Thursday, January 14, 2010

FEAR2 review.

As I mentioned in my entry on game stories it's possible to play both FEAR and FEAR2 without bothering to take in what's going on. So if you haven't played the first one don't worry about it. If you're thinking of picking up one go for the second for the PS3 it's got achievements... and that's basically the difference.

In fact you might have an advantage in not playing the first one given that they've switched some of the controls around, go to throw a grenade and up pops the weapon selection screen - damn.

It starts off as a standard FPS throws some 'horror' elements at you and adds in slow-mo a few levels in then settles down as a standard FPS.

First off some applause is necessary for the Lithtech engine, I liked it in Condemned 2, I liked it in FEAR and no surprise I like it here too. Yeah it's not hot with detailed textures at times, and you can see the switch happen between far-off and close-to textures; but what I like is the way it handles light and shadows. Objects cast shadows, enemies cast shadows and even you cast a shadow. For those not used to older games this may seem to be obvious, but it's not. Moving shadows can be computationally complex so the easiest method is to lay down a shadow map of fixed items, like walls etc, and forget about the rest. Seeing your shadow loom against a wall is a shock in itself. Another nice touch is that you have a body, look down and there are your feet. Again this may not seem shocking, but so many games, even those that allow a third-person perspective, turn you into a floating eye as soon as you switch to first-person. It just makes the game feel more solid.

Anyway who cares about the engine if the game made with it is rubbish. Sadly as I've said this is pretty much a standard FPS. You move along shoot the baddies and carry on. You get the standard do this to get past this type of actions and you get the locked doors your arsenal can't get through, but mysteriously open once the baddies reach them.

AI isn't bad, yes I've watched enemies try to shoot at me through impregnable doors or glass and yes I've seen them lob a grenade at me from behind cover only to have it rebound at them. On the other hand I've watched them scatter from a grenade, use cover well, and attempt to flank me. There's a reasonable selection of them too about 8 or 9 different types. Sadly they're still scripted so that guard will always appear at this point walking along that path unless you disturb them which always takes the fun out of it for me.

Level design itself is pretty linear and mostly interior corridors though I will say they've made it feel different heading through an office is different to the school; and there are some larger industrial areas and outdoor sections, though these are simply bigger corridors in all but name.

The weapon selection process is a little iffy. Hold L1 and you'll get the four guns you can carry shown in a vertical line and the grenade types crossing it horizontally. Use the stick to pick what you want. You can also use the d-pad or tap L1 to switch between last-used weapons. In that instance it works, but it has a nasty habit of moving the weapon positions and seeing as the game doesn't pause trying to switch from a missile-launcher to the shotgun that was one-down and is now one-up is frustrating.

Weapons themselves next and I'll start with the grenades types; Frag, Incendiary, Shock and Proximity. In theory they all have their uses, in practice you'll be using Frag with the occasional Shock for bots. See Incendiary has a nice spread and will cause an enemy to flail about out of cover allowing you to shoot them, but that's difficult when you're pinned down by other baddies. As for Proximity, useful to lay down in front of you as an enemy advances, but I never needed to. That might be different on the Hardest difficulty setting and I'll revise that when I re-play the game.

Anyway onto the weapons themselves and the standard close, medium, long, and heavy types. There's a choice between the types and nicely they do actually feel different. The Assault Rifle fires in short bursts that allows you to keep it on target the machine gun empties a clip as quick as can be but pulls. You actually stop to consider which four weapons you want based on the differences and not just what's got the most ammo. One pain is the sniper rifle; it has no cross-hair when you're not zoomed in. Makes sense it that it's supposed to be used in only that way, but due to the offset nature it means you're not sure where it's pointing. Spot a soldier creeping along and zoom in and you could find yourself aiming nowhere near them.

Sadly they've done little about the final level. In FEAR you had a shooting gallery of ghosts charging straight at you and in FEAR2 you have a gallery of soldier (sic) charging at you and shooting while occasionally taking cover. It's tense and can be frustrating and it's certainly adrenalin-rushed the first time you do it; but then you learn the pattern, realise that once you've taken out one wave you can put your feet up and wait for your reflex gauge to re-fill as the next wave won't be triggered until you move forward.

Oh and do I need to mention quick time events? Or in this case hammer the circle button. Again people maybe it's just me but I can't hammer any of the buttons with my thumb so I need to release the triggers to do these; then you ask me to hit R2 gee thanks.

So yeah I'll play it again in a cathartic kill-em-all way and to pick up a couple of achievements I've missed, but it's not an 'OMG you must buy this' game.

Next up will be Prototype.