Mar 20, 2009 10:51 AM EST

F.E.A.R. 2 A Sequel That Wasn't

F.E.A.R. 2 A Sequel That Wasn't
A commodity is something that is in demand, but there is no distinction between brands. An example of this is "wheat".  Another example is Monolith's F.E.A.R. 2.  Following in the footsteps of F.E.A.R. the game is a shooter wherein you are some kind of SWAT-team kind of guy who is sent to handle really explosive situations.

In this situation, the Armacham Corporation is unleashing a genetically-tested generic spooky-girl from Japanese horror movies on the world.  You are sent in to stop her, or be telepathically eaten by her - I guess something like that. You shoot a lot of crap!

F.E.A.R. 2 is commoditized in the world of First-Person Shooters (FPS's): if there is anything that distinguishes it from other shooters, I have not seen it.  To be fair though, I played only the first two levels of I; and when Roger Ebert, my reviewing idol, saw only the first eight minutes of a movie and reviewed the whole movie based on that, he regretted it.  He felt he was unfair to the beginning filmmakers (who he mocked). On the other hand, Ebert paid nothing to watch that movie. I paid for F.E.A.R. 2.

It must be said -- I am not as upset with F.E.A.R. 2 as Roger was with that movie; however, I can't say too many wonderful things about it either.  F.E.A.R. 2 is pretty, but today most of these games are pretty.  F.E.A.R. 2 has interesting an enemy, AI -- but, again, today, that is not all that noteworthy.  It is cool to watch them duck behind cover and flip over tables, but really! They are mostly getting shattered by my SMG bullets, so they do not last long enough to make an impression.

I am grateful to the enemies who wear explosive packs on: they blow up nicely when I shoot them.

The vocal acting is good, but it is like an average meal that has really good parsley.  If the parsley is a decayed stinking bramble-filled weed, it could hurt the experience; but that is about as far as that goes.  The weapons are decent, at least, those that I saw.  They were reasonably powered, had lots of ammo, and so on.  You get bullet-time.  You get health kits you can carry.  These are game-play bonuses that other games had worked out years ago and having them grouped here is nice, but it doesn't add up to an innovative package.  Best-practices only get you to a reasonably good baseline.

Mostly, though, F.E.A.R. 2 is easy.  On the normal setting, I never died once in several hours of play.  I am not a greatly skilled player, but I expect the normal-setting to have at least one or two non-boss encounters where I feel desperate or trapped.  That did not happen.

It is also trying hard to be spooky. The good news for F.E.A.R. 2 is that the generic Japanese spooky girl is moderately scary.  Her role and use is pretty good.  She does all of the generic spooky-girl things.  She pops out; she swings a swing; she carries a doll; she looks at you with those haunted eyes.  All of this gets the generic-spooky-girl effect.  But once again, simply having an adequate prop begs for an above-adequate implementation; and F.E.A.R. 2, from what I saw, does not deliver!

The first level, a penthouse assault, is nicely done -- lots of breakable stuff and some interesting elements.  The hospital level, on the other hand, is way too long and perfectly similar.  What I mean by this is the same-ness of each piece of the level is almost overwhelming.  Yes, it is detailed; yes, it looks real, yes; the layout is "sane".

However, hospitals, water-treatment plants, etc. are not that much fun to spend so much time in.  In the end, there was nothing in F.E.A.R. 2 that really grabbed me.  It is competent. It is not stellar. It does everything right, but it doesn't have the heart that other games I have played has.    In short, although I'm still playing it, I cannot really recommend it.

Possibly it is similar to the movie that Ebert reviewed, it gets better much later!

-- Marco Chacon
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