Monday, July 18

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

Quick note: This post contains some spoilers for F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin.

Bargains, a non-existent sense of self-control, mild obsessive compulsive disorder and disposable income can sometimes lead to nonsensical purchase decisions; like the F.E.A.R Collection, which I obtained during the Steam Summer Camp Sale. On paper it doesn't look like a bad deal: the critically-lauded first instalment, the somewhat indifferent sequel and all of the downloadable expansions for each game for less than twenty bucks. When you then consider however, that I've owned each of these games previously - in some cases, multiple times - across two different platforms there isn't much merit to the repeated acquisition.

Well, you could at least argue that until you've read my review for F.3.A.R. The ridiculously enjoyable, though undeniably ugly conclusion to the trilogy provided that little spark of impulse that was required for me to push the "Add to cart" button. Previously not owning any iteration on PC also allowed for me to ignore that the series had long rested at the bottom of my pile of shame and therefore press the "Purchase" button.

Almost a week later and I'm glad to report that I do not regret the decision. If anything, my recurring absence of reason has provided me with about eight hours of skull-splitting, ghoul-impregnating fun that I refused to enjoy two years ago.

I still understand why I didn't make it through on my first playthrough: F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin was for the most part, an exhausting experience bereft of colour and humour. Your companions are big-balled, macho stereotypes who spout predictable dialogue across your comm. Your enemies - save for the recurring, under-aged villain, Alma - aren't overly engaging either; and no amount of collectable documents could serve to change that now that I've finally finished the campaign and seen over seventy-five percent of the irrelevant text that players can potentially find. 

 Yes, he sounds as smug as he looks.

A renewed interest in Sergeant Becket and his sexual assault at the hands of Alma - which prove to be the propellant for the events of the third game - was the main reason for reinvestigating this primarily-bland sequel. That and the shotguns in this game have a tendency to reduce enemies to a bloody mist that is sometimes accompanied by an arm or a leg; hilarious.

Most of the weapons in F.E.A.R 2 have some pretty visceral applications. Using the Hammerhead to pin Armacham soldiers to chain link fences was reasonably satisfying, as was the resulting bodily explosion from a sniper rifle headshot. The guns in this game make people fall apart and you don't get that in your Call of Duties or your Battlefields: reality holds back the hilarity.    

According to F.E.A.R 2, men are 98% blood.

As for the events of the game and the characterisation of the lead, F.E.A.R 2 has the narrative depth of a thimble. Sergeant Becket - much like the protagonist of the first and third games in the series, Point Man - doesn't say a single thing throughout the adventure. There's no concluding monologue to elaborate on what would have been a very traumatic event. There's no commentary or retorts on the musings and actions of his colleagues. Beckett just takes it. He's more than willing to spill his guts in the next instalment though, but when he's the focus of the story likes to be the strong, frustratingly-silent type. Outside of the disappointment provided by Becket’s lack of character, there’s also no hint of what happens to Armacham boss, Genevieve Aristide who completely evades the final chapter. It seems that story is not the franchise’s strong point. F.3.A.R’s focus on action as opposed to a muddled narrative is perhaps the reason that I view it as the strongest entry.  

F.E.A.R 2 controls well, but the meticulous direction through a seemingly-endless series of differently decorated corridors failed to endear me. Some of the firefights - particularly one against a mech about three hours in, and a warehouse sniper fight towards the end - caused a lot of frustration and often slowed the pace to a drag. Conversely, the majority of the action - including the mech segments - can be powered through without much objection from your opponents. I would attribute this to some unbalanced weaponry that is procured towards the end, but either way, Monolith failed to properly scale the difficulty of this adventure.

So maybe F.E.A.R 2 wasn't that much fun after all. That's not the point, I guess. The point is I've removed one game from my pile of shame: only about two hundred and something - still in my possession, God knows what the lifetime tally would be - to go.

Next up will be the Reborn expansion. Maybe the injection of the ferocious, part-time cannibal, Paxton Fettel can redeem this package?

 Dude, wipe up and help already!

Has a stellar sequel ever encouraged you to look at a series' roots? Have you ever enjoyed a prior instalment of a series more than the current one?

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