends in some great components to make an above average first person shooter. In a world of games that are all trying to create gamer choice and open worlds, it’s refreshing to see an old school linear first person shooter, that just works and is enjoyable. While it may not push the envelope of gaming much since it’s original, it still produces an enjoyable experience. Let’s hope the full game is as fun, eh?

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