The more astute out there may have noticed that Monolith and WBIE have put out demos of F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin for all 3 launch formats.
Impressions after the cut...
We were planning to have our first proper CNS discussion over this, but seeing as Barry is busy with nappies and other undesirables, it's down to me.
When you first play the demo, it's like F.E.A.R. never left - the demo again features a custom-built mini-experience that takes features, set-pieces & equipment from across the full game to provide an intensive course in the entire experience, sort of like those 'learn to drive in 5 easy sessions' efforts. Obviously such a disjointed experience isn't very conductive to the narrative (obviously morsels of exposition, such as 'how your character gets slow-mo powers' and 'why there are still Replica soldiers running around shooting you' are being left for the full release) but it serves its purpose.
Monolith have clearly sat back and analysed a good deal of crit thrown at the latest generation of first-person shooters, such as them being too open (with not enough content), too unscripted (lacking direction) and too easy (regenerating health). So they've thrown everything out of the window and given us a corridor shooter with health & armour pickups, sudden shocks that are more interactive than the original and the same great A.I. we've learned to know and love from a Monolith shooter.
Weapons feel meaty and substantial (although the shotgun seems to be lacking the raw and brutal impact of the first game) and the grenades are as deliciously destructive as always. Information is presented in a more convenient way than the original game with a full onscreen HUD system recording interesting and required data alongside your mission objectives - Answerphone messages & hackable laptops with one-shot plot reveals have been replaced by discoverable CDs & PDAs which leave behind write-ups for you to peruse at your leisure.
Thankfully, enemy variety is up, with the original games grunts, stealthy ninjas and 2 tiers of heavies bolstered up by some sniper-wielding marksmen (who give away their position quite readily with their targetting laser, just so you can return the favour) and rival EPA pilots when you're stomping around blowing things up in the mech. (Note to Monolith - return to Shogo pls kthxbye!)
A lot of hoohah has been made about the removal of the melee moves from the original, but that's not entirely accurate - gone are the fisticuffs and jumping roundhouse, but they were hard to use anyway since often you were ventilated by the A.I. before you got near enough to make them effective. Rifle-butts remain, as do the flying kick and slide which are now used by jumping or crouching whilst sprinting, making them more useful as you close on your opponents and doubling up as a method of clearing obstacles ala. Mirror's Edge.
Performance is, like the original, smooth on a decent spec machine. On my aging machine, everything ran just fine at 1440x900 with 2XFSAA, 4xFSAA and all detail settings at maximum, apart from a noticable bit of slowdown during the sniper-alley area, but I put this down to all the fire effects going on.
The original game relished the shocks and scares, using scene cuts, the physics engine and some great sound design to leave you unhinged, jumpy and trigger happy. Project Origin takes this to the next level, with full blow destruction occuring even in closed off rooms - at one point, a person you are tasked with finding jumps you (in a fashion reminiscent of Condemned), driven mad by everyone's favourite little girl, only to find himself flipped onto the ceiling then dragged out of view and mutilated, blood caking the room. Visually pleasant is not the word. Then there's the small experience in the cinema... Suck it and see!
As mentioned above, F.E.A.R. 2 is trying to be as traditional as the current climate will allow - the game takes no risks with what it is doing, following the path set by its predecessor fairly ridgidly whilst improving on it in places. Many will look on the multi-format of the release as comprimising the game for the mass market, but it's honestly hard to see where concessions have been made. The linearity appears to be by design, not as a result and whilst shooting the same few guys can get samey, it worked for the original because the clever AI, coupled with the level design, made it fun and there's no reason why Project Origin cannot repeat that sucess.
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is out on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Games for Windows on the 10th of February in the US and 13th of February in the EU.