Let's get right to it. F.E.A.R.: Perseus Mandate does nothing new. It makes a superficial attempt at separation from its predecessors, but the reality is there's absolutely nothing here you haven't already done, repeatedly, in F.E.A.R.. This isn't a problem; if F.E.A.R. fans were concerned about repetitive gameplay, they wouldn't be F.E.A.R. fans. The problem is far more fundamental: As a rehash, F.E.A.R.: Perseus Mandate isn't a very good one.
Perseus Mandate runs parallel to the original game. While the original crew of Jankowski, Jin, the mysterious Point Man and their Delta Force cohorts are squaring off against Paxton Fettel's Replica soldiers to determine the cause of the mysterious goings-on at Armacham, in Perseus Mandate, you - this time as the Sergeant - will join a secondary F.E.A.R. team with Captain David Raynes and Lieutenant Steve Chen to square off against Paxton Fettel's Replica army and determine the cause of the mysterious goings-on at Armacham. Yeah, it's like that.
The new car smell, such as it is, comes from the addition of a new element to the game: the mysterious, powerful and extremely well staffed mercenary army known as the Nightcrawlers. While it may be difficult to take seriously a gang of mercs whose name conjures up mental images of a second-tier Marvel superhero, in the game's fiction the Nightcrawlers are the best of the best and the baddest of the bad, and a mysterious U.S. Senator - maybe the same one from F.E.A.R., maybe not, I couldn't tell - has sent them in to the middle of the chaos at the Perseus compound to swipe Alma Wade's DNA.
Why? I don't know. The Nightcrawlers seem to exist solely to provide something new to shoot at, and DNA is as good an excuse as any to have them mucking around inside Armacham. Of course, using the Nightcrawlers to inject variety into F.E.A.R. is like using ice cubes to flavor your water, because aside from a lower-pitched voice and (slightly) different weapons, they're virtually identical to the Replica forces, even wearing the same style of leather-and-Lycra uniforms with face-obscuring headgear. A tiny number of Nightcrawlers, distinguishable by their exposed military-style brush-cuts in lieu of sensible helmets, are "elite" models, tougher than the rank-and-file mercenaries and possessing a variant of your own not-so-unique-after-all time-slowing power that allows them to sidestep attacks at "faster than the eye" speed, but for all intents and purposes, if you've seen one Nightcrawler, you've see 'em all.
The game starts off in a familiar setting, not from F.E.A.R. itself but from the flood canal sequence in Half-Life 2. In what constitutes the game's tutorial segment, you'll pick your way through debris and deal with guys running around on overpasses and jumping down in front of you, learning how to crouch and jump and aim your weapons, until you quickly and inevitably find yourself separated from your colleagues and trapped in a sewer.
A few preliminary firefights later you'll emerge from the sewers and almost immediately run into your old pal Spen Jankowski. Most of him, anyway; Spen appears minus his eyeballs, uttering the line, "Is someone there?" before disintegrating into ashes and dust. If you're feeling some deja vu here, it's because his appearance is a direct lift from the first F.E.A.R. game, in which he became separated from the team and then later makes exactly the same appearance to the player after presumably being Fetteled.
I was taken aback at how quickly the game had shifted gears from "uninspired" to "ripping itself off," but the longer I played, the more apparent it became that "takes place alongside" actually means "doing the same stuff as."
My interest in anything plot-related evaporated quickly. It was disappointing, because I enjoyed the original F.E.A.R. story enough to want more of it, but playing Perseus Mandate was a lot like watching the Star Wars Holiday Special all those years ago: I wanted more Star Wars, and technically I was getting more Star Wars, but even at that tender age I was smart enough to know it wasn't what I came for.