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.