F.E.A.R 2 Review: The horror is pretty fun

Does a game so bold as to claim “fear” right in the title offer up anything scary? Can you play a sequel to a game you've never played and enjoy it? Do we need another first person shooter with weirdo psychic ghost-girls? Yes, yes, and yes we do. For me, there are few gaming pleasures that hit all my buttons in the right way more than a solid, well done first person shooter. F.E.A.R. 2 Project Origin is exactly that. It's not breaking much, if any new ground, but like a fun action or horror movie, it's delivering an experience with skill and confidence and, most importantly, I had fun the whole way through.

FEAR 2 picks up after FEAR, which I played, enjoyed, and don't really remember a lot about, even though I went back and played some of it again when this sequel was announced. I'm sure on some story level that I don't recall, this story is a sequel to the first one, but don't worry if you never partook of the first helping of FEAR. This heavily Akira-influenced tale of massive scientific conspiracies aimed at turning kids into psychic super-soldiers is a self-contained tale that you can jump into right away without fear of confusion. You're a member of an elite squad of soldiers sent to arrest the CEO of a research company that's been up to no good. From the beginning you're suffering from disturbing flashes of spookiness featuring a creepy little girl and a city in ruins, all thanks to Alma, an experimental subject whose psychic powers are now off the charts and into Armageddon-inducing levels. As you blast your way through the game, fighting pretty smart, but not too-smart enemy soldiers, encountering nasty ghosts, and seeing some truly creepy shit, you'll learn the rest of the story. You'll also get to jump in big power armor, battle mech style suits and blast the hell out of everything on a few occasions, which is in fact about as awesome as it sounds.

There's nothing brilliant in FEAR 2, aside from a few truly disturbing creep-out moments, but I've no real complaints either. Your character's movement sometimes feels a bit strange and imprecise, causing me to get caught up on doorways a couple times, but it was never a problem during combat when it mattered. The shooting (and despite all the horror elements, this is a game about shooting dudes) is a lot of fun, with a good variety of weapons. The slow-motion power can help you get out of those sticky situations when things seem overwhelming, and fights usually felt tough but fair. Veteran first person shooter players might want to amp up the difficulty if you're looking for a real challenge. I'm pretty good, and was able to make it through on Normal difficulty by being careful and smart. The game lets you tip over things like tables and bookcases to provide cover, but I never found myself using this in combat – it's not a Gears of War style cover-based shooter. However, I did tip over everything I could because there was an achievement for doing it 50 times. And here's my pro-tip of the week. Use slo-mo with the sniper rifle when facing off against enemy snipers. You'll have that head shots achievement in no time and they'll get nary a shot in. Second, bonus pro-tip: when you're in the mech suit, shoot everything all the time and blow it up, because that's awesome.

There's also a pretty robust online PVP element to the game which I didn't spend much time with. There are a lot of achievement points given over to online play, so it's worth checking out. The demo you can download is actually a really good sampling of what the game's like. Rather than just giving you the first level, the developers put together a special demo level that has pieces from at least three different parts of the game, so it gives a pretty complete picture of what the overall experience is like. And yes, you get to use the mech in the demo. My closing pro-tip – play the demo. Like it? Pick up the game for more of the same, but better.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X82i5z7TDfQ[/youtube]

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