How to Make F.E.A.R. 2 Interesting Again

December 14, 2011

You know those old games you used to play? You remember them fondly, but also remember how foolish you were back then? Or are they like the Ex you keep trying to leave but keep going back to because you never find anything better. Well, I guess the F.E.A.R. series is straddling in between those two things. The first game was a brilliantly made shooter. Despite that nearly 95% of the time you were fighting the same enemy type, it kept feeling fresh. Why? Because nearly a dozen different weapons were offered you, and practically any combination could be made to work for you (aside from that one boom cannon with four barrels — that might as well have been a tank piloted by gremlins on crystal meth). The AI is still hard to beat even today, and at least parts of the story were genuinely interesting. Yes, the ending to the first game sucked until it finally got to the -very- end, but at least it didn’t have a QTE boss fight, right?
Now I hadn’t played the FEAR series on it’s launch, so I got to play each game in sequence (granted I stopped playing the non-Monolith trilogy rather early on and then waited patiently for FEAR 2 to install). When I first played FEAR 2, I was honestly disappointed (and if you’re a fan, you probably were too) for about the first hour and a half of the game. Instead of throwing new Replica soldiers at us like in the first game, it threw apparently dumber spec-ops soldiers, and gave us the illusion of actually helpful allies (seriously, why do we even count them as more than cheerleaders?. Then, finally we get the enemies back that we wanted, but it still doesn’t feel the same. We can now carry a 4th weapon, but we also now can only carry 3 medkits, we can’t upgrade our health, bullet-time upgrades are far more sparse, and environments are far more industrialized. I’ll admit the game does use more than just gray and brown, but I’d actually argue that at least something like Gears of War or Warhammer: Space Marine had inspired locals, if not colorful ones. FEAR 2 starts in a hospital, and ends on an island or silo somewhere (with the only the truly well handled horror elements happening in the school section that somehow happen just before the end). The nightmare sequence boss fight was a serious upgrade to FEAR’s ending, but the disturbing concept that your protagonist was being raped by an undead ghost sociopath woman certainly just made you go “W…T…F?”

That was my first time through. Afterwards, I tried the multiplayer a little (it’s actually nicely handled, and very polished, but there’s a feeling they are holding players back just to keep it balanced). Then I let it rest as I played through more games. Coming back to it years later, it feels like my expectations are lowered, but not to the same extent you’d have for something like a Resident Evil game. I played it to show a friend it. The fact was.. the game’s flaws were more clear to me, and the serious overtone was broken. I couldn’t feel invested in it, until I tried something some of FEAR’s hardcore fans would call unthinkable:

I started playing Katy Perry’s “Hot n Cold” in the background. Somehow it not only was in sync with the action, but it made the experience feel like it was new again. Because I felt like I was genuinely having fun, I was able to actually perform better in-game, and no longer was I a cover hugging idiot. I would jump into the fray, load bullets into the nearest enemy, slow down time, shotgun the next nearest bastard, toss a grenade, and then get back to cover for just long enough to regen my slow-mo. I felt like I was breezing through the levels, and I died rarely even though I was running head first at enemies. I even managed to get the lift moving in the one section -with- the boss fight mech firing at me. You should have seen the non-visible look on the pilot’s face when I just left to the next level without even giving him a passing glance.

And so, I’ve wasted enough of your time with this Side Note. But be sure to consider trying this idea out one some other game you enjoyed once. Maybe you’ll find it’s a helluvalot better to beat the Covenant senseless while listening to Florence + The Machine .


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