Previews

Project Origin

Preview: F.E.A.R amps up its action

The demonstration code that I'm about to watch John Mulkey - Project Origin's lead designer - play through isn't optimised, so the loading times are longer than usual.

This gives me a chance to write down the chapter synopsis verbatim. "Dr Ambrose has revealed that Aristide's plan will result in an exponential increase in Alma's destructive energy. Aristide has rejected the data and is intent on proceeding as planned."

I don't know what Aristide's plan is, just that she's the president of Armacham Technology Corporation and responsible for most of the deaths in the original F.E.A.R..

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But, I've seen enough movies to know that when a money-motivated suit rejects a scientist's worst-case scenario, you'll get a thrilling, worst-case scenario climax. And a smug scientist.

Alma Matters

The strange corporate hydra that is Vivendi-Blizzard-Activision may still own the F.E.A.R. franchise in name, but in a presumed moment of stupidity they forgot to ask for the iconic star of the show, Alma.

They managed to release two expansions that did feature her, and took the less-lauded components of F.E.A.R - the repetitive grey corridors and enemies - and created levels so void of opportunities for your enemies to flex their tactical intellect, that they looked stupider than they were.

That's the last I'll talk of Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate - Monolith are certainly ignoring them.

The events of Project Origin promise to bring the player closer - physically and psychologically - to Alma than the flittering twitches of first game allowed.

Your team has been despatched to retrieve Genevieve Aristide, the same data-rejecting president - who, if cast in a daytime TV drama - would be stupider than the mayor who refuses to cancel Mardi Gras, despite the warnings of a pair of plucky seismologists. John Mulkey explains further, without reference to rubbish TV.

"You play Michael Beckett," enthuses Mulkey, a man who's enthusiasm means that he's constantly smiling. "You're going in to rescue Aristide, the president of Armacham - the woman who restarted Project Origin and wakened Alma.

"It starts before the end of the first game, when you (as Point Man, the original game's protagonist) were headed into the containment facility and Wade released Alma and you had to destroy the facility to control her."

This means, mid-point in Project Origin, you'll get to witness the massive explosion that punctuated the end of F.E.A.R., and get the chance to extend your war into the burning streets of a newly bombed town.

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In some ways, Project Origin is similar to its predecessor. The guns have a similar look and the distressingly named Penetrator is back, albeit with a couple of tweaks. Mulkey explains that the gun was as popular in-house as it was with players.

"Our principle art lead's favourite thing to do was to go slow-motion, crouch under a guy, shoot him in the chin and pin him to the ceiling. Horrifying, but kinda like a piņata."

The interface has a cleaner, curvier feel to it and the numbered health and armour has been replaced with the console standard of health regeneration.

You still have the powers to slow time - although how you're able to achieve this remains unexplained, for now. An early scene showing you being operated on while Aristide looks on perhaps giving the strongest clue.

The game feels different in other ways. Monolith have engaged with their community - their "Name Your Fear" competition was the source of this game's title. Another thing that the fans wanted and are getting, are mechs.

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