Monolith brought the fear to Gothamites this weekend with their F.E.A.R. Lab, the public unveiling of the long awaited F.E.A.R 2.
Held in conjunction with Gamestop, I fully expected the F.E.A.R. Lab to consist of some gaming kiosks and a free key chain, given the current economic climate. However I was pleasantly surprised by a complete experience replete with out of work Broadway actors, VR goggles and a mobile gaming van.
The F.E.A.R. Lab, which was ostensibly held by the game's fictional Armacham Corp., started off with me being escorted to a table by a couple of Armacham soldiers where I was I asked to take part in a level 2 fear test. This involved putting on a VR headset and watching some in-game footage interspersed with portions of the test itself. Afterwards, the solider asked me a series of questions about the video and acted surprised when I mentioned the in-game footage. After staring at him blankly for a few seconds, I realized this was part of the fear building process.
The solider then handed me a manila dossier to take to the trailer where the level 3 fear test was being held. The dossier was mainly for effect as it was never used again and seemed only to contain the results of my level 2 fear test, a press release, a couple of pages of psychobabble and some optical illusions. But before I could head out to the trailer a nurse, who may have been a cosplayer randomly recruited off the street, greeted me and fumbled with a medical id bracelet on my wrist. She did this either to raise my standing heart rate or because it was really cold given the length of her skirt. I'm inclined to think it was the latter.
The level 3 fear test took place in a plexiglass trailer outside of the Gamestop hosting it. The trailer was adorned with Armacham logos, and the gaming station had been theatrically designed to resemble a cockpit simulator. I sat down in a chair that seemed to be out of a fighter jet, meaning that not only was it made for tiny people like Tom Cruise, but that it was also pretty uncomfortable. In front of me was a nifty set up of speakers and monitors, one of which showed my face in infrared and gave my eyes that glowing grey Riddick look. Yes, I was ready to smoke this game.
While playing the demo I made two observations. I found that, in practice, the experience this set up offered was everything promised and never delivered by those $800 gaming chairs. I also discovered that with or without glowing grey Riddick eyes, the demo is extremely polished and F.E.A.R 2 is a handsome, if slightly understated, looking game. The quality and "look" of the game reminded me a lot of Metal Gear Solid 4. The gameplay itself is fairly standard FPS fare. Unfortunately, given the demo's short length and relatively accessible difficulty, I wasn't able to get a sense of the AI, one of the first game's most lauded features. The demo's storyline focused on the protagonist's flashbacks of a creepy little girl who looks like a cross between a little sister from BioShock and that kid in The Ring, another one of the first game's hallmarks. With its satisfying gameplay, top notch visuals and an interesting cliffhanger of an ending, the demo has definitely piqued my interest in this game.
In all, it was a well orchestrated event for a game that definitely needs the publicity given the long shadow Killzone 2 has been casting over the month of February. I've also got to give credit to the actors for steadfastly refusing to break character despite my best efforts. I just hope that when full game is released in February the nurse at the next event is allowed a fur coat or a mink stole.
F.E.A.R 2 is currently slated for a February 10th release. The demo is available now if you're a PS3 Qore subscriber. Everyone else (PC, Xbox 360 and non-Qore subscribing PS3 owners) has to wait until January 22.