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February 16, 2009
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
13/2/2009WB GamesWB GamesMonolith12-16
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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This isn't a game for children!
Released in 2005 F.E.A.R. (which stands for First Encounter Assault Recon) became an instant hit on the PC with millions of fans around the globe enjoying one of the finest, and scariest, games of recent times. Two years later that title was ported to the PS3 by Day 1 Studios and, to put it bluntly, the release was a right royal cock-up. As we mentioned in our review (accessible here) the visuals weren't even close to being up to scratch and the game was expensive compared to other platforms. Anyway the sequel is here, and the best news for PS3 owners is that this game is being developed by Monolith Productions who created the brilliant PC original.

Beginning shortly before the ending of F.E.A.R., a Special Forces squad is on a routine mission when the city of Auburn is rocked by a supernatural explosion. Alma, a girl with immense power and a thirst for revenge, has unleashed her wrath upon the city and thrown it into chaos. The squad must combat enemy forces and the supernatural as they struggle to find a way to stop Alma and uncover the mysterious forces arrayed against them before it's too late.

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Yes, F.E.A.R. 2 is quite violent.
Late November 2008 saw the tragic news came through that F.E.A.R. 2 was slapped with a Refused Classification rating in Australia via the OFLC. This meant that the game could not be sold or displayed at all in its current form. Warner Brothers Games appealed that decision and for the first time since Silverball in 2003 the games rating was dropped from RC to MA15+ (Strong violence, blood and gore. Moderate coarse language). The Australian version will therefore be totally uncut. So is it violent? Hell yes it is. Throw a grenade close enough to an enemy and their limbs will be blown off with an explosion of blood. Shoot someone with a shotgun close up and they will be pulverized. Having said that, this isn't sadistic styled violence. There's no real torture scenes, and when enemies are dead, their bodies can't be further dismembered etc. Still, this isn't a game for kids!

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F.E.A.R. 2 looks better then the original.
As with the first game in the series this is a FPS (First Person Shooter), but rather then simply being a straight-forward action title it manages to mix in some horror elements that are reminiscent of Japanese movies (such as Ringu) and games (such as Siren). The main character can carry several weapons which range from machine guns to sniper rifles, to rocket launchers and shotguns. Grenades including frag, shock and incendiary are also available to take out multiple, or tougher, and proximity mines are also available. Pressing the circle button on the PS3 controller allows you to use melee attacks.

One of the coolest features of F.E.A.R. 2 is the ability to slow down time. By pressing the triangle button on the Dual Shock 3 controller the game enters a slow-mo state where you have a little more time to aim, and take out enemies, or even avoid their gunfire. You'll need that too as the enemies in this game are pretty damn smart as they run for cover, and even tip over objects such as tables and cabinets to create cover if need be.

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What the hell is that?!
In terms of levels the 13-odd missions take place in a variety of locations from building and office interiors, to city streets, to subways, to large industrial and tech centers. There really is some variety here and you really do feel that you are travelling to different parts of the city - something which we didn't feel with Sony's Killzone 2.

One of the new additions to this game is the ability to jump into a mech suit for increased firepower, and increased resilience to enemy fire. This suit contains a massive machine gun which slices enemies into pieces, and a rocket launcher for some more brutal damage. On other occasions you'll be manning stationary guns to hold back waves of enemies. Nothing you haven't seen before, but always enjoyable give the tendency for these larger guns to obliterate the enemy and a good break from the running around.

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Using one of the massive battle suits.
Unfortunately one aspect of the game which we hoped would be a major part of the gameplay, the destructible environments, isn't really used unless you are in the big mech suit blasting away with the heavy machine gun or rockets. If you're running around using normal weapons or grenades there isn't much destruction at all, even wooden tables seem immune to weapons fire. While this isn't dissimilar to so many other games, we had hoped that Monolith could have pushed this aspect a bit.

So what other problems do we have with F.E.A.R. 2? Well the game isn't massively long, around 10 hours to complete it, perhaps a little more, but it is enjoyable enough that we'll play through it again. It must also be mentioned that the storyline isn't anywhere near as polished or detailed as we would expect. The opening mission is impressive, but when the explosion occurs in the city all hell breaks loose.

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Now that's a nice explosion.
I've never been a big fan of Gamespy as the engine powering online games. If not implemented properly it seems to run like a dogs dinner at times. Fortunately Monolith know exactly what they're doing and the multi-player component of F.E.A.R. 2 runs quite well with little lag and up to 16-players in a match. There are some decent mutli-player maps on offer and you have three different load outs available which can be altered. The game includes the usual multi-player game modes. There's nothing spectacularly different, and at least in our review copy an annoying habit of kicking you back to the main menu after a match (which means you then have to go through the menus again), but the experience is enjoyable.

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One of the tougher enemies.
Visually this game is very impressive. It seems that the final game is even better then the recently released demo on the Playstation Store with a little more spit and polish in places including an improved frame rate. Having said that the frame rate isn't perfect. It's not 60fps, not even 30fps for the most part. While this may be achieved in some areas there are still some other drops when looking at large exterior locations in particular. There are also some minor split-second pauses as teh game saves - but that's acceptable. On other levels the game isn't up there with some others in terms of texture quality and visual effects, but there's nothing terrible here either. Cut-scenes are good, but occasionally a little blocky as a result of video compression (the opening explosion sequence is one such example).

Animation on the human characters is impressive, and fluid, with the characters running around, jumping over objects, crashing through windows, taking cover and peering around from this cover to fire on your position. Where the animation falls a little rougher is with the enemies. Some of the not-so-human enemies, including one that runs around on all fours, jumps around and climbs walls, don't have the smoothest of animations. It's not game breaking, but is something you may notice from time to time.

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More haunting happenings in F.E.A.R. 2.
Sonically F.E.A.R. 2 is also impressive, very impressive in fact. Using Dolby Digital 5.1 audio the effects will surround you and when you are being scared shitless by the spirits the audio plays a key role in locating them in the darkened rooms. The games audio is also haunting when you flick from the real world to, well, the other haunting world. Voiceovers in the game area also impressive, with constant radio comms from your squad mates notifying you of situations beyond your immediate area. Music is also atmospheric and helps build the tension perfectly.

If you liked the first F.E.A.R. then you'll love this sequel which expands in almost every single area. If you weren't impressed by the port of the original game to the PS3, you'll be glad to hear this sequel, which has been developed by Monolith rather then Day 1 Studios, is a technically much more polished title. While F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin may not introduce too much new to the FPS genre this remains one of the best FPS's on the PS3 and is well worth a look.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSThis blood-soaked game looks great, animation is occasionally rough.
SOUNDVoices and music are effective, but the haunting sounds will get you.
GAMEPLAYIt's a FPS that doesn't do too much different, but is always fun.
VALUEProbably around 10 hours to complete the game, multi-player will see you return.
OVERALLF.E.A.R. 2 Project Origin is a great FPS given solid treatment on the PS3. Throw in some solid multiplayer and this is a game worth adding to your collection.

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