Review: F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin needs less stumbling, more shooting

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

There's a scene in Monolith Productions' F.E.A.R 2 in which you stumble across a man standing at a piano, morosely trying to play an ill-remembered tune. He's in the heart of an elementary school which was shattered by a nuclear blast and subsequently terrorized by corporate mercenaries trying to erase a mistake that can't be fixed. The man sees you and transforms into an undead horror pierced by a burning red umbilical cord that connects him to Alma, a psychic storm trapped in the body of a little girl.

It's an unsettling, horrific encounter. I wish F.E.A.R. 2 (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360/Windows) had more of them.

The sequel to the original F.E.A.R. first-person shooter tries hard, but too much of the game involves stumbling through the ruins of office buildings and secret government facilities, as well as the obligatory ventilation shafts.

F.E.A.R. fans will certainly welcome the return of Alma and her psychically controlled Replica super soldiers, as well as the mercenaries unleashed by the company that created (and now wants to destroy) her. The AI soldiers are crafty opponents, running away when outgunned, making liberal use of cover and even moving into flanking positions.

Like its predecessor, F.E.A.R. 2 leans heavily on Japanese horror tropes, though that doesn't quite justify the addition of armored mechs to a horror shooter. Or so you'd think; the surprising thing is how effective they are. The mechs are a blast to pilot, and F.E.A.R. could have benefited from an extended mashup of the mecha and horror genres.

As is, F.E.A.R. 2 offers a few good scares, and has occasional moments of brilliance, but its overly linear levels may frustrate those who were hoping for something more expansive.