Sunday, January 25, 2009

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin (Xbox 360) Demo Impressions

I spent an hour experiencing sheer mediocrity and I want it back.

I'll keep this one short and brief: like F.E.A.R., I won't be getting any further with its sequel than the demo. As some of you may recall, the PC demo for F.E.A.R. pissed me off right in the menus, and the Xbox 360 demo was alright, but nothing spectacular enough to make me want to rush out and rent it, let alone buy the game. From my experience with the recently released demo for F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin (Xbox 360), it's more of the same.

You start off in the ruins of a city where a mysterious explosion has left a significant amount of chaos in its wake, and you need to link-up with the rest of your squad. You actually start off in a creepy vision related to Alma, the game's spectral protagonist, and it's various sequences like these that are the highlight of the demo. They're creepy and very atmospheric and really help to set the tone. Such sequences, along with a solid audio mix, are about where the good of the demo stops.

Visually, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin looks dated, and there's a horrible film grain effect that you can't turn off. Textures are flat and many random doodads in the environment look blocky. Honestly, it felt like I was playing a last gen title save for the lighting effects, which is a disappointment considering all the beautiful games recently released to compare it to. Character models looked good and moved well, but they weren't anything to write home about. However, we all know a game's top strength comes from its actual gameplay, and not the visuals, but sadly, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin's demo really let me down here as well.

Gameplay wise, your character moves like he's walking through molasses; I can't stress how annoying I found his very movement. There's also the usual console annoyance where you can't re-map your controller (I'll never understand why developer's love restricting one's ability to re-assign some buttons) so I'd always end up Sprinting when I meant to Crouch, which made using cover trickier.

And you'll want to use cover, as the game's enemies, I'm talking specifically about the soldiers you fight in the demo, have some good AI where they take advantage of cover themselves, try to flank you, fall back, etc. It's some good AI, though nothing I haven't seen in other recent games and far less impressive than in the original title. When it comes down to it though, you can take away all the challenge the AI has to offer by using Reflexes.

Like the first game, you can use your Reflexes for a short period of time to go into "bullet time," and basically butcher anyone who comes your way with the standard fair of weapons. Submachine guns, shotguns, sniper rifle, rocket launcher, the usual. Essentially, the gameplay of the F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin demo became a simple sequence of advance forward, once enemies arrive activate Reflexes, gut them all, wash, rinse, repeat. It got old real fast, and I had to stop using Reflexes just try and keep some challenge alive.

You also very briefly get to pilot around a mech, blasting away slowly re-spawning enemies until you get to the demo's conclusion, and while relatively fun, it's nothing I haven't seen or done before years ago.

I suppose when it comes right down to it, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin's demo screamed dated at me, thus the demo felt rather mediocre and certainly didn't inspire me to want to pick up the full version.

I know a lot of people, particularly PC gamers, are looking forward to F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin with a passion, and if this is an example of a top quality PC shooter, I'm glad I switched to Microsoft's console's years ago. At least they can release a decent trailer.

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