F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
I was very fond of the first F.E.A.R. and luckily, F.E.A.R. 2 is a worthy sequel, even though my first playthrough about a year and a half ago wasn't such a blast. For some reason, I was able to appreciate the game more during my latest playthrough. This might have something to do with the fact that I was exhausted from having recently played through Cod 4: MW, MW 2 and Black Ops where you have hardly any control over what happens.
Anyways, F.E.A.R. is about two thigns: scares and combat. Alma has grown up a bit since the first part but she relies pretty much on the same bag of tricks as before. A couple of scenes really scared the shit out of me (avoid the fucking swing when you get to Still Island!) and the game obviously benefits from more modern engine technology with which to create more intense horror scenes. Funny that I don't recall the first playthrough being this scary. One thing is a must though: You have to play this game at night with all lights turned off and with headphones on! Otherwise you might as well be watching Teletubbies.
On to combat then. Two things stand out: firepower and slow-mo. Your enemies are mostly relatively weak humans or ghosts that die from one shot and the way you deal with enemies consists of jumping into the slow-mo mode and clearing out a room in a matter of seconds. Practically every weapon is useful and lots of fun. Few things in this world are as fun as dispensing headshots with the sniper rifle in slow-mo. The usefulness of weapons is pretty evident in the fact that you can carry only four weapons at a time and every time you wish to pick up a new gun, you're gonna regret having to let one of your old ones go.
But what really makes the game's gameplay stand out is pacing. Like in the first game, pretty much every level has tons of segments where you don't do any fighting for many minutes. When you encounter enemies, they're not just randomly scattered around the map à la Doom, but their placement actually makes sense; you don't come across any leftovers, single soldiers desperately lost from their squads. It is simply outstanding how well this system works. While Call of Duty gives you nothing but one exhausting firefight after another, F.E.A.R. is all about finely tuned pacing, combined with an excellent soundtrack that hits the right notes at the right time. Oh, and on top of the usual combat scenes there are also two levels where you get to play with a mechanized combat armor, strolling through devastated city streets while blasting your enemies into tiny bits.
One aspect that was a subject of heavy criticism in F.E.A.R. was its generic level design. The game featured only three locations: an industrial district, an office complex and an underground facility. I didn't really mind because I loved the Armacham headquarters. Objectively speaking, F.E.A.R. 2 is not much better in the level design department. You're treated with one underground complex after another (three underground bases along with a subway) and if you happened to play the original's mission packs, there's really nothing new. Except for Wade Elementary. This school is one nasty place where you're constantly surrounded by children's drawings and other stuff you expect to find from a typical elementary. Combine this with tons of blood, scares and the school's true purpose and you've got one disturbing elementary in your hands. Other levels occasionally have cool visuals, such as a gigantic underground tunnel leading to an island (housing a decommissioned nuclear power plant), the epicenter of the nuclear explosion seen in the first part and so on. It should be noted that the game's fondness for generic industrial locations is of course understandable as you're not really expecting exotic, round the world locations from a game of this type. The subway level is really the only part where I got a bit bored.
Conclusion: F.E.A.R. 2 is a gem if you approach it the right way. Set the mood and take your time to get the most out of it. The game is not very difficult (I completed it on hard) assuming you're not afraid to utilize the slow-mo mode as much as possible. What really makes the game work is a combination of scares, good pacing and the occasional intense action scenes. The background story is also interesting, and the more you learn about Alma's experiences in the hands of Armacham scientists the more you sympathize with her cause.
(Note: There's also a DLC add-on, F.E.A.R. 2: Reborn. This DLC is more action-oriented than the main game but with much worse pacing, more randomly scattered enemies and generally much shorter levels. In fact, the whole thing took me only 1.4 hours to finish. With the exception of the last level, there really is nothing in the pack that's worthy to carry the game's title.)