Gameplay follows the trends set by F.E.A.R., with most of the action occurring indoors in tight, confined quarters. This is one of Project Origin’s greatest drawbacks however, as each narrow corridor is about as interesting as an office building at midnight. Why bother destroying a city in a nuclear explosion if we are going to be stuck indoors the entire time, when we would rather see the carnage from the outside? We did see some game play improvements, such as the new ability to overturn tables and cover similar to the replica soldiers in the first game. This would be a lot better however if we could lean around the cover. Monolith decided to remove the lean function from F.E.A.R. 2 for some reason, which really limits your ability to shoot around cover. We felt like we were playing a game from 10 years ago, crouched behind cover and slowly strafing out to take shots at enemies. In the end, we just didn’t bother to overturn cover pieces, since it was more difficult to get a proper angle around it by using strafe, instead of lean like we should’ve been able to.
Other notable F.E.A.R. features return, such as slow motion and close combat. SlowMo is explained after a few levels as your character gets “activated” in a hospital run by Armacham. Hand to hand combat is still as fun to pull off as it was in F.E.A.R., especially if you find yourself reloading and facing an enemy at close range. You kind of feel like Neo in the lobby scene of The Matrix, when you charge a replica and round house kick him in the face. Frankly, I can’t think of a better way to say hello.
Many of the weapons from F.E.A.R. return, along with a few new ones like the Hammerhead, which replaces the Penetrator. Weapon combat is satisfying and fun, especially in SlowMo where you can see bullet trails. A majority of the levels are broken up between scary and action-oriented segments. Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to tell which is coming up, with frights usually prefaced by your HUD becoming full of static when Alma is nearby, and hard driving music kicking in just before you get assaulted by a squad of replicas. Which leads us to one of our biggest complaints with F.E.A.R. 2: it’s just not that scary after about halfway through it. The first few levels have some good jolts, but after that, they become pretty predictable and even annoying as you start to think, “Here comes a fright…” The first game had a nasty (and fantastic) habit of scaring us right after major combat, just when we weren’t expecting it. F.E.A.R. 2 lacks these moments, with the combat segments thoroughly disconnected from the horror segments, so it makes them easy to pick out.
While the original F.E.A.R. shipped without a multiplayer component whatsoever, a free add-on released later added basic deathmatch and team deathmatch support. While hardly groundbreaking, F.E.A.R. Combat was still fast-paced fun and certainly worth the download. For Project Origin, Monolith has built multiplayer right into the game thankfully and added some interesting game modes to keep players occupied. All modes allow you to configure your character to your tastes based on a point system. For example, heavy armor offers greater protection, but comes at a greater cost so you will unfortunately have to probably drop one of your secondary weapons. You can have up to 3 pre-defined configurations, which should be more than enough to satisfy any situation that arises. All the single player weapons are featured here, although some only occur as item pick-ups scattered across the various maps.
Game modes featured include deathmatch, team deathmatch, control, armored front, failsafe, and blitz. The deathmatches are pretty self explanatory, while control is a control point-based mode similar to Battlefield 2. Failsafe is F.E.A.R.’s take on the 'defuse the bomb' game play of Counter-Strike; while Blitz is simply capture the flag. Armored Front is a different take on control, with the big difference being both teams get access to a single deployment of powered armor controlled by a player. While it can be loads of fun, people tend to queue up next to the armor spamming the “get in vehicle” button, similar to the helicopters in BF2. It would’ve been better had the game randomly chosen the player who gets to control the powered armor, like how a Tank is chosen in Left 4 Dead. Otherwise, you end up with half your team trying to get in the armor, while the other half tries to grief the successful player.
Multiplayer is still as fun and fast-paced as the original games’, but we did not like the matchmaking method of play. Monolith has not included dedicated server support and according to a post on their forums, they currently have no intention to do so. A lack of dedicated server means you are at the whim of the controlling player and his connection. Also, you run into similar issues I’ve had with Xbox Live, searching for a game only to be disconnected once you try to connect.