PAX 2008

PAX 2008: Project Origin Hands-On Preview

| 30 Aug 2008 19:49
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Monolith had a 15-minute demo of Project Origin playable on the PAX show floor, and they were kind enough to answer a few questions about the upcoming sequel to 2005's horror-themed shooter F.E.A.R.

Project Origin begins just before the ending of F.E.A.R.'s storyline, and follows the actions of a new special forces character who finds himself caught up in the cataclysmic events that ended the first game. The show floor demo started at a point Monolith said was about 70 percent into the game, in a partially destroyed downtown cityscape crawling with hostile military forces.

The visual presentation had my attention immediately. The level I played was rich with beautifully done particle, lighting, and other effects, and Monolith's careful attention to atmospheric details was immediately apparent. Alma, F.E.A.R.'s long-haired girl with a penchant for psychic violence, showed up in a couple of brief scenes, and at one point I encountered an eerie spectral female figure that quickly vanished. The demo didn't include many story events, though. I didn't see any more of the horror-based scripted scenes Monolith assures me will be a significant part of the game, but there certainly was a lot of realistically gruesome combat bloodletting.

Project Origin retains the same basic gameplay feel as its predecessor, complete with F.E.A.R.'s slow-motion, "bullet-time" ability. F.E.A.R.'s varied arsenal also returns, with typical weapons like a shotgun, assault rifle, sniper rifle, and rocket launcher, along with special weapons like the nailgun and flesh-vaporizing plasma rifle. Monolith's excellent enemy AI was on show as bad guys smartly took cover, tossed grenades, and flanked and rushed my character. Project Origin features a cover system that allows both the player and enemies to pop open car doors, upturn desks, and otherwise manipulate certain parts of each setting to create additional cover opportunities.

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The demo had me winding my way across rubble-clogged city streets, into gaping holes in the pavement, and through broken-up and burning buildings. As in F.E.A.R., every bullet or explosive kicked up huge amounts of dust, smoke, and debris, and select portions of the environment, including portions of buildings, were completely destructible. The demo ended shortly after my character climbed into a slow-moving but devastating mech-type suit and started tearing up waves of enemy soldiers and other mechs.

Monolith says there are multiple mech sequences, but they wouldn't specify their number or duration. They also report that with Project Origin they've taken complaints about F.E.A.R.'s mundane office and industrial locales to heart and gone to great pains to introduce new environments. They wouldn't give me any details, and the level I played was limited to the burnt-over city, but they assured me that the finished game will include vastly different areas and experiences.

Project Origin looked and played very well. It's hard to know from a demo where the story's headed, but it certainly seems that F.E.A.R.'s basic shooter credentials are intact. Monolith couldn't give me an estimate of the game's length, but they assured me it would be a full-length single player experience. They also told me Project Origin will include a competitive multiplayer mode, but they couldn't give me any other multiplayer details. The overall quality of the demo I played, coupled with the promise of more varied environments, was definitely encouraging. If Monolith makes good on their promises, Project Origin should be an excellent game. It's currently due out for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation in early 2009.

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