The demo for the seemingly long-delayed FEAR 2 was released on Steam today. It’s a hefty 1.8gb, so it might be an overnight job for some of you. I’ve played it a couple of times now, so here are some thoughts:
It does seem on the whole, to be same-old-same-old. I think it’s a case of if you loved FEAR, and want more, you’ll probably love it. It really is the old game transferred onto (an admittedly sexy) new engine. i.e. corridors full of angry men and bullets, while the environment half-falls apart around you. It looks amazing, and the new physics are incredibly authentic looking. I particularly love the weapons – one of the previous game’s highlights if you remember, and they’re back with a vengence. They’re joyously destructive and lethal; with one proviso. The sound effects are shit. Here you are ripping a soldier in half with a sniper rifle that barely audibly registers. It genuinely detracts from the satisfaction of using them. Given the high quality of atmospheric audio, it’s even more glaring.
I can’t say it’s particularly scary though. All the moments that are clearly meant to be are as frequent as they are obvious, and to be honest, I wasn’t made to jump or freak out once. The “ghosts” in one section were more a distraction than anything else. I can’t help but feel the pacing is off – in the space of 10-20 seconds you’re creeping through a darkly lit corridor, the next you’re taking on hordes of replicants. The chief horror influence is clearly of course, The Ring – but The Ring didn’t chuck heavily armed soldiers at the viewer every minute or two. Alma’s a genuinely memorable character – and indeed, probably the chief selling point from a narrative point of view. The soldiers don’t really fit that, at least in my opinion.
The demo gives you a taste of the power-armour sections of the game, and to be honest, I felt it was too dis-orientating. The best comparison would be the tank levels in Medal of Hono(u)r: Allied Assault; wandering round an environment with very angry people, all appearing out of nowhere while you desperatly try to fend them off. It did look all very cool mind.
I have to say, I’m not terribly impressed. The graphics are stunning, but perhaps not the leap the first game presented. The combat is visceral and intense as ever, but not really that different. And it’s just not terribly scary. But I get the feeling, that if you liked FEAR, this sequel will more or less live up to it. It is a demo of course as well, and this is by no means a review (nor really a review at all actually) of the full game, so we’ll see how things turn out come release next month.