Keith's Crappy Videogame Blog

F.E.A.R. 2 – Reborn (PC, 2009): S.H.O.R.T. but C.R.E.E.P.Y.
October 6, 2011, 1:55 am
Filed under: F.E.A.R. 2 - Reborn (PC, 2009, US)

If Metacritic has anything to say about the 2009 expansion pack to “F.E.A.R. 2 Project Origin” titled “Reborn”  (and by the way, some critics believe that Metacritic has absolutely nothing to say about anything—and anyway, if you are a critic of Metacritic, does that make you a Metacritic-critic? A Metacritic-metacritic? A meta-Metacritic…?)

Okay, that went off the rails. We’ll try again: If the whopping five professional reviews documented by Metacritic for the “F.E.A.R. 2 Project Origin” expansion “Reborn” are any indication, this little download-only excursion came and went overnight with nary a whimper as far as the general public was concerned. There’s probably good reason for that: The reviews I found have one overarching bitch: The expansion, while having acceptably grim, tense gameplay akin to that in “F.E.A.R. 2,” was too short for the $10 pricetag. By most accounts, the expansion only lasted 1.5 to 2 hours (so say the critics), and the hefty investment made little financial sense, unless you were a hardcore F.E.A.R. completionist. (And, by the way, I don’t know about you, but I’d say almost one hundred percent of the time when I see professional reviewers calculating the time needed to finish a game’s campaign, they are always wrong. More accurately, what I mean is, in addition to seeing a wide array of completion times that never seem to actually match one another, reviewers are never right by my clock. Without fail, if a reviewer says a campaign took 10 hours to play, it will take me 15 hours to play. Games that have been summarily dismissed by reviewers for lasting a measley 6 hours have taken me 2 weeks to finish. I don’t consider myself a particularly slow gamer, and God knows I manage to consume quite a bit of material; so, all I can surmise is that professional reviewers have access to some sort of time machine they comfortably settle into when playing a game to review it, and the timeline is altered. Either that, or many reviewers don’t actually finish the games they are writing about and take a stabby guess at how long it would have taken them to finish it. Or they lie and shorten their actual gameplay time to make them look like speedy little champion players. Whatever. Okay, stepping down from the soapbox.)

It’s true though: As an expansion, like many expansions, this is naturally shorter than a full-fledged campaign, and paying full price for it over Steam or XBL (or whatever) may not be the wisest decision. But following through on the rambling mess in the previous paragraph, this expansion lasted longer than only 2 hours for me (more like 3.5) for one simple reason, and here’s an easy tip for those of you who may travel back in time, dig out your copy of “F.E.A.R. 2,” and try to get the most out of this expansion: The game starts you out in a ridiculously overpowered mech suit, which allows you to blow through the entire first “Interval” (chapter) in less than 15 minutes by liquefying everyone in sight with a rain of bullets and missiles. Fun? Sure! But having so much power seriously eats into playtime. The solution? As soon as the expansion starts, get out of the damn mech suit and give yourself a challenge by playing on foot and toting only an assault rifle—while extending the gameplay time! And there’s an achievement for doing it.

I don’t think I’ve included any discussions of a lowly expansion pack on this blog, and I’m not likely to get into the habit of it since I typically only play main games and then move onto something else. And since this is not a full-fledged campaign, it does not deserve a full-fledged discussion. But playing this expansion reminded me of how much I really like the F.E.A.R. universe and its gameplay, its tough attitude, its crazy smart AI, its creepiness, and the super cool bullet time. I currently have F.3.A.R. (or F.E.A.R. 3 for normal people) sitting on the shelf waiting (and when I play it, I am unlikely to write about it here, since as a big budget, well-known title, it doesn’t really fit the purpose of this blog). But I wanted to slow-walk my way through the “Reborn” expansion from “F.E.A.R. 2” before plunging into the latest iteration. Of course, the last F.E.A.R. game I played was number two, and that was at least two years ago. So, I had forgotten a little bit what a badass game this really is. “Reborn” brought that badassery right back into sharp focus.

As an expansion, the narrative here is clearly nonessential—except for one interesting point which connects quite directly to the third game in the series (from what I hear)—the specifics in a second. Generally, I don’t think of the F.E.A.R. narratives as being carefully crafted; the game seems to trade much more in atmosphere and jumpscares than coherency or thoroughly drawn characters–and I ain’t bitching about that. In this expansion, you play as Replica soldier Foxtrot 813 (I always wanted to be named Foxtrot) who is a part of an orbital Elite Power Armor drop being introduced into Auburn (the wrecked city of the F.E.A.R. universe) to battle Armacham soldiers…or something. After whooshing in (taking out the top of a building in the process) and doing a bit of shooting, you eventually suffer a hallucination and slow-time murder all of your Replica buddies that you’ve met up with–and all of this occurs under the direction and control of your favorite gravelly-voiced freak and mine: Paxton Fettel (yet another name I really wish my mother had chosen for me)! Inside your head, Paxton Fettel explains to you that you are different from the others, and that they are meaningless. He then gives you a new set of orders: “Set me free.” From there you go on a hunt through the devastated Auburn District trying to find where Fettel is being kept (which never becomes clear), who is keeping him (never answereed), how he is being kept (completely sidestepped), and then freeing him. Why does Fettel want jailbreaking?  Ah, now there IS an answer for that: Fettel wants to go hunt down Alma and stop her from destroying everything and everyone. As it turns out, apparently, Fettel isn’t such a bad dude after all (for a potential cannibal, anyway). Now that you are a murderer of Replicas yourself though, you are being hunted by your former comrades. Their only goal is to take you, a defective unit, out of commission.

SPOILER ALERT: Okay, so onto the interesting ending plot/character point that directly connects to the third game in the series. At the very end of “Reborn,” you do find Paxton Fettel, a ghostlike figure kneeling on the floor (his favorite position) in the midst of chaos and ruin, all of it looking like a literal hell (and what else would it be). Anyway, when you approach him, he stands, puts his hand on your shoulder. Then from a camera angle behind your character, you remove your “Standard Replica-Issue Face-Hiding Helmet” and, as Paxton Fettel disintegrates into floating ashes in front of you, the camera swings in front of your face to reveal that you have, indeed, BECOME Paxton Fettel—in other words, he has possessed your body. He then exclaims: “I Am Reborn!” Cue the thunder, lightening, fire, tympanis, etc.

Of course this directly connects to a key gameplay element in “F.3.A.R.” (or F.E.A.R. 3 for normal people); from what I understand, if you play as the gravelly-voiced-cannibal-ghost-with-good-intentions Paxton Fettel, you can possess others (like your opponents) and play in their bodies for a while. For a franchise that, to me, does not seem to plan its stories too far in advance or with much narrative consistency, I am impressed that years before the third game in the series hit store shelves, the developers were already making some key game decisions and foreshadowing those decisions in this expansion pack. I like it when things come together. Nice job. SPOILER ENDS.

The final determination: Forgettable…but good, creepy (short) fun.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I really need to play these FEAR games, I bought the first two awhile ago in a Steam sale, I liked Condemned a lot, I know Monolith knows how to make a game…

Good write up, I skipped the spoiler stuff, but a couple of thoughts. About the ‘time it takes to beat games’, I, like you take my time to play games, I assume you also like to take in the world while you are moving about in it. It took me around 8.5 hours to beat Portal 2, my roommate only 4. I wasn’t stuck on anything, I just went through and looked at signs, let the dialog finish, basically took the time to enjoy the experience. Same thing with some other games I played this year, Vanquish, and Homefront both took me at least a few hours longer then the reviewers made them sounds. I think that rest on the fact that reviewers are on a fixed time, they have to knock it out by a dead line so they don’t stop to take in the atmosphere, just soldier from a to b. Pro tip: If you try to take in the atmosphere in Homefront it just falls to pieces, the tree leaves are 2d pics, and the wall art is the same, overused everywhere.

Second thought: last year or so, I discovered what I love most about games is the atmosphere that it can accomplish. Its one of the things this media can do better then any other. When you are in a well constructed fully realized world its like nothing else. When birds are around, when there are insects, a wide variety of wall art that isn’t overused its a beautiful thing.

I came to this realization playing Beyond Good and Evil, I was taking photo’s of the animals and noticed, “Hey, they created over 50 animals just to populate this world, this game has an ecosystem” Then I thought about how all of my favorite games kind of do the same thing.

I can go on about this; basically I think story is great… But I think atmosphere is more important. Monolith knows how to create atmosphere.

Keep up the good work.

Comment by Mark

Wow, there is another Mark that posts here…and his views are so similar to mine, that I had to read a bit before I was certain I hadn’t somehow posted it myself.

Like both of you, I have been continually amazed at how fast some gamers and reviewers can blaze through a game. It normally takes me roughly twice as long as most. And this is partly because of something the other Mark talks about; atmosphere. It is the primary reason I play games. It doesn’t really matter what kind of atmosphere, as long as they get it right, and I can feel it. Stopping frequently and/or exploring around and soaking up the atmosphere adds greatly to my playtime, and also to my enjoyment of the game. Years later, when I think back on any particular game, it’s images and atmosphere that I remember the most, not the gameplay or story.

And thanks for the review Keith. I have all the F.E.A.R. games, and yet I had no idea the second one had an expansion.

Comment by Mark L

Hi Mark (and Mark’s doppleganger). I am with both of you 100%. To me, the odd thing about atmosphere in a game is, although it is obvious when the developers have nailed it, its composition seems ephemeral in nature. It may not seem that way to an artist (I’m no artist), but to the layperson it seems much too slippery. There seems to be some “magical” coalescence, or a ciritcal mass, of elements that makes an atmosphere appear…but what are those elements and in what quantities? And you can’t forget that the player also has a role in how successful atmosphere works in a game–Is the player willing to suspend disbelief enough to allow the atmosphere to settle in? Does the player take the time and opportunity to “feel” it or make the gameplay decisions to enhance it? I’ve played games that seem to do everything right–the look, the sound, the backstory–but the atmosphere just isn’t there. Or it ALMOST gets there but not quite. Or it gets there but then the devs screw up one tiny something-or-other that completely deflates the atmosphere. The issue of atmosphere just seems so…vague and delicate, I guess? For this reason, when a game nails it, I think it is a truly remarkable achievement.

Comment by wkduffy

The FEAR series lost me with FEAR 2. I loved game play mechanics of the original. The graphics capabilites were somewhat limited (no faces, no exteriors), but I was able to forgive that. It was a game you COULDN’T ‘Rambo’ your way through, guns blazing. You’d be dead in seconds. The enemy AI was way to smart, and their aim way to accurate to allow this kind of gameplay. It’s more like a single player tactical shooter. You had to slowly, carefully work your way though it, also your strategy and aim better be good.

But then with 2 and 3 they developed specifically for consoles. It became a much prettier, and much more simplistic game. Not my type of game… I was extremely disappointed (read ‘crushed’) when it came out, on a par with ‘Farcry 2’ and ‘Crysis 2’.

Comment by Trey

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