The original F.E.A.R took FPS AI to another level via flanking oppontents, grenade chucking opponents, and certain maneuvers that just made the player scratch their head in amazement. Sadly, the game was saddled with some level design that was rather devoid of any soul and was pretty much one deep, dark, and dank corridor after another. Luckily, the gameplay pulled the game out of the gutter and moved it to must-play status just to fight against the highly advanced AI.

In the first F.E.A.R, you took the role of the Point Man as you chased down an army of clones and their leader who were all controlled by a child named Alma. Then throw in some human genetic modification, more clones, futuristic weapons, ghosts, psychic attacks and you pretty much have FEAR in a nutshell. Does this make your head spin yet? If it does, I recommend you attempt to find the little free booklet that Gamestop was giving out that covered all of the different sequels and prequels to the game. All you, as the player, need to know is that Alma is back, free, and pissed at what was done to her while in captivity. You take the role of Michael Becket (Delta Force Soldier), who is sent in before Alma was released, to capture Genevieve Aristide (one of the bigwigs in the corporation that created this mess), and you actually see the end of the original FEAR as Alma goes nuclear on the surrounding area. The actually story continues to be more grim as you see what experiments are performed on yourself and your friends as both your body and mind become overwhelmed.

Test Computer: Q9300 Quadcore Processor, 6 gigs of DDR3 RAM, Windows Vista Ultimate 64bit, 9800GTX+ video card by Nvidia/BFG.

Compared to the previous game, FEAR2 is a definite upgrade in the graphical department. The textures aren’t as bland as in FEAR and we can see some cool lighting effects that add to the feeling of horror that is present in the game. Let us not forget the awesome weapons that are now present ranging from a pretty cool flamethrower to an industrial strength laser. Overall, the environments and the characters are beautifully rendered and the player has the ability to tip over desks and create makeshift cover while mowing down enemy targets. Also, being able to bust through certain walls and tear apart the environment with gunfire looks pretty dang cool.

One of the coolest effects in the game is tied to the mechs you can commandeer during certain sections. You pretty much see the character go into the powered armor and lock himself up tight. Then the HUD comes up and you see through the eyes of the robot. Heck, I wish our cars nowadays would have a way to implement something like that interface as it would definitely make my commute a much more enjoyable experience.

It is very noticeable where corners were cut though in the creating of the engine. The clipping issue that rears its ugly head is present en masse. I have seen plenty of characters stuck in the wall or hiding partially inside of wall. With a game that is released on both the consoles and the PC, enough testing should come into play to eliminate or at least minimize such an issue.

The atmosphere created by the ambient sound and the music was something the original FEAR excelled in and it is back stronger than ever in FEAR2. The music morphs to a different style depending on the type of situation you are in. The sounds themselves make you jump back as Alma launches her psychic attacks upon the mind of the player. I personally played the game with the lights out, a headset on, and behind a closed door. The experience kept my heart beating faster than it should. The crushing of bones, the sound of flesh being stripped off of bones, and the sound of the weapons firing all comprise a game where the audio department did an amazing job in the way the audio ties in with the game.

The controls are of usual FPS fare with the ability for the player to reassign keys as needed. I had an issue with the original setup due to the slow motion key being assigned to the key that I usually use as the crouch key. That was quickly remedied by me changing to a different key setup. Other than that, the controls are very responsive…don’t break what isn’t broken. You can definitely see where the console port behavior comes into play though as you navigate through the menus at the beginning of the game. Large buttons that allow someone with a clunky controller to make easy selections (don’t hurt me Keith, just had to get a punch on the consoles in).

Usually, when a sequel comes out, new features are added, the AI is improved, and issues from the previous game are remedied due to customer/player feedback. It looks like something might have gone horribly wrong when this game was designed for the consoles in tandem withe personal computer. The weapons themselves have a much larger spread now than they have had in the previous game. Aiming has just gotten a little more difficult. Hopefully a patch will attempt to fix some of the spread that is present with the weapon system.

The AI in the game itself seems to also have been dumbed down compared to the previously competent opponents that were faced in the original game. Even with the highest difficulty level, I had less issues with beating the game than I did on the medium difficulty on the original FEAR. Not sure if the abundance of armor and med kits has anything to do with it, but it really might. Was the game dumbed down to get a larger audience? It is really bizarre to see the enemy soldiers flank you and act like super soldiers and then all of sudden make bonehead moves like charging in with no reason to.

The traditional dark corridors also make a resurgence as the favorite design choice in level development. This time we see some more environments…oh wait, most of the game takes place inside of the Earth in a hidden lab underneath the ground or in a burned out city. This time the AI isn’t good enough to balance out the rather dull level design that is present. I understand that the dark corridors and hallways are needed for the horror “magic” to work its wonders, but it can be overdone.

One feature I had a blast with were the powered armor sections that are dispersed throughout the single player campaign. Your character climbs in and becomes a one man army brimming with shields, chainguns, missiles, and different types of views on the HUD. It is good to see Michael be able to take advantage of some of the replica technology to wreck havoc.

While on the topic of the single player campaign, I want to delve a little into how the story is told throughout the game. The story is not only told through dialogue but also through different data slates that are found throughout the game world. I am torn on if this was a good idea as I don’t mind reading the information contained within the slates but it seems like most of the US has ADD so I am not sure if having so much to read breaks the immersion of the game. Then again, it might be a tad bit better than Bioshock where the voice clip was drowned when you were ambushed while attempting to listen to the tape.

The multiplayer portion of the game was a total separation from the single player game and didn’t really break any new ground. In the capture the flag variant, people carry PHLAGS (a container that leaks a glowing liquid that allows for easier recovery of the “flag”). One of the other variants in multiplayer were actually a blast though even though everyone ran for the powered armor. Armored front has a cool concept of capturing different points on the map for victory. The bomb diffusion gameplay variant entitled was also neat as you struggled to deactivate a bomb that is planted by the opposing team. The multiplayer has a single flaw though: No bots! How something as essential as that can be left out of a game might spell the death of the multiplayer scene in FEAR2.

Once you defeat the game on the hardest difficulty level, the only reason to delve back into the game is to finish the achievements that you might have missed during the first play through. Afterwards, the game becomes more of a paperweight than anything else. The online multiplayer servers were a tad bit sparse and with no bots, there is no reason that compels you to play after you finish the game. Tied to the fact that the game is tied to your Steam account once installed, this game doesn’t even allow you to resell it once you are finished with it.

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