Tuesday, February 24, 2009
The use of slo-mo effects in action movies and video games quickly became cliche soon after the release of The Matrix ten years ago. Despite my general dislike of the trend, I'll give F.E.A.R. 2 a pass. Its story is deeply rooted in psychokinesis, and explores an agency that is breeding super-soldiers with telepathic abilities. While it may not be a wholly original concept, the developers have done a fantastic job of making the game an atmospheric, action-packed, creepy ride.
Early on, F.E.A.R. 2 resembles an action game more than a psychological thriller. You'll constantly be taking out guards and soldiers using some basic weaponry and a little psychic ability. Using slo-mo makes the already-satisfying gunplay even more rewarding, as you'll see heads and limbs flying as you tear enemies to shreds. Take a shotgun to someone's torso and there's a good chance it'll end up completely separated from its legs. It's gruesome and satisfying, and at no point does the gunplay get old (thanks in no small part to the incredible setpieces you'll be shooting up).
In these earlier stages of the game, you'll get brief glimpses at the upcoming psychological aspect. Your character will see flashes of Alma Wade, the incredibly creepy, demon-like girl from the first F.E.A.R., as well as various apparitions. These brief flashes turn to overwhelming horror and paranoia once you get to an elementary school about halfway through the game. It's a fantastic stage, and manages to fit a solid hour or two of gameplay within the confines of a school building. At no point does the environment seem repetitive, and there are welcome surprises and subtle story hints throughout.
After this stage it goes back to environments more familiar to FPS players, but it still remains satisfying and intense. Despite a fairly cumbersome weapon-select system, you'll have a blast disposing of your enemies with some of the later guns. Using grenades is especially gruesome and fun, especially when utilizing your slo-mo ability.
Because of how heavy the game is on presentation and narrative, it stays very linear throughout. You can tell the developers wanted you to experience specific events in a specific way, and you'll be very obviously directed towards them. There is no onscreen objective indicator, but I never ended up getting lost once thanks to how obvious it makes your intended direction.
F.E.A.R. 2 isn't without its flaws. It's very linear, it features an entirely lackluster and generic online component, you'll get caught on pieces of the environment, and switching guns in the middle of a firefight can be a pain. Despite these issues, it's still a riveting experience. The ever-changing environments ensure that you won't get sick of your surroundings, and each new area presents its share of entertaining and gruesome firefights. While the story may not be a masterpiece, the atmosphere and sense of dread F.E.A.R. 2 presents to the player makes it a perfect title to play late at night with the lights off and the sound up.
First Play: 9.0
Replay Value: 8.5