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Previews

Project Origin

Preview: Going where FEAR fears to tread

FEAR is one of the most uncontroversially controversial games of recent times. You can watch two people try to argue about it, but it doesn't go anywhere. "It's all boring corridors." "No it's not." "Yes it i... oh, never mind." It's simply a squabble about atmosphere.

Most can agree the combat is tight, brutal and precise, but not everyone digs the warehouse-heavy setting and ghost train scares. If Monolith's plan for this FPS sequel comes to pass though, there won't even be any bickering about that. "It's a good shooter." "Yes it is." "Um... I like your hair."

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More environments, indoor and outdoor. More types of baddie - not just Identi-Man and his many Identi-Friends. More types of fright - not just spooky spectral girl in your peripheral vision. These are the key promises Monolith are making in their pursuit of ensuring their horror-combat sequel is the FPS high-water mark
of 2008.

You probably know that though this isn't the official FEAR sequel, it's the true bloodline - the Football Manager to FEAR 2's Championship Manager. FEAR 2's being made by Vivendi (or Sierra, or Activision Blizzard, or whatever they're called), but while Origin loses the name it gets to play in FEAR's universe. Specifically, it still gets Alma.

The poorly coiffured, murderous psychic nipper is this series' defining image, and indeed the plot has hung around who she is and what she's up to (or was being made to get up to).

Until now, the game never directly set the player against her - you've seen the terrible things she can do to a fellow, but she tends to just aggressively move you out the way in cutscenes, and not actually interact with you. It's about time we really see what the ketchup-smeared lass can do, and it sounds like that might finally happen. Monolith are claiming they'll give Alma teeth in Project Origin.

On the way to her, of course, you'll fight quite a lot of men. Excitingly, they'll be men who behave differently - there'll be cowardly men, suicidally stupid men, cautious men. They react according to their honest AI response to you, and not just to trigger points and scripting.

There are special AI routines even for NPC death - if a chap realises he's about to meet his maker, he'll often devise a spectacular way to end it all. Set a man on fire and if he's not too badly burned he might try to roll it out or run to water.

If he knows the end is nigh, he'll jump out the window. Then he's not on fire any more, but he is a bit dead. You, meanwhile, get a cinematic, Die Hardy satisfaction. Crysis' Koreans may be yesterday's eerily attentive news already.

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It won't just be soldiers you're up against, either. Flesh-eating loony-men with heightened strength and a penchant for writing spooky messages in their own bodily fluids will ask for gun-based attention, as will ninja-y assassins and the ever-welcome big, stompy robot suits.

Excitingly, your entanglements with such folks are freed from the confines of corridors and warehouses - Origin plays out in a paranormally devastated city. The open spaces should mean a less linear and more tactical journey of killing.

Indoor spaces remain too - dark corridors and bloodied rooms are still the premier location for tense, spooky thrills. With a mooted five times as much environmental detail as the first game, riddling these spaces with bullets should mean five times as much bull-in-a-china-shop fun.

So, variety of location, of combat, of terror and of gun-holding gentlemen. Project Origin may not have the FEAR name, but we're betting this is the game to truly live up to its promise.

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