A very disappointing sequel that, while at times fun, mostly bores.
I loved the original FEAR
and it has gone to have a high spot in my heart, and while not their best game, it was yet another great title from one of my favourite developers, Monolith
studios. What made FEAR great was simple, take 3 action styles (Kung fu, Choreographed gun play, tactics), 3 horror styles (American "Jumps", Psychological mind twists, and Japanese ghost stories), write a compelling plot and put it all in a blender. If it had one problem, it was the lack of any true protagonist and an ending that didn't leave the door open... it threw the Door out the window. So I awaited the inevitable sequel, and after 4 years and some worrisome license issues, it finally came.
Sadly, the game doesn't come in with a bang, it just lazes on the couch and says "Meh." But looking at Moby games review format, I need to start with what is good. What is good is the core action. While there are issues that make it inferior, we will discuss that later. The core action is still fun, and whenever I blow an entire foes torso off and watch his spinal column and last bits of flesh topple over gives me a cathartic thrill and blows off steam. When the action heats up, its great and will keep your heart pounding and will satiate any gorror fans lust for blood. "Reflexes" (Bullet time) returns and is still fun to use simply to see some cool slow motion explosions or death scenes. Seeing a man with napalm strapped to his back blow up and take out his lackey's in slow motion is a cool effect both from the standpoint of a horror fan and an action fan. You can still use melee and do roundhouse kicks and kung-fu moves and knock the teeth out of your foe, and is as satisfying as ever.
While the graphics aren't ground breaking or the best you will see this generation, there are some absolutely spectacular special effects and great character models. Every explosion lights up the world and will bring you several "WOW! COOL!" moments, every light casts an eerie and scary shadow creating a good atmosphere, and every death has a grisly and disturbingly detailed blood effect that shines and glistens with body damage modeling that is somewhat creepy and really defines the word "Gory." While most of the characters are fairly standard for modern shooters and wear your typical armour and such, the models are well detailed. However, the characters that stand out are the Remnants. The remnants appear later on in the game, and look awesome. The remnants tap a strange fear I have; twisted, mutated, and f**ked up shapes that seem inhuman, but have at least one or two elements that still look human and the Remnants are exactly that. They are cool and easily the scariest thing in the game, and their modeling is excellent and extremely surreal, which only enhances their eeriness. The death animations are also great.
The sound effects are awesome, and the mech sequence is fun. There are a few nice highlights in levels, one of the few moments where an atmopshere attempts to build is when you finally get out of a ridiculously long and somewhat boring underground tunnel sequence and then see what happened after the nuke from the first game went off is somewhat creepy, as there is an eerie musical score, some ghosts, and eeriest of all; flash fossilized humans. Hey, have you ever been to Pompeii? Oh, well, that's besides the point. This moment is somber and disturbing, and the aforementioned humans are fossilized in creepy positions, their final second on Earth in painful agony frozen in a single spot. It's a spooky moment, but it doesn't last long because the action comes and a few things dispel the atmosphere here, but this is one truly standout moment in the "Creepy" department.
While the combat can be fun, the AI has been toned down and the enemies are too easy even on the harder difficulties. I can't help but feel they were dumbed down so the consoles didn't need a customized or delayed port.
The game is, at times, painfully boring. While the first FEAR followed a similar structure of mixing horror sequences and action sequences, it balanced them out much better because the horror elements were actually scary. Because it was scary and atmospheric, the moments where the action wasn't flowing were still compelling and had tons of creepy, scary, and cool moments. FEAR 2 is not scary. At all. The only scary things in this game are the aforementioned remnants and an area showing what has to be done to force people into becoming a psychic commander. Even Alma isn't scary. The fully grown Alma is gross looking, naked (But no genitals, but considering that this is somewhat creepy about her, I suppose its not bad.) wrinkled and still very much like a ghost from "The Grudge," but she is no longer scary. She's a monster closet with a quicktime event strapped onto her. In the first FEAR, she would jump out, but these sequences were unpredictable and used sparingly and Alma's presence was more to get under your skin than to pop up and go "BOO!" but she does this in every level and you can see it coming from a thousand miles away, even before she pops out for the first time I could predict when she'd pop and try to scare you. Another thing is that in the first game, each Alma encounter was different. In this, its always the same: The game slows down to a yawn inducing crawl and then Alma pops out either randomly or in conjunction with an obstacle, and then you have to mash the button wildly until she gets off you. This isn't scary, it removes you from the atmosphere and you don't feel vulnerable tapping buttons which completely dispels any possible atmosphere, and considering this game has no atmosphere save for some fights with the remnants and a couple small set pieces, that means that these moments are annoying, boring, and stupid.
The controls are delayed and sloppy save for throwing things, shooting, and reloading. These are all set in stone, but everything else, even activating bullet time, is poor. The worst are the karate moves, which have a poor delay and rarely do what you want them to.
On the negative side of the graphics, textures are flat, muddy, and uninspired and like the first game, there is one too many warehouses and office buildings. Thankfully there are more outdoor areas, but once you bonk into an invisible wall you'll realize they are just more office/warehouses with a skybox and buildings.
The story is a retread/retelling of the first games plot, but much more confusing, much dumber, and all around disappointing. No questions are answered, only many more asked and there is nothing here that wasn't said in the first games plot. The ending once again throws open a door with little care or regard to answering any questions, and since the plot only really answered one of the many questions the first game asked, this means there are only more loose ends. There are so many loose ends with plot threads that you can weave a blanket to cover 45 of the United States out of them.
The combat can get repetitive thanks to the lack of tension or interest in the games plot or "atmosphere," and it takes a lot of talent (Or lack of) to make gibbing bad dudes and mutants in gory ways with awesome weapons boring.
The multiplayer sucks, which is sad because the first game had great multiplayer. In the first game, there were your standard death match, TDM, and CTF-ish modes but what made it great were the tight controls, great, fast paced action and excellent map design, as well as modes that placed a power up that allows a user to slow down time and kick ass. This meant players were fiercely fighting to get the high score as well as the power up, and it along with a couple other interesting modes really made the multiplayer unique and fun. Anyone who hasn't tried it should, its now a free download known as FEAR Combat. The multiplayer map design here is disappointing and bland, and none of the unique modes from the first game return which is a majour buzzkill and the combat seems... slower now, and since the first games MP component is now free, there's no reason to play MP in FEAR 2 which is sad, because this should've given Monolith incentive to improve upon the first games multiplayer and make it even better.
The Bottom Line
FEAR 2 is a majour disappointment, it fails in all the places that the first game succeeded, save for combat and gore, but the combat feels shallower and the enemies won't put up as much of a fight as their predecessors did. There is no scary or atmosphere, the plot sucks, and the multiplayer is lame. While fun at times, FEAR 2 is extremely disappointing. I love you Monolith, but this will go down as your worst game since Contract J.A.C.K. I have faith that the inevitable FEAR 3 can improve, at least I can only hope.