The follow-up to 2005's supernatural first-person shooter F.E.A.R., an acronym for First Encounter Assault and Recon, places you in the shoes of Sgt. Michael Becket.
If you recall from the first game, you play as an unnamed character with enhanced psychic abilities and increased strength sent to investigate the paranormal activity in an abandoned city district, where you are confronted by a ghostly (and vengeful) little girl named Alma.
Heavily inspired by Japanese horror movies (or perhaps the American remakes of Japanese horror movies), along with John Woo action movies, 2005's F.E.A.R. was noted for its intense gunfights (made even more stylish with your character's superior reflexes which slow down time), distinctive atmospheric lighting to create tension, and a very smart AI. But perhaps most of all, F.E.A.R. was also a subtle and compelling psychological thriller.
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin takes place about a half-hour before the end of the first game, which, if you recall, ended with a nuclear explosion which would devastate a nearby metropolis.
Obviously, as Michael Becket, you are now a different character first sent to arrest Genevive Aristede, the CEO of the corporation responsible for the misdeeds implied in the first game through telephone voice mails which the player would periodically come across.
But after the nuclear explosion leaves you unconscious, you wake up as the victim of an operation in which you are implanted with the same supernatural reflexes as the character in the first game.
Once again, throughout the game, you are granted with superior reflexes to your opponents, giving you the tactical advantage. And you are also confronted with ghostly visions, including Alma.
Rather than revisit the repetitive labyrinths of office buildings and warehouses that punctuated the first game, F.E.A.R. 2 attempts to spice things up, for better or worse, by adding more variety. Let's just say that while the variety is there, it sometimes feels out of place. In addition, much of what's explored in the game has been done in countless other games.
In F.E.A.R. 2, you'll get to explore a hospital, an abandoned elementary school, an abandoned underground subway, and the devastated streets of a major city after a nuclear blast, painted with all the ghostly apparitions in between.
Graphically, the game has notably higher-rez textures and even more atmospheric lighting, which is, again, an improvement for the F.E.A.R. franchise, but is nothing special by today's FPS gaming standards. The slow-motion gunfights, however, continue to be impressive and intense.
But where the game truly shines is through its wicked intelligent AI (continuing the trend of the first game) and especially its amazing sound, which is what really keeps the player engaged.
There are some genuinely creepy moments. Like the first game, there will be moments where you walk through empty hallways waiting for something to pop out -- sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't -- plus some unforeseen plot twists -- some of which work well, some of which are disappointing.
Particularly problematic is the character dialogue, which, given developer Monolith's track record for cinematic quality writing, is a bit underwhelming and sometimes unintentionally funny. Furthermore, the attempts at humor are often funny in the wrong way and feel displaced.
Overall, however, F.E.A.R. 2 is a relatively engaging first-person shooter, and although nothing terribly innovative, especially given the first game's achievement, it is worthy of a try and perhaps retry.