Kill them. Kill them all…
Alongside the slow-motion combat, repetitive scenery and the melding of horror sequences with breathtaking action, F.E.A.R. certainly carved its place in the memories of FPS enthusiasts as one of those rare titles with a kick-ass intro sequence which even now, three years after the game’s launch, would still fare more than decently as a low-budget flick. Back in 2005 you were the new “point man” for F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon), a unit secretly created by the American government to combat paranormal threats, and your extraordinary reflexes allowed you to kill an obscene number of enemies with an ease worthy of a better cause.
The action in Project Origin starts approximately 30 minutes before its predecessor’s end, but this time you’re in the boots of Michael Becket, member of a Delta team that’s been sent to arrest Genevieve Aristide, Armacham Technology Corporation’s CEO. It seems that the problems which resulted from the attempts at creating commanders who can telepathically control battalions of Replica clone-soldiers made Armacham’s board of directors shove Aristide aside and start cleaning up. Files, witnesses, underground labs… corporate format by the numbers.
Your purpose is to arrest the ol’ lass and protect her until she confesses for the entire charade. And it’s not the least bit surprising that things don’t go according to plan and in the end you’re hunted by none other than Alma… y’know, that little girl with heavy breath, who is now very eager to… devour you. You’ll see why.
And since we’re on the “learning things” page, Monolith filled up Project Origin with all kinds of brochures, memos, e-mails and instant messenger logs that add consistency to the story. Many of the questions raised by the first game now find their answer and other elements (the Armacham projects, the improvements to the Replica soldiers) are explained in detail for people who want to find out more about the mythology behind the machine gun bursts.
That’s why, although we are dealing with a classic linear corridor-type shooter, it’s still recommended to search every corner for clues and take your finger off the W key for a second if you see a door that might pose some interest, or some tight space through which you could crawl. You’ll either find one such story jigsaw mentioned earlier or a Reflex Injector that increases the Slow Motion’s duration.
In FEAR, the ability to slow down time was hereditary, while Project Origin stamps out a few artificial improvements, but the end result is the same: a substantial advantage over your enemies. And you will need it, because you’ll always be outnumbered, with at least three or four grunts wanting nothing more than to skin you alive. And the fellas actually move pretty naturally and are accurate enough (well, those of them who actually use guns, anyway) to send you swiftly to higher planes of existence.
However, It’s pretty darn funny that combat seems relatively easy when you use slow motion, even on the highest level of difficulty, but in real-time the action’s speed is extremely high and you won’t have any time to slack. “Military-type” enemies will always look for flanking routes and they’re not going to wait for you in one spot unless you shoot at them, forcing them to duck and cover to keep their heads in one piece.
More so, they can now make their own cover with whatever’s at their disposal, although the usefulness of this feature, aside from the coolness factor, is debatable at best. The main reason for this is that when you turn a table over, for instance, even if you’re crouching you’ll still be a hairdo too tall to avoid a quick trip to the Game Over screen. Fortunately, this also applies to the enemy. What I found annoying regarding the AI is its reluctance to use grenades, and when it actually does, it’s very likely that they’ll land miles away from where they’re supposed to. Or blow themselves up in the process.
Fortunately, we have a way bigger variety of bad guys, so you won’t miss any kinds of opponents, even if some of them do manage to kill themselves. The Replica soldiers are back once more, including the heavily armored nailgun-wielding colossi and the assassins who can cloak and dodge your bullets with a fluidity that may cause you to take a generous bite out of your keyboard unless you’re using the slow-motion ability. Armacham Mercenaries will also pose a serious threat, while the paranormal domain has its ghostly apparitions, mutants that can reanimate and control dead bodies around them or the failed Armacham genetic experiments.
Since repetitiveness was one of the first FEAR’s major flaws, Monolith was careful to have much more varied locations this time around. Now I’m not saying you won’t take the occasional stroll around the office, but you’ll also get to underground labs, subway stations, nuclear reactors or the devastated streets of Auburn. And aside from the background change, it’s important that even a subterranean base alternates between close-combat areas and more open ones, where you can put a bullet in your enemy’s head from a respectable distance.