Someone’s gotta clean up when big corporations mess up. We know the drill all too well: oil spills, toxic credit, diabolical schemes to raise a mutant army controlled by psychic powers.
Anyone familiar with the original "F.E.A.R." knows the problems unleashed when military contractor Armacham used the young psychic Alma Wade to bring paranormal powers to the battlefield. The fallout just gets worse in "F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin," developed by Monolith Productions for Warner Bros.
The M-rated game begins soon after the end of the original "F.E.A.R." You play as Michael Becket, a member of Delta Force assigned to help the Army’s First Encounter Assault Recon, an awkwardly named unit that defends against supernatural threats.
Your squad is sent to grab Armacham bigwig Genevieve Aristide. But it’s not long before a colossal blast lands you in an Armacham-affiliated hospital, where you undergo a few surgical enhancements that bring you to the attention of the malevolent Alma.
While the game is a first-person shooter at its core, it unfolds as a blend of the horror and military genres.
You’ll spend a lot of time tip-toeing through blood-smeared corridors as lights blink, shadows grow ominous and ghostly forms flicker.
However, most of the time, the game is more disturbingly gruesome than truly scary. People are eviscerated, macabre "abominations" leap from the darkness and blood flows by the gallon. But you get only a few tastes of the suspense essential to a good fright.
The military portion of the game is quite good. You’re given a decent selection of weaponry, interesting battlegrounds and foes who are usually pretty smart — tipping tables to create cover or hunkering down after you’ve blasted a few of their comrades. And the power armor is definitely cool.
Much of the action occurs within the confines of Armacham’s hospital, school and secret facilities, so there’s a lot of close-quarters combat.
That combat will generally involve three kinds of enemies: Armacham security forces trying to eliminate evidence of the company’s dirty deeds; Alma’s telepathically controlled warriors; and various specters and ghouls created as byproducts of the company’s experiments or by the supernatural blast at the beginning of the game. But no matter who you’re fighting, it’s usually challenging and exciting.
And, if you do start feeling the icy hand of Alma running down your back, you can always turn to the game’s online mode and fight some flesh-and-blood opponents. You can compete in a death match, play capture-the-flag and battle over control points.
The controls are very smooth and effective. I especially like the ability to slow down time — a trick that makes multiple foes easier to tackle.
The graphics are good, but not spectacular. Characters and animations are solid and environments are filled with lots of details, though there’s not quite as much texture as you’ll see in some other games.
One visual effect that I didn’t enjoy was the bouncing that usually occurs when you’re walking.
Also, be aware that much of the background on Project Origin and key elements of the story are told through intel documents that you pick up in the game. If you’re not a "collector," you’re unlikely to get a handle on the big picture.
Another warning: While the battle-related gore can be toned down a bit in the options menu, that doesn’t seem to make much difference in the viscera-caked environments.
"F.E.A.R. 2" is touted as a truly frightening game. I’m not sure it quite lives up to that billing. However, it’s definitely a creepy — and thrilling — experience.
Platforms: Xbox 360 (tested), PlayStation 3, PCOn the Web: www.whatisfear.com
Visit StripesGAMER.com for more on video gaming and gaming in the military.